What Marc Maron's Interview With President Obama Means
I have let it be known before that I am pretty skeptical of any and all politics and politicians. Be they right, left, or independent I do not think they have merited much of a reason for me or any of us to trust them. I mean really, in a post-Nixon world, will we ever be able to believe in politicians again, believe they are in reality the kind of person they said they are, believe they will do what they said they will do, and believe why they said they would do it? This recent Fresh Air interview with the author of a new book on Nixon and his recently released personal records leads me to believe not. My cynicism of the political process is something I will forever be working out.
And yet sometimes politicians do something that makes you want to restore their hope in them, like go on your favorite show and shoot the breeze with your favorite media personality. Now of course a politician going on a late night talk show during the campaign season or doing a bizarre mock talk show when he wants people to sign up for his healthcare plan reads like blatant maneuvering (He's so cool! He's one of us!), but what if the president of the United States, Barack Obama, now six and a half years into his presidency sought out an interview with one of today's most well-respected long form interviewers—Marc Maron on his WTF podcast? Could it be a move based purely out of a desire to bring people to a better understanding of who he is as a person and why he has shaped his policies the way he does?
Maybe just maybe. Personally, I see three important things happening in President Obama's time with Maron, only one having explicitly to do with politics.
1. It means podcasting has come into its own as a legitimate and respected broadcast medium—Many of us have know this to be the case for quite some time, whether it be comedy podcasts (Comedy Bang Bang, The Rick Gervais Show, The Paul F. Tompkast), longform storytelling (Serial, The Moth, and Radiolab), educational podcasts (Stuff You Should Know, The Podcast History of Our World, Planet Money), and the long form interview (Alec Baldwin's Here's the Thing, the Nerdist podcast, You Made it Weird, and of course Maron's WTF). Just because they are basically all free does not mean they are a lower form of broadcasting, and even though a lot of the podcasts I listen to are highly produced NPR shows with big budgets, some of the best podcasts, including Maron's WTF are independently produced one person and a mic type shows. President Obama and his staff seeking Maron out for an interview is a big old stamp of approval on podcasting as a medium. All I can say is it's about time.
2. It means Marc Maron has come into his own as a trusted go-to institution in America—Well done Marc you deserve it. First Terry Gross gives you the thumbs up and now the President. I know the reality of this will never sink in and you will never feel worthy of it, but we trust you and love you and want to spend time with you. We go to you to listen to conversations with people we look up to, revere, and are in awe of all so we can hear them say things they have never said before, so the innards of these famous people we put on pedestals can be revealed. We listen because we know you can get stuff out of them that "normal" interviewers cannot. You go to places other people won't touch. We know in general you are an afraid kind of guy (paranoid, as you often say), but time and again you have shown yourself fearless in conversations. And now we know you've become an American institution. The president himself put his trust in you. Welcome to the ranks of serious journalists and interviewers like Edward R. Murrow, David Frost, Barbara Walters, Charlie Rose, Dick Cavett, and of course our beloved Terry Gross.
3. It means the president wanted to have a serious conversation—Marc Maron is the king of having a "real" talk. He does not merely interview a person but seeks to enter into an extended dialogue with them. Maron is always fascinated with his interviewee's histories and motivations and vulnerabilities and in this way he treated the president no differently than anyone else who enters into The Garage. Sure, Maron's political bent finds him relatively far on the left and President Obama could have chosen someone to interview him that would have offered more of a pointed challenge to his political ideology and actions from the past two terms in office. And as I said above, I have trouble trusting anything any politician does and I know full well this was a political move on Obama's part, but maybe, just maybe it was a sincere political move. And even though it is a long shot, maybe, just maybe the president really wanted to have an honest conversation, wanted a chance to show the people of America who he was in the least manufactured, least hyped environment possible. Only the president knows if he truly accomplished that, but to me it seemed like he did.
So there you have it. This is a big moment for podcasting in general, Marc Maron in particular, and maybe, just maybe for politicians and the way they communicate their platforms to the public.
Among many things, they spoke on:
Better gun laws
Figuring out how to speak to sectors of the American public who disagree with him
His personal history
Facing the difficulties of the political process and people's disappointment in his presidency
And of course race and racism (the president said the "N" word yo! Man, the president's a racist!)
By the way!—I happen to have a podcast! Though there are not many episodes yet you can listen to it on SoundCloud here: https://soundcloud.com/postconsumer
You can go here to read about the time Marc Maron responded to an email I sent him regarding Bill Cosby: My Comedy Problem: Bill Cosby
I'm Thinking of Getting Into Politics
PostConsumer Reports Podcast Episode 05: Singer/Songwriter Jeremy Casella
Unanswerable Questions #5: Louis C.K.