Respect your comics

Marc Maron's message at Montreal keynote speech

Marc Maron has called on the comedy industry to treat comedians with more respect.

In a heartfelt, funny and occasionally emotional keynote speech to movers and shakers at the Montreal Just For Laughs comedy festival, the experienced stand-up described in first-hand detail the daily sacrifices comics make on the road, and the battles many have with their own personality flaws.

But he said agents, managers and TV executives often don’t give stand-ups respect for the work that goes into perfecting the craft.’

‘With comics and the comedy industry, it’s not really Us versus Them, but sometimes it feels like it is,’ he said.

‘The industry takes comics for granted, and makes us jump through hoops. I get it, but what about some respect for the commodity, the clown?

‘I’ve spent half my life building my clown, fuelled by jealousy and spite.’

Although he joked about never attracting industry ‘heat’, Maron also described how three years ago, he hit rock bottom both personally and professionally, but was saved by launching his WTF? podcast, in which he interviews fellow comedians.

‘My manager at the time said I was unbookable and without options,’ he said. ‘So I started this podcast in my garage; it’s been an emotional thing for me.

‘I was lost, but found out who I was by talking to other comics. Doing the podcast and talking to other comics saved my life. And do you know how much the industry had to do with that? Nothing.

‘It took me 25 years to do the best thing I ever did, and there was no way to monetise it.’

Maron’s podcast has proved phenomenally successfully, racking up more than 20 million downloads in the past two years. It is now sponsored and has led to live shows and a forthcoming book.

He added, with tongue slightly in cheek: ‘I built this thing. I maintain full creative control. I am the future of showbusiness.’

Maron also said that he role of agents and managers was changing. ‘Nurturing and developing talent is no longer relevant,’ he said with a touch of regret.

He received a standing ovation from the room full of comedians and industry figures at the end of his half-hour speech.

Published: 28 Jul 2011

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