Due to the overwhelming response to my Janeane Garofalo interview (that's right, chim-chim, I call three responses, including one from my Rockin' Randall-lovin' neighbor, fer chrissakes, OVERWHELMING!), here's the second in the series, with comedian Marc Maron.
One of the most naturally gifted performers ever in comedy, Mr. Maron is probably best known to hardcore comedy freaks, as he's never been on a sitcom or anything of the like. Maybe you've seen his HBO specials, or a Comedy Central appearance, or one of his numerous Letterman and Conan shots. If you really want to dig, maybe you know him as the promoter who chased Sweetwater's tour bus in a gold cart in the film "Almost Famous."
But Mr. Maron's greatest acheivement has come in the last couple of years, in the form of a one man show called "The Jeurusalem Syndrome." Debuting at the 1999 Aspen Comedy Arts Festival, the show details Mr. Maron's obsession with God, religion, drugs, comedy, and the possibility that he himself is the messiah. The show went on to a succesful run off-broadway, garnering rave reviews from The New York Times, The Village Voice, and TimeOut New York, among others. Late last year, Mr. Maron expanded the stage play in to a book, called "The Jeurusalem Syndrome: My Life As A Reluctant Messiah." The book is simply great. There's a link to buy it waaaaaay down at the bottom of the interview.
The interview that follows was conducted about
a month after September 11. To make is easier to read, I've prefaced each
question and answer with either "DS" for me and "MM" for Mr. Maron. Clever,
Maybe this weekend I'll dig in to the archives and post some older interviews with David Cross, Steven Wright, Tenacious D, Mitch Hedberg, Dave Attell, the Upright Citizens Brigade, and how could I forget, Lewis Black.
MM: The stage play is probably about fifty to fifty five pages of the book. What happened was over a period of about two years, I built that stage play, through these massive, improvisational story telling sessions. I sort of knew where I wanted to go, but I donít usually write first; I talk first. So there were periods where the stage play was going on for about two and a half, three hours, and people are sitting there going, "It needs an ending!", and Iím like, "I canít believe you stayed." So what happened was, I began to tape it, and then I made transcriptions of it, and after about a year and a half I ended up with a script because I had to take it to the Aspen Comedy Festival. I was very resistant to put it on paper, because I have a weird thing about putting things on paper. Itís better to be done on stage, you know?
DS: I didnít have a chance to see the stage play, but what strikes me about the book is your writing ability is top notch.
MM: I appreciate the compliment. I had this fifty page script, and thatís what the editor at Broadway Books responded to. And he said, "I love your voice, now letís see if you can make it into a book." So then I sat down for eight months and expanded the story - you know, put a few more thoughtful things in there are created a narrative. But by doing my work as a comic, I knew what my voice was. And I was able to take that and create some more prose out of it. My jokes, I collect as a narrative that runs in my brain. My comedy is more of a collective philosophy. I never been one to write things down on paper and go, "Ok, thatís where the laugh should be, and then Iíll close with this piece." Itís just an ever unfolding way of looking at the world.
DS: An example of your writing that caught my attention immediately was when you mentioned your grandmotherís melon-baller, and you said, "I use it in the summer as a device to go back in time." It kind of showed me "The Jerusalem Syndrome" was going to be a good book, not just an excuse to fire off some jokes.
MM: I think Iím actually a serious person by nature, and I was sort of waiting to have the opportunity to do this, you know? But thatís between me and you. And itís on the record. I mean, in college I was an English major, I was editor of the journal, and there were periods of my laugh where I was like, "Iím gonna be a poet!"
DS: Do you presently feel more comfortable with your performing abilities or your writing abilities? I realize they sort of go hand in hand, but . . .
MM: Well, the show had a tremendous impact on both, as far as me coming in to my own on stage and feeling very grounded. Being on stage in that manner really changed my performing immensely. I was already pretty conversational , but you just realize, "Gee, Iíve been doing this a long time, and this is where I evolve." The stage has always been the place where I say things for the first time. I rarely go up there knowing exactly what I was going to say, so itís a very free zone for me. I think maybe when I was younger I approached with a feeling of, "Oh, man, this is going to suck." But now I feel an excitement going up within the last couple of years.
DS: In refining what eventually became the stage play, did you have trouble sticking to a script so to speak?
MM: Yeah, thatís why I had to rely on Kirsten Aimes, who was my director and my co-developer. You know, it was so hard for me to find somebody I trusted, some one to go, "Stop it! Stay on the story!" Because sometimes it took me about forty five minutes to start the show. I would get out and go, "So, how you guys doing tonight? Hey, did you see that thing today?" And she would be like, "What are you doing?" And for some reason she and I worked very well on this, and she helped me edit the show, and learn to sit in the theatrical moment - you know, donít shy away from the more serious moments and stay on the story. Because I can easily go off road and the next thing you know weíre at some place completely different. I think itís a way of just avoiding things as well.
DS: By contrast, has it affected your stand-up at all? Are you now more accustomed to sticking to a story?
MM: I donít know. I was just talking to my buddy about this, and heís a comic, too. I think the only thing thatís changed is just I no longer think Iím going to be at a loss for things to say. And thatís not necessarily about having an act. With stand-up, itís a little more forgiving because [the audience] isnít going to know the difference. I can kind of go anywhere I want. But thing Iíve learned from doing the writing, especially the way the world is now and being provoked by so many things in the news and so many events that are happening and so much fear, and fear is probably my favorite place to be as far as trying to resolve it with comedy - is that Iíve found myself, especially in the last few months, doing a lot of homework and really trying to construct a solid point of view on things. Not necessarily an opinion that is either to the right or to the left, but more of, "What am I provoking here? What am I trying to make light of? Where am I coming from?" Because Iíve always been more of a cultural critic than a political guy, but now, because of the information age which we live in, if youíre going to say something you better at least be able to back it up half-way. Make enough people believe you know what youíre talking about to get away with it.
DS: At least sound like you have a clue.
MM: Yeah. And if all else fails, you can always say, "Hey, man! Iím just a comic!"
DS: Whatís the largest segment of the book that wasnít in the stage play?
MM: The last chapter wasnít in the stage play at all. Actually, itís a funny story, because I had written the bookÖ I mean, the stage play for most practical purposes ends when the camera breaks. All the stuff about Alaska, about high school, about New Mexico, and the conspiracy stuff isnít in the play. None of the stuff about getting married, none of the biographical stuff is in there. The book really hinges on . . . oddly, one of the great breakthroughís that I had, personally and narratively, was that guyís room.
DS: That may be my favorite part of the book. I think you were really able to crystallize a feeling that a lot of people have had and some point in their life. I mean, the Zappa poster, the incense stink in the room, and that feeling of, "I need to know this."
MM: Exactly! Iím so glad you identified with that! I literally just got chills that you identify with that.
DS: When I read that part of the book, I decided, "Ok, Iím not doing anything else today but read this book."
MM: It thrills me to hear that. Itís so nice to hear when people get this thing. When I came up with that, I called that guy, and I hadnít talked to him in years. And I just asked him, "Do you remember what was on the walls of your room?" And the Freaks picture! And the way I saw it was that these things, these images were moving through my life. And those old movie photos . . . and because what ever feelings I was having because my parents were so absent in so many ways, there are certain things that your brain just grabs on to and you build your life on it. And so when I got that piece, I was like, "Oh my God." And I just kept moving, it became a whole other book, so . . . I donít know where we started this question.
DS: I donít either.
MM: But that was the thrill of writing, that discovery. Oh yeah, I remember: that chapter at the end. I had written this book, and it took a lot of time, and it was daunting and weird, and I turned it in, and my editor said . . . (cell phone rings) . . . What the hell, man? Thereís like a million phones ringing all of the sudden.
DS: Youíre the toast of the town.
MM: Nah, itís my girlfriend. Hold on . . . So bring this manuscript in, and heís like, "I think we need a last chapter." And Iím just like, "What are you talking about?!?" Because I didnít know how writers write. I have this writer friend whoís just brilliant named Sam Lipsyte, and he was my point guy on this. And Iím like, "What do you guys do, man?" And heís like, "You just sit there and do it." And Iím like, "What if nothing comes?" And heís like, "You just sit there and wait." (laughs) So whatís in the show is just . . . the setting of "The Jerusalem Syndrome" is the beatnik stuff, really stripped down version of the Hollywood stuff, none of the Kinison stuff, none of the Comedy Store, really just the hearing voices, and the looking at Hollywood as the mystical Jewish city. And then onward to the cigarette factory, and then the transition to the corporate pantheon, and onward to Israel. Even a lot of the Israel stuff in the book isnít in the play, the part about the Hassidim bouncing down the river is not in the show. The show runs about an hour and twenty minutes, and it has a very manic pace. I think in the book I tried to do a lot of lyrical understandings of where Iím at and whatís going on. On stage, itís got more of a manic pace of me moving through these things, as opposed to me thinking about it, you know?
DS: Did you find yourself putting a lot of time in to research for the book?
MM: Yeah, yeah. Well, research as far as, like, looking in to the history of that building in Los Angeles. My obsession with that building was fairly deep and still exists; I still havenít shaken a lot of the mystical residence of that city. When I go there still, if Iím not careful I find myself drifting in to that way of thinking, just going, "Oh, God . . ." (laughs) And all that earthquake stuff was just too unbelievable. That was too mindblowing. But not a lot of research . . .
DS: More like fact checking?
MM: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
DS: You mentioned the portion of the book about Sam Kinison, which I found fascinating.
MM: I really wrestled with that whole thing. It was a powerful and bizarre part of my life, and I couldnít really let it go. I think I owed it to him in my mind. For being a dick. (laughs)
DS: It didnít come off as, not that you would care, but it didnít come off as disrespectful. I mean, you just talked about what a bastard he could be.
MM: Well, thatís why. I mean, everyone knew that he was a bastard. He was, on some level, true to his part, and I did have a tremendous amount of respect for him, and I did learn a lot of things. But there were a couple of moments that just transcended the weird barrier. And when youíre in a loop of people like that, itís going to get weird. And Iím glad you said what you said, because there was a delicate balance, in that I didnít want to come off as being slanderous for no reason, because I was implicating myself as being deeply immersed in the whole thing. But I certainly did have a great deal of respect for him. But on some level I wrestled with, should I even put this in the book? But I was like, this is it, this is the core of the darkness, the mystical darkness. That period at The Comedy Store, which only lasted about nine months, was at the heart of me drifting in to my imagination to such an extreme and being so out of control, that it resonates forever, and it popped open a door in my mind that will never be completely shut, nor do I want it to be.
DS: Bill Hicks seems to go hand in hand with a discussion of Sam Kinison, and I think I discovered both yourself and Hicks, for myself, at around the same time. I was wondering if you ever met Hicks or had any interaction with him?
MM: Oh, yeah. I knew him, but I really tried to stay away from him in a way, because he was so contagious, and he had such an infectious cadence to his speaking. I mean, you go to Texas, and there are just hundreds of comics doing Billís voice.
DS: Miniature representations of genius.
MM: Right! But I mean, I did have some personal experiences with him. My friend and I were talking about him recently, and we decided that my angle is, "Do you know what Iím saying?" And Billís angle was, "I KNOW what Iím saying." But yeah, I knew Bill a little bit. We hung out a couple of times, and when he lived in New York for a brief time we played guitar a little bit. But my favorite Bill Hicks moment was when I was starting out, I had been doing comedy a couple of years and we were on the same bill at The Village Gate in New York, and this must have been, like, 1988. And itís me and him, and an improv group. And weíre both doing the same amount of time, and he wants to go on first, and Iím like, "Bill, man, youíve got like five Lettermans. You should just go after me." And heís like, "Well, Iíve got to meet somebody. Iíve got a chess game planned." And he was one of those guys where even if he did badly, it would take the room half an hour to pull itself back together. So I go to the bathroom, and Iím literally gone like two fucking minutes, and I walk back in and pull is crouched down at the foot of the stage, just screaming at this women: "IIIIII AM A FUCKING POET! A FUCKING POET!!" And thereís just this hellish silence in the room, and the woman is like, "Well, then tell us a poem." And Bill just hops up and goes, "Arenít you glad you didnít go first Maron?" (laughs) Then there was another time, when we were together at this restaurant in San Francisco, and some guy had given him a book on the Kennedy assassination, which was all he fucking needed (laughs). So heís going through this book, like, "Man, look at this. Itís all here, man." And Iím like, "Yeah Bill. Itís a book about that. Of course itís gonna be like that." And he just looks at me sort of puzzled, and he says, "Do you think Learyís doing me?" (Laughs) He was a real sweet guy.
DS: Books by comedians arenít usually my favorite thing as much as I like comedy, when they turn out to be just reprinting their bits from the stage.
MM: Yeah, that seems to be the thing. Iím just happy that people are discovering the book in a real way. The only way this book is going to have a life is if people read like you did, and have a genuine experience with it and realize itís not that, you know?
DS: Did you have any hesitation about the book because of the way most comedians books turn out?
MM: Well, I know it wouldnít be like that, it just wasnít going to happen. Iíve never read another comicís book. I mean, I read Lenny Bruceís biography at some point and I read Pryorís autobiography, but those are not those kind of books. I guess I just donít know about all that. I mean, all the stuff I talk about publicly is really just my growing philosophy of my life. So, I guess I would have never put it together that way, and Iím just glad that people are finding it as a book.
DS: My only complaint about the book is that I wished it could have been longer. At one point you say something like, "Since then, Iíve broken up with my wife, Iíve quit smoking, and Iíve gotten sober." And it feels like thereís something missing.
MM: People have said that thatís a narrative hole, and maybe that should be the next book.
DS: Thatís what I was going to ask.
MM: That seems to be what Iím trying to get at. Thereís a chunk of my life thatís still unfolding and I havenít been quite sure how to make it funny. Thereís one realm that basically falls under the title of "my parents" and I have not been able to figure out how to make light of whatever their shortcomings were in creating this monster that I am. A good monster. But all of these things that have happened in the last few years, my relationships, sobriety, having a girlfriend again . . . I think once we get through the beginning of World War Three, Iíll try and address this personally (laughs). Maybe thatís the plan for the next book: "World War Three and My Relationships."
DS: Wait and see how this whole Armageddon thing pans out first.
MM: I was talking about that with my friend, you
know that horrible thought: "Iíve never felt better in my lifeÖ
DS: Finally everything is coming together . . . hey whatís that?
MM: Things are all working out. Oh no, weíre all dying at the same time. (laughs)
DS: Iím always fascinated by comedians like yourself, who have a very individual and unique style, that manage to pass their beginning and intermediate stages of performing without committing suicide. How long did it take you before you felt comfortable doing what you do?
MM: Really, honestly, just within the last few years. And really that way that I didnít commit suicide was just by insisting on being dealt with. That was really what I did. I would get up there and just be like, "Iím here, ok?", and just push myself out on the world. But Iíve always had that other side of me, the side that took the job on "Short Attention Span Theater" which I thought was going to kill me, although it did nothing but good things for me, but I couldnít see that at the time. I always had this theory in life, just moving through going, "Ok, whatís next? Whatís next? Whatís next? How do we get to that next thing? How do we get there?" And once I sort of started to slow down and stay in the present a bit, it just sort of started to match up, do you know what I mean? You come out of the shoot like a fireball, until you eventually just slow down and orbit. It did take a long time and I canít really put my finger on it, but I think it was somewhere around the time I did my second Letterman, which was just about three years ago. Maybe about three or four years ago I didnít have to fake being fearless, because thatís really what youíre talking about. The way those kind of comics donít kill themselves is by pretending that you donít care until you . . . really . . . donít. It just happens, you know? One day you realize youíre not standing in the green room looking at the opener, going, "This is gonna suck. What the fuck, man? I got nothing!" I still have those moments, believe me. Iíve not transcended. And sometimes it becomes a ritual. Like Iíve done Conan about twenty-five times now and the guy who always brings me backstage and stands there by the curtain before I go on, he always hears me say, "Iíve got nothing, man. Iíve got nothing." So now itís gotten to the point where he says, "Whattaya got today?" and Iím like, "I got fuckiní nothing." (laughs)
DS: Do have a sense of how much some comedians hate the phrase "alternative comedy"?
MM: I just always thought it was sort of misunderstood. I think thereís this sort of weird schism there. I think itís almost hurt me as much as itís helped me. I mean, alternative comedy never really panned out in to anything.
DS: Except for producing some really good comedians.
MM: Yeah, but I think the really good comedians were produced before, although Iíd like to hear to whom youíre referring to.
DS: I think of yourself, of David Cross, of Louis C.K., of Janeane Garofalo, of Dana Gould . . .
MM: I mean, all those guys are great, but Dana, Christ, when I was college that guy was doing comedy. I mean, that guy was doing comedy in basements in Massachusetts when he was sixteen. He was doing comedy in comedy clubs, just real comedy. And what I think happened was, he and Janeane and some people out in L.A. wanted to separate themselves from the pack and establish this other track, this other venue that would encourage a different type of comedy to exist. I think the common belief was that comedy clubs had gone bad by catering to the lowest common demoninator, which they do on some level. I have a hard time betting booked in a lot of clubs because the club owners say Iím too smart for the room, and God forbid they alienate the mongrel horde (laughs).
DS: And God forbid they try and draw a smart crowd.
MM: Well, they seldom give you the chance. But the alternative comedy thing for me, when I helped start what was the East Coast version, it was like, hey, this is great. I can go on these stages and talk about whatever I want to talk about and not worry about having to deliver the goods and improvise in a way that was encouraged, you know? Basically in alternative comedy clubs itís always one in the morning. Thereís sort of that feeling of not having anything to lose here. Itís like, well, Iím certainly not getting paid and Iím encouraged to talk about what is immediately going on in my heart and mind. So all I ever saw it as was a place to workshop stuff. So I would just work myself in to these riffs and walk off and say, "Yeah, that thing was sort or interesting, I should keep that" and see what stuck, you know? But the alternative thing, in a negative way, there is no hierarchy of advancement or payment. I mean, those of us doing it, we were comics by profession. Thatís what we wanted to do. Thatís what I wanted to do, thatís what Dana wanted to do, we wanted to be comedians. That doesnít seem to be a viable goal anymore. So you get a lot of people who are sort of the creative equivalent of a weekend warrior, out there doing this alternative comedy that doesnít play anywhere except for the twelve alternative comics who are sitting there. And what it did was blur the line between what used to be called an open mic, where the performers were comedians, toward anyone with horn rimmed glasses and a windbreaker and someoneís elseís pants could do it! And when I started out it took me all fucking night to get on. I mean, me and David Cross and Janeane Garofalo and Louis C.K., we used to go to the Catch A Rising Star when they had one at Harvard Square on open mic, and the guy who ran the placed was just a crazy bastard. And he would make this list of like twenty comedians that would go on, and he would have me or Dave or Louie on fifth or sixth, and he would just fucking move our names down the list as the night went on. It was the most powertripping, fucked up thing. You had to keep checking the list every time. And you would just watch your name move down the fucking list and watch the whole audience leave. And then youíd go on in front of the four people. And thatís how we paid our dues, and thatís what builds a great comic like David Cross or Louie C.K. And when the term alternative comedy came around, most of the people you mentioned were well in to their stride as comics. But I havenít seen who or if the alternative comedy movement has produced any comics with a lasting craft.
DS: Maybe, without the label, itís just the transition comedy had to go through, like the changes in rock music.
MM: Yeah, I guess, but music always had a context and the alternative thing was really just another name for some surprising oil well that someone felt they had found, like all of the sudden someone had suddenly reinvented rock and roll. I mean, it goes through those cycles all the time, but usually the reason it becomes popular is because there are some fat cats making a lot of cash, you know? And they make it happen, as far as spreading it out towards the people. But every attempt to put alternative comedy, in itís natural environment, on television has kind of not faired well. And there are a couple of cats in New York that are sort of surfacing out of it that are pretty good. Andy Blitz, he writes for Conan OíBrian, and Dimitri Martin. So there are some people, but theyíre also doing the regular clubs, too. I mean, I think youíre right. Itís just another place to get stage time, but in the old days the incentive was really specifically to begin to make a living as a comedian. And I donít think that is the agenda a lot of times anymore. I think itís more of an opportunity to be seen, to be recognized for something, maybe to get some thing on television. When I younger I just wanted to be a comic. I didnít think about a sitcom or anything else, I just wanted to be like the guys I respected: Richard Pryor, Cheech and Chong, Buddy Hackett, Don Rickles, Steve Martin. It was like, these are the guys who get to talk! And make people laugh!
DS: And eventually someone will give you a couple of bucks.
MM: And I loved that! I used to see Jay Leno on fuckiní The Merv Griffen Show, home sick or whatever, and seeing them just sitting around in those comfy chairs in that semi-circle. And Leno must have been 23 years old, and he cracking jokes, and I just loved it!
DS: Doing comedy as long as you have, do you start to hate the thing you once loved?
MM: Well, you know, you get humbled a lot. I mean, show business, thereís no justice, and whatever ideas you have about, you know, if you work very hard you will be rewarded . . . I mean, the truly talented people, and Iím not talking about myself, itís truly a blessing and a curse. In some respects itís like having cancer. If you can figure out how to wrangle it and focus it and live in peace with it, you can kind of make your way in the world as creative person. But Iíve seen some interesting, talented, visionary comics crumble in to themselves and disappear. And if you get old enough, you have to find a way to sort of temper your jealousy and temper your resentment and temper your insecurity. And if you donít itís going to eat you from the inside. So, yeah, I get frustrated, but as I get older, I know that the only way Iím going to live in peace with it is if Iím ok with what Iím doing and thatís enough.
DS: I think itís similar to the bedroom you talk about in the book, in the same way you saw Leno and became fascinated, and thereís always going to be that fascination with someone whoís doing comedy really well.
MM: Yeah, yeah. But sometimes you donít get seen and you donít get recognized. Itís really a crap shoot. I mean, I have fans, but I know them all. Theyíre very spread out, and Iím lucky to have these people in the world. If you donít get the opportunity to raise the level of consciousness about you that will allow you to make a living off of your following, itís a difficult road. So Iíve had to really spread it out. Iíve done the HBO half special, and the Comedy Central special, and now Iíve written this book, and outside of another book and show, Iíd really like to try to put together a film on a small level and see how it unfolds. Iím still excited about exploring my creativity in a lot of different ways by using my comedic sensibilities to fuel it all. And maybe someday it will allow me to be recognized on a level that will enable me to have a home with a dishwasher (laughs).
DS: Thatís all anyone really wants.
MM: You know? Itís like, I really like to cook and damn, I spend so much time doing dishes. Iíd really like to have a dishwasher (laughs).
DS: Whenever Iím at my parents place, I find myself washing the dishes, until I realize they have a dishwasher. And I say, "How long have these things been around? Theyíre very convenient!"
MM: Yeah! They really save a lot of time.
DS: Iím interested in your experience during and after September 11both as a comedian as a New Yorker.
MM: We started doing shows the weekend after. I donít know why, besides the old "the show must go on" thing. And I just really made a point to begin a dialogue about it. I mean, they had basically quarantined the city for about four days after. And everybody was just in deep shock, not a mild shock, but a deep shock. And on Friday night there was this really weird vibe, like reality had completely shifted. I canít even describe it. I got up that morning and got on to AOL, and there it was on the homepage, you know, one tower with all the smoke. And I was like, "What is this, a joke? What day is it? What? What the fuck is happening?" And I got up and turned on the TV and saw the second tower fall, and I went up to my roof and I just looked at the city and saw all the smoke just coming off of the lower end of the city. And the ironically horrifying thing was that it was just the most beautiful day. It was so clear. And there wasnít a sound. There wasnít an airplane, there wasnít a car. Nothing. And itís Manhattan at 10:30 in the morning. And it was always like there was this window of stillness and horror that was an opportunity for people to become people again. Itís so unusual for Americans to be like, "I donít know if itís all right." Do you know what I mean?
DS: I do, absolutely.
MM: And it was so fascinating because I started doing comedy that weekend, and Saturday there were about sixty or eight people there, and they were in deep shock but they were laughing. At everything. Laughing in a very weird and compulsive way. They would laugh, and then it would stop very quickly. Like they had stepped out of their shock for a moment and have this moment of relief, and then back to "Oh, no." And then on TV, like everyone saw Letterman, who I love, just forced to be human. It was really awesome. And then to watch humor slowly start to evolve. And you know all those fucking newspaper articles that were like, "Is it ever going to be ok to laugh again?" And itís like, do you see how far away youíve gotten from the point of being human? Thatís what human beings laugh at. Thatís where funny begins. The one thing that makes us different from any other animal is the knowledge that, from the time weíre about seven or eight, that this party ends. And weíre clear on that. And one of the ways we temper that reality is by laughing in the face of fucking death. And thereís no doubt that. Right?
MM: And I think that as Americans, the narcissistic sensibility is, what has our freedom of choice really become but to pursue our individual interests to the extent that we exclude people and diminish community. Itís become a completely narcissistic culture. And I think that on some level, the true and honest fear of everybody dying at once denies us our individuality. But what begin to happen was, I began to say, "How do I continue to be a cultural commentator and still respect the grief and the horror, and the integrity of the dead and the tragedy?" And Iím a conspiracy thinker, so my thoughts were, "Ok, what happened? Was this inside job. Look whoís in power." But the first jokes I did were like, you know, like two weeks after it happened my manager called me and said, "So are you going to move to L.A. now?" Like thatís the only thing I was supposed to learn? I mean, you have earthquakes out there. Our city may be the target of terrorism but your city is the target of God. And I sort of built that in to the argument that God is the greatest terrorist of all time. I mean, heís out to get everybody and sometimes for no reason at all. And then I started moving in to the idea of what does getting back to normal in America mean? It means consumption, you know? Eat something. Go out, go to the movies, go rent a video, spend some money, put some gas in your car, go on a trip, put something between you and your feelings before they lead to questions. Because thereís no time for questions. And then it evolved in to, I started asking people on stage, is it OK to hate the president again? Because it seems that this patriotism and this loyalty behind this leader is very thin, because when you really believe in a leader, you donít say things like, "You know, heís getting better." Thatís not a declaration of loyalty. Then I just started being really critical and unleashing the . . . Iíve done some pretty weird jokes. And itís a really odd reaction, because I think there is a lot of suspicion out there. I mean, not that any one from any administration said, "Ok, call Osama and let this thing go down." But complacency through negligence is a real thing. But the best joke Iíve done so far, I guess . . . You know, Iím weary of you taking these lefty, conspiracy jokes out of context, out of the balance of what I do, you know? But the joke I like to do now is how the Taliban, you know, is sitting on about 70 percent of the worldís heroin supply. But theyíre sitting on this stash, which means thereís a lot of angry junkies out on the streets on America. So Iím thinking, we donít we organize them in to a task force, send them to Afghanistan, right? Theyíll find Bin Laden in an hour, just to get the price of dope back down to ten dollars a bag. And then the global heroin business is back under the management of the CIA just like it was under George Sr.!
DS: As someone who follows conspiracy theories, is it interesting to see these conspiracy theories, like there being no Jews in the WTC on the 11th, or that the planes were flown by the Mossad, being somewhat accepted as fact by the man on the street in many Middle Eastern countries?
MM: Well, thatís thing about conspiracy theories. Itís like, how are you going to make sense of your fear if you donít have a deep faith that revolves around spirituality? At there are a couple of choices, the pragmatic one being you take information, you sift through it, you assess what is real and what isnít and you live with it. Or youíre going to construct your own mystical scheme to provide you with comfort and also that weird feeling of somehow having secret answers. "Oh, you know what really happened? Iíve got this source in Texas . . ." The really interesting thing about conspiracy theories is that they take little fragments of renegade information thatís flying around the internet like a virus. You know, like "Iíve got it on a pretty good source that George Bush is the anti-christ." Like, what do you mean a good source? "Hey, just hear me out on this." Itís like what I said in the book about conspiracy theories. Itís really good for stupid people who want to ground their hatred in something mystical and confusing, and itís really good for smart people who donít want to do their homework.
DS: Itís always so much more interesting than doing your homework anyway.
MM: Yeah, and why not? I mean, itís the information age, what the fuck. Information is information. Who really has the time to sort out the truth? Just throw it out there and see what sticks.
Buy Marc's book!!! It's good!