So back in January, I can across this article in the New York Times. And the guy, it was about, Marc Maron, looked vaguely familiar to me from my days of watching endless stand-up clip shows in Comedy Central in the early 90’s. So I listened to one of his podcasts, and I liked it okay. But then I listened to another one, his interview with Ira Glass, and it started with him just walking through the streets of New York, on his way to the interview, voicing all of his anxieties, his expectations, his fears about the interview. And they spun out so quickly, and were so familiar, and I was hooked. So I listened to a few more episodes, and then started subscribing, and then even gave him some (a little—I should probably give more) money. It’s hard to write anything about this podcast that hasn’t already been written. Maron’s neuroses and emotional battles are chronicled by everyone who writes about it and by him himself twice a week. At a point, early in my listening days, I was trying to describe the experience to a friend and said I suspected he might actually be a Buddhist priest in disguise. It was a little cute, but I stand by the sentiment. To really have the opportunity to listen to someone wrestle with pain and fear, to really sit in it and fight through it, to stumble from week to week, to fall into traps, is a really rare and intimate experience. But at the end of the day, to understand this podcast as simply a window into a person’s psyche doesn’t do it justice.
It’s about comedy, and more importantly, comedians, but mostly it’s about work. As someone who performs, it has a special resonance to me, but I suspect that there is nothing so unusual about the emotions described. Really, it’s about people who are trying to work, trying to do good work, and trying to get paid for it and trying to succeed in a field where success is instantly calculated, in the moment that the work is made: have you made people laugh? It’s what we all experience, with any work, but it is that experience, of wanting to succeed, distilled into something that is pure and terrifying. And, of course, it’s funny, because they’re comedians. Not that comedians are always funny, but these are.
A few months ago, I heard the ever-brilliant Ian Belknap deliver a treatise on the importance of work (full disclosure: it was at Write Club, and Ian trounced me in the competition.) He explained the difference between your job and your work—what you do for money and what you do because you need to. It’s pretty lucky to find your work in life. It’s even luckier when you get to do it for your job. Never mind financial success or fame. “WTF” means something to me because it is profoundly about work, hosted by someone obsessed with his own work, and yet never to the exclusion of his interest in hearing other people talk about it. I hope I always care so much about my work, and so much about what other people have to say.