In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.
Before diving into our 11 Questions with Marc Maron, we couldn’t resist asking the WTF host about his own favorite interview tactics. He says about his broadcast conversations, “They’re always unexpected, because you’re dealing with public personalities who generally have assumptions about them based on their work or who they are publicly. So when you get to talk to them for an hour or so in a candid situation, you’re always surprised. Because we all make assumptions about people—they may be true, but there’s usually more to that person, or they’re completely off. So there’s no end to it. All of them go completely differently than I would expect them to if I had expectations.”
When he’s not interviewing everyone from Paul Thomas Anderson to Geena Davis, Maron has also established a prominent acting career. The comedian has starred in his own sitcom, Maron, and he’s about to return to the small screen on August 9 for his third season of the Netflix wresting comedy GLOW. His just-released film Sword Of Trust has received rave reviews, and he’ll even be in the new Joker movie.
1. What’s your favorite fast food menu item?
Marc Maron: I’d probably have to say a chocolate milkshake.
The A.V. Club: Any particular brand?
MM: I feel like I have a hard time thinking about the last time I’ve really eaten fast food. It’s a weird thing. There was a period in time when I’d get cravings very specifically for just a straight-up McDonald’s cheeseburger.
AVC: A classic.
MM: Yeah, so, that seems to have faded. It’s a weird thing about McDonald’s. It’s very specific, it’s always consistent. There was just something about the cheeseburger with nothing else—no fries, no nothing—just the little yellow package with the McDonald’s cheeseburger. I would eat that. I do like an In-N-Out burger occasionally. But chocolate shakes, if they’re thick and made with vanilla ice cream, I like them from just about anywhere. But I don’t eat it much.
AVC: You just can’t after a certain point.
MM: It’s true. Oh, wait. There’s one other one. Dunkin’ Donuts coffees. I don’t do that anymore either. I’ve been drinking tea lately.
AVC: You’re off caffeine?
MM: No, no.
AVC: Just coffee?
MM: Black tea. A lot of it. But it seems to come on different.
AVC: You’re still powered up, but in a less toxic way.
MM: Yeah, it doesn’t amp you right into, like, exhausting aggravation.
2. If you could re-live an event or moment in your own life, what would it be?
MM: Relive it, or redo it?
AVC: Sure, redo? If there’s something you want to go back and change.
MM: I guess maybe my entire second marriage. Let’s be clear, though—it’s not relive it. [Laughs.]
AVC: Right. There are things you would do differently?
3. Who’s your favorite fictional villain?
MM: These are hard, because they make me have to remember things… Satan’s pretty good.
AVC: That encompasses a lot.
MM: Fine. I want to make sure we agree that it’s fiction.
4. What’s a line from film or television that you’ve incorporated into your personal vocabulary?
MM: Sydney Pollack’s line in Michael Clayton when he says, “People are fucking incomprehensible.”
AVC: Probably people wouldn’t recognize that right away if you just said it in conversation.
MM: Most people have not seen that movie. Michael Clayton’s with George Clooney and that great actor… Wilkinson, Tom Wilkinson. He plays a lawyer, but he’s sort of a bag man. And Tom Wilkinson’s character is killed, but it’s made to look like a suicide. Clooney’s character is like, “No note? How is there no note? That guy would write down everything.” And Sydney Pollack goes, “People are fucking incomprehensible.” It becomes more and more true as I get older, you know—you think, “Well, people are people.” Yeah, but some people, it’s just, like… It seems sort of simple, but you don’t really think that way. But they really are.
5. Who would play you in the movie of your life?
MM: Who would play me?
AVC: You could always play yourself again.
MM: Well, okay—yeah, I guess I could play myself, but they’d have to use some CGI skill to age me properly. And I don’t know that I—it would be interesting to try to figure out what I was like in high school. But I don’t know the actors who are sort of young enough and crazy enough—or, not crazy enough, but I can’t picture somebody who would play me. Which is probably good. Maybe that means I’m somewhat singular.
6. What’s a movie that you’ll always stop and watch if you’re flipping channels?
MM: Oh, there are so many. Almost any of them, really. I find that I’ll watch Goodfellas even if it’s, like, dubbed.
AVC: Because you know it by heart anyway.
MM: Yeah, but it’s always satisfying. Same way with Godfather II, or same with—it’s weird how many I’ll just watch, if they played some part in my life. But I have noticed that about Goodfellas.
AVC: Somehow it’s always on.
MM: The Unforgiven I tend to watch, but I don’t see it come up on TV a lot. I seem to watch Silver Linings Playbook—I was watching that a lot. There’s other movies where, if I was engaged with them at some point in my life, I’ll just sit there and watch them. I prefer to watch them like that.
AVC: Last night I was supposed to be writing and I watched Heathers—the whole thing, just out of nowhere.
MM: Yeah, why wouldn’t you? Because it came on. I like that kind of TV, where you’re just flipping around: “Oh, I know this thing! I’ll start here.”
7. What possession can you not get rid of?
MM: Well, there’s something I have in my wallet that I’ve had for 20 years now. You know, because I’m a sober guy. And there were these AA pamphlets, where there’s a part in the 12 Steps where you want your character defects removed. So there’s a list of ones I made probably my first year of sobriety of the things that I could probably live without. And here is just the sort of preamble that was given to me by my first sponsor, and a couple of these sober prayers. I just keep them, and I’ve had them for, like, 20 years. And now they’re barely—they’re just all ragged and beat-up.
[Reading.] “Please remove pride that reveals itself as self-righteousness, entitlement, arrogance, condescension, stubbornness, my discomfort with my body, my emotional defensiveness based in fear, being a baby, passive-aggression, the need to be contrary, the need to be critical of…” I don’t know. Doesn’t say. “Self-consciousness, self-pity…” Yeah. It’s a good list.
8. What specific skill would you bring to a post-apocalyptic society?
MM: Well, I’m good enough at guitar that I could probably play at sing-alongs.
AVC: Since you’re such an expert communicator, you could bring all the different factions together.
MM: Can’t do that now—why would I be able to do that then?
AVC: Good point. How long have you played guitar?
MM: I don’t know, probably since I was, like, 9 or 10.
AVC: So more than just a sing-along then.
MM: Well, you know, you don’t want to be too flashy or intimidate people or whatever. I’m not that great, but sometimes music can sort of relax things. I don’t know if it’s a post-apocalyptic skill set that’s necessary, but people probably need to be entertained. Or at least made to feel a little better. Soothing. I wouldn’t necessarily always characterize myself as a soothing presence, but maybe I would be. I’m not bad at cooking, either. I could probably cook a little bit.
9. Who is the most underrated person in your industry right now?
MM: I always find that Maria Bamford is underrated. She gets a lot of attention. But she should get all of it as a comedian.
10. If you could be in any band, past or present, which one would it be?
MM: The original Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green. When it was Peter Green’s band in the late ’60s. He’s an underrated guitar player. Yeah, it was a pretty much straight-up blues band, but that would be exciting. Probably rhythm section. It was a straight-up blues band that came out of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. It was [John] McVie of Fleetwood and Peter Green—it was actually his band. And then Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan later. But, yeah, he lost his mind. I think it was a mixture of—I would imagine some sort of bipolar or acid-related thing. But he was an inspired guitar player, probably better than most of that crew. So that would have been interesting.
11. What would you do during The Purge?
MM: What’s The Purge?
AVC: It’s that movie where everybody gets to do whatever they want for one 24-hour period, and it’s all unlawful but it keeps the world sane all the other days.
MM: You get to do anything unlawful?
AVC: Yeah, you can kill somebody, you can steal. There’s no law for this one 24-hour period.
MM: Oh, yeah? What would I do if I was going to transgress? I would probably rob a few vintage guitar stores. Steal a couple of record collections.
12. From Latrice Royale: Have you ever been, or would you ever consider being, a member of the Mile-High Club?
MM: Sure. I don’t know—I’m trying to think if I’ve ever. It seems like something I would try to do, or would have tried to do, but I don’t know that I ever did it. No, not with somebody else. [Laughs.] I’m already a member of the Half-Mile-High Club.
AVC: They should definitely make a special designation for that. Okay, what’s your question for the next person that we’ll add to this list?
MM: How about “Do you know the difference between happiness and relief?”