Marc Maron's garage is a safe space. In the garage, Maron has grown his WTF podcast from an oddball experiment, launched after he was fired (again) from his job at Air America, into one of iTunes' most popular downloads — and now, the inspiration for a TV show, Maron, premiering Friday on IFC.
It's small, with just enough space for one car, cluttered with books and things that fans of the show have sent him, and it's the place where Maron's guests, typically other comedians, open up about their struggles with addiction (Robin Williams), or the time they lost their virginity (Elizabeth Banks), sharing the kinds of very funny, deeply personal stories celebrities are usually reticent to reveal.
Maron says the environment of the garage is crucial. "I never do phone interviews," he says. "I try not to even do interviews outside the garage."
As proof, take the live show Maron taped at South By Southwest with guests James Franco and Harmony Korine. It was going fine, until the last few minutes when he cracked a joke about Franco taking himself too seriously.
"I had finally gotten him to lighten up a bit and loosen up and I make one joke and all the sudden he sort of recoils," Maron recalls. "I was like, 'Ah, man, we just got it fun.' You know? Now we're back to this weird guarded thing — I don't know that that would have happened in the garage."
He explains, "There is a coziness to it that I think [makes] people kind of forget that you're on mic, you forget that this is a thing that a lot of people are going to hear."
But in the show's first episode, Maron reveals he didn't always feel this way about the garage. "A few years ago, I was planning on killing myself in my garage. And now I'm doing the best thing I've ever done in my life in that same garage. It's a podcast."
Like the real Maron, Maron's Maron is a twice-divorced comedian who lives in Los Angeles with his cats and invites his comedian friends on to a podcast he records from his garage.
All those details hold true, right down to his home studio, with its ratty couch. ("I was throwing away my couch at the time so the couch in the show with all the cat damage, was actually done by my real cats," Maron says.) For the show, he had the crew rebuild his garage inside another house's garage down the street from his home in Highland Park.
"It wasn't practical to shoot at my house, so we found a house about a mile away, very similar to my house but a little bigger," Maron says. "The garage at this place was a two-car garage so we were able to really build my garage within it and then create room for cameras and moving wall."
Talking to him, you get the distinct sense that TV isn't really where Maron's heart is. "I'm happy I had the opportunity to do it. But the podcast is my passion and my job and you know I put a lot into it I do it every week, twice a week and it's a lot of my life."