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Fri May 9, 2014
Interviews

Marc Maron: A Life Fueled By 'Panic And Dread'

Originally published on Fri May 9, 2014 1:40 pm

This interview was originally broadcast on April 29, 2013.

When Marc Maron started his podcast "WTF with Marc Maron" out of his garage in September 2009, he was in a dark place: He was going through a divorce, his comedy career had hit a wall and — in his mid-40s — he didn't have a Plan B.

"I was at a place in my life where I had gotten very cynical," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I had lost a lot of hope for my comedy and everything else, and I really feel that I was no longer able to really appreciate other people's stories. I had lost my ability to really kind of listen and enjoy the company of other people."

Looking back, Maron says, the podcast "was really a way of me reconnecting with like-minded people — with people I'd known for years — and learning how to talk about problems and issues with friends and peers. And because of that, my joy came back. My ability to laugh came back; my ability to listen and engage emotionally with someone else's story came back. It brought me back into the world of the living, emotionally."

And as the podcast, which features interviews with other comedians, writers and personalities in the entertainment world, breathed new life into Maron himself, it did the same for his career. It quickly became one of the most talked-about and listened-to podcasts on the Internet. Conan O'Brien agreed to be interviewed, as did Janeane Garofalo, Robin Williams, Chris Rock and, in an interview that garnered a great deal of attention, Louis C.K.

Louis C.K. and Maron had been friends coming up together in the comedy world, but the friendship had foundered as Louis C.K.'s career took off and Maron's stalled. The two talked it out on Maron's podcast, and a version of the conversation later showed up in a scene in Louis C.K.'s show, Louie.

Now Maron has parlayed the success of his podcast into the IFC Channel's Maron, a television show based on his life. And he has a memoir, Attempting Normal, in which he says he wishes his imagination was fueled by something other than panic and dread — though he says not to worry too much about that observation.

"I think I've been mischaracterized a bit as a guy who gets off on his own misery," he says. "I think that misery, for people that are incredibly anxious or frightened, is something consistent. I think that obsession sometimes works as almost a spirituality.

"You know, you have a routine that your brain kind of loops around, that you call 'home,' but that's usually in defense of some other part of you that's unruly. And for me I think it's anxiety and panic and worry and dread."


Interview Highlights

On his anxiety about Conan O'Brien agreeing to be interviewed for "WTF"

"He's a TV guy; he's a big TV star, and I always looked at him as the guy who would let me on his show. We had this rapport on the show, and there was respect there, and I knew he was a busy guy and a hard worker, and he's a very intense dude. And it was just really the fact that even though I'd done his show so many times over so many years, I don't know his life. I don't know him.

"It's really that weird separation between what we get as fans or as co-workers of somebody who has a public personality, and what you really know about them. So when he was coming over, I was sort of overwhelmed and grateful that he was going to come, but there was a lot of insecurity in it. It's like, 'Now he's going to see my house. He's probably going to use my bathroom. He's going to judge my couch.' "

On whether his interview with Louis C.K. changed their relationship

"I had a real problem with resentment and, you know, Louis is his own guy. He busy, too, and he's got his own issues, but this thing happened. I think there was love there. We were good friends. We did have a connection. We did make each other feel better in times of crisis, and we just let it go and it was a burden for me.

"So after that [interview], yeah, we did. Honestly, the one thing I learned from that is a lot of times, because of the immediacy of the culture we live in, when you put a text out there or you shoot an email, if you don't hear back from someone in a day, you're like, 'Well, that's it. What happened there? Why isn't he ... ?' And now that I'm a little busier, it took this to happen for me to realize it: Things fall through the cracks. You know, it's hard to keep up with everything that's coming at you.

"And ultimately what happened with him is, I went to New York and he invited me over to his house. You know, I ate leftovers, and we sat down, and we talked for two hours. He showed me some cuts of one of the episodes he was working on, and we connected, and it was great. And then I went and did what I had to do, and he went and did what he had to do, and we're in touch. So yeah, the friendship is intact, and it's better."

On becoming a hypochondriac to attract his dad's attention

"I always thought I was dying. ... You know, I would tell my father, you know, 'I think I'm this. I think I'm that.' And when your father's a doctor, they can very easily get into a clinical mode with you and give you the attention you need — or tell you to go see their friend. And how I got over it was an awkward series of visits to his friend Bob, the urologist.

"And there was just a moment, there on the fourth visit to this guy on one break from college where I thought I had a number of things over the three-week break, and I think I was on my fourth visit to Bob's office. And I had my pants down, and he was looking at me ... and Bob finally just said, 'There's nothing wrong with you, Marc. Do you like coming here?' And there was just something about that moment where I was like, 'You know, I'm going to have to think about that, Bob, and I think this is the end of that period for me.' "

On his fears of becoming a father

"I'm a very panicky guy, and I worry a lot. That's where my brain goes. There's a dread thing that I have to fight on a daily basis, so when I think about having a baby, I go right from, 'Yay! A baby!' to 'Oh my God. It's not breathing.' There's nothing in between those things."

On his mother

"My mother is kind of compulsively vigilant about her weight. That is a nice way to say a functioning anorexic. She's very proud of her weight. She weighs 116 pounds, and I once wrote a piece for a cooking magazine that said she weighed 119 pounds, and it was as if I had misrepresented her entire life. ... Maybe within the last five years she kind of came up to me and goes, 'Look, Marc, I got to be honest with you: I don't know if I could love you if you were fat.' You know, and this was recently. ...

"And then the other time, maybe three years ago, she sits me down — we were making Thanksgiving dinner down there — and she goes, 'Marc, you know when you were a baby, I don't think I knew how to love you.' And I'm like, 'All right, well there's a missing piece to the puzzle. I guess I can cancel my therapy now.'"

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, editor of the website TV Worth Watching, in for Terry Gross. Our guest Marc Maron is not only a very funny comic, his podcast, "WTF," is the go-to place for interviews with comics. A lot of great comics have been in his garage, where he records his podcast interviews and his TV series, titled "Maron," began season two last night on the IFC network. He plays a character based on himself named Marc Maron. Here's a clip from the first episode of the new season. He's talking on the phone to his agent.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELEVISION PROGRAM, "MARON")

MARC MARON: (As Marc Maron) So there's interest in me, huh? Well that's good, right?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (As character) The podcast is catching on. You've got fans in high places, people at Fox Studios, Sony, "America's Funniest Videos." You're on fire. There's a bit of buzz. We're going to get you a chat show.

MARON: (As Marc) Please call it a talk show.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (As character) Whatever, it's thrilling. There's just one problem.

MARON: (As Marc) What's that?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (As character) A lot of people think you're an (beep).

MARON: (As Marc) Aw come on, don't they listen to my podcast? Who says that, those pieces of (beep)?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (As character) Right, completely unfounded, but right now we need to prove that you can play nicely with others.

MARON: (As Marc) Yeah? How are we going to do that?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (As character) You've heard of "The Walking Dead"? Well, there's a chat show that runs after it called "Talking Dead."

MARON: (As Marc) Yeah, I know, it's hosted by that comedian Chris Hardwick.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (As character) Is there a problem between you two?

MARON: (As Marc) He might be one of those people that thinks I'm an (beep).

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Last year, Marc Maron published his memoir, called "Attempting Normal." It's now in paperback. Terry Gross spoke to him then, and they began with a clip from the very first episode of his TV series "Maron."

(SOUNDBITE OF TELEVISION PROGRAM, "MARON")

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARON: Things are going pretty well for me right now, but that's a problem because when things are going well, that means there's a voice in my head saying you're going to screw it up, you're going to screw it up, Marc - just over and over again. I just wish that voice were louder than the voice screaming let's screw it up. 2

A few years ago, I was planning on killing myself in my garage, and now I'm doing the best thing I've ever done in my life in that same garage. It's a podcast. Do you know what a podcast is? I've been on Conan O'Brien like 47 times, and you don't know who I am, right?

(LAUGHTER)

GROSS: That's Marc Maron from the start of his new IFC TV series "Maron." Welcome to FRESH AIR, Marc Maron. Welcome back.

MARON: Thank you.

GROSS: I love that opening because it sounds like - you know, as I was watching it for the first time, I thought, oh, I guess he's being interviewed by a reporter who's not onscreen. And then we realize, no, you're just trying to impress the veterinarian who's treating your cat, and you're thinking about how you're going to hit on her afterwards.

(LAUGHTER)

MARON: Yes.

GROSS: So I love how at the same time you're trying to impress her, and then you're almost accusing her of not knowing who you are.

(LAUGHTER)

MARON: Yeah, it's tricky. You know, it's a tricky thing to be charming and completely insecure at the same time.

GROSS: So I don't usually start interviews with questions about suicide attempts, but since you bring it up in the very, very start of your show, you say you once tried to kill yourself in the garage that you are now using for your podcast. So since you brought it up, why did you try to kill yourself?

MARON: Well, I think I should be clear that I didn't try to kill myself. The deal was, is that I thought about it a lot. You know, it was a difficult point in my life. My career had sort of hit a wall. I was in the middle of a horrible divorce. You know, I wasn't getting much standup work, and I really didn't know what to do.

And when you invest half your life into this, into a creative field, into a dream like being a standup, when you - all of a sudden when you're in your late 40s or mid-40s, and everything goes wrong, there's no plan B in place anymore. You know, you have that moment where you're like, all right, well, I could always - and there's just nothing there.

And in my mind because of pride and being brokenhearted, yeah, I just would, you know, fantasize about killing myself. I didn't see any other way out, in my brain. I don't know that I really wanted to, but I found it relaxing to know that I could if necessary. It's sort of the spiritual reprieve of a faithless person.

And so I really don't want to portray myself as someone who was, like, you know, planning a way or actually trying to commit suicide. I just had a lot of suicidal ideation going on.

GROSS: So you found it kind of relaxing to know that there could be a way out if you wanted one?

MARON: Yeah, the ultimate way out. It's just a way my brain worked. I think there's a selfishness to it all, obviously, but in my mind, you know, I didn't have a wife, I didn't have children, I didn't have a career. I think a lot of that kind of stuff is just really, it's self-pity, and sometimes you get stuck on that and stuck in it, and it can sort of become depression, and that's where I was at at that point, when I started the podcast.

GROSS: So your podcast now, which is really popular and talked about, you do that from your garage. Has it helped you as a comedian to talk comedy with a lot of comics in the podcast?

MARON: I don't know if it's helped me as a comic, but I do know that it helped me as a human. I was at a place in my life where I'd gotten very cynical. I'd, you know, lost a lot of hope for my comedy and everything else. And I really feel that, you know, I was no longer able to really appreciate other people's stories. I'd lost my ability to really kind of listen and enjoy the company of other people.

And I think that when I look back at the podcast, it was really a way of me reconnecting with like-minded people, with people I'd sort of known for years and learning how to sort of talk about problems and issues with friends and peers. And because of that, you know, my joy came back. My ability to laugh came back.

My ability to sort of listen and engage emotionally with someone else's story came back. It just sort of - it brought me back to the world of the living emotionally. But as far as comedy goes, I think that to be validated and to become relevant in my community helped me on all levels.

GROSS: So you have a really terrific "WTF" podcast with Conan, and you write about that podcast in your memoir. So you write that you were really uncomfortable about Conan coming over to your garage. You'd been on his show a lot of times. You really admired him. Why were you so uncomfortable about him coming over to the garage to do the podcast?

MARON: Well, there's still a thing about - you know, he's a TV guy. He's a big TV star. And, you know, I always looked at him as the guy who had let me on his show, and we had this rapport on the show, and there was respect there, and I knew he was a busy guy and a hard worker, and he's a very intense dude.

And it was just really the fact that even though I'd done his show so many times over so many years that I don't know his life. I don't know him. It's really that weird separation between, you know, what we get as fans or as co-workers of somebody who has a public personality and what you really know about him.

So when he was coming over, I was sort of overwhelmed and grateful that he was going to come, but there was a lot of insecurity in it. It's like now he's going to see my house, he's probably going to use my bathroom. He's going to judge my couch.

(LAUGHTER)

MARON: You know, there was a lot of things going through my mind. So it was the casualness that was intimidating to me, you know.

GROSS: So I'm going to ask you to do a short reading about what the interview was like and what it was like afterwards. So this is Marc Maron reading from his new book "Attempting Normal" about his interview with Conan O'Brien in Maron's garage for his "WTF" podcast.

MARON: (Reading) Once we got behind the mics it all flowed very easily. It wasn't about what was said; it was the fact that this was the first time I had really talked to him. He told me stuff that wasn't part of his public narrative, and I got to know him a bit. It was emotional for me because I had always wanted to be his pal in some way, and even more so because he was doing the podcast, and that meant I was doing something relevant.

(Reading) I felt proud. I wanted to do a good job because I respected him, and in some way it was a turning of the tables. When we finished, we went back into the house, and Conan was just sort of lingering. He was looking at my stuff on my table, on my walls, and it was awkward again, not in a bad way, but we were both back to our roles. I was a guy whom he let appear on his show and had a good television rapport with, and he was a star who in my mind had better things to do.

(Reading) That might not have been the case. We have a history, and we had just had this great talk, and now I knew I couldn't say, OK, we'll talk tomorrow, or let me know when you want me to come by the house for dinner, or anything real friends say to each other. It literally got to the point where I was wondering how to get him out of my house because I didn't know what to do or say. It was time for him to go back to his life and me to get on with mine.

GROSS: I love that part because I really relate to that feeling that after you've had this, like, really personal conversation and then the mics get turned off, you sometimes have, like, no idea what to say. And it's such a contrast because, you know, you could be so personal and intimate in the interview, and in real life it goes - it's so awkward.

MARON: Yeah, it can be, and I don't really know how to deal with it sometimes. I've had people linger, and it's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's that moment where you realize right, we're not - we don't know each other's lives. We're not really part of each other's lives. And because of what we're doing for this show, you know, we've just really connected in a deep way.

And I'm very sensitive to that. I mean, I've had experiences with people in my life that literally lasted maybe five minutes and had such a lasting impression on me that I feel bonded to those people. I think that's a lot of what, you know, propels some of the interviews on my show.

But, you know, Jon Hamm hung out after he did my show and sat on the deck with me and my girlfriend. And who else? Like, you know, when I interviewed Jonathan Winters at his home before he passed away, you know, he wanted to go out to lunch. And it was an honor, but there's just a moment where you're, like, am I really, is this happening, is this my life, is this OK? I mean, is he comfortable? He must be. He asked me to go with him. It's very tricky.

GROSS: I thought now we can hear an excerpt of the podcast you did with Conan O'Brien, and in this part you've been talking about how difficult it was for Conan when he first started hosting late night back in the '90s because he'd never done that kind of work before. People weren't used to seeing him on camera. He wasn't used to being on camera. He was getting bad reviews. There was a lot of public criticism. So here's him talking a little bit about that period.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "WTF")

CONAN O'BRIEN: I probably have a Catholic need to suffer. That helps me, so - so the trials and tribulations that I went through in '93, '94 probably was my way of paying whatever dues I felt I needed to pay to keep that show. And then once I had suffered enough, there was a part of me that was like all right...

(LAUGHTER)

MARON: Yeah.

O'BRIEN: And now I could move on to another level. And that's probably what happened.

MARON: So that really, that really did have that - you know, Catholicism has that kind of effect? Like, because I have no familiarity with it. But the idea of suffering, to - that's part of life is really something that's plowed into your brain?

O'BRIEN: Yeah, it gets into your DNA, and I'm really trying very hard in the last couple years...

MARON: Like you're not doing it right if you're not suffering?

O'BRIEN: Yeah, I'm trying to - and you know what? My escape from that was always comedy. Comedy was always something that I could get into a zone, and you can have a really good time and people can really be laughing, and I would think later on wait a minute, people like that, and I was enjoying myself, and I was in the moment, and I wasn't self-conscious.

So comedy was always my escape valve. And then the tricky thing was I turned it into a career, and when you turn the thing you love into a career, you're playing with fire.

GROSS: That was Conan O'Brien, talking to Marc Maron from Marc Maron's "WTF" broadcast. So Marc Maron, do you relate to that? Those are some nice insights there from Conan. But do you relate to the idea of suffering being an inspiration?

MARON: I relate more to the fact that, you know, comedy is a relief, and comedy is a release, and comedy is the only way that we can feel present and lose ourselves. I find over time that I don't enjoy suffering, and there's something, you know, comforting and sort of predictable about the way your brain works around your own troubles.

But I have found that I'm more of an anxiety-ridden person, that I experience a tremendous amount of dread and fear and panic. I think I've been mischaracterized a bit as a guy that sort of gets off on his own misery. I think that misery for people that incredibly anxious or frightened is something consistent.

I think obsession sometimes works as almost a spirituality. You know, you have a routine that your brain kind of loops around that you call home, but that's usually in defense of some other part of you that's unruly. And for me, I think it's anxiety and panic and worry and dread.

GROSS: Do you find that's true of most comics, that they have either depression, anxiety, dread, suffering that they have to escape from, and that comedy becomes the escape valve, and they've found a way to talk about horrible things in a funny way, but it doesn't make the horrible things any less horrible necessarily?

MARON: I don't know. The reason - it's hard for me to speak for comics in general, and certainly I've spoken to a lot of them, and certainly I initially thought that we all had to be miserable to be great comics. But as time goes on, I don't know that that's really the case. And what I found when I was a kid that, really, you know, made me gravitate towards comedy was they seem to have an angle on things.

I think that comedy, when you're capable of it, it has a lot of uses. You know, you can sort of disarm a situation. You can also, you know, attack with a certain amount of clarity and finesse that may not be dangerous. You can protect yourself. You can, you know, ease pain in others. I mean, it's a very, you know, multifaceted tool and creative thing.

So I don't know that it necessarily serves the same purpose for all comics, but I do know that for me, when watching comedy and also the way I do comedy, is it puts an angle on things. You can get a handle on things in a very precise way, and it disarms a lot of that dread and panic.

GROSS: So do you think of some of your dread and panic and anxiety - let me back up and say Conan saw suffering as being a really Catholic thing. Do you see any of your, like, dread and anxiety as being a Jewish thing?

MARON: I don't know. I - maybe. I think that if I'm to look at the history of Jewish education, just in the sense of, you know, where we're at culturally, there was always an active engagement, you know, with arguing, with debating, with mulling things over, with putting it out there and getting a reaction, and even describing it I'm getting more Jew-y.

(LAUGHTER)

MARON: And then you talk to the guy, and he comes over, and maybe you work something out, maybe you don't, that's the way it goes, not everything has closure. You know, maybe, maybe. It's a little hard for me to characterize that, you know, without, you know, leaning on a stereotype that I'm not completely sure is true.

BIANCULLI: Comedian Marc Maron, speaking with Terry Gross last year. More after a break; this is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. Let's get back to Terry's 2013 interview with comic Marc Maron, who hosts the comedy interview podcast "WTF." His TV series "Maron" returned this week on IFC. His memoir, "Attempting Normal," is now out in paperback.

GROSS: So I want to ask you about another podcast you did. So you used to be really good friends with Louis C.K., the comic, who now has a TV show called "Louie." You have a really terrific interview with him, and there's the double-version podcast, and then there's the hour-long version on the Public Radio Exchange website, the PRX website.

So in this interview, part of it was about your relationship and how it kind of fell apart and partially because you had gotten so resentful of his success, at least that's how I understood it from listening to the podcast. And I just want to play an excerpt in which you're talking to each other about the friendship. So Louis C.K. speaks first.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "WTF")

LOUIS C.K.: You don't have to put this in the podcast if you don't want to, but what I would say as far as trying to stay friends with somebody that you have a hard time thinking about what they're doing against what you're doing...

MARON: Yeah.

C.K.: ...is focus on them needing a friend. It takes a good friend to stay with you in hard times. It takes a good friend to stay with you in good times. Everybody needs support, everybody does.

MARON: Yeah.

C.K.: So you're letting me down - if you see me doing something, and you have a hard time coming to terms with it because of your feeling about your own life, what's really happening is you're letting me down as a friend by being jealous.

MARON: OK.

C.K.: So think about the other person. Think about what they might need.

MARON: But, like, in my heart...

C.K.: I could have used you. I could have used you. I got divorced. I got a show canceled. You know, I had some tough times. I could have used a friend during those times...

MARON: But you didn't call me.

C.K.: Those times that were making you jealous, I was struggling, I was having a hard time. Doing the "Louie" show was really hard. Trying to keep my family together, it was hard.

MARON: But thing is that in our - in the way our friendship always operated, it was not that I was kept up to date in the day-to-day things. It wasn't a day-to-day call that we had. But it seemed that most of the time the thing that made our friendship so deep and so strong was that when we did talk, we made each other feel better.

C.K.: No, it's true, but you shut me out. You shut me out because you were having a hard time.

MARON: OK, well, I apologize again.

C.K.: Well, I apologize to you because then I did it to you probably out of resentment, ignored your emails because you ignored my phone calls back when there was no email.

MARON: Well, can we get back on track or what?

C.K.: Yeah, I think we can.

GROSS: Wow.

(LAUGHTER)

GROSS: That's really an amazing piece of tape.

MARON: It's choking me up now. I mean, I - you know, some of these podcast I did, that was a while ago, you know, and there was an emotional intensity to that thing that's - it's heavy, man.

GROSS: It's real. It just sounds absolutely real.

MARON: It was real. I don't - you know, I don't listen to these things after I do them. And just hearing that, I'm like, oh my God, it was so loaded and intense. Wow, yeah, well, that happened.

GROSS: So how did the podcast change the relationship? It sounds like OK, you tried to work it out during the podcast. Did you call each other afterwards? Did you go out for a cup of coffee?

MARON: Well, yeah, I mean, the thing about me and Louis is that when I went in to talk to him, I had all these memories of things - like, you know, we're comics. So it wasn't like we were, you know, hanging out every day necessarily or taking vacations together with our girlfriends or wives or any of that. But with Lou, I had been at certain junctures in his life that I thought were, you know, relevant to his growing as an artist.

And it was just - it was a real issue for me. You know, I had a real problem with resentment. And, you know, Louie's his own guy. He's busy, too, and he's got his own issues. But this thing happened, and I think there was love there. We were good friends, and we did have a connection, we did make each other, you know, feel better in times of crisis, and we just let it go. And it was a burden for me.

So after that, yeah we did. Honestly, you know, I - the one thing I learned from that is a lot of times because of the immediacy of the culture we live in, when you put a text out there or you shoot an email, it's like if you don't hear back from somebody in a day, you're like, well, that's it. What happened there? Why isn't he...?

And now that I'm a little busier, it took this to happen for me to realize it, things fall through the cracks. You know, it's hard to keep up with everything that's coming at you, and, you know, ultimately what happened with him and I is, yeah, I went to New York, and he invited me over to his house. You know, I ate leftovers.

(LAUGHTER)

GROSS: Very nice.

MARON: And we sat down, and we literally, we talked for two hours. He showed me some cuts of one of the episodes he was working on, and we connected, and it was great. And then I went and did what I had to do, and he went and did what he had to do. And we're in touch. So yeah, the friendship is intact, and it's better.

BIANCULLI: Comedian Marc Maron, speaking with Terry Gross last year. We'll hear more of their conversation in the second half of the show. I'm David Bianculli, and this is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, in for Terry Gross, back with more of Terry's 2013 interview with comedian Marc Maron. His memoir, called "Attempting Normal," is now out in paperback. And season two of his IFC cable series "Maron" began earlier this week. Maron also hosts the popular podcast "WTF," featuring his interviews with fellow comics.

When we left off, we were talking about his podcast interview with Louis C.K., in which they reconciled after a long falling out. Maron admitted he'd been jealous and resentful of Louis C.K.'s success.

GROSS: So sometime after that podcast, he wrote a role for you in an episode of his TV series "Louis," which is based on his life. But in this episode - it's about the rift in your relationship. And in this episode, Louis has blamed you for the friendship falling apart. But he has this revelation that it was actually his fault. It wasn't your fault. It was his fault. So he goes over to your house to apologize, and I want to play the scene. He comes over to your house. He walks inside. And here's the conversation.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LOUIE")

C.K.: I realized that it was my fault completely, and it's like I was a total (bleep) to you, and I stopped being your friend. And I'm shocked now when I think of it, that I would ever have thought it was anything that you did. You did nothing, and I know that now, and I don't know how to look back at - you know, you look back at your actions and, man, I don't know. I don't know if this has any meaning or worth to you, and I don't - maybe this is more of me being selfish. But I just want to say, Marc, that I'm sorry. And I wish that - I don't know what else to say.

MARON: OK. Is that it? Or...

C.K.: Yeah. I guess so.

MARON: All right. Well, I appreciate that, but I guess you don't remember, but you came over here five years ago and said the exact same thing.

C.K.: I did?

MARON: Yeah. I mean, you cried that time. You didn't cry this time, so that's - I guess that's something.

C.K.: (bleep) I kind of remember that now.

MARON: Yeah. Well, I - look, I accepted that time. I don't know, this time, whatever. I don't know what - you know, what, you need something for me? Do you want...

C.K.: No. No. (bleep) I'm sorry.

MARON: OK. Again? All right.

C.K.: OK. I'm...

MARON: OK.

C.K.: OK.

MARON: We good then or...

C.K.: Yeah. Yeah, man, OK. I'm just going to...

MARON: It's all right. I mean, (bleep). You know.

C.K.: All right.

MARON: All right.

C.K.: Well, I really am sorry, though, just so you know.

MARON: OK. OK. I get it. It's OK. You know what would be really great, though? If maybe you call me up, you asked me for coffee, we go out to dinner, something like that.

C.K.: Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, we'll do that. Yeah.

MARON: OK. Great. Or we could just do this again in five years.

C.K.: OK, man.

MARON: It's all right.

C.K.: OK. All right. All right.

MARON: OK. How you been?

C.K.: Good, man. That's very nice for you to ask. OK.

MARON: OK?

C.K.: All right. Yeah.

MARON: All right.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOOR CLOSING)

GROSS: That is so great. And I think just, like, hearing the actual conversation you had on your podcast, and then hearing a similar story transformed into Louis' TV show, it's just a fascinating comparison. And what also I find so interesting is that Louis C.K. makes it all his fault in this. It's like...

MARON: Yeah.

GROSS: And it's not all his fault. He's so kind of careless about the relationship, he doesn't even remember he apologized to you five years ago.

(LAUGHTER)

MARON: Yeah. And that's very Louis. I think he was being, you know, pretty honest in that exchange. And I think there was a lot of genuine emotion there. I think that on some, some part of him was, that was a genuine apology for what might have been his side of the selfishness in our relationship. I'm going to look at it that way, because I feel that - because he was definitely - just listening, and as you know, when you just listen and you don't have any visuals, there's an emotional depth to it that I don't think I really heard until I just listened to that now when you played it.

GROSS: So when I heard it, I was thinking, OK, so Louis C.K. is the new main character in this, and he's giving the blame to himself, because it's going to make it a more interesting episode, and because he's a generous guy. And so he's going to blame himself in his show and not blame you. But you think he's actually taking some of the blame for real in this.

MARON: Well, I think that these things are two-sided, and I think that when you listen to my podcast, that I could've pointed fingers. I could've been petty, and in that moment where, you know, I take responsibility for my side of it, I could've said but you, but you this, but you that, but you - and, you know, I realized like this was - that's not the time for it. You know, understand and take the consequences of your actions. So I think there's a chance - you would have to ask Louis - if there was some part of him that was, you know, taking some responsibility, or maybe he was just, you know, created this role and did his riff on our riff, and made it his own in that way. I don't really know. You'd have to ask him. But I do know that we are getting along better.

GROSS: Good. I'm so glad to hear that. So you've mentioned that you think - in one of your podcasts, as I recall, that you mentioned that you think a lot of comics have issues about their fathers, and you seem to. And I want to illustrate that with another clip. And this is a clip from your new IFC series "Maron." And this edition features Denis Leary as the person you're interviewing in your podcast. And Denis Leary is also, actually, in real life, an executive producer of this new TV series.

So, in this show, which is episode two of the series, you've just done a podcast with Denis Leary. And when it's over and you're leaving the garage, he's - and the podcast is done from your garage in your house - he smells something foul coming from under your house, and it turns out that there's a dead possum in the crawlspace, but you don't know how to deal with it.

MARON: And Denis Leary has already accused you of not being a manly man. He said that you have too many Joni Mitchell records in your garage, and you have too many cats. So you decide to get it together, and you kind of go out with your new assistant, your new intern to get these kind of protective clothes and protective gloves and all this other gear so you can be a man and go down to this crawlspace to get rid of the dead possum. And - but you really don't want to go. So you're standing right outside the crawlspace in all of this protective gear with your intern by your side, and here's what you say.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MARON")

MARON: Why can't I do this? Every other guy can do this. It's my dad's fault. He never showed me how to do this stuff. He never showed me how to throw a football. We never went camping. I can't fix anything. He was supposed to be around when I was a kid. He was supposed to show me how to do this crap, and then he just, he just left with no explanation, no apologies, nothing. It was neglect, man - just neglect and abuse.

JOSH BRENER: (as Kyle) I was molested at sleep-away camp.

MARON: What?

BRENER: (as Kyle)I'm sorry. I didn't mean for that to come out. I think I got caught up in your energy, and then it just - I don't think I've ever said that out loud before.

MARON: You want to talk about it?

BRENER: (as Kyle) No.

MARON: You sure? I mean, I'm here for you.

BRENER: (as Kyle) Yeah. No, I think it's a sit-down conversation, probably.

MARON: Yeah. I - yeah, it's definitely a sit-down conversation.

GROSS: That's my guest Marc Maron with Josh Brener as his assistant, Kyle. I hope he has a steady part on the show.

(LAUGHTER)

MARON: He's funny. He's funny. And that joke comes back around. It sounds a little gnarly just as it is but, you know, there's definitely a callback to the molestation setup there.

GROSS: So, anyways, I have to ask you. Did you have a lot of issues with your father? And did he - do you feel like you did not teach you to be a manly man?

MARON: I think that - those issues there are little exaggerated, but true. I think my father's biggest fault was that he was, you know, emotionally absent and, you know, and actually absent a lot. I mean, he was around, but he wasn't really checked in and, you know, he was a surgeon, so he was always out, you know, doing something that we were led to believe was, you know, life-saving and important. And when he was around, it was always - he was very, you know, either very manic or very depressed. It was very erratic.

And I think a lot of my issues are around that. I don't think that - and, you know, and I'm not whining. I think that any - a lot of people can relate to this, that there wasn't a lot of support there. There was not a lot of guidance. I think that it was just an expectation to kind of follow his lead, and if you didn't, you were some sort of idiot or, you know, he'd get mad, and there was not that active kind of moving through, you know, self-development - if that makes any sense.

GROSS: Did you ever become a hypochondriac to get his attention, because he was a doctor?

MARON: How'd you know that? Did you know that? Why did you ask me that? Where does that come from, from you? Why would you ask me that?

GROSS: Why would I ask you that? Because it would be a way of getting attention. Because you say he was always going away to do, to save people's lives...

MARON: No I didn't...

GROSS: ...and yeah.

MARON: That's very perceptive and very - that's why you're Terry Gross. I, you know, yeah, I sometimes talk about it on stage. I went through a long hypochondria period. I mean, it was really - I can't believe you just sort of zeroed in on that. I recently told the story about how I finally got over that, the hypochondria with my father. Yeah. I definitely, I definitely had that.

GROSS: How'd you get over it? Well, what did you do...

MARON: Several...

GROSS: ...in the first place? I mean, what were some of the maladies that you had?

MARON: Well, I always thought I was dying. You know, I always thought I was dying. And, you know, I would tell my father, you know, I think I'm this. I think I'm that. And when your father's a doctor, it's a very - you know, it can very easily get into a clinical mode with you and give you the attention you need, or, you know, tell you to go see their friend or take you - how I got over it was an awkward series of visits to his friend, you know, Bob, the urologist.

(LAUGHTER)

MARON: And, you know, there was just a moment, there, you know, on the first - on fourth visit to this guy in one, you know, break from college where I thought I had a number of things over the three-week break, and I think I was on my fourth visit to Bob's office. And I had my pants down and, you know, he was, you know, looking at me in a very, you know, there's a very - I don't know what I could say on NPR. But, you know, I had my pants down, and Bob finally just said, you know, there's nothing wrong with you, Marc. Do you like coming here?

(LAUGHTER)

MARON: And there was just something about that moment where I was like, you know, I'm going to have to think about that, Bob, and I think that this is the end of this period for me.

(LAUGHTER)

BIANCULLI: Comedian Marc Maron speaking with Terry Gross last year. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. Let's get back to Terry's 2013 interview with comic Marc Maron, whose TV series "Maron," returned this week on IFC. His memoir "Attempting Normal" is now out in paperback.

GROSS: So you write in your book that your mother told you that you were a diaphragm baby and you say in my mind that means I have an innate ability to overcome obstacles. But really, like what impact did it have on you for your mother to basically say we really didn't plan on having you, we had you anyways?

MARON: Yeah. She doesn't hang onto that. There are bigger issues around the mother thing, you know.

(LAUGHTER)

GROSS: OK.

MARON: You know, that - I felt - fortunately my grandparents - I was the first child and the first, you know, grandchild for, you know, all sets of grandparents. So I got a lot of attention there. And there was a couple of things that my mother said to me that were more defining of what that relationship was. You know, not too long ago - you know, my mother is, you know, kind of compulsively vigilant about her weight.

And this is a very nice way to say a functioning anorexic. She's very proud of her weight. You know, she weighs 116 pounds and I once wrote a piece for a cooking magazine that said she weighed 119 pounds and it was as if I had misrepresented her entire life. She called me up and she goes, how could you say that about me? I'm like, what - are you kidding? It's three pounds. It's like, I am not 119. All right.

But there are a couple of things that my mother said to me, you know, recently where I'm like, oh my god. Maybe within the last five years she kind of, you know, came up to me and goes, look, Marc, I've got to be honest with you. I don't know if I could love you if you were fat. You know, and this was recently.

(LAUGHTER)

MARON: This is recently. And then the other time, maybe three years ago, she sits me down. We are making Thanksgiving dinner down there and she goes, you know, Marc, you know when you were a baby, I just don't think I knew how to love you. And I'm like, all right. Well, there's a missing piece to the puzzle. I guess I can cancel my therapy now. You know?

(LAUGHTER)

MARON: So my mother's a character. There are other issues at hand, but yeah, yeah, I mean the diaphragm thing was the least of it.

GROSS: Did you ever have a weight problem?

MARON: Well, according to her, I had a weight problem. My - yeah, I had a weight problem in that my mother, you know, basically I think taught me to read with calorie counting books. You know, I was a chubby kid and I had a mother who was, you know, just literally frightened of fat.

She was an obese child and she just had this reaction to that, that she, you know, having been obese as a kid it, it just scarred her, you know, forever. And, you know, and her whole - a lot of her life is dedicated to, you know, this maintenance of body image. And I grew up with that. You know, like being denied desserts, desserts being taken away.

And I've been saying on stage, which I don't know why it doesn't get a bigger laugh because I think I framed it right, I said, you know, having this mother, I really think for like the first nine or 10 years of my life, she just saw me as some kind of extension of her fat. And that if she just ate less, perhaps the kid would disappear, you know.

(LAUGHTER)

MARON: And people always go, aw. And I'm, like, I can't frame it any funnier.

BIANCULLI: Comedian Marc Maron speaking to Terry Gross last year. His TV series "Maron" appears Thursdays on IFC, and his memoir, "Attempting Normal," is now out in paperback. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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