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Marc Maron Didn’t Mean to Predict the End of the World

Marc Maron. Photo: Vulture and Getty Images

Marc Maron’s new Netflix special is called End Times Fun, and it was improbably recorded before all of this coronavirus-driven global upheaval. Or maybe it’s not so improbable. For one, Maron argues for how much this era has felt like end times since, oh, November 9, 2016 or so. For another, Maron has been examining doomsday nihilism and Evangelical hysteria in his stand-up comedy for decades, and his introspective vulnerability is a perfect point of view for taking a hard look at these times.

In this episode of the new, improved, and now weekly Good One podcast, the what-the-fucker becomes the what-the-fuckee, diving deep into religion, identity, personal trainers, and the joys of working with director Lynn Shelton. You can read some excerpts from the transcript or listen to the full episode right below. Tune in to Good One every Tuesday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Good One

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On What We Actually Know

I’ve been wrestling with those ideas about, you know, What do I know? What do I not know? Because as the barometers or the actual science of truth that we’ve known in our world become sort of tenuous or slippery or shaky, at some point you have to take stock of who you are around this stuff and really ask yourself, Well, how much of what I know is just stuff I hear? How much of what I know is just stuff I react to? What have I really done my homework on? Because I know when I was in college, I don’t know that I took in anything. And there’s a certain amount of bullshit that we all use to get through life, and this is a cramming situation when we have to know things.

I think that it’s a little more relevant because of the amount of information we allow ourselves to be assaulted by, just by what we’re holding in our hand, by our phone. So it really becomes a more pressing kind of question, because of how much we react and respond and adapt and are completely symbiotic with the information-spewing devices that we are sitting in front of constantly and then kind of becoming a repository for that shit, and spreading it. You know, it really becomes a fairly relevant question: What do I know? How do I know it? Who am I? “Who am I?” is very important, especially in the face of potential authoritarianism or fascism. It’s like, how fortified are you mentally and spiritually and and in your own fucking skin to know that you won’t buckle? How willing are you to fight? How much have you given up already of your fight, and who you are and what you think is important? I mean, these are relevant questions, given the political climate we’re in and also the informational media climate we’re in. So how do you make those accessible? That was really the question.

On the “Cosmically Appropriate” Timing of His Special

I recorded this in October. I mean, the release of it is cosmically appropriate, but I couldn’t have planned that. And certainly, I’m not necessarily happy that we’re living in a time of plague. But, you know, it didn’t hurt my special — that’s for sure.

Heading into this, my feeling was, Look, this special will go up, and it’ll just get kind of lost in the churning cloud that delivers us all of our shit. I fully anticipated I’d get my people to watch it and then it would just fade. So my expectations were very different. Obviously, I don’t want everyone to get sick. But if you’re at home, maybe this is a good thing to watch at this particular point in time.

So I’m sort of amazed. It’s that weird mixture of excitement and horror. I’m happy I can provide the relief necessary for this particular point in history, in that somehow or another — October, November, December, January, February, March — somehow in four months, you’ve got to keep it kind of broad. I knew that it was broad enough and that most of what I was talking about was going to be our reality for a while. I couldn’t have banked on this. Or that me saying, “It’s going to take something horrible to get people back together,” that it would read as this.

But I do feel that it is a good thing to watch to find a little respite. But also, you know, a little kind of hard comfort and hard truths that is, again, reacting to something that is a truth framed in a different way. Comedy can frame things in ways that you may not have understood it before. That’s why I always loved it when I was a kid, is that a good comic could take things that were daunting or scary or seemingly unapproachable and within a few lines really make it accessible, and make you laugh at it, and kind of put it into your head in a different place — to change the way you think about something in a very immediate way. And also, you can feel reaffirmed in some ways in your own feelings, and less alone in some way. So all that stuff happens, and this is a good time for it. And I’m sorry it’s a horrible time, but I’m happy that this shit is out there so people can be like, Okay, that made me feel better and I’m not crazy.

On How Isolated We All Were Already Before Social Distancing

Obviously, with the podcast, and with the nature of where that comes from, the fundamental source of the podcast is an idea that I learned in Alcoholics Anonymous, which is that when two people get together and talk, they get out of themselves and into somebody else’s story, and that there’s no way that doesn’t help both people. So that’s the premise of that. I don’t have to be funny on the podcast. As a stand-up, it’s your job. So between both things, the fact that people get something out of my willingness to share my struggles and my vulnerability and whatever it is that I’m feeling, that they feel a little less lonely or a little more relieved …

I mean, this is an isolating time, and coronavirus is not going to help anything. I talked to Brendan [McDonald, WTF producer] about this — that if we survive as a species, when they look back on this period of history, the thing that’s really gonna stand out, his point was, is how isolated everyone was. And that most of the thinking and bile and everything else happens in this strange vacuum of people’s individual lives. And some of those lives are tragic and horrible and compromised and unfair, but they have this outlet to engage with the world through social media and everything else. But a lot of it is coming out of complete lack of connection with other people, or with community.

On His Level of Success

I’m trying to learn how to enjoy things. And the timing on that’s not great, given the world we’re living in. But how does it affect my life? I still find a way to think I’m not doing the best I can and that I wish more people liked me. There’s still part of me that thinks, Why’s that guy so popular? Because in the big picture of things, I’m still an acquired taste. I’m still kind of a marginal figure. I do all right for myself, I make a nice living, but I’m not huge. But I think there’s probably a reason for that, like there’s a reason for everything else.

I’m not being spiritual here. I’m not being God-minded. Maybe I am, I don’t know. I don’t know who I would be if I got that big. I imagine I would crush myself under the expectations of that responsibility. So I think I’m exactly where I need to be. I always think I’m going to dry up, or I’m going to repeat myself. I talk about going off the grid, or quitting comedy, or fuck everything — I have those days, yeah. Almost every day for an hour. So, yeah, I still fight that fight. Is it necessary? I don’t know. But I guess it’s who I am.

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Marc Maron Didn’t Mean to Predict the End of the World