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Marc Maron: “A conversation needs to happen around men’s struggle to be woke and empathetic”

"It’s about taking responsibility for maybe not having the right lens about what women go through in the world"

Marc Maron has spoken of how his upcoming stand-up tour tackles issues surrounding “men’s struggles to be woke and empathetic” in the modern age, and “a broader cultural insensitivity” to what women go through.

The comedian, actor, star of Glow and host of the WTF Podcast was speaking to NME ahead of his upcoming A Few Parts Of The World UK tour – which he sees him deal with “continuing the conversation about ageing, what we believe, how we know what we know” in the post-#MeToo era.

“Plus there are some more accessible things about tea, vitamins and Mike Pence’s face,” Maron told NME. “There’s happiness, the end of the world, you know – everything gets covered. Except sports. I don’t know anything about sports.

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“It’s about men, women, and how men deal with being ‘woke’. The way I’m approaching it in the performance is just by trying to speak as a man who is trying to be woke, empathetic and have a dialogue without being condescending. It’s about taking responsibility for maybe not having the right lens about what women go through in the world.

Maron went on: “Generally speaking, it’s not second nature for men to be empathetic. You have to understand in some sort of visceral way what it is to be in their position. In everyday life, the differences are profound.”

Marc Maron
Marc Maron

Maron claimed that he fears that the conversations around the nuances of men’s ability or inability to be “woke” are often bypassed because “everything happens almost immediately and gets churned under” in daily movement of social media.

“Things happen so quickly that it seems impossible to have a dialogue,” said Maron. “It took me a long time to figure out how to approach it. Here I am as a middle-aged man who’s been through a certain amount of shit, married twice, I’ve been with a lot of different people, I’ve been an asshole to different degrees, I’ve never done anything horrible, but I was an emotionally volatile person.

“To get past all this and allow yourself to ‘be woke’, in the vernacular, it’s an important conversation to have. I do have a stage, I do have a brain, I do have a heart and I have the courage to talk about my own experiences. I’m doing that and it feels satisfying. It’s scary but it’s important.”

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Marc Maron, 2019

The actor and writer argues that not only is understanding necessary for men regardless of whether or not a man has done anything wrong, but also for those who may have and are willing to change.

“People do terrible things and people should be held accountable for that, but whatever the transgression is, change has to happen through dialogue,” Maron continued. “That voice saying ‘I want to change’ needs to be heard.

“Men who are not guilty of horrendous transgressions also need to change. That’s a conversation that is still a little difficult to have. People are set in their ways, even if they’re not horrible, they can just be insensitive and disrespectful . It’s hard to shake the narrative away without developing a sort of bitterness about it or thinking that they have been denied part of their being.”

He added: “If you don’t have the conversation and allow for the emotions to play out then nothing changes and it just becomes a very scary culture.”

As for those males who reply with ‘not all men’ when they hear of discrimination and prejudice, Maron believes that education and conversation is the way to spread awareness of the many subtle forms that they can take through society at large.

“I honestly think that there are men that were brought up with certain values and may have a fundamental lack of empathy and sensitivity as to what women go through,” said Maron. “I think that’s true, but that doesn’t let the other men off the hook. The cultural thing that runs alongside bad behaviour is that there’s a broader cultural insensitivity that runs alongside that.

“That happens through punishing people, but to have people say either ‘not all men’ or ‘I’m gonna sit this one out because it doesn’t involve me’, I can see how that’s not a great thing. A lot of people don’t want to get involved. The culture needs to change.”

“Because of the permissiveness and shamelessness of this corrupt political cultural with a certain aggressive defence of older misogynistic values, sometimes it’s going to be on other people, the ‘Not All Men Guys’, to say ‘Hey buddy, maybe you should re-think that – that’s not the greatest way to behave’.”

So was it a struggle to take this kind of content and make it ‘funny’?

“The only way that you can make something funny with this kind of stuff is to take the chance at being honest with what you’re feeling. I’m on stage saying, ‘I’m 55-years-old and I’m just trying to stay woke’. I think I’m about 85% woke, and the other 15 I’m trying to keep to myself. There’s an honest struggle going on, a reflection, and an attempt to grow and take responsibility for who you are.

“It’s funny, because you aren’t hearing much from the older dudes and dudes in general who hear the argument, think it’s correct, and we’re trying. If there’s a struggle for common sense, then you can usually find comedy there.”

Asked if he feels a ‘responsibility’ to address this as a male comedian, Maron said that he prefers ‘the challenge’ rather than skirting around the issues like others may.

“Because it’s so loaded in so many ways now, the real problem for anyone is those saying, ‘If I can avoid that, then why don’t I avoid it? Why don’t I just talk about my cat?’ I can talk about whatever, you know,” he added.  “Why address this? I guess I just wanted the challenge of being somebody who’s doing comedy that is relevant provocative. Maybe it can also facilitate change in the mind of someone who is taking it in.”

Maron also spoke to NME about his upcoming role in the new Joker origins movie, alongside Joaquin Phoenix and Robert DeNiro.

  • Check back at NME soon for more of our interview with Marc Maron

Marc Maron’s upcoming A Few Parts Of The World UK tour dates are below.

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