Marc Maron reminds us that being brilliant doesn’t mean copying others. Rather it means being the best version of who we are.
I came to Marc Maron a little bit late in the game, but just before he experienced a game-changing opportunity in his career. On June 22, 2015 the host of the WTF podcast–recorded in his garage–interviewed President Obama. I was elated about the interview for a number of reasons.
But I can’t say that I was with Maron from the beginning. The truth is that I didn’t really notice him and his work until sometime in late 2013, mainly because of an ad I saw for the Maron show on the IFC channel while watching a DVR’d episode of another program. But once I got a sense of Maron’s background, style, and personality, I was hooked. I caught up on many of his previous comedy specials, podcast interviews, and books. His was a story I could appreciate.
Marc Maron came up in the comedy circuit in the late 1980s along with a number of other comedians who have become household names, such as Louie C.K. and Sarah Silverman. And while he generally made a solid career of it, he hasn’t ever taken off (perhaps until this summer). His most recent book, Attempting Normal, describes his absolute desperation in 2009 when he launched his now famous podcast WTF. He was just out of a second failed marriage, going nowhere professionally, and watching many of his peers excel in their careers.
His podcast slowly built a following because of Maron’s honest, self-effacing style. He was open about his past addictions, current sobriety, inner anguish, and shaky self-confidence. His approach to interviewing guests resulted in some of the most gripping and revealing interviews with some of the most interesting personalities in the world of arts and entertainment.
This compelling approach, then, led to what may be one of Maron’s crowning achievements as a professional–interviewing a sitting U.S. president.
Many people have already written about this interview. It was sensational. They’ve mainly written about some of the shocking comments made by President Obama about race (nobody expected him to use the N-word). Maron also drew out of the president many fascinating remarks about how six-and-a-half years in office has shaped him, about how he feels “fearless” after all he has been through.
But I’m more interested in the courage of Marc Maron at this point.
At one point in the interview, early on, Maron notes that the president attended Occidental College for a short time, a college that is only minutes away from Maron’s garage, the location of the WTF podcast interview. The president said that indeed he lived not too far away as a student years ago. Maron then asked him if he ever thought, back in those college days, that he’d one day be president and back in the neighborhood to conduct an interview. President Obama, somewhat tongue in cheek, responded by saying the following (paraphrased) words:
Did I ever think that I’d be back in this neighborhood, as president, recording a podcast in a garage, with a comedian? No, it would’ve been inconceivable.
To me, this comment says as much about Marc Maron as it does about his guest. Because of his openness–something that appeals greatly to me–we know how deep and painful his struggles have been. He’s been chipping away at his career for decades attempting to find success and fulfillment. He’s encountered the occasional success along with loads of painful disappointments.
But Maron never gave up and never sold out. His work reflects his genuine and authentic self–even in moments when you would expect him to change. For example, Maron maintained his typical interview approach with the president. He didn’t turn the episode into a goofy, lightweight interview, nor did he lay down and allow the president to turn the whole thing into a policy speech. Maron asked deep, penetrating questions, that sometimes led to awkward moments, of the most powerful politician in the world. This takes courage.
Marc Maron inspires me. He knows who he is and puts it out into the world. He asserts himself, experiences struggle, learns from challenges, and moves forward. He very publicly grapples with his issues, which in turn, gives others permission to face theirs.
His story reminds me of the Marianne Williams passage, Our Deepest Fear:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant? Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Marc Maron reminds me that being brilliant doesn’t mean copying others. No one in a million years could’ve predicted that his podcast efforts would lead to an interview of such magnitude. Yet it did. It didn’t because of Maron’s mimicking of others’ success; it came because Maron found his groove and became the best in the world at his craft. This brave and dedicated hard work attracted the attention of the world.
Marc Maron’s light is shining on me and I feel liberated.
For more about Maron’s twice-weekly podcast, see WTFpod.com.
Photo credit: Flickr/Olaf Eckhardt
Also by David Shechtman
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