Three Great Things: Marc Maron

The comedian, podcaster and actor, who's currently starring in To Leslie, on what makes his life meaningful.

Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark the October 7 release in theaters and on VOD of To Leslie, the new drama starring Andrea Riseborough, Allison Janney and Marc Maron, fan-favorite comedian turned podcaster and actor Maron shared the things that give his life meaning. — N.D.

Stand-up Comedy
I’ve been doing stand-up my entire life and it’s the thing I always wanted to do. It’s something I started doing professionally in 1988, having already done it a couple of years before that. Although it wasn’t always this case, at this point in my life, doing stand-up has become pretty amazing. All of a sudden, it’s taken on new meaning. And because I now have this skill set and the craft in place, it’s bringing me a lot of joy. And I don’t always admit that.

Stand-up has always been my calling, but through a lot of my life, it was also sort of a fight with an audience I assumed didn’t like me. However, as I’ve become more grounded in myself and have more life experience, it’s been amazing to really enjoy doing comedy. I’m doing an hour-and-a-half or two-hour sets and I’m not getting bored of them; I’m taking chances and engaging with the audience and feeling like this is what I set out to do my entire life. I’m not sure I’m as big or as recognized for what I do as I’d like to be in these moments, but it doesn’t really matter because I know I’m working at the peak of my ability right now.

For me, stand-up was never about entertaining people, it was about finding a place to express myself and my thoughts in every way I possibly could. I know you’ve got to get laughs, but this is the art I chose. I always saw it as some sort of higher calling and believed that if you figured out what your territory was up there on stage, you could do anything. Which is true. I’ve now come to a place where I’ve achieved what I set out to do with it, which is to have freedom of mind, explore ideas, frame things in a new, unique way for people, blow minds with that, and have some courage. I can address politics, heartbreak, tragedy, cats … I can do whatever I want; I can even sing if I want to. It’s just having the creative freedom that comes from doing it. And I can recognize that I’ve done what I set out to do as a kid, I’m doing my best work and there are not many people out there better than me.

I find a lot of peace of mind in cooking. This is not something I talk about a lot, but I like to do all the little things that most people of a certain level have their assistants do. Like, the dishwasher broke the other day, so I’m going to figure out how to fix it. I cook a lot and I do it because it’s almost meditative for me. I don’t know if I’m an amazing cook, but I like to cook my own food because I like to eat a certain way. I don’t go out to eat very much, because I don’t find a lot of times that I buy food that anyone gives a shit about making, and I can sort of feel that when I eat it.

I don’t like to waste meals. I grew up with a mother who had an eating disorder and I’m very nervous about food. I can’t just say, “It’s no big deal. It’s just lunch,” because it is a big deal. There are certain foods I lock into. I’ve got a suburban pellet smoker and have figured out ways to make ribeye steaks and whole chickens. I cook and I prepare salads; I like carrot salad and have several different cabbage salads that I’ve been making. It’s all pretty healthy. Occasionally, I’ll bake.

If I focus, I’m a pretty good cook. I can follow a recipe and I can make it happen. I’ve just got to be careful with it, because if I’m thinking about baking a pie, for example, it’s primarily because I want to eat as much of that pie as possible. And I always look for opportunities to cook a pie. But I get a lot of peace of mind from cooking and preparing food. There are times where I feel like I’m running a very small restaurant for just myself.

Playing Guitar
Playing guitar is and always has been important to me. I’ve done it for almost all my life. I never set out to be a musician or play in a band – I just never had the confidence – but I’m a pretty good player, I continually work on improving and I’ve always been afraid to play out with guys. For a long time, I appeared on Conan O’Brien’s show three or four times a year, and when Jimmy Vivino was the bandleader over there, he would always leave a guitar in my dressing room and show me some stuff. So, I learned a lot from Jimmy showing me blues licks and talking to me, and I try to keep picking up new stuff.

I recently started to play with a little band that I put together, because it was a bucket list item for me. We play at Largo and do six interesting covers and I’ll do some comedy. I asked Jimmy to play on the first night, he said OK, and now he’s in the band! When he told me, “You’re pretty good. You can do it,” I said, “Really?” So, I’m fronting this band and a great guitar player is playing with me, and there’s a lot of joy in that and I’m getting more comfortable doing it. It’s something I always wanted to do, and I don’t have any expectations other than doing it well and enjoying doing it. And that seems to be happening. Playing guitar with people and learning how to sing confidently and how to leave moments of quiet – that’s all very new to me, so there’s an excitement to it.

Marc Maron is currently co-starring in the drama To Leslie, opposite Andrea Riseborough and Allison Janney, out in theaters and on VOD on October 7. For more than 30 years, he has been writing and performing comedy for print, stage, radio, online and television. With his landmark podcast WTF with Marc Maron, which achieves more than 55 million listens per year, he’s interviewed icons such as Robin Williams, Keith Richards, Nicole Kidman, and former U.S. president Barack Obama. Marc starred in the Netflix series Glow and his scripted series, Maron, aired for four seasons on IFC. He’s had recent roles in the films Joker, Spencer Confidential, Sword of Trust, Stardust, the 2021 Aretha Franklin biopic, Respect, alongside Jennifer Hudson, and the animated feature The Bad Guys, co-starring Sam Rockwell. Marc’s stand-up special More Later (2015) aired on Epix and his specials Thinky Pain (2013), Too Real (2017) and 2020’s End Times Fun, which was nominated for a 2021 Critics’ Choice Award, are currently streaming on Netflix. Marc is the author of The Jerusalem Syndrome: My Life as a Reluctant Messiah and Attempting Normal.