Comedian Marc Maron stars in the new IFC comedy series “Maron.” | AP photo
Updated: June 11, 2013 6:13AM
NEW YORK — Soon after taking the stage, Marc Maron decides to skip the act.
He’s got a packed room at a downtown New York club, all eager to see the 49-year-old comic tape what will be a comedy special for Netflix. Normally, such tapings are carefully structured and finely calibrated. Maron promptly decides against it.
“No, let’s not,” he says. “Let’s just work through some stuff.”
Working through stuff is the modus operandi for Maron. Though he started out as a stand-up known for bitterness and anger, Maron — after a lot of struggle and a bout with drugs — began funneling all of his anxieties, frustrations and demons into his comedy. For him, working through “stuff” with a microphone is a way of life.
His new book, “Attempting Normal” (Spiegel & Grau), is dedicated to “anyone who is successfully defying their wiring.” In an entertainment world full of seemingly flawless, confident performers, his naked insecurities have made him a hero for the imperfect.
“The only time I tend to get frightened is if I get away from stand-up for more than a week or two,” Maron said. “I realized I hadn’t been on stage in two weeks and I was like: ‘Oh my God! It’s a lie! I’m not funny! What am I doing?’ All these weird fears started coming back. And then I went up and did like an hour-and-a-half and I was like, ‘All right. I know who I am again.’ ”
But after more than two decades in comedy — and watching contemporaries like Louis C.K. and Jon Stewart ascend in the industry — Maron is finally having a well-deserved moment. Along with the Netflix special and his book from Random House, his series “Maron” airs at 9 p.m. Fridays on IFC.
And it’s all because, at a moment when he was out of other options — lacking work, on his second divorce and giving suicide some thought — he decided to buy a microphone and try a new medium in its infancy: podcasting. On his show, he would comically spill his neuroses while having deeply personal, hourlong conversations with fellow comedians.
“I needed to talk to people on a personal level — kind of re-engaging my ability to listen and laugh and connect with somebody else in an openhearted way,” he said. “I’d lost all that. I’d become very cynical and closed off. It was all synced up: my need to integrate myself into the community and be among peers and to literally hear how other people deal with their problems.”
The podcast, “WTF with Marc Maron,” has long been one of the most popular on iTunes, with about 2.5 million downloads monthly. “Attempting Normal,” with stories about fights with his girlfriend over having babies and his lone encounter with “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels (who’s something of an inscrutable villain to Maron), captures Maron’s voice authentically. While the TV series has a good spirit, it may be more amplified for fans accustomed to the intimacy of the podcast.
“I definitely did it the way I do things,” he said. “I erred on the side of earnest over bad jokes.”