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One night with comedian Marc Maron ...

April 26, 2013|By Deborah Vankin
  • Marc Maron does stand-up at the Downtown Independent Theater.
Marc Maron does stand-up at the Downtown Independent Theater. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

Comedian Marc Maron is busier than ever. In addition to approaching nearly 400 episodes of his popular podcast, “WTF With Marc Maron,” his memoir, “Attempting Normal,” comes out from Spiegel & Grau April 30. And “Maron,” his scripted sitcom, is to debut on IFC on May 3.

The stand-up also has a 90-minute Netflix special coming out in June.

We recently tagged along with Maron to a stand-up show in downtown L.A. where he aimed to work out a bit he was having trouble with. He planned to use the routine in the special and wanted to get the ending right.

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Driving on the way to the Downtown Independent for the comedy show, Maron elaborated on his writing process and why he chose Netflix for the special as opposed to more traditional TV outlets.

“I’m not sure my audience is a Comedy Central audience” Maron said, popping one Nicorette after another and weaving in and out of lanes. “I’m not hung up on drawing 20-year-olds. The audience I’m finding is not a demographic, it’s a disposition.”

Asked what that disposition might be, Maron said: “Cranky.”

“I tend to attract thoughtful, sensitive people ... who are a little aggravated. Like me,” he said.

Maron approaches his joke-writing much like he conducts his interviews on the podcast -- he stays “in the moment,” he said. On the podcast, that means “fostering the connection [with subjects].”

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For stand-up, it’s a process that’s both as erratic and present as he is, he said. He captures jokes on napkins, ATM receipts or wherever inspiration hits. He also “writes” onstage, letting loose, free-form, entirely improvising or adding to jokes.

This is especially true for longer stories, such as the baseball bit, which is the direction he aims to take his stand-up.

Efficiency -- being too scripted -- “really is the death of everything,” he said.

Our night out was no exception. On stage, Maron killed it. He was so in the moment, he lost track of time -- his allotted 15 minutes soon stretched to 18, then 20. He frequently glanced down at his notebook on the floor: “Wait, where were we?” he said looking up at the audience, now uproarious.

Show hosts Dave Ross and Jeff Wattenhofer alternated between standing in the aisle, waving at him to wind it up, and surrendering, bellowing over with laughter. When Maron finally wrapped up the set at almost 24 minutes, Ross took the stage.

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“Wow, that was definitely something special to see. We’re so lucky to have seen that live,” he said. “But wasn’t it also like watching someone get murdered?”

Maron jumped up from his seat in the audience. “You bully! I tried, I gave it my best, man,” he joked. The audience applauded.

At this, Maron strutted down the aisle steps, both palms in the air, bidding the place farewell. “This was a lotta fun, thanks everyone,” he said.

The car ride home was not devoid of improvisation. “How do I get outta here now?” he said, peeling out of the parking spot and figuring out the route on the way.

His fluid, unpolished approach to writing, he said, is something he feels resonates with audiences.

“What people respond to with me, I’m pretty raw, I’m pretty emotional," he said. "Believe me, if I could’ve written just a funny act, it would’ve been so much easier. But I don’t know how else to be!” 

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