GUY RAZ, Host:
When it comes to connecting with other members of his generation, one guy who does not struggle is comedian Marc Maron. He puts out a podcast that's called WTF - guess what that stands for? And it's one of the most popular ones out there. Here's how he describes it.
M: I basically talk in my garage, alone, for about 10 minutes about whatever's on my mind. And then I'll have a peer or a comedian or a writer, or somebody I kind of know, come to my garage and sit down and talk to me - usually for around an hour.
RAZ: Filmmaker Judd Apatow says Maron's guests open up to him because they feel like he might lose the tape on the way home - or that maybe no one's listening. But more than 200,000 people download the podcast each week. And why?
M: Because I think that I show up for the interview. A lot of times, if you listen to somebody, you no longer really know that their mike's there. And people want to be heard. They want to share this stuff. So much of what we experience in a very real emotional way, we don't let out because all of our energy goes into getting by. And these are inner dialogues and feelings that just get stuffed. And comics want to talk about it.
RAZ: What do you consider the kind of like, the best moment with a guest - like, a breakthrough?
M: Robin Williams, you know, even Ira Glass. I mean, I only knew him from "This American Life," but I felt like I knew him. And then you talk to them and you're like, oh, my God. It was great getting to know you. And I'm sorry you had to go through that, or thanks for sharing that or, wow, you know, we're both different people now that we've had that conversation.
RAZ: You found out that Ira was a very violent guy, actually.
M: He almost killed me.
M: I mean, he chased me out of there with a mike stand, yelling. And I'm in the street; I didn't know whether to call the police - very surprising.
RAZ: He's a street fighter.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
RAZ: It sounds almost like you're kind of a therapist, in a way, for some of these people.
M: So if it's been therapy for anybody, it's probably for me.
RAZ: You go to some pretty dark places with these really well-known comics. And I guess I'm wondering - it's like the perennial question. Like, why - do you think that you have to have some of that to be a good comic?
M: I think that the better comics have a certain courage and depth around their pain. I would say ye, on some level. I would say there are plenty of comics that don't have difficult or horrendous pasts. But there's something there, if they're good.
RAZ: Describe where you were in your life when you decided to do the podcast.
M: What happened was, they didn't take our security cards away from us. And we said look - you know - let's just come in late at night, you know, hijack the studio when no one's here, and let's see what we come up with. And that was the beginning of it.
RAZ: Does the appeal of the podcast surprise you? I mean, 200,000 downloads a week is a lot of downloads.
M: Yeah. And I think it's even more now. In this month, I mean, in the first half of the month, we've had a million downloads already.
M: And I don't really think about it that much. You know, in my mind, I'm still going out to my garage, and I'm still dealing with myself on the mike, and with having a conversation with somebody. I've decided that the struggles that people deal with in their lives - and in their minds, more importantly - are really the most important thing, and the thing that needs to be addressed.
RAZ: I was going to kill myself. And now, I don't feel alone anymore. You know, I thought I was the only one that had these feelings, you know? Your neurotic rage - or your neurotic rants relax me. I'm having some sort of - what's the drug they give to hyperactive people?
M: Yeah. I'm having a Ritalin effect on introspective, neurotic people. And I couldn't have hoped for that. And it's very gratifying; it's very moving to me. And I feel like I have a freedom of mind. And I'm finally sort of, you know, living in my own body, and grateful to be doing what I'm doing.
RAZ: Marc Maron, thank you.
M: Great to be here. Thanks.
RAZ: You can hear an extended version of this interview at our podcast this week. It's also on iTunes, or at npr.org/weekendatc.