"No one does this anymore," Maron says. "We live in a self-involved, careerist society of people just trying to appear like they have their s--- together. I think the attitude is 'Look, I'm doing what I'm doing so I can't focus on your s--- right now. So text me.' But we're all equipped to deal with this stuff. It's really what makes human beings interested. It's what we're supposed to be doing, connecting like this."
To see Maron on stage is witness him at his most comfortable, driven almost compulsively by a need to connect with an audience. The comic Andy Kindler once called him "an empathetic savant."
Maron, who describes himself as a "volatile, sensitive guy," grew up in Albuquerque, N.M. In his early 20s, after graduating from Boston University, he moved to Los Angeles and worked his way up as a doorman at the Comedy Store. He fell in with Sam Kinison, aping both his anger-spewing comedy and coke habit. Maron eventually fled back to Boston, and developed a career that never quite took off, including hosting stints on Comedy Central and on Air America. With no expectations and free of any creative oversight, he began the podcast in 2009.
"Maron" pulls from many of the stories he's told in the podcast openings and features cameos from many of those he's interviewed, including Sarah Silverman and Aubrey Plaza. It's a sitcom portrait of his life: raging at ex-wives, hanging out with comics and caring for his houseful of cats.
"Attempting Normal," with stories about fights with his girlfriend over having babies and his lone encounter with "Saturday Night Live" creator Lorne Michaels (who's something of an inscrutable villain to Maron), captures Maron's voice authentically. While the TV series has a good spirit, it may be more amplified for fans accustomed to the intimacy of the podcast.
"I definitely did it the way I do things," he says. "I erred on the side of earnest over bad jokes. There were definitely conversations where it's like we don't need to do that joke because that joke will derail the emotions of it. A lot of what I learned in writing was that I never really fully realized how much jokes are about avoiding emotion."
Maron, naturally, is neurotically "girding for whatever negativity is to come" from his suddenly high profile.
"I'm pretty overwhelmed, and that seems to be having a calming effect on me," he says.
He would like to do more episodes of "Maron," having learned from the first 10. He has no plans to slow down on the podcast, which increasingly features entertainers outside of comedy: "I'd like to go into areas where I can learn something," he says.
In "Attempting Normal," he writes that he got into comedy not to be an entertainer, but "to finish the construction of myself." Regardless of success, the process seems to be working.
After he detours into what he often calls "a pocket of weirdness," during the taping, Maron smiles: "That kind of went a different direction than I expected."