Arts & Culture

The Most Jewish Episodes Of Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast

Where we make the case that Marc Maron’s podcast is the Jewiest one around. Read More

By / September 21, 2011
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Jewcy interviewed Marc Maron almost exactly one year ago. At the time he had a very popular podcast that was essential listening for comedy fans. He had already interviewed Judd Apatow, Ben Stiller, and Robin Williams and had show defining episodes with Dane Cook and Carlos Mencia. Then his cult hit slowly grew into a full-grown hit with a New York Times Profile, a NPR Syndication deal, and a Pilot Presentation for Fox.

His interviews are often accurately described as intimate, uncompromising, and intense and more than just conversations about comedy they’re one of the purest looks into the mind of the artist that we have. This is why the show has greatly extended beyond its initial comedian and comedy nerd fanbase.

One of the most prominent themes of the show is Marc’s exploration of both his relationship and the relationship of comedians in general with Judaism.  This has always been a part of Maron’s work culminating in his one-man show The Jerusalem Syndrome. What has manifested itself over the course of the podcast’s run is an exploration of the evolution of the Jewish comedian archetype. He implicitly creates a narrative that links Woody Allen to Richard Lewis to him to Joe Mande.

Here is a list of the top Jewish episodes:

Episode 16 Eugene Mirman

In the very early goings the podcast started to develop a reputation for being too Jewy (as pointed out in Episode 39 by Chelsea Peretti). However, it was interview with Eugene where it was most Jew forward. In so much that talking about Hitler is the most Jewish thing to Jews could do.  Maybe it was a coincidence or maybe not, but after this episode the frequency of Jewish guests slowed significantly.

Episode 103 & 104 Judd Apatow

Despite having such a prolific career, it’s arguable that no one has done more to define today’s man-child Jewish comedic archetype than Judd. Yet, as was apparent in his interview with Marc, Judd cares and worries a lot. The two men bonded over what is best described by a very Jewish term David Rakoff popularized, “defensive pessimism.” Still, much of the episode was spent talking about comedy, so as an added bonus there is a priceless clip from an interview a teenage Apatow conducted with a very young Jerry Seinfeld, who has never sounded more like a Long Island Jew.

Episode 114 Jonathan Ames

Jonathan Ames and Marc Maron are opposite sides of the same coin in a way. Both are known for the hyper-confessional nature of their art that is cut with a grittier version of the whole Woody Allen thing. There is a sense that partially Jonathan rather he was a stand-up like Marc and Marc a writer like Jonathan. As Marc is able to joke about being angrier version of the Jewish comedian, Jonathan can with being a more perverted one.

Episode 117 Ira Glass

Ira Glass is not a comedian but there is no way he’d be off this list (or else I’d fear the wrath of Bambi). This was an episode of dueling insecurity. Both feel like they don’t measure up to the other and don’t deserve the success they have. Their wavering between narcissistic confidence and nagging feelings of inadequacy would not have felt out of place at many creative Jews therapy sessions.

Episode 142 Joe Mande

Joe grew up primarily in Minnesota, but he was born in Alburcurque, which was enough to bond Marc with him over being a Southwest-Jew. The Jewishness of the interview took the form of Joe’s story about how he lost faith. Not to spoil too much, because it’s a pretty amazing story, but it involves a Hassidic con artist, who may or many not have hid a shiv in his beard (spoiler alert: he didn’t).

Episode 162 Michael Showalter

Michael Showalter is a different strain of the Jewish Comedian archetype. He has plenty of neurosis, but being the son of two professors, they manifest with an intellectuals bent. The standout moment was his explanation that he was plagued with sexual anxieties for much of his youth because he tried to treat it like an academic pursuit.

Episode 191 Will Arnett, Keith Robinson, Marina Franklin, Judy Gold, Jon Benjamin, Jonathan Katz

Live episodes are a very different beast than the standard WTF, leaning towards being more performative. The conversations are drastically less personal, which results in less religion talk.  This one is the exception, however. Seconds after Jonathan Katz gets introduced, Marc asks, ““Where do you stand on the whole Jew thing?” This set off minutes of great Semitic riffing, including a discussion on their issues with Klezmer music. Katz puts it perfectly, “Why are we living our lives in a minor key?” They even mumble an aliyah together.

Episode 193 Richard Lewis

This might be the show’s most Jew-packed episode. It’s wall-to-wall manic neuroticism. The episode started with Marc describing the first time he saw Richard’s “Woody Allen on speed” shtick and wanting to be a comic just like that. In a way, this episode is Marc’s tribute to Richard’s comic persona both in terms of his stand-up and his self-destructive life-style

Episode 203 Carol Leifer

Carol is from Long Island and the rumored basis for Elaine on Seinfeld, which is probably enough to get her on this list. However, the moment that really stands out from her episode was her story about telling her parents that she was in love with a woman. Carol before she met her partner lived a completely straight life, which didn’t make an already very tough conversation any easier. Choked up, she explained their response, “at least she’s Jewish.”

Episode 207 Sandra Bernhard

The episode has a Jewy intro, as Marc discusses the plight of the “Jews with tools” and his anxiety surrounding bugs in his house. Then Sandra sits down and Marc puts it best, “Sandra Bernhard is in my garage, we’re talking about old Jews in a very abstract way, as we’re slowly becoming them.” The first fifteen minutes of the interview is all-Jew talk, including discussions of how the Orthodox smell bad, being Jewish anti-Semites, and Sandra’s time working on a kibbutz. Later she talks about getting her daughter Bar Mitzvah at a Chabad. It is might have the most total time of explicit Jew talking.