“Lost Roles” is a weekly column taking a different actor, comedian, or writer each week and examining all of the movies and TV shows they almost made but didn’t, for one reason or another. This week, we turn our attention to Marc Maron, host of the wildly-popular podcast WTF and the star/creator of the upcoming IFC series Maron.
After making his TV debut in 1989, Maron struggled for two decades to surpass a certain level of fame. Although he made regular TV appearances and was a successful stand-up, it took his pioneering podcast to make Maron a household name. Throughout his long journey to the top, Marc Maron has had plenty of close calls with big projects, including an ill-fated meeting with Lorne Michaels about taking over “Weekend Update” from Norm Macdonald, trying out for a Coen brothers movie, and a TV talk show pilot based on his podcast. Let’s take a look now at these and more movies and shows Marc Maron almost starred in but didn’t.
1. D2: The Mighty Ducks (1994)
Marc Maron filmed a small part in the kids sports movie sequel D2: The Mighty Ducks, which was directed by his friend Steve Brill who started doing comedy with him in college. Maron’s character was “angry valet,” but he came off too angry and scared the kid actors and was cut from the film. Here he is telling the story on the podcast Awkward Moments:
I played the angry valet, where the Ducks are wandering around Beverly Hills and they can’t get into any of the stores. I don’t remember what my line was … something like, “You gotta know somebody to get [in]!” I kina blew up. I did a couple of takes, and Steve comes up to me [and] goes, “You’re scaring the Ducks.”
2. Saturday Night Live (1996)
Maron has talked plenty about a meeting he had with SNL head honcho Lorne Michaels in the mid-90s about taking over “Weekend Update” from Norm Macdonald, who had been delighting fans but upsetting NBC brass with his performance during the segment. Maron wrote an essay called “Lorne Michaels and Gorillas” about the experience, which he was stoned for, years ago for Air America. Here’s an excerpt:
I’m sitting there in front of his desk. In front of me, right behind a picture facing him, there’s a little bowl of candy. I was freaking out about the whole situation. So everything became very loaded and I was thinking, “I’m not going to take any fucking candy. It’s a test of some kind.”I became very self-conscious.I leave my head and check back into the situation at hand and Lorne is philosophizing. He was in the middle of a long discourse that I had missed because I was thinking about the candy. He says, “You know, comedians are like monkeys.”I laugh uncomfortably. It is a direct assault on my craft.”People go to the zoo and they like the lion because it’s scary. And the bear because it’s intense, but the monkey makes people laugh.”I just couldn’t stop myself and I said, “Yeah, I guess, if they’re not throwing their shit at you.”That was the moment that I just knew that I wasn’t going to be on SNL. I had responded. Lorne seemed taken aback for about a second and then commenced to stare directly into my eyes for a long time. So long that the head writer fidgeted in his chair and laughed uncomfortably. He said, “Lorne?”Lorne said, “You can tell a lot from someone’s eyes.”I was in a staring contest with one of the most powerful men in show business. I tried to exude some star-ness from my face.I broke and I took a candy.As soon as I took the candy I swear to God Lorne shot a look at the head writer that clearly connoted to me that I had failed the test. I walked out of there thinking I ruined my career because of a Jolly Rancher. I don’t even like Jolly Ranchers. I festered about it for days.
Michaels and NBC ended up replacing Norm Macdonald with Colin Quinn on the “Update” desk a couple years later.
3. Untitled Fox Show (2002 pilot)
Back in 2002, Maron signed a development deal with Fox to create a sitcom pilot based around his stand-up act. Bill Masters, a writer for Murphy Brown and Grace Under Fire, was hired to write the script, which revolved around Maron and his dysfunctional family. Fox ordered a script for the show but didn’t order the pilot into production.
4. Slice o’ Life (2003 pilot)
Maron was cast alongside Rainn Wilson and Bob Odenkirk in this ABC pilot that starred Janeane Garofalo as a producer who handles light human interest stories for a prestigious newsmagazine show like 60 Minutes . Maron’s character was an ex-Wall Street lawyer who decided to change his life and become Garofalo’s character’s assistant. Slice o’ Life was in contention to be a midseason show during the 2003-04 season, but production on the pilot was called off after a table read went poorly. Maron and Rainn Wilson talked it during Wilson’s 2011 appearance on WTF. “It was terrible,” recalls Wilson. “I’ll never forget it … Janeane, bless her. She’s such a major talent and the sweetest person in the world, but she came in – wearing a ripped-up T-shirt, her arms covered in sleeve tattoos and spiky jewelry all up and down, just totally punk rock – playing the pleasant news journalist lead of this show that they wanted to be a modern Mary Tyler Moore for ABC executives.” Wilson and Maron added that Garofalo’s politics may have also gotten in the way of the project and turned off Disney execs.
5. A Serious Man (2009)
During Patton Oswalt’s appearance on WTF, Oswalt and Maron get into a conversation about how much they love the Coen brothers’ work and the two reveal that they each read for a part in their movie A Serious Man. Maron auditioned for the lead role of Larry Gopnik, which ended up being played by Michael Stuhlbarg, while Oswalt tried out to play Larry’s obnoxious brother Arthur, which went to Richard Kind. Maron probably wouldn’t have started podcasting if he’d booked the lead part in a Coen brothers movie, that’s for sure.
6. WTF with Marc Maron (2010 pilot)
Maron made a pilot presentation for Comedy Central called WTF with Marc Maron back in 2010. It was a talk show inspired by the podcast, which was only a year old at the time, that he hosted with Chelsea Peretti as his co-host, but Comedy Central didn’t order it to series. Their loss is IFC’s gain, as Maron’s podcast exploded in the wake of Comedy Central passing on this show, landing him a book deal and his own TV show.