Was there anything you wanted to do differently for the second season of Maron?
Yeah, definitely. I came into the first season with no experience in any of it. Very little experience acting. Virtually no experience writing or producing television. The one thing I did know was that because I had let go of any expectation around the future of my career in a very real way, something in me was relaxed. By the time we got the opportunity to do the first season there was no question in my mind that I was ready to do it. I wasn’t afraid of it and I was very willing to learn and take chances and do the best I could with what I had. I was surrounded by good people and [everyone] was so supportive and collaborative. Going into the second season I felt confident with my crew and with everybody who was involved – almost everybody came back. I brought an old standup buddy of mine to write, Dave Anthony, and it was good to have a comic in the writer’s room. He also appears in several of the episodes. I sat down with the first season and really looked at the character of Marc and how I could make different comedic choices and what worked comedy-wise. I was more aware of my performing. I was just more confident and more aware.
What’s coming this season?
The through-line, the theme of this season, is how does Marc handle the first wave of success? It’s not even big success – he’s just a little more successful. Things are starting to happen finally at age 50 because of this thing he did in his garage. How is he going to either screw that up or handle it? And there’s some relationship stories, and I integrated a little more of my life as a standup comic into this season. I really avoided that last season to ground the world of the show around the podcast and the elements of my life that were unique to me. The idea of the comic as a comic has been pretty well played out by Seinfeld and Louie, and I wanted to avoid falling into that zone. But in this season we did a couple of comedian-specific episodes.
How many cats does TV Marc have at this point?
I think it’s the same as real life. I have two cats that live in the house and Boomer never came back. And there’s a stray or two outside. If I’m not mistaken I think TV Marc has two cats. There’s a lot of cats around here.
Photo: Robyn Von Swank/IFC
Are those your actual cats on the show or are those stunt cats?
You can’t work with cats. They’re very tricky. My cats are impossible. We had a good cat person this year.
It’s so funny that that’s a thing you have to worry about.
It’s a big thing you have to worry about. They’re just not trainable. A good cat handler knows their cats and there’s a real trick to it because they’re not dogs. Cats don’t give a fuck. They’re cats. But we got lucky and, again, I really hand it to the cat people this year because they had some good cats.
On your podcast you’ve talked about having preconceived expectations about people before you interview them. Are there expectations you think people have about you?
It’s hard for me to know. I kind of live in an anxious present. It’s hard for me these days to even think two days ahead of time. I seem to be spinning around in varying degrees of overwhelmed-ness. So I really don’t know what people expect. I just try to show up, and hopefully I’m in a good mood when it happens and I’m not preoccupied or aggravated.
On one of your recent podcasts it got incredibly emotional and personal when you discussed your breakup with Moon Zappa.
It’s challenging when so much of what you put out in the world is essentially personal. I’ve learned over time that I have to speak from my point of view specifically, and some details have to be kept to myself as to not necessarily throw somebody else under the bus. It is a one-sided conversation, so I’ve gotten a little more diplomatic around that. It was emotional because it is what it is. When you’ve been through what I’ve been through relationship-wise, you do hit a certain wall where you’re like, “Well, I better figure out what the fuck I want at this point in my life because I don’t know how much more I have.” It’s not a sad situation, but the reality is I have no children, I’ve been married twice, I’m 50-years-old and I’m not good at it. I’m getting old and I have to accept that certain things aren’t going to happen.
Do you ever use the TV version of yourself on Maron to play out various relationship scenarios that haven’t happened in real life?
I don’t know that there’s that resolution. Maybe next season? Maybe that’s the direction we try to go. I think a lot of the situations play out like they would play out. The show’s heart is pretty close to what my heart is, although there are fictionalizations of certain situations. Emotionally those are all pretty true to my life. I don’t play out a fictional happy ending. There are good times, and I do have some good times, but that’s a good question. Maybe I should. I’m aware of my issues. I’m aware of the problem. But if we do get another season that would be something to explore, trying to see what could be different.
In the first episode, Sarah Silverman says, “The joke is more important than the relationship, and that’s why we’re all gonna die sad and alone.” Do you agree with that?
Whether you think that on policy or not, the struggle is how are you not going to do that joke? I think Sarah, by nature, isn’t grounded in personal experience. She’s a joke writer. So there’s going to be some distance by virtue of the material. With me it’s a little different. I do first-person point-of-view experiential comedy. I think in that way she has less to lose because she can easily say, “That’s a joke.” Whereas when I say something people know it’s coming from something real. The struggle is what is your relationship with your audience and what is your relationship with your life and how do they both work? Usually you try to respect the person you’re with but sometimes you can’t help yourself. I’ve been in the situation where I won’t do something on TV or on the podcast but if I’m out on the road somewhere I’ll tell the audience, “I’m gonna do this stuff but you guys gotta keep it to yourself.”
Does it ever get back to the person?
No! I have a pretty amazing audience. Considering how easy it is to get something back to a person, one way or the other. But I’m not throwing someone under the bus. I’m just working stuff out.
Photos by Robyn Von Swank/IFC