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SXSW 2013: Marc Maron on podcasting, poetry and the joys of having a really invested audience

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As you may have heard, we are bringing comedian and podcaster Marc Maron to the small screen and we couldn’t be more excited. The show, “Maron,” debuts this spring with ten episode all based on Marc’s life and, of course, his successful WTF podcast (which you should just subscribe to already.) Each half hour episode chronicles Marc’s day-to-day struggle to maintain relationships other than the ones with his podcast audience and his beloved trio of cats. “Maron” premieres Friday, May 3 at 10:00pm ET/PT on IFC. We talked to the podcasting legend, author and soon-to-be television star about high school, poetry and what to do when an interview gets away from you.

I put out a call on Twitter for questions for you and for some reason the number one thing people wanted to know was when you were going to propose to your girlfriend. Is it strange having people be so involved in your personal life?

Sometimes it’s very strange, yeah. But I don’t really know what else I would talk about. People knowing that much about my personal life is a little weird, but I try to temper it a little bit. It’s tricky, but …I don’t know when I’m going to propose to my girlfriend. I think they are asking that because I was talking about rings and what not, so I have to go find out what she wants. Apparently that’s the way it’s got to work with this one. Her biggest fear is that I would go out and buy a ring that she doesn’t like. But, yeah, it’s a little bizarre, but I think it’s exciting to have that many people co-dependently involved in your life.

How does your girlfriend feel about the casting of her on the TV show?

She felt alright about it. She saw most of the audition reels and this Nora [Zehetner (Mad Men, Grey’s Anatomy)] seemed to look more like her and in the reel there was a nuance to what she was doing that my girlfriend definitely approved.

Did you aim for realism in casting in general?

Yeah, I think we did. The assistant character doesn’t really exist. My assistant is part-time and she’s a woman, but my dad certainly. Judd Hirsch looks like he could be my dad. Sally Kellerman kind of looks like my mom and Nora looks a bit like Jessica. But it’s weird. You can’t have the same expectations out of someone portraying somebody as you can of a real person. It’s always sort of weird to sort of judge her behavior against the real girlfriend. We were more performed with the performance than looks.

What is one awkward high school experience that you’re willing to recount in public?

It feels like that there are a lot of them.

Where did you go to high school?

Albuquerque, New Mexico. Highland High.

What’s their mascot?

The Hornets. I wasn’t very invested in all of that. I never went to a game or anything. But one awkward experience that I remember is when I was probably a senior in English class and we were writing poetry and it was an assignment and I had a job down by the university so I was very on the pulse of what intelligent grown-up people were doing. Being an artist and whatnot. I just remember that I wrote these poems about my love and my heart and virginity and stuff and we read them out loud. The teacher was like, ‘Well, that’s very good, Marc.’ He was this funny little guy. But the class was like, ‘What is he doing? Why is he talking about that?’ But in retrospect I think it’s pretty true to what I do and what I’m still doing.

Do you still write poetry?

Sometimes. If necessary. Sometimes if you can knock out a good poem while you’re trying to “get in.” I think poems still work for courting with certain gals.

Is that how you got your girlfriend?

Not this one. This one was …well, not that kind of poetry.

Have you ever had an interview just get totally away from you?

Yeah. [waits a beat] Did you want more information than that?

Yes please. Were you trying to get something out of someone and they just wouldn’t budge?

It’s not really about trying to get something out of someone. It’s more like not being able to engage in conversation. If people are kind of filibustering you and really dictating the narrative of the interview it’s hard to stop it, depending on who it is. Sometimes, with the people I interview, it can be very entertaining, but sometimes you just need to engage a little bit. It’s never a negative thing, but it’s not a conversation. It’s more like you turn them on and they go. But some of those have been great interviews, but they weren’t necessarily conversations. Like JB Smoove he just goes. Henry Rollins just goes. Bob Zmuda just goes. Then it becomes more challenging. You have to look for the gap to send them down another thing. If they continue to dictate it, they might just have that sort of personality where they just go but then you try to get them to go over here instead.

You recently had Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner on your podcast? Was that a dream come true or am I projecting?

It was pretty amazing, but you start to wonder how you’re going to have something authentic happen. I’m always afraid that there’s going to be some sort of narrative with public especially those who have been public people for years they have a series of stories. They have stories that they like to tell and some of those stories you want them to tell, but other times you want to get it into the moment. It becomes tricky. When I’m entering an interview situation, I’m not that starstruck. I don’t know why that is ’cause I am outside of the interview. In general, I put celebrities on pedestals. I still do, I always did. But once I’m there it’s like ‘he’s a guy, he’s just a guy and we’re going to talk to this guy,’ which helps. Yeah, it was a dream come true, but the challenge for me is that I wanted it to be authentically my conversation with them.

Did you feel like you were able to accomplish that?

Yeah, I do. More so with Mel but enough things happened during the Carl Reiner thing– phone calls and whatnot – that it worked with both of them.

What did you do before you had Twitter and podcasting to fill all your time?

I don’t know. Napping, driving around, writing things down. I find it a little disconcerting that I don’t write as many things down. I think Twitter eats up a lot of that impulsive idea thing. I just thought of that just now. I should probably pull back a little bit. You’re dumping so much of yourself in all these different mediums, what are you really keeping for yourself to try and make more of? I used to constantly have notebooks that I used to scribble in. I don’t really scribble any more. It must be because of Twitter. I really want to save every one of my tweets. I guess you can save them, but I can’t seem to get them all the way back. I actually asked a guy at Twitter, ‘Can you get me all of my tweets in a book?’ and he never did. I imagine they are all in there somewhere.

In between the podcast, your new book and your upcoming TV show, what’s next? Are you one of the people who thinks about what’s next?

I am more content than usual. I’m trying to get my hour together to tape a standup special. I’d like everything to start having its own life and hope that people dig it. Maybe pull back a bit and take it easy and figure out what I want to talk about. I don’t have a big what’s next. I don’t have a big project. It would be fun to do some more acting, but I really need to focus more on the standup again, specifically. Free my mind up to do that. Maybe get a new house.

I heard you say last night at the Q & A about “Maron” that you like the house they built for you for the show more than you like your own house.

It just had better furniture. I really like my house, but the truth is that it’s a small house and I’m living with somebody. Apparently women, I don’t want to be specific, but apparently women like their own bathroom. I run my show out of my house and she’s got all her shit in there and I have Ben Stiller over and I don’t think Ben Stiller is going to go through her shit, but something’s you just want to keep private. I get it. I get that it might be nice to have a bathroom that would just be for us. But I love it. What am I going to do move my garage? Maybe I should purge everything and Feng Shui that shit. I have no idea what that means, but it sounds good, though.

You should pre-order Marc’s new book “Attempting Normal” and

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“Maron” premieres on IFC on Friday, May 3 at 10/9c

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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