Some have suggested that I can be a bit hard on myself. Sometimes we just have to be a bit honest. Sometimes it can feel good. So, let's get this little tirade out of the way. Last week, I fell into a dumbstruck celebrity-sighting induced coma that caused a bit of drooling, very little talking, that is, many words swirling around in my melon but my brain and my mouth didn't seem to want to cooperate. Yep, an idiot was I, so completely stunned into silence that the person in question made my palms sweaty, my hands shaky, made me sound like I suffered from some form of speech impairment, a stuttering problem that not only made me struggle to get words out, but fail to get any words out at all. I resembled such a sad sack of desperation in a desperate attempt to connect with this person, that I'm sure the thought crossed his mind about police involvement and the plus to us being in a public place during a festival which meant a strong presence of law enforcement agents. Maybe I'm projecting.
So, who was this you ask? A Hollywood star? I'm not the kind to gush over celebrities. If Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and all their kids walked in, I'd probably say, "Oh, look, there's Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and their offspring," and finish with my order. No, I was stunned into silence by a comedian with a podcast.
Here's what happened. With a great and old friend of mine, we got tickets to see Marc Maron at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal. The tickets were for his solo show on Saturday night. We drove down Saturday in the day, settled in our hotel room and hung out in downtown Montreal for a few hours. I've been to Montreal really only twice before, one good experience and one bad, so like the weather, I've got a 50/50 chance of rain.
Backup. As you may or may not know, Marc Maron is a comedian who after many years in the business, started a podcast called WTF? He inspired me to get in front of a microphone and start my own podcast, for better or for worse. We are all his children. A few weeks before Montreal, I sent an email to him, a long email requesting an interview with him and outlining why it would be a good idea. Never heard back, which is pretty much what I expected. I'm not being hard on myself, the guy's a busy guy, and hell, everyone has a damn podcast. I did setup a great interview with a Montreal-based actor, writer and filmmaker on the Sunday, so I was happy about that. However, I was lame enough to bring my copy of Maron's book in the hope that perhaps we'd get a chance to meet him and he could sign it. I didn't know what I'd say, just wanted to shake the guy's hand and thank him.
The show was great, Maron told some stories, riffed a bit and apologized to his grandmother. Like I said, he's a busy guy and had to run to another show right after, so there wasn't the usual hanging around and talking to people. My buddy and I left the theatre feeling pretty high.
The next morning got some free crappy continental breakfast, checked out of the hotel and walked around for a bit. Like I said, I had a two o'clock appointment with an interview subject for my own podcast. Around one, I needed another coffee and headed over to the Starbucks. My friend walked down to a convenience store. Looking for the washroom, the coffee shop dipped down some steps into a seating area and sitting there was Maron talking to a journalist. Turned on my heels and walked right out, found my friend and told him Maron's inside. What'll we do? Calm the fuck down first of all. Okay, get your coffee and sit down by the door. Let's talk this over. We both agreed that we didn't want to bother the guy, that we'd do what we were planning, just sit here and drink our coffee and if he comes out, we'll ask him for a photograph. If it didn't work out, that's cool.
A few minutes later he comes walking up the stairs heading for the door. I've never been so nervous. He knew what we wanted. I couldn't speak and said something brilliant like, "Hi! We big fans..." And then pointed to my phone, I guess meaning, "Can we get a photograph?" My friend had his wits about him and said we were at the show the previous night. "Oh, yeah," Maron said. "Which one?" My friend asked about riffing off the old lady and Maron said, "Yeah, it worked out." First up, my friend, Jesus, my hands were shaking and I hope the photograph was alright, but I knew I couldn't do any better. "Did you get it?" He growled at me. Checked and it looked okay. My turn, we got the picture and he asked, "We good here?" Shook his hand and I think I said thank you. I think. And he was gone and we didn't even know what just happened.
Immediately, I posted the photograph with the caption, "Lame, I know, but ran into Marc Maron in a Starbucks and asked for a picture." You know what, I regret calling myself lame. It's not lame, I've gotta start owning this shit. Jesus, I met a guy I admired and wanted to share the experience. It was an honest share, free of trying to be cool or some signpost to the Internet in the usual pathetic attempt to show how interesting my life is. It really was an earnest display to be a person being appreciative to another. Lame, hell, I'm tired of trying to be so damn cool all the time. Enough. Shut up. Own it.
Here's the thing: I had lots to say, and if I did say thank you, which I hope I did, there was a lot in those eight letters. On a superficial level, I could have said that, well actually, I'm on my way to do an interview for my own podcast. A podcast inspired by him. This is how my brain works: in an instant, I thought about how I started listening to Maron's podcast, how much it affected me, how a few years later I would start my own podcast, then a few months later, I'd be seeing Maron in a show, set up an interview for the next day, before the interview want a coffee, walk into the coffee shop and there the guy that started it all would be. The circle of fucking life.
On another level, I must have also known that if I started talking, I wouldn't stop, that we'd have to sit down and hash it out. Lay it on the table. As Maron said about Garry Shandling, "You seem like a guy that has answers." I feel that way about Maron. I would've said that during a time in my own life, a somewhat dark and unproductive time, I started listening to his podcast and heard someone express things about them and the world around them in ways I had never really heard before. It actually changed my life. Yes, I'm prone to hyperbole, but not when it's the truth. The thing is, I had heard a lot of it before, in my head. Now, I ain't comparing, just saying that so many times I would find myself with bobbing head like I was listening to music, like there was a beat going on, a beat I felt in my bones. Boom, boom, boom. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Unfiltered and a place where all was explored, taking no goddamn prisoners, least of all himself. Sure, he talks about himself and his own life a lot, but I really do think that for us to better understand the world, we have to evaluate our internal mechanisms. And Jesus, Maron was talking like it was a fight to the finish and where everything was on the line.
I would mention the risk of putting yourself out there in this vulnerable way. Something I've been trying to do. The struggle is fun to watch. Harder to do. But what else are we doing here but trying to figure ourselves out before it's too late? I learned a great deal from the guests on the show where they have long form conversations and talk at levels involving no bull shit, accessing a part of the brain that I think is required to become a more evolved person. The conversations with his guests have also taught me to listen actively, instead of just waiting for my time to speak. I've been doing this more in my work and my life, and Jesus, people are responding. Some don't like it, they want that repressed, scared, frightened guy who you could push around and who had a pretty unhealthy perspective on himself, complete with anxiety-driven behaviour. Fuck that guy. In doing my own podcast, I've learned how to listen and be present. When you're talking to some of the people I have already, you gotta be damn sure you're in the moment and present and listening to what they're saying. Hopefully there's even more transference from this into my life.
The most important thing. Maron created a space to talk about difficult things. The space widened and it made a guy like me think that if it is safe for Maron to talk about his life, his relationships, his friendships and whatever else, maybe there is space for me to do the same. So, I started laying down my own thoughts and life in a similar way. A strange kind of empowerment came from it. Once I said the worst truths about myself, once I started arguing on the page, calling myself out, ceasing to be cool and just strip away to see the core of who I am and trying to figure out what the hell I have to say, it started bleeding over into my life, the negative voice in my head all of a sudden had a run for its goddamn money, things weren't affecting me as much as they were before, shit people said about me ran off my back because when you grab hold of your own shit to examine it, let it go and out, been about as hard on yourself that you could be, what power could some other person have over you? And the hope is in me now, creating this space and talking about myself, the hope is that maybe someone else will see the space I am trying to create and break things down and open them up for themselves.
Just like Ronnie Burkett, my ex-girlfriend listened to Maron and didn't like him, said he was too aggressive. Maybe Maron should be another litmus test - if you don't like him, we can't be friends.
Yeah, I could've said all this to him, but thank you is alright too.