The WTF life of Marc Maron 

How the f%#k did Maron become face of comedy podcasting?

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Budding comedians can make their own podcast with a $700 to $1,000 investment, but they shouldn't expect to share Maron's success. "It definitely resuscitated Maron's career, but it's not a lucrative business. He's really more like an aberration of the norm," says Ryan. "For the most part, podcasts are going to be an under-the-radar thing. For comedians trying to turn them into a tangible asset, it's harder."

Maron realizes that "WTF" hasn't elevated him to the Louis C.K. level, but it's opened doors to bigger clubs and theaters. Its long-term therapeutic value may be most rewarding. "It reconnects me with my friends. It takes me out of my dark, bitter self and teaches me to laugh again. It helps me enjoy the comedic community. It's deeply changed my entire life. I need help on some level, and to be able to talk to people in an in-depth way is nourishing to the soul."

His latest comedy album, This Has to Be Funny, from August of 2011, finds him still uncomfortably self-aware, but with his anger dialed down. "If I become a more grounded person, I don't think the podcast will suffer for it," he says. Looking to the future, he realizes, "I'll run out of comedians eventually, but I'll want to evolve into my other areas of interest. I'll want to take it out into the world. Certain things won't change." He looks forward to talking to more people from outside the comedy business, like cooking commentator Anthony Bourdain from his Dec. 5 show.

Maron suspects that "WTF's" appeal goes beyond hardcore comedy nerds: "The Robin Williams episode drew a lot of people to the [podcast] medium itself. I don't think a lot of the people who listen are innately into comedy. They like the conversation and the openness of the conversation. I get a lot of people at my show who say, 'This is my first stand-up show.'"

Podcasts like "WTF" seem to attract some listeners because of the intimacy of the experience. Stand-up comedians thrive on radio because they're innately good talkers, but podcasts can draw on their introspective, philosophical qualities, without fear of censorship. As his listeners plug in their earbuds while on public transit, at the gym, or on the job, Maron says, "The relationship with people in this medium is very one-on-one. It's very personal. Some people attracted to what I do feel isolated in their lives, or spend a lot of time in their heads, or feel self-conscious about their own addictions."

On the 200th episode of "WTF," Maron turned the tables to take questions from comedian Mike Birbiglia, and remarked, "I get emails from people saying, 'I'm so glad you're speaking your mind, because I thought I was fuckin' alone.' The best thing you can do as a comic is to make someone feel less alone."

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