Marc Maron has shed his bitter self for a better self

Comedian, actor, and podcaster Marc Maron.
Travis Shinn
Comedian, actor, and podcaster Marc Maron.

Marc Maron is feeling pretty good about himself.

It is, he admits, a strange place to be.

At 56, the veteran comedian, actor, and podcaster, who plays two shows Saturday at the Shubert Theatre, has carved out a comfortable niche for himself. Don’t get him wrong: He’s still plenty uncomfortable. He’s still on edge, still easily aggravated.


It’s just that success, after all those years of eluding it or mishandling it, has brought a certain “fearlessness,” as he puts it.

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“I have to be careful not to get too cocky,” he says with a laugh. “It’s my least attractive mode.”

Earlier this year he recorded the landmark 1,000th episode of “WTF With Marc Maron,” his 10-year-old interview podcast, which helped establish the viability of the form; the show continues to thrive even as the pool of competitors has expanded exponentially. Following a nice four-season run with his thinly fictionalized IFC sitcom “Maron,” he’s had a leading role on the hit Netflix show “GLOW,” and he recently starred in the offbeat feature film “Sword of Trust.”

After touring his newest stand-up material in recent months, he was due to tape his next hourlong comedy special, his fourth, in Boston. But technical snags preempted that plan. Instead, he’ll tape the show in Los Angeles, where he lives, the day before Halloween.

Despite the acting and hosting, stand-up comedy is the thing that has defined Maron’s life from his earliest years onstage, when the New Jersey native was a Boston University graduate trying to break into the cutthroat comedy scene of the late 1980s.


“It’s always been a weirdly life-or-death endeavor in terms of how I approach it,” he says, on the phone from LA. Now, however, he’s finally earned something like fulfillment.

There’s an old adage that it takes 20 years to create an overnight success, as Maron noted in one of his books, “Attempting Normal” (2013). “[B]ut what you don’t hear is that that is the exact same amount of time it takes to create a bitter failure.”

His podcast, famously recorded in his garage, began as an opportunity to quiz fellow comedians on their careers. The earliest episodes included guests such as Patton Oswalt, John Oliver, Jim Gaffigan, and Sarah Silverman.

At first, he says, he either deferred to his colleagues — they were all doing better than he was — or he thought of them as “resentment puppets.”

“You’re talking to all different types of people in the creative fields about what defines happiness, what success means,” he explains. Unexpectedly, the exercise became a kind of therapy: “Ultimately, I think I sort of landed in myself. The insecurities still exist, but it’s relative to a more defined sense of who I am now.”


By now, he’s had a long list of distinguished guests on the podcast, from Mel Brooks and Paul McCartney to Barack Obama. He’s 20 years sober, and he’s doing his best to break his nicotine habit.

‘Now, I’m integrating all parts of my arc — a lot of personal stuff, some abstract, some political.’

He has a part in the new “Joker” movie (opposite one of his heroes, Robert De Niro) and a central role in an upcoming film about a young David Bowie. A longtime guitar noodler, he even joined the band Titus Andronicus onstage recently on a cover of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.”

Beyond the career highlights, Maron is simply finding that his own skin fits him better. After “Joker” director Todd Phillips complained that comedy is suffering in the era of “woke” culture, Maron begged to differ on a new episode of “WTF.” Comedians are still free to “ride a line,” he argued. They’re still welcome to take chances. The only thing “that’s off the table,” he continued, “is shamelessly punching down for the sheer joy of hurting people.”

Although he disagreed with Phillips on that point, he also has little patience for the hand-wringing over “Joker” — the argument that the film, in an era full of aggrieved young men looking to vent their frustrations, is poorly timed.

“If you want to pay more attention to treating mentally ill people, then focus on that,” he says. “If you want to resolve the problem of mentally ill people shooting other people, then deal with the gun issue. Blaming movies is a copout.”

Onstage, he’s been drawing from every aspect of his evolution as a comedian, Maron says.

“There was a period there when I was real provocative, shocking, dark. Then I evolved into a political comic in the early 2000s a little bit, although I was always sort of half-that.” The proliferation of comedy online and on cable TV led him next to drill down on his own eccentric point of view, to ensure there is “some purity to what I do.”

“Now, I’m integrating all parts of my arc — a lot of personal stuff, some abstract, some political,” Maron says. In his new set, “I have a fairly aggressive, old-school, over-the-top satirical closer that’s probably more like what I was doing in the late ’90s.”

As he heads to Boston, where he first took the stage, he feels like he’s come full circle. Whatever success has come to mean for him, the object remains the same.

“I’m not looking to offend or provoke,” Maron says. “I’m really just trying to deliver the bit.”

Marc Maron

At the Shubert Theatre, 265 Tremont St., Oct. 12 at 7 and 10 p.m. Tickets from $49,

James Sullivan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.