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WTF? How a podcast established a unique transmedia dialogue

by Ethan Tussey

by Brad Mitchell for IN MEDIA RES

Comedian Marc Maron has built his own niche in popular media since the inaugural episode of his WTF podcast in 2009. As his semi-weekly, interview-based podcast gained in popularity, Maron expanded his media reach to include social media, a book, and television program on IFC. Maron’s podcast format revolves around a ten to fifteen minute solo introduction focused on his daily ups and downs, followed by an interview with a well-known comedian, actor, musician, or author. While many listeners first discover the podcast because of a familiar guest, it is because of Maron’s opening confessional that die-hard fans tune in on a regular basis. The upfront honesty with which Maron contemplates the mundane has created a close intimacy among host and listeners.

What makes WTF stand apart from other podcasts is how the persona of Marc Maron has evolved through additional mediums as a form of transmedia dialogue. The term transmedia is usually followed by the word storytelling, which is a way to tell a fictional story across multiple media platforms. Maron’s transmedia approach is distinctive, however, as it mixes documentary with fiction, all while resembling a collaborative discourse rather than pure storytelling. Maron’s engagement with his audience is continuous and easily accessible on multiple platforms; familiarity with him as a character and/or actual human being has developed a kind of fellowship surrounding the podcast. The lines between fiction and reality are then blurred when Marc Maron the television character is included in this dialogue.

Maron’s podcast, on-stage, and online identities are creative nonfiction, while Maron’s television character is a form of informational fiction.  Both of these narratives draw upon Maron’s real life experiences and personality. Marc Maron the podcast host is completely open and brutally honest, with longtime listeners following his relationship woes, parental issues, and neuroses. The podcast serves as a true aural documentary of Maron’s life. Marc Maron the television character is a comic who runs a podcast out of his garage, examining a slightly fictionalized version of the same personal problems. This intermingling of biography and fiction generates a fascinating character study that is ultimately relatable to all of us, and one that has organically built a community that rallies around both the host and whatever medium he presently inhabits.

Podcasting and Maron

An interview with Marc Maron

from Inside Maron's Garage (2014)
Creator: IFC
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey