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20 April 2012

Stuff I Like: WTF with Marc Maron

I don't have a lot of new work to post right now; besides working on the next volume of "Brutal Blade of Bruno the Bandit", I've been working on some private commissions that I'm not really free to post to this space.  I've got a cover coming up for an issue of "Sky Pirates of Valendor", but that's about it for public work for now.

Still, I've got to use this space for something, don't I?  So, I thought it might be a good opportunity to start sharing some reviews of things I enjoy.  Like my self-publishing work, this will be done on an "as I can get to it" basis, and when I haven't got anything more important to do, or I'm not trying to catch up on new releases on Netflix.  Who says I haven't got my priorities straight?

I like podcasts.  A lot.  As I write this, I've got 29 episodes of 27 different podcasts waiting on my phone...and only that few because I've made a concerted effort in recent weeks to whittle down that number, as I felt I was getting backlogged.
Podcasts for me are like magazines for my ears; they're a direct channel of information from the source to my brain without requiring the intermediate use of my hands or eyes.  That means that I can consume them by the gigabyte while engaged in other things, like certain aspects of my day job, or while at the drawing board, or while doing paste up on the next book for AIM Comics.  Podcasts are free, disposable infotainment and are easily accessible on a good podcatcher, in my case "Pocket Casts" for Android.  Through the use of podcasts, I get daily doses of fiction, news, comedy, interviews, history lessons and shows on just about anything else I care to take an interest in, with some stops for guilty pleasures along the way (more on those another day).  They make my workday go a little bit faster while allowing me to consume information at a much faster rate than I could just by reading.  In short, I think they are the perfect form of disposable media.

One podcast I've come to recently, and rather late, is WTF with Marc Maron.  It's an interview-based show hosted by standup comedian and insightful neurotic Marc Maron in which he talks with contemporaries and legends in the entertainment industry.  I've missed a lot of the shows and haven't yet signed up for the premium package to get access to his back catalog, but since I've started listening, I've heard Marc give great interviews with such people as Jeffry Tambor, Russell Brand, Chris Rock, Michael Cera, Mindy Kaling, Penn Jilette and Weird Al Yankovic. 

Maron is really using the novelty and freedom of the medium to its finest in this series.  We're so used to seeing celebrity interviews as shallow two minute snippets on Entertainment Tonight that it's easy to forget there's a deeper aspect to the work these people produce and the roads they take to create that work.  Maron uses the long format of his show (most episodes run over an hour to an hour and a half in length) to get behind the creative process of the subject, as well as their own developmental process as a creative person.  This always leads to a better understanding and appreciation of the people and their work, and often to the creative process in general.  It's rare that I finish an episode of WTF without at least one small moment of satori

What really helps in this process is that Marc is very open about his own life and frame of mind, and as an experienced standup comedian, he has decades of stories from inside the industry.  He injects a lot of himself into each interview to establish a personal connection with his subjects and reaps a much richer harvest as a result.  It seems at this point that subjects come to his "garage" expecting to have their personal lives delved a bit and bring a willingness to open up more than usual. 
Occasionally, Marc will also host a live WTF event with a panel of comedians which make for some of his funniest episodes.  And this is a comedy podcast at heart; Mark always seems to be able to infuse a sense of humour into the conversation, no matter how dark the subject matter may get (check out the Matt Graham episode from February to see what I mean).  He's got a self-deprecating intellectual approach that never allows things to stay too serious for too long.
What's especially funny to me is that I remember when Marc was a guest on the "Nobody Likes Onions" podcast a few years ago.  He commented on how impressed he was with the show's setup at that time, saying something to the effect that "I got to get me one of these podcasts".  Skip forward a couple of years and his show has developed a huge amount of status and a large following, and he has become one of the premiere names in the medium.
Updating at least weekly, "WTF" is one of the shows I most look forward to in my playlist.  Even when he's interviewing someone I've never heard of, Marc always makes the show enjoyable and insightful.  I recommend that anyone interested in the inner workings of the entertainment industry give it a try.  If nothing else, do yourself a favor and listen to the episode with Penn Jilette (who knew his family is from Newfoundland?). 
"WTF With Marc Maron"...stick it in your ears.