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Forward 50 2018

Marc Maron

Next Stop Starring With His Hero, WTF?!

Marc Maron, 55, didn’t start out as leading man material. Since 2009 his celebrated podcast “WTF with Marc Maron,” has famously hosted Oscar-winning actors, iconic musicians and even a sitting president — all from the clutter of his garage. But in the past two years Maron has gained new recognition for his acting chops, courtesy of the Emmy-nominated Netflix series “GLOW.”

Maron started his career as a standup comedian in the 1990s, making regular appearances on the Late Show with David Letterman and more appearances on Late Night with Conan O’Brien than any other comedian. But Maron’s move to the host’s chair was less successful. In 1993 he was pegged for “Short Attention Span Theater” on Comedy Central, taking over hosting duties from fellow Jew Jon Stewart. The show’s cancellation in 1994 did a number on Maron’s self-esteem and, as he’s mentioned often on “WTF” and in his books, amplified his substance abuse during this period.

By 1999, Maron was sober and hosting the American version of “Nevermind the Buzzcocks” a game show import from Britain, in 2002. The show was a flop, lasting only one season. Maron rebounded by going into radio, hosting and co-hosting Air America’s “American Sedition,” “Breakroom Live” and “The Marc Maron Show.”

In 2009, he became a podcast pioneer when he left Air America for the digital air waves with “WTF.” In the early days of the interview-based show, he mostly spoke with his comedian colleagues, often probing any Jewish ancestry they might have in common. The scope of the twice-weekly podcast expanded from there; so did his work as an actor.

Enter Maron’s star turn on “GLOW,” in which he plays the smarmy director Sam Silvia, show runner of an all women’s wrestling program. In a review of the show’s first season for The New York Times, James Poniewozik wrote Maron “perfectly inhabits his last-chancer character, who’s sucking on the cigarette-butt end of his career.” (“WTF” listeners know that these days, Maron’s real vice is nicotine lozenges.)

It’s all up from here. Despite his earlier criticism of “the slow corruption of our culture and arts by the consolidation of desire around the limited options of big budget blockbuster movies in the form of superhero movies,” Maron is slated to appear in the 2019 Batman movie “Joker,” in an as-yet-unnamed role.

Explaining his decision on “WTF” he asked, rhetorically, “God if I was ever an actor it would be amazing to be in a scene with Robert De Niro. Wouldn’t it be amazing to act with Robert De Niro?’”

At this point in Maron’s fame and respect as a byword for authenticity, the shoe may well be on the other foot. De Niro is probably trying to work out how to turn their collaboration on “Joker” into an opportunity to appear on “WTF.”

— PJ Grisar

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