Hi, everybody. Thank you so much for joining us today for the Conference Call with Marc Maron to talk about his new show; Maron premieres Friday, May 3rd at 10:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific on IFC. With that being said, David, let’s go ahead and start with the first question.
Moderator Certainly. Thank you, we’ll hear from the line of Dave Walker with The New Orleans Times Picayune. Go ahead, please.
D. Walker Hi, Marc.
M. Maron Hi, what’s up?
D. Walker Thanks for doing this call; I really appreciate it.
M. Maron Absolutely.
D. Walker And thanks for resetting the Jonathan Winters piece on the site too. Could you sort of walk us through – walk me through how this came about from your perspective? How you and your life and the podcast came to be a TV show? I know that’s a very broad question, but if you could start there, I’d appreciate it.
M. Maron Absolutely. Basically, what had happened was – it was really, the podcast was doing pretty well, and Jim Serpico over at Apostle, the production house, really enjoyed the podcast. He set a meeting with me and said look, I love this thing. I wonder if there’s something we can do.
As a comic who knows that if you want to be on television, every few years you have to pitch some version of the life you’re living to TV executives to see if you can build a show around you. Having had two or three deals in the past, eventually you wonder if your life is going to continue changing enough to make it unique as a story to be the center of a show around it.
At this point, I was, like, well look, I’m a guy who interviews celebrities in his garage, whose career was in the toilet, and now everything’s different, and I think we should build a show around my life, or the life I was living, the first year or so of the podcast. Because that’s certainly a story you couldn’t have told ten years ago. And he was into it.
He introduced me to Duncan Birmingham, who’s a writer on the show and a co-producer. We sat down and we wrote, basically, a pilot presentation that was never meant to be aired but to just, sort of, be shot as such. Apostle was in business with Fox Studio, who provided the money to, basically, shoot a pilot presentation in my home that Duncan and I had written.
The plan was to make it 10 to 12 minutes and to show it to potential buyers who were networks, cable networks and regular networks, so they would get a feel of the tone of the show we wanted to do. The production turned out to be about 20 minutes. We had Luke Matheny direct it and Ed Asner played my father and Angela Trimbur played the girlfriend, and we had some other actors in there, some comics and stuff, and we walked that around.
Theoretically, it could have been an episode, but it was not really the plan – it was not quite long enough. We brought it around to networks and IFC responded and got behind it and wanted us to do the show. That was sort of what happened. In the end, some of the actors changed because of availability or just because of choices made.
That’s how it all started. It was from a presentation based on Jim’s interest to see if we could do something with it and my interest to sort of flesh it out in that way.
D. Walker I had a quick followup. Tell me about if you enjoyed the process of converting your life into a script and then a show and how your participation – did it include the small touches, like using the garage door as an iconic moment in each episode? Tell me a little bit about that process and whether it was difficult or something that you thought was kind of cool.
M. Maron Well, look, you know, to be quite honest with you, by the time I started with the podcast, I had really let go of the possibility of this happening. Of me doing a TV show, or of me being a relevant comic, even. So all of this was a surprise and it was very exciting to me.
I think that, at this point in my life, I’ve never been more prepared to do this. I’m not a kid anymore, I’m not full of anger and fear and out of my mind, so the opportunity was very timely for me because I was completely ready and excited to do this. I really had no expectation of it ever happening.
At this point in my life, I like collaboration, I like working with writers. I was very excited to work with other actors. I knew I had an innate ability to act, and I’ve been told I was good at it, but I’ve never done that. I’ve never written for television. I’ve never produced a show. I’ve never had the type of responsibility, creatively, that I had.
But I can say that I was very into it, I was very prepared to do it, and it was completely exciting and completely challenging in the best of ways. I was thrilled about it and I just wanted to do a good job, I wanted to make the best show we could with what we were given money-wise and time-wise and talent-wise. I was completely immersed in it. I think we did a good job.
Obviously, when you look at a first season of something, I’m assuming that you’re like, oh, wow, maybe if we get more of these, we could do this or we could do that. You get excited about the possibility of doing more with the characters or doing more with the stories. I found it completely exciting and I was thrilled to be part of it.
Also, I worked my … off. I’m in every scene of that show. I didn’t have a lot of time to think once shooting started because I would go, I would act, I would do the thing, we would fix scripts, we would do what we had to do, and then I’d go home and I’d have to memorize anywhere from 8 to 15 pages for the next day. So it was very engaging and very demanding, but very satisfying.
D. Walker Thank you.
Moderator Thank you. In just a moment, I’ll open the line of Olivia Cathcart. Ms. Cathcart from TheLaughButton.com. Your line is open.
O. Cathcart Thank you, Marc. Question: this show is semi-autobiographical. You’re very used to talking about your life on your podcast and in standup. But on the show, having to actually act out scenarios, was it hard to, almost, go through the experience again?
M. Maron Yes. Well, some of these things were actually experiences that I was afraid of happening that may not have happened already. All of the stories, maybe except for one, are rooted in life experience. But life experience is a little myopic in that sometimes life experiences are insulated. When you bring these stories, when we had to break stories, me and the writers, I have a story, but then you’ve got to flesh it out and make it a little bigger.
Some things were actually a little emotionally passing for me to watch because I never had that conversation with my father. It was a conversation I wanted to have with my father, but when I watch it, the, sort of, me demanding him to take responsibility for these things that happened when I was a child, it was very uncomfortable for me because I was looking at myself acting this stuff out thinking you’re a grown man, you should be over this ….
There were elements of it that were things that I wanted to happen that didn’t happen, so they were actually happening for the first time on the show. Some of them are a little hairy and a little intense and, I think, very real in that way. That I was, actually, not unlike the podcast, working some stuff out on the TV show.
It’s very different in that way, and it’s very different to be surrounded by actors playing these parts that are based on people, but obviously not exactly the people. Also having the control to make decisions around stories and how some of these things would play out had they gone the full way.
Yes, some of it was very emotionally challenging and compelling along those lines. They were all very new to me. Yes, it was a different thing, but there was definitely some of the risk still there, you know?
O. Cathcart Was it hard to allow, or give power to a group of writers, and to have them write about your life?
M. Maron Well, you know, it’s interesting, having never been in this situation before, just how collaborative it really is. These were guys that we working on my show, we had a lot of support from IFC and from Fox and from Apostle. We did not have the same demands on an executive level that, I think, a network show has – at least from my experience and from hearing about other people’s experiences.
From the very beginning, we all were very aware that these were my stories and that I was the center of this show. If there were things that I didn’t think were right or I couldn’t say or that I didn’t think were funny, there was discussion about it. Every script at every point of the process was collaborative. Even when we went off to write our own script based on outlines and stories that we had all worked together on, you bring those back in the room and then we go over them again and again.
There’s really nothing in the show that I didn’t want to be in the show, and there’s nothing that was demanded to be taken out that we didn’t agree to or understand the logic behind. It was all very collaborative and the power thing was not really an issue. We were all on the same team there.
O. Cathcart Alright. Thank you, Marc.
M. Maron Yes.
Moderator Thank you. Next we’ll hear from the line of Krista Chain with TV MegaSite. Go ahead, please.
K. Chain Hi, Marc. Thanks for taking the call today.
M. Maron Sure.
K. Chain I was just wondering: what is the biggest thing that you learned through making this show?
M. Maron The biggest thing that I learned was that – I found that when I got to work, at all points during this process, I was able, or at least tried, to put my ego aside as much as possible because I knew that I was new to this. I know that I’m the personality that this is built around and that is driving it, but I had not had experience in writing television. I had not had experience being on a production or a set that long or having these responsibilities or acting and everything else.
The biggest thing I learned was it’s really best to just show up for work and just be a guy that’s working with other people and you respect that and trust other people as much as possible. Make sure there’s a lot of communication around things that you’re not comfortable with or you don’t think is right, or what.
I guess what I’m saying is that even though this thing was built around me and it was my show, when I showed up for work, either in the writing process or in the production process of the shooting, I wasn’t walking in thinking I’m the boss here, this is my show. I really didn’t have that ego going in. I just wanted to be part of the collaboration and do the best job possible and trust the people to do their other jobs.
I think the biggest thing I learned was to be excited and vigilant about collaborating, but also leave a lot of room for other people to do their thing and open up the conversation around what the best thing to do is. That was, really, what I learned. I’d never done that before and it was a very good experience.
K. Chain Thanks, and good luck.
Moderator Thank you. We’re going to go to the line of Rob Owen with the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
R. Owen Hi, Marc. Thank you for doing the call; I appreciate it. I wanted to ask – you’ve talked about how events in the series are sort of inspired by things that happened in real life, but sometimes may be juiced up for storytelling purposes. I’m wondering, can you talk about, specifically, something in the first episode that’s going to air and how what’s in the episode differed from, perhaps, what happened in real life?
M. Maron Yes. The process of me tracking down a troll who was posting bad things about me on another website – it wasn’t a Twitter event, but it was actually a separate website, a smaller website that I didn’t usually go to – and I just found this guy that was, basically, campaigning against me and using information that was very revisionist. It was just this weird, very focused, and ongoing attack on me.
The method I used to find him, to figure out his real identity, was very similar to what happened in the show. I ended up engaging that guy, and it went on for months. But it happened all online. That story took a different direction. Being that that was the root of this, we had to figure out, well, let’s get me outside, let’s get me out in the world and go track this guy down, and create a character for this guy.
That’s the way that changed, but the root of it and how I engage with trolls, if I do, and how extreme that can get, was very real. The process of it, that, you know, in order for the story to have movement, we created the character who was attacking me and we went to him. The outcome was not exactly the same, but that is always the outcome. You don’t really know why exactly you’re engaging this person, but it’s usually because you want to argue them into liking you, somehow. In that way, the heart of the story is the same, but the actual process of tracking the guy down became larger in the episode.
R. Owen Just one other quick question. How many days does it take to shoot an episode of your show?
M. Maron Well, we were going, we were doing, like, two and half days, two and half, three days for each episode. It was a pretty hairy production schedule. I think we shot all ten in about six and a half, seven weeks.
R. Owen Did it mess with your podcasting at all?
M. Maron No, I was able – they rebuilt my home inside another home about a half mile away, so I was able to get enough interviews in the can to where I was just doing the openings and the promotion and the advertisement. I set it up so I could handle it, and we did okay with that.
R. Owen I have to ask about they built your home inside another home?
M. Maron Yes, my house is a small house and my girlfriend wouldn’t tolerate a crew here for seven weeks. It was really – it’s a difficult environment to shoot in because of space. I wanted to keep the show in Highland Park, where I live, because it’s a unique neighborhood. We were able to find a house that was very similar to mine, but it was over by the college, by Occidental, and whoever owned the house had built a large addition onto the house in the back, a two-story addition to create more bedrooms so he could rent it out to students.
What that afforded us, because the home was a little bigger, was we actually had room to set up production in that back part of the house. Like a video village and dressing rooms and makeup and wardrobe. Also the garage was a two car garage, which gave us room to build my small, one car garage within the two car garage and afford us room to set cameras and have movement and to create a moveable wall. They also decorated the house with specifically my taste, actually in a much nicer way than my actual house is decorated, which caused me some problems.
I will say that the couch on the show is my couch, and that is genuine cat damage from my cat. I decided it was time for a new couch, so I gave the set my old couch and I bought a new couch. So that’s a real couch.
R. Owen Great, thank you so much.
M. Maron Yes.
Moderator Brendan Murray from Pop Curious, your line is open.
B. Murray Thank you. Marc, I was wondering if – you said before that the episode with your father, that it was a conversation you never had with him. Are you seeing the show as a kind of therapy to, maybe, open a dialogue with people like your father? Or you had that hilarious, yet kind of cringe-inducing scene about your ex-wife, meeting her in the coffee shop with your cat. Are these things that you want to work out on the show for your own self or is it something that, in your personal life, you hope it opens up a conversation with them till you work through some rough patches?
M. Maron I don’t know that I saw that as therapy. I saw these as stories that I think – it’s always hard for me to know, until lately, that the life I’m living is not that rarified. These issues are issues that happen with all of us, to some degree. At least some of us have these feelings.
The ex-wife moment – I don’t know that anything I do is going to open up any type of beneficial conversation with that woman. So no on that one. And in terms of my father, he and I have had these conversations before and some of that stuff I have a little closure on.
The actual effect I’m hoping is not the opposite of what you’re suggesting, which is that I’ve picked open a wound of some kind. I hope that his reaction isn’t, like, I thought we were over this stuff. The character of my father is different enough – my father doesn’t live in a mobile home and things have not gotten that bad for him.
So I think these are just – the way the stories are structured, I think they’re to show what ultimately is the truth of that, is that no matter what these conversations are, I have to deal with my side of it. These people have obviously – either they’re not going to change or they’ve moved on with their lives. If it’s anything, it’s a mild exorcism of my own infantile feelings.
But I didn’t really see them as therapy or as a means to engage these people. If I really want to engage him, I could call him, or I imagine I could contact her. I don’t think there’s any real reason to, but that’s the show. So that’s that.
B. Murray Thank you.
Moderator Thank you very much. We will hear next from Dave Walker with The New Orleans Times Picayune. Go ahead, please.
D. Walker How will you judge the success of this adventure? Is it enough to have converted it to television, which, at this stage of your life and at this point in your career, is a big deal? Will you be disappointed if it doesn’t – you know what I’m saying? Are you happy with it now, and if nothing else happens beyond this, would you be happy?
M. Maron The questions about my happiness are always tricky. Ultimately, I think what happens when you are able to – especially after as long as I’ve been doing this – to really engage in a new creative endeavor. It was very exciting for me to be involved in this process and to make television and to be on a set and to write and to have a say in all this stuff, and the creativity of the whole thing was something that I’d never experienced before.
I certainly hope that the show resonates with some people. With as many as possible, really, and I hope people enjoy the show. But there’s that part of you that’s sort of, like, well this is new and exciting, imagine what we could do if we really sat down with what we’ve done, take some time and really think about how I could do a better job with the character of me.
How does this character of Marc Maron fit into these different scenarios? What are the strong points? What other risks can we take? What other comedic things can we do? There’s that craving to, sort of, like, I want to make more and I want to make them better and I want to make them funnier and I want to put this guy in different situations. I want to do a better job taking control of my acting and finding new ways to be funny or poignant.
You get a sort of bug, that’s like, I want to do some more of this. Ultimately, I am very happy with what I did and I am satisfied with it, but I think what would make it an amazing experience is that we can push it a little further and do some more episodes and see what the show can do now that we’ve got a handle on what it is.
Yes, I would be happy just having this, but as anyone knows who does this kind of stuff or who does anything creative, if there’s an opportunity to do more of it, you sort of want that.
D. Walker One quick followup: Is it important to push the show to people who maybe don’t know anything about you? The podcast following is substantial, I understand that, but for it to really work on television, doesn’t it need to be bigger than that? Was there talk about that in the formation of the show? Or was it more no, let’s just do Marc and the podcasts and his life and those people who know him will get it and we’ll see how it goes from there?
M. Maron No, I think there was always, when you’re dealing with TV people at any network, they’re looking at a broad audience. I think that they were excited that I have a lot of fans and a lot of people who listen to the podcast and a lot of people were excited about it. But I think that when you’re making a show, you are, certainly, wanting as many people as possible to dig it and to enjoy it, so I think that was always a consideration.
I think that they were able to let me honor who I was. I wouldn’t say that I’m immediately a loveable character, but I would say that I’m a familiar character to many people. I know the limitations of the medium that I’m popular in. In podcasting, I do have a lot of listeners, but it is still a, sort of, nascent medium, and not everybody is there and there are plenty of people out there in the world that have no idea what a podcast is or who I am. Certainly we’d like them to come in and take on the show.
So yes, I think that’s always a consideration when you are producing television, whether it’s a cable network or a network network, that’s always a consideration on behalf of the people that are making television. I think that that was always part of the discussion, was that there was always question of who this character is. But we didn’t trim it or necessarily try to accommodate this unseen audience. But I think it’s obviously always a consideration that you want as many people to watch it as possible.
D. Walker Thank you.
M. O’Gara At this point, we’re going to wrap up the conference call for today. Thank you, everyone, for joining us. As a reminder, Maron premiers Friday, May 3rd on IFC, and photos can be found at press.ifc.com. At this time, I’m going to turn the call back over to Marc for a final remark. Marc?
M. Maron Yes, I hope all of you folks enjoy the show, and we’ll see what happens. That’s my final comment. I’m very proud of what we did and thanks for talking to me.