WTF Podcast: Comedians Risking “Not-Funny”


At the risk of plugging a particular product, my iph–uh, my cellular phone is everything now. When I drive to and from work, which takes 1-1.5 hours out of my day, it navigates, it accesses IMDB for surfing during red lights, it gives me text messages from my wife about our need for milk (Kids, Don’t text and drive!), it plays any song or album I can think of whenever I want, and most often, it plays the podcasts I want to hear. Every Monday and Thursday, it plays the latest WTF, with Marc Maron, and kids, it’s required listening. I want a report Tuesday morning. (Really, though, no kids allowed. The words initialed in the title are spoken frequently, about 10 times in the first few seconds.) Marc Maron is a standup who has been working the mike about 30 years. He hosted Short Attention Span Theatre one season, and he’s palled around with comedy terrorists like Sam Kineson, with all the substance abuse that implies. He was a notorious “comedian’s comedian.” They all knew and feared him, and few of us had ever heard of him.

After about 13 years of sobriety, still more a comic legend than a successful comedian, he came up with the idea of hosting a comedy-oriented podcast in his own garage, and WTF became one of the first and most successful comedy podcasts. The best part is, it’s usually not funny. It’s better than funny. Maron seems to have missed his calling as a therapist, and at times, he and his guests mine deeply. Sometimes they talk about drink or drugs, about abusive parents, about death, sometimes they talk about how they deal with hecklers and their favorite albums.

Maron is a gifted conversationalist, an intelligent listener and eloquent speaker, and he’s never been afraid to tell the truth. To Michael Ian Black, he said, “Here’s what’s always irritated me about you.” Gallagher stormed off the show when Maron called him on racist and misogynist jokes Gallagher was telling on stage, and Gallagher weakly defended himself by saying the jokes weren’t his, he just overheard them. Musicians, actors, directors all line up to be on the show now.

It’s not about confrontation, but it is refreshing to hear these people speaking and not their avatars. Class, go listen to him speak with Mike DeStefano (ep. 130), who tells a heartbreaking and somehow funny story of his deceased wife’s last ride with him on a motorcycle, in a hospital gown, connected to an iv, the story more poignant when you learn DeStefano himself died of a heart attack a few months later.

Go listen to Norm McDonald reveal himself to be soft-spoken, insecure person who at times suffers from Stendahl Syndrome. You don’t know these people, and the way Maron gets them to reveal themselves can be surprising. This week, one episode is a conversation with Mel Brooks, the other is with Carl Reiner. Go listen.

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About Robert Phillips

Robert Phillips is a Miami lawyer still deciding what he wants to do for a living. Once a lover of Pynchon, Pinter, and any other artist whose work he barely understood, he has since "come home" to genre fiction and fandom, where he truly belongs. He focuses most of his fan-attention on his wife Elena and his three little girls, who will one day be a female president, a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and a supermodel/astrophysicist. (He's not sure which one will be which yet.)

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