Comedian Marc Maron has a lot going on — writing a new TV show with his namesake for IFC, editing his memoirs and producing and hosting a wildly-popular podcast called “WTF” — but he’s making time to headline a benefit for San Francisco Animal Care and Control at Cobb’s on August 8.
Marc stole a few minutes to speak with me about his fondness for cats and why he won’t give up his devilish digits.
Marc Maron: Where is your phone number, Missouri?
Corey Andrew: My phone number is still from St. Louis. I haven’t given it up yet.
Marc: We all do that, I guess. Why are we so loyal to a phone number? I still have my New York number and it’s been 10 years. What are we afraid of? We live in the age when we can just change numbers and change e-mail addresses easily. What’s our loyalty to that?
Corey: I guess we’re sentimental.
Marc: I think it’s a fear of being lost. That’s how people know me. That’s my number.
Corey: I was thinking about this yesterday. I still know the address and home phone number to my house when I was a kid. That doesn’t help me now.
Marc: I know that, too. I think I’ve lost a couple of those. I think I can remember most of my addresses. There’s been a lot of them. I think there’s one in San Francisco that’s gotten lost in my mind. I lived on South Van Ness. I do remember my two childhood addresses. I was there longer. My brain was fresher then. Got in deeper.
Corey: It’s really down in there deep.
Marc: Because in those days, you remember it because it’s plodded into your head from your parents in case you wandered off or got lost. At least you have that to say to the finding officer.
Corey: I never had to do that, fortunately.
Marc: Me either.
Corey: Are you holding on to this phone number because it’s got ‘666’ in it?
Marc: I did that on purpose. I asked for that. I had it to make sure the beast knew I knew who he was.
Corey: This show you’re coming to San Francisco for is a benefit for San Francisco Animal Care and Control, which is a really great organization that adopts out a bunch of critters. You’re a cat guy, right?
Marc: Yeah, I run a branch of that. I have a small franchise of that in my house. I care and control three of my own cats, two or three random cats, a couple skunks, some possums and, begrudgingly, some raccoons that all eat the high-end cat food I get for my guys.
Corey: The control part is a little tougher when you’re talking about cats.
Marc: That’s for sure. I actually trapped a cat recently to take to the vet. He had to be put down. He was sick. It wasn’t my cat. It was a stray. Control’s a little difficult.
Corey: Have you always been a pet-oriented guy?
Marc: Sort of reluctantly in a way. It wasn’t an instinctual need to help the animals. It was sort of like, ‘Oh, my God, I’m gonna have to take care of these.’
I grew up with dogs, a little Sheep dog. Some cats were around. I always had a lot of respect for cats. In my adult life, I didn’t have pets until my 30s.
There was a situation in New York. There was a litter of five kittens out in back of my Astoria apartment building, in the garbage. I didn’t know they were feral when I trapped them in shoeboxes and let them in my house.
I had to learn that lesson the hard way. You gotta get a kitten pretty young to get them to take to you. They were three months in, survived eating in the garbage. They’re as wild as anything living outside. I had to wrestle with that quick learning curve for having feral cats in your house.
I had to call an emergency cat lady, who came in with cages to inoculate them. Very exciting. From the original litter of Astoria cats of four, two of them are out here.
Corey: Very nice. What are your cats’ names?
Marc: Monkey, LaFonda and Boomer.
Marc: There’s an intense stray cat that lives outside. There’s this weird, black cat that can’t hear. I don’t know how he survives out there—hyper visual, I guess. He’s a little scary, that guy.
Corey: What do your indoor cats think of the ones who hang outside?
Marc: Boomer used to live inside, back when we had another cat named Moxie. We got Boomer to keep Moxie company. Boomer started peeing on everything, so he had to move outside. The two indoor cats get along fine. There are definitely problems with them and Boomer.
Corey: Do the cats ever get to hang in the garage while you’re doing the podcast?
Marc: All my cats are a little tweaky. None of them are essentially comfortable hanging out that much. They were all feral. They’re all very sweet and they all like me. They get comfortable, but they’re wired for the wild. It’s sort of difficult to get them to sit still except for where they want to sit still.
Corey: They might take over the show. I always enjoy listening to comedians carry on a conversation with each other, and you’ve created something special with ‘WTF.’ What is the atmosphere is like in the garage where you broadcast?
Marc: The garage is cluttered but organized and very cozy out there. It’s just me and whoever’s in my garage. I run my own board. I make them comfortable. It’s more of a man cave. There’s not automotive things around. I put a cooler in there. It’s an older place, built in the ’20s. There’s a lot of stuff around, old pictures and posters and hundreds of books around. There’s a rug in there. It seems to be kind of magical out there.
Corey: How is the show for IFC coming along?
Marc: Good. I’ve got to go meet my writers in an hour. We’re in it. We’ve got 10 weeks to write 10 episodes. It’s me and three other guys and we’ve got our work cut out for us. We’re breaking story and it’s going pretty well.
Corey: Is there a basic storyline set up already?
Marc: Not really. I think they’re gonna be standalone episodes. The story is me. Hopefully I will transform a bit as the show progresses. There are separate stories but they’ll all fit together. There are a couple of recurring characters.
Corey: Have you thought about incorporating cats into it?
Marc: We did in the pilot. Unfortunately, they’re very hard to work with. Even professional cat handlers who come over with actor cats, they’re still cats. I don’t know that anyone has effectively trained a house cat. If you’re lucky, they’ll lay around in the right place. In my experience it’s sort of a sham. Anyone can bring cats over and act like cats. I think we’ll suggest them more than use them.
Corey: Does your book have a title yet?
Marc: No, the working title is ‘Attempting Normal,’ but I don’t know what we’re gonna end up with. I’m getting a little nervous about that. I’m getting notes on the draft back. It’s making me a little nuts.
Corey: Sure. There’s a lot going on at the same time: the show, putting the book together, doing the podcast and touring. How do you keep a semblance of sanity in your life? What gets you a little Zen?
Marc: I just try not to freak out about things that haven’t happened yet. I try to stay in the present as much as possible and in the moment as much as possible and not freak out about things that may or may not happen.
Visit cobbscomedyclub.com for tickets to the SF ACC benefit show at Cobb’s Comedy Club on Wednesday, August 8. The show will also feature co-headliner Arj Barker.
Corey Andrew has been interviewing comedians and writing about comedy for the last decade and a half. In 2011, he published the book, “Laugh Lines: Conversations with Comedians.” Corey was a writer and performer with Midwest sketch troupe, The NonProphets, before moving to the Bay Area with his family a few years ago.
If you have ideas for future columns about comedy, you can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him at twitter.com/coreywrites.