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BBQ with Marc Maron

Comedian Marc Maron on his breakout year and his favorite Texas barbecue

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comedian Marc Maron sitting on a couch
Things have been busy for Marc Maron in the past year, but he's ready for some Austin barbecue. Photo courtesy of Serial Optimist

The 2014 Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival welcomes comedian Marc Maron back to the stage for the second year in a row. What has he been up to in the past year since he last performed in Austin? Quite a bit, actually.

Known for his hit podcast series, WTF with Marc Maron, the stand-up comic premiered a scripted series, Maron, on the IFC network last year. He also released a new comedy album and a bestselling book, Attempting Normal.

Before his show at the Paramount Theatre on Friday, April 25, Maron chatted with CultureMap about his breakout year, but more importantly, about his musings on Texas barbecue.

CultureMap: How would you describe the last year?

Marc Maron: It’s been crazy, man. It’s been incredibly busy and incredibly exciting. Now, what it comes down to is the second season of Maron starts on May 8, but ultimately it just becomes about the stand-up again eventually. You do all of this other stuff and then all of a sudden you’re like, “Well, time to make a new hour of stand-up.”

So all I’ve been doing for the past couple of months is really focusing on promoting the show, but also doing stand-up. I did a bunch of weekly shows here in L.A. and just finding my way through a bunch of new material, and I’m excited to come to Austin to do it.

CM: What’s it been like going from focusing on your podcast and TV show back to your roots in stand-up?

MM: You know it’s weird. All my life stand-up is what I set out to do and what I’ve been doing since I was maybe 20 years old. And when it comes down to it, it’s sort of the most immediate and most important thing in my heart at some level. It doesn’t feel strange to me.

You get a certain amount of fear, frustration and insanity around trying to figure out what the new material is, but for me I tend to write on stage. I don’t really sit down and write jokes. It really just has to happen on the podcast where I’m talking freely, or just inviting fans to witness as an audience me free-think my way through stuff. That’s always exciting to improv through material.

CM: We’re close to the premiere of the second season of Maron. How did the experience compare to creating the show’s first season? Did you gain plenty of new insights?

MM: Definitely. When I went into the first season, it was all new to me. I didn’t think any of that was ever going to happen to me. Writing, acting and producing television was a whole new world, a big collaborative world, and I just had to show up and be available and trust the people I was working with and learn on the job.

And going into the second season I was mostly concerned with getting the stories together and getting the script together than shooting. I didn’t want to worry about rewrites when we started shooting. And I feel like it worked out. I think the stories are better and I think my performances are better. We had great guest stars. I think it’s different and tighter than the first season. It feels good.

CM: So after this busy year you’ve had, are you glad to be back in Austin?

MM: I like the city a lot. I always enjoy going there and wandering around. I tend to look forward to just getting in a car or having someone drive me out to Spicewood to Opie’s Barbecue. I like driving out there because no one seems to go out there. And I think it’s a really good barbecue place, but I like the idea that you have to drive a half-hour just to come upon it.

I’ve gone to Lockhart, but that just seems to be more well-trodden territory. There’s something about Opie’s where’s it more like, “Hey, nobody comes out to this place.” I think it’s really good.

CM: That’s always a hard thing to find around Austin. A lot of the great barbecue places have huge lines that you have to wait in.

MM: Yeah, but I’m just not going to do it. Because the thing is it’s all pretty good barbecue there. There’s only a couple of duds. So give or take a little bit, it’s all pretty good. I’m not really in pursuit of the best brisket ever. I’m just more in pursuit of a nice experience. And driving out to Opie’s and sort of getting there and not seeing it as sort of this hipster influx.You’re just sitting there having nice barbecue at a picnic table without that weirdness and having to take the ride to do it. I just like it better. I don’t want to wait in line for an hour for meat.

It’s like anything that you can nerd out on, but I found that I’ve eaten at three or four places in Austin and honestly they all have one thing that is awesome, but it’s all fairly comparative. And no matter what you do someone’s going to be all, “Oh, that’s not the best.” But it’s really about the experience itself. Waiting in line for an hour to sit and wolf down some meat, there’s a weird pressure to that. But taking a casual drive out to Opie’s or Lockhart and getting there in an off-hour where you’re not in a clusterfuck, it’s a nicer experience.

So my feeling is that it’s all pretty good, it’s just what kind of experience do you want to have?

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Marc Maron will perform at the Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival on Friday, April 25. You can listen to him weekly on his WTF with Marc Maron podcast.

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