After the clip-and-music driven intro to almost every WTF with Marc Maron podcast, the show’s host introduces himself and welcomes his listeners. But instead of merely acknowledging the masses who have made WTF one of the most popular podcasts on the iTunes store and everywhere else, Maron lists and classifies them.
Over the course of 240 episodes, he has grouped his audience into categories ranging from the mundane (“What the fuckers”) to the arcane (“What the Fuckminster Fullers”). There have been creative references to patriotism (“What the fuckanadians”), activism (“What the fuccupy Wall Streeters”) and Cosbyism (“What the fuckstables”). And yet perhaps the most interesting part of each nickname sequence is Maron’s apparent exhaustion with doing it in the first place, as his lists have devolved into the following:
“What the fuck enough!” (#204, after six other names were listed)
“What the fuck oh there’s so many!” (#233, after five other names)
“Whatever the fuck you want to call yourselves” (#234, after six other names)
“What the fuckin fuck fuck yes oh shit fuck yes goddamn right oh fuckin hell” (#219, after eight other names)
After catching up on a few recent episodes during the holiday break, I wondered if there was any rhyme (not intentionally, it seems) or reason (inconclusive) to these roll calls and performed a non-scientific and only slightly proofread statistical analysis of the intros to the fifty most recent episodes of WTF. The attached spreadsheet details that research, in which I only tallied non-consecutive, complete-word mentions that occurred directly after the opening theme. This is very important data.
Unsurprisingly, “What the fuckers” is the most commonly used label, and in cases when he does perform the roll call, that is always in pole position. The only two times in which Maron (or Mike Birbiglia, the guest host for #200) did not give them (or anyone else for that matter) a shout out: #221 (Carrot Top, a regular exception to any rule) and #226 (a live show at the Steve Allen Theater). The omission was made good in episodes 207, 212 and 218 when Maron welcomed the “What the fuckers” twice.
When “What the fuckers” are welcomed at the top (48/50 episodes in first position), the stats dictate that “What the fuck buddies” (46/50 in second) and “What the fuckaneers” (37/50 in third) are likely to follow. They were by far the most popular opening trio during the period of study; in fact, only one other group was ever saluted in second position: surprisingly, it was the relatively low-scoring “What the fuxicans,” who only received four total mentions. Perhaps before taping episode #228 with Merrill Markoe, Maron stepped out for a chimichanga, as it proved to be the only time the entire Holy Trinity was mentioned non-consecutively.
Certain references are obviously tied to the host’s location and state of mind. After a trip to Canada, “What the fucanadians” and “What the fucanucks” were added in semi-regular rotation; both finished these fifty episodes in the Top Ten. The emergence of “What the fuckOhioans” and “What the fuckeyes” similarly coincided with tour dates in the 17th state of the Union, and six references to “What the fuccupy Wall Street” came during the height of the protests. Unless Maron is a big fan of Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman, there’s really no logical explanation for the continued popularity of “fuckaneers.”
When the stats are viewed through a Casey Kasem-like prism, other patterns come into view. “What the fuckstables” moved from being mentioned sixth in episode #192 to fifth in #193 and fourth in #194. By the next episode, it was back to sixth, and then fell off the countdown for more than a month until a fifth place re-entry in #204. Adding insult to injury, Maron welcomed the similar-sounding “What the fuckables” twice during Cliff, Claire, Sondra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa and Rudy’s apparent banishment.
The research also raised some questions: how to explain the more than 30 episodes between mentions of “What the fuckterians” (#194-#227), how to correctly spell “What the fuckolombians” (should it be “fuckalombians?” “fuckalumbians?”) and whether or not this exercise makes me an amateur “What the fucktologist” or “What the fuckistician.”
Maybe it’s better that I don’t know.
Photo by Noah Kalina.
Mitchell Scherr is a writer and producer in New York.