10 lessons i’ve learned the hard way: with Marc Maron

Wisdom on ‘porn brain’, older women, sobriety and Viagra from the self-loathing podcast sage.

Marc Maron shares his tough lessons from a life lived on the edge
Hand of pod WTF hero Marc Maron has had a lifelong struggle with fear and self-hatred. Image Portrait Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times

Marc Maron has been through two divorces, alcoholism, mind-smashing substance abuse, depression and a doomed relationship with Frank Zappa’s daughter Moon.

Instead of spiralling into hopelessness he has taken his flaws, failures and self-hatred and churned them into global sell-out stand up tours, four comedy albums, two books and a Netflix show.

There’s also the matter of his much-lauded celebrity interview-based podcast WTF. It celebrated its 100 millionth download in 2013 and recently featured Barack Obama as a guest, who discussed the use of “the N-word”.

Maron lives alone with his cats and has kicked every one of his vices, except for his self-confessed ice cream and masturbation binges. The 51-year-old now mainly eats kale, Japanese sweet potato and has even ditched the nicotine lozenges he sucked obsessively after he quit smoking 15 years ago.

We share 10 of his finest nuggets on how to exist, gathered from a life that could easily have tipped over the edge.




Sobriety won’t sort your fucked-up brain

“Sobriety ultimately helped me. The desire for drink and drugs goes away fairly quickly. That wasn’t the hard part for me, once I got rid of the shakiness. But keeping sane is tricky, because you’ve still got the fucked-up brain. It’s what you were hiding with drink and drugs and it is fucked up. You have a mess of shit to tidy in there when you get sober.”


Never look at the small box in the corner during Skype sex

“Skype sex is good. You can say things to her like, ‘Come closer so your head is real size’. Just one pointer – stay focused on her. Do not look at that little box in the corner because then you’ll think, ‘Who’s the sad guy masturbating in the corner?’ Just use the little box for positioning so she can see everything properly.”


Save the planet – stop masturbating in the shower

“Shower masturbation is the unspoken cause of droughts. It takes time and adds to the amount of water being used. You can’t really bring the video element into the shower to help you, and you have to go with your memory, so it takes a lot longer. Women do it too, with the massagers. It’s happening and no-one wants to talk about it.”


Only use porn to avoid falling into the pit of self

“I don’t celebrate porn. I use it occasionally. That’s how I like to look at it – I use it. But you should only use it if you’re, say, sitting at home working on that novel or screenplay, and you think, ‘Ah, Christ, what am I doing? This isn’t going to work’. Then you can go, ‘YouPorn’. Basically, only use porn when you’re falling down the pit of self and the only thing you really can do to help that fall is grab hold of your own penis.”


Avoid the hipster problem

“I walk into hipster shops and I have no fucking idea what the fuck it is they are selling. There will be an old typewriter, some old shoes on a table and a light made out of antlers sitting in those places, so sometimes I mistake old women’s houses for hipster shops. You have to ask these ‘hipsters’, ‘What the fuck is this place? What the fuck is it you are selling?’”


Do not get ‘porn brain’

“Porn presents too much choice for us. We’re just monkeys. If you imagine a monkey in a tree, he can handle seeing a couple of monkeys fucking. If he starts seeing loads of monkeys doing fucked up things like having sex with she-monkeys and having threesomes it would get too much and he’d go, ‘What’s wrong with all the other monkeys?’ If porn existed in reality it would be the same as you walking down a hotel corridor, with every door of every room open. Inside those doors would be people doing the most fucked up things and you would be allowed to stop and masturbate at the doors to people you don’t even know. That would mess you up. Porn gives you ‘porn brain’. And how do you test to see if you have it? You know you have porn brain if you walk into a bedroom with a woman and think, ‘Wait – where’s the other guy?’”


Don’t judge men who date younger women

“I’m not attracting age appropriate women now – thank god. But never judge an older guy with a younger girlfriend. I hate it when people walk past an older guy with a young girlfriend and say, ‘I know what’s going on there’. You don’t. If you want to know what’s going on, imagine that guy as a doomed clown. Imagine him in the wig, red nose and big clomping clown shoes, walking a few steps behind her carrying bags and asking, ‘What’s the name of this band again? How long’s this show going to last? Is this a seated event?’ Then imagine her walking ahead and away and him waving in his clown shoes, saying, ‘Bye. Bye, bye – thanks for helping out for a while’. That older man with a younger woman is just a doomed clown.”


Man-up in front of alpha males

“I try to act like an alpha male but I’m not one. I know when I meet one and they look into my eyes and I think they’re going, ‘There’s a little girl in there’, and I think, ‘Oh shit, he’s seen me’. I’m not the sports guy or the alpha male type. Try and act cool in front of them, but I still can’t. When I come across a bunch of guys in varsity jackets, I walk past them and it’s like I’m a little kid again going, ‘Leave me alone, leave me alone, I just want to get to my locker’.”


Never have early mornings

“Never get up at 5.30am, it’s bullshit for everybody. Is it night? Is it day? What the fuck is it? I don’t care who you are – if you have to wake up for it or you’ve been up all night, 5.30am is total bullshit. Of course, if you’ve been up all night at 5.30am you have different problems. If you see the sun come up at 5.30am you’re usually saying to somebody, ‘Fuck – should we call the guy?’ They will say to you, ‘You don’t need any more blow’, and you’ll be like, ‘Fuck you I don’t need any more blow. I had to sit up and listen to you talk about your guitar for five hours, so don’t tell me what I need to do – get the fuck out of my apartment’. Those are the kind of conversations that happen at 5.30am, so avoid it at all costs. It’s bullshit.”


Take Viagra at least once

“At some point someone will ask you of you’ve tried Viagra and they’ll tell you how great it is. When I was offered it for the first time I was like, ‘I don’t need Viagra thank you – my angry Jew cock is in fine working order and out for revenge on a weekly basis’. Then I eventually took three blue pills off a guy, and I tried them. You’ve got to do it at least once. When you’re fucking on Viagra you look down at your cock and think, ‘Does it even need me?’ I thought, ‘I wish I could just leave my body and sit over there and jerk off to this – that’s how good I’m doing’. That’s why Viagra is dangerous, because it could be very addictive.”

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