“The Best of Times” (1981) with Crispin Glover and Nicolas Coppola (Cage)

“The Best of Times” is a truly awful television pilot from 1981 that only aired once (to the best of my knowledge) and never continued past its first episode.  Co-produced by “Laugh-In”‘s George Schlatter, “Times” (I imagine) was supposed to be a lighthearted, albeit sensitive look at the struggles of being a teenager, though it’s executed in the most ass-backwards, tasteless early 1980s corporate TV manner.  It’s a truly weird WTF hybrid of lowest common denominator sitcom humor, occasional drama, and … yes … musical numbers.  Imagine “Freaks & Geeks” had it been produced by Sid & Marty Krofft and you’ll get the picture.

So why am I even talking about this?  Yes this is partly due to “Times” being truly one of those god-awful train wrecks that’s worth watching for its sheer cluelessness.  But mainly  because the stars are Crispin Glover and Nicolas Cage … sorry Coppola … before they became famous.  And they’re playing characters called Crispin and Nicholas, respectively.

I don’t feel too bad ripping on this because I’m sure Glover and Cage would gleefully agree this is not their finest hour.  But what makes this particularly an odd watch is seeing a 17-year old Glover struggling to play a “normal” early 1980s-era sitcom teenager.   It’s simultaneously painful and fascinating to watch and arguably stranger than Glover’s legendary appearances in “River’s Edge” and “Wild at Heart.”

Now here’s the really weird part … I totally remember watching this when I was 11 years old.  While my tastes back then were not as evolved as they are now, I remember being totally baffled by “Times” … and not in a good way.  This was so memorably bizarre that I actually thought about the show the other day, but not remembering the title or who was in it.  Thanks to Glover’s appearance on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast today, I looked the show up on YouTube and much to my shock, I realized “So, THIS was that odd and terrible show I remember seeing when I was 11!”

If you have a strong stomach, are a fan of really bad TV pilots, or want to see what certain stars did before they became famous, “Times” is a must-watch.

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Marc Maron’s interview with Carlos Mencia, circa 2010 on Maron’s WTF Podcast

One of the most legendary interviews of Marc Maron’s legendary WTF podcast was a two-part interview with comedian Carlos Mencia in 2010.  Mencia is a stand-up who had a successful Comedy Central show called “Mind of Mencia” during the mid-2000s and was a very popular stand-up comedian in his own right.  My own feelings about Mencia?  I enjoyed “Mind of Mencia.”  I never went out of way to watch it or could call myself a great fan, but I thought the show was enjoyable enough.  However, Mencia is probably known more nowadays (rightly or wrongly) for charges of being a “joke-thief,” which came to a head in 2007 when comedian Joe Rogan confronted Mencia at the Comedy Store with these charges, which was caught on video and spread like wildfire across the internet at the time.

In 2010, Mencia appeared on Maron’s podcast to discuss these charges and the first part of this interview seems very persuasive towards Mencia’s point-of-view.  As someone who majored in Rhetoric as an undergrad, I have to say that Mencia argues his points extremely well emotionally.  If you know nothing else about the controversy, Mencia is very persuasive.  However, after the interview is over, Maron expresses that he felt that Mencia wasn’t being entirely honest, so Maron talked to some of Mencia’s peers who refuted many of Mencia’s claims in subsequent interviews.  Maron himself even talks of a time that Mencia was a last-minute lead-in to a gig that Maron was supposed to host … and stayed on stage for 2 hours (a major no-no in the comedy world) … to the point where Maron abandoned the gig.  During Part 2 of the interview, even Mencia acknowledges that the gesture was a f–k you to Maron at the time.

So … Maron asked Mencia to address these charges in a follow-up interview … which Mencia … surprisingly … agreed to.  Part 2 of the interview is where things get VERY real and intense between Maron and Mencia.  To Mencia’s credit, he really does seem to try to come to terms with the bad stuff he’s done, but … he doesn’t quite get there.

This is truly one of the most uncomfortable interviews I’ve ever experienced  … mainly because the person being interviewed is someone who’s made a lot of mistakes and is trying to come to terms with all the bad stuff he’s done over the years.  He’s trying to deal with it in an honest way, but he can’t help but be defensive because he hasn’t quite processed the damage he may have done.  If what’s been said against Mencia is true, he truly does deserve the crap that’s reigned down upon him.  Hearing Mencia acknowledge the damage he’s done … while denying the dignity of the complaints … is a masterstroke of denial.  Mencia is VERY convincing and does make some good points.  But at the same time, you also want to shake your head at the mental and verbal gymnastics taking place here.

What ultimately comes across is someone being forced to deal with the totality of their life’s decisions and how their decisions (frequently bad) over several years are now coming to a head.  If anyone listens to the second part of this interview and still thinks Mencia is an unredeemable piece of s–t is someone who has never made a mistake or been called out for the totality of their bad decisions.  Mencia may not be a great … or even good … human being.  But if you listen to this and don’t feel lucky for not being called out publicly on your own BS, you’re a better human being that I could ever hope to be … or you’re a lying sack of s–t.

Again, this is one of the most uncomfortable interviews I’ve ever listened to, but if you have any interest in comedy … or psychology … this almost 2.5 hour compilation of interviews is a must-hear.  This may not quite be the final two hours of the infamous “Frost / Nixon” interviews, but for the comedy world, this comes really close.

Pt . 1:

Pt. 2:

Interview with Bob Zmuda by Marc Maron

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This is a lengthy, riveting, and extremely funny interview with Bob Zmuda, late comedian Andy Kaufman’s partner-in-crime that Marc Maron conducted back in 2012 on his “WTF with Marc Maron Podcast.” The interview is over 2 hours long, but if you’re an Andy Kaufman fan, this is a must-listen. While a lot of this is probably bulls–t to a certain degree (some parts are not consistent with the account Zmuda gave in his 1999 book “Andy Kaufman Revealed”), trust me when I say that this is some goooood bulls–t! I guarantee you won’t be bored. The interview starts 6:27 into the presentation.

Bob Zmuda on Norman Wexler (from Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast)

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Andy Kaufman’s best friend and co-conspirator Bob Zmuda had plenty of great stories when he sat down with Marc Maron for his WTF podcast. But arguably the best story Zmuda told was about the three weeks he worked for legendary screenwriter Norman Wexler (“Joe,” “Serpico,” “Saturday Night Fever”) in the early 1970s. Kaufman apparently got a lot of ideas (especially for his obnoxious Tony Clifton character) based on Zmuda’s tales of working for Wexler.  Zmuda reveals how Wexler really got his knack for writing intense, gritty dialogue.  Hilarious, jaw-dropping stuff, especially the tale about Wexler and Zmuda terrorizing a bakery.  This incident sounds like it was lifted from a Lars Von Trier film starring Sacha Baron Cohen, but it really happened, according to Zmuda. Not safe for work. If you like what you hear, you really need to read Zmuda’s terrific 1999 book “Andy Kaufman Revealed” which delivers more Wexler tales, as well as tales about Kaufman.

Phil Hendrie interview with Marc Maron on WTF

http://wtfpod.libsyn.com/episode-393-phil-hendrie

Phil Hendrie is, hands down, the funniest human being on radio.  While I think Howard Stern may be the funniest “off the cuff” humorist on radio, Hendrie is a true artiste and what he does night after night is nothing short of brilliant … almost at an Andy Kaufman-level of comic genius.

If you’ve never heard of Hendrie, here’s the premise of his show:  Hendrie plays himself as a frustrated straight-man radio host interviewing people who are … to put it kindly … some of the most repulsive human beings who have ever existed.  Among the wretched that Hendrie has interviewed:  a man who believes you should protect children from predators by forcing them to never bathe and get fat; a man who wants to sue his wife and children for not letting him take the family savings to Norway so he can “get his head together for six months … to five years” because he fears a terrorist attack; a pornographer upset because the City of New York has denied him a permit to make a porn film at Ground Zero called “9 or 11 … Take Your Pick … Let the Healing Begin”; a woman who wants to sue her neighbor for choosing not to have a C-section because her neighbor agreed to let the woman use her baby in a “prettiest baby” contest and the woman is afraid the baby will be deformed because it’s coming out of a … well … narrower opening … and so on … and so forth.   The big “secret” is that Hendrie also plays the people he is interviewing.  Who’s not in on the joke?  The callers who call in to tear these “guests” apart.  Hendrie’s show is, hands down, the best satire of talk radio that’s ever been conceived.  And every single one of shows has left me convulsing in hysterics.

As always, Maron delivers a GREAT interview with Hendrie.  Hendrie dishes not only about his history and how he developed his comic genius over the years, but also gives his assessment on the current state of talk radio.  If you have any interest in comedy, talk radio, technology, or media studies, this interview is essential.

And please … if Hendrie interests you at all … throw him some money at his website and get access to not only his current broadcasts and podcasts, but some of his classic shows from over the last 15 years or so.  Or you can listen to some freebies through iTunes (download anything that has “Classic Phil Hendrie” in the subject line).  Some may sneer and say this is just the radio version of trolling, but I would vehemently disagree.  Holy mackeral, trust me when I say that this is some next level s–t!

http://philhendrieshow.com/

Judd Apatow on the inability to feel joy

I heard this amazing insight writer/director/producer Judd Apatow had about his own neuroses on Marc Maron’s extraordinary WTF podcast from 2011. Maron asked him why they don’t feel any sense of joy and Apatow’s answer made perfect sense to me. What’s missing from the transcript below is hearing Apatow and Maron both laughing their asses off as Apatow is explaining this. And damn if I wasn’t laughing as well… for reasons that are obvious if you know me…

Marc Maron: Why are we so afraid of joy?

Judd Apatow: That’s the question, and I’ve thought about it a lot. And I think it’s because we think that right behind joy is a knife that will cut our throat. And if we feel it, it’s almost like a laugh, and you’re chin goes up, and you’re throat is exposed. And if I laugh too loud, someone will slit my throat. And so, that’s the terror of joy. If I enjoy this as completely as I want to, it’s gonna hurt when it goes wrong. And the mistake is, it hurts already. Keeping shut down is what really hurts. And so it doesn’t actually make sense, and if you have to think about it all the time to know that’s what’s happening. Like I’m not actually enjoying this. And then you’re not present because you’re waiting for a punch. That’s how I feel like. I feel like I have my dukes up all day long, looking for someone who’s going to punch me, and here’s the thing: no one ever punches me.”

P.S. You’re not allowed to say “That’s OK Dave, I’ll punch you” in response … Not because it’s not funny, but because I’ve already thought of it.

Robin Williams interview with Marc Maron (WTF Episode 106)

http://www.prx.org/p/63067

Another brilliant interview from Marc Maron from his stellar “WTF” podcast.  This time, Maron interviews legendary comedian and Oscar-winnning actor Robin Williams (the interview took place sometime in 2011) and it’s the best interview I’ve ever experienced with Williams.  It’s been popular to bash Williams the last several years for the overuse of the manic schtick which made him famous.  Which, if truth be told, has not been entirely unfair.

But seriously, forget all those things you think you hate Robin Williams for.  In this interview, you get none of the manic schtick that’s been de rigeur for Williams for over 30 years.  And Williams still absolutely f–king kills!  Maron and Williams sound like two smart old friends shooting the s–t about all kinds of topics: addiction, the art of comedy, fellow comedians, etc.  Like most of Maron’s interviews, the interview flows like two jazz musicians riffing off each other.  It’s like eavesdropping on a conversation between two incredibly cool people where you can’t even imagine interrupting, because doing so would interrupt the conversational magic taking place.  An amazing hour.

Louis C.K. interview with Marc Maron (from Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast, May 2011)

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Can an interview be art? If there were ever a case to be made for this proposition, I would present Marc Maron’s two-part, nearly two-hour interview with comedian Louis C.K. as Exhibit A.

To say Louis C.K. is one of the most brilliant stand-up comedians of all time is an understatement. Mainly because what Louis C.K. does goes beyond comedy. Louis C.K.’s routines and especially, his groundbreaking TV show “Louis,” go much deeper than mere laughs. Unlike most comedians who are deathly afraid of any moment that strays from comedy, if there’s a dramatically real moment that doesn’t contain a laugh, Louis C.K. lets the drama play out, sans laughter. Granted, comedy is the basis for a lot of this journey. But in the work of Louis C.K., it’s less about the laugh than getting to an emotional truth. Arguably, in this respect, he’s the one of the few comedians who has come close to equaling the brilliance of Richard Pryor.

A brilliant stand-up himself and a lifelong friend of Louis C.K.’s, Maron deeply explores the evolution of Louis C.K.’s comedy and art. Much of the interview is funny, but much of it is also dramatically compelling, especially towards the end, when Maron and Louis C.K. try to resolve the bad blood between them. It’s clear that they are lifelong friends who love each other deeply, but also have a great deal of hurt between them. If you have a dry eye by the end of this, you’re not human.

This interview has become legendary and it’s one of the most fascinating and entertaining looks at the interior life of an artist, guided by someone who obviously cares, respects, and appreciates how this artist developed over several years.

And, if you’re impressed by this interview, you absolutely need to check out Maron’s WTF podcast, widely considered one of the best podcasts of all time. I just discovered Maron through his terrific interview with Howard Stern earlier this week and I’ve spent the last few days catching up with his brilliant podcast. If you like what you hear on this interview, download this two part interview from iTunes. It does cost $3.98, but this is a bargain, considering it’s as good if not better than most movies I’ve seen in the last 10 years. I know I will listen to it for years to come.

http://www.wtfpod.com/

Marc Maron on “The Howard Stern Show” 5-1-2013

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One of THE best interviews I’ve heard in a long time, if not ever, is Howard Stern’s interview with comedian and podcaster Marc Maron. Maron is getting a lot of attention these days due to a terrific new book that just came out (“Attempting Normal”), a new IFC series (“Maron”), and host of, arguably, one of THE best podcasts of all time (“WTF with Marc Maron”).

Maron’s podcast “WTF” is required listening if you’re a fan of comedy, film, and underground culture as Maron is one of the best interviewers around. So it should come as no surprise that his interview with Howard Stern (another great interviewer) would result in one of the most compelling near-hours I’ve heard in a long time. Maron is quite frank about how his anger and bitterness over the years towards his more successful friends (Jon Stewart and Louis C.K.) burned a lot of bridges personally and professionally.  His tales of partying with Sam Kinison back in the day are harrowing and hilarious. Well worth checking out, but lots of bad language so not safe for work.

And if you like what you hear, check out Maron’s podcast, which can be located at the iTunes store or at his website:

http://www.wtfpod.com/

Again … simply amazing stuff.