John Rabe goes to L.A.'s Highland Park neighborhood to talk with Marc Maron about his memoir "Attempting Normal." Maron is set to release the 500th episode of his podcast WTF this week, a podcast he says kinda saved his life.
On the paperback cover of "Attempting Normal," Marc Maron's memoir of addiction, redemption, and the WTF podcast, David Sedaris blurbs, "I laughed so hard reading this book."
I want to respond, like Gene Rayburn on "Match Game": "You laughed so hard that BLANK," because the parts that make you laugh might reveal something you don't want to reveal.
Is it when Maron's physician father gives him a rectal exam? Or later, when he inserts his finger into his own father's corpse's mouth? Or was it that time with a prostitute with a breast lump? Or when Maron, suffering from sleep deprivation, almost totally loses it on an airplane? It might take a Sedaris to find "Attempting Normal" laugh-out-loud funny.
But for tough moments, written with insight and honesty, it's great. There are episodes that will stick with me forever, like the time Maron and his girlfriend Jessica are having a loud argument in their Highland Park home, and a neighbor comes to their door and pleads with them to stop.
The man starts crying and says, "I just lost my wife." What happens next turns the course of the book, the relationship, and — it seems to me — Maron's life, because he is finally able to step out of his head and stop letting his anger run him.
Maron has lived in the northeast L.A. neighborhood of Highland Park for about 10 years, and has seen its gentrification happen. He likes it:
"Here's how you know your neighborhood is changing, when all of a sudden storefronts kinda show up and you walk in, and you can't really understand what the store is. You walk in and you're like, there's a saddle, some records, and an old typewriter. What do you buy here? What's happening? That's the first sign. Those are the original hipster idea people. But now it's become sort of pleasant."
Maron says he's still figuring out how to mark the 500th WTF podcast, which he does out of a studio in his garage. He credits the podcast for saving him. It was something he started when he was at his lowest point, and which he had no expectations for, and it turned into his biggest success. It's a show known for honest, engaging, conversations with everyone from Conan O'Brien to RuPaul to, notably, comedians Eddie Pepitone and Louis CK.
But I ask, doesn't he worry that the success of WTF (the F stands for f--k) has neutered the F-word?
"Yeah, you know, I use it to punctuate. I have sloppy social skills because I'm a comedian and I don't live in the real world. I could probably use it less. I was using it with RuPaul, who doesn't use it, and it made me uncomfortable. Cuz then I'd say it, and I'm like, why did you say that? There's no reason to say it."
Maron has just broken up with Moon Zappa, who appeared on a WTF interview, after dating for about five months. His take today is radically different than the relationships he describes from his past:
"People were excited about the possibilities of us, and I was too. It's just interesting when you're a grown person (he's 50, she's 46) and even if it seems like it should all be right, some things aren't quite right. Your lives are not going to work out the way you want them to. And usually, I think we both would have stayed in it for years until we did some damage. But it's still sad and it's still fresh."
There's much more in the interview, which we did at the corner of York and Ave 50, and which features a surprise appearance by stand-up comedian and Off-Ramp fan Maria Bamford.
Please listen to the raw audio, which I've posted on the top lefthand side of this page.