harveyjames (harveyjames) wrote,

Before & After I Saw Them: #1, Marc Maron

As a comic book artist, I get to listen to a lot of podcasts while I work. I can't help but build a mental picture of the radio personalities I listen to, so I'm going to illustrate and examine this process- what did they look like in my head, and how did my perception of them change once I knew what they looked like?

Today: WTF Podcast's Marc Maron

I find it hard to read a book without imagining what the author looks like. I've never seen a picture of Charles Dickens, but just the syllables of his name conjures up this rotund, ruddy, pleasant faced-man, dressed in gentleman's finery with his remaining hair neatly kempt and lacquered. Where that image comes from, I'm not sure- but I think we all do a form of this, whether we're conscious of it or not.

I remember being 10 and being a huge Terry Pratchett fan- I had a distinct vision of him as this wiry 30-year-old man with a thin moustache, like a cockney spiv. When he got famous enough to be on TV in the mid-90s, I was disappointed- it turned out he was fat and bald, with a white beard and a lisp- he would hit on his young female fans, and his sense of humour that played so well on the page fell flat in the real world…

And of course, finding out what he looked and sounded like changed my perception of his books, as much as I didn't want that. It just happened. If I'd been tuned-in enough to analyse why my view on his books changed, I might have said it was because while before I could see him as a friend or a father figure, I now saw him as a creepy old eccentric, a deluded Bill Oddie-like figure of indeterminate sexuality and motive. I was yet to grow out of his books entirely- I just found it harder to identify with Pratchett's world, and belong to his club. My view of the artist affected the way I viewed the art.

I want to examine how this process plays out now I'm an adult, so I've turned my eye to something I have a lot of familiarity with, as someone who works from home- the world of podcasting. Read about the thought process behind today's image after the jump.

WTF Podcast's Marc Maron.

Like a lot of people, I love listening to Maron's show. I'm British, so I'd never heard of 90% of the comedians Marc interviews before he had them on as guests. For that reason, the show is like a portal to another world for me- who are these characters they refer to, like Lorne Michaels, or Mitzi, Dice, or Rodney? They could have been talking about Narnia, for all the sense it initially made to me. But like any fantasy story, you begin to learn who the characters are, and feel familiar and at home with the world the show transports you to.

The first time I heard Maron was as a guest on Comedy Bang Bang, and it was before Maron's show had really started to really pick up. Maron spent much of the episode talking about his grisly life immediately after his wife left him- three months spent jerking off and eating junk food. He got involved with an improvisation with sketch troupe The Birthday Boys (playing a bizarro version of themselves, the 'Wacky Ding Dongs') , but it was clear he wasn't entirely at home with that kind of comedic dynamic. Since I wasn't at all familiar with Maron's stage persona or material, for all I knew he was just an angry, difficult guy who talked about jerking off and eating snacks.

So, maybe this is why I went into my first episode of WTF imagining him to look something like this guy, here:

This guy- he kind of looks like a legacy silicon valley computer programmer, maybe a dude who sold Steve Jobs his computer design in 1981 for three tabs of acid and a stack of Dr. Strange comics and was never the same afterwards. My imagination was not giving Maron much credit, here!

Of course, I got a better sense of Marc's personality after listening to a few episodes of his own show. He's a comic who's seen by his peers as having the potential to be truly great- who spent his first 20 years of his career starting regrettable beefs and resentments with said peers and who uses his show to try and smooth things over, and undo the damage. Maron's insightful interview style, coupled with this narrative of penitence and making amends makes for very revealing and unguarded interviews.

It's easy to see why his show is so wildly popular. Despite (or perhaps because of) his angst, he's a generally lovable guy and judging by the reader mail he reads out on the show, he seems to provide some kind of a surrogate father figure for his male and female fans alike. So I wasn't too surprised to find that Maron really looks something like the picture below.

Visually, Marc has a kind of Frank Zappa, Lenny Bruce thing going on. It makes sense. He's a huge admirer of Keith Richards, Bill Hicks, and the visual image he projects lines up with that. I'd say there was a strange dichotomy between the rebellious, classic rock 'n' roll way he styles himself and the cuddly, baked goods scarfing, cat-adopting comfortable life he's snuggling into now his show is popular. In this instance, I'd say Marc's actual appearance didn't change the way I perceived his radio persona, besides lend it more charisma- but holy heck, what a break from my first impression of the man.

This one was pretty straightforward. Over the course of this week I'm going to post a couple more of these- you might find the results of some of them to be pretty surprising.
Tomorrow I'm going to show you my drawings of Jordan and Jesse from The Sound Of Young America. Do not miss it (/|:=|)
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