Marc Maron Talks HBO Special From ‘Bleak To Dark,’ Lynn Shelton & “The Evolving Capacity For Empathy”

Welcome back to my very irregularly scheduled podcast Deep Focus, where I, Editor-in-Chief Rodrigo Perez, talk long or long-ish with different filmmakers, directors, writers, and actors. Today, my guest is none other than comedian/actor and podcaster extraordinaire Marc Maron. Maron has a new HBO special out, available now on HBO Max, called “Marc Maron: From Bleak To Dark.”

I’ve been deeply under the weather, so let me apologize upfront for this pod being so delayed. The HBO special is funny, political in the best way, humanist, and also soulful and candid, dealing with many things like grief, mortality, aging, and our current cultural climate.

READ MORE: Marc Maron Shares Details On The “Bleak” Script He Co-Wrote With Lynn Shelton & Says He’s Still Considering Making It

I’ve been listening to Maron for years, maybe not entirely from the beginning—his podcast launched in September 2009, in the early days of the podcast—but probably within a year or two of debuting. I’ve listened to him interview all kinds of interesting people. Perhaps more importantly, I’ve heard the 59-year-old comedian evolve and embrace humanity, vulnerability, empathy, and kindness—a far cry from the angry, grumpy cliché where Maron started. Listening to him grow as a human being over the years has been a heartening trip, and I even delved into that a bit. As biting, satirical, and cutting as his comedy can be, I think at the marrow of many of it these days, or at least Maron himself, is a sense of compassion and understanding. Or, as he calls it, the “evolving capacity for empathy,” which I suggested should be the title of his autobiography if he ever writes one.

Two of the topics that Maron engages in bits that speak to this are his father’s mortality—his dad is dealing with early onset dementia, and their relationship is healing, but still complicated—and the colossal blow he was dealt with during the pandemic.

In May 2020, just two months after the pandemic started and shutting down most of North America—the major citifies that took it seriously—Maron’s romantic partner, the indie filmmaker Lynn Shelton suddenly passed away. Known for her associations with the mumblecore movement but also humanist and vibrant small-scale indies, “Your Sister’s Sister,” “Touchy Feely,” and “Outside In,” Shelton died—kind of out of nowhere—from acute myeloid leukemia at the age of 54, after several days of ill health. She had been undiagnosed and fine until the week before her death, so the entire thing was emotionally brutal and entirely unexpected for everyone.

Anyhow, Maron got very candid and vulnerable about Shelton in the special, it’s probably the highlight of it all, funny, sad, tragic, but also uplifting in its own weird way, and we got into all of that too. He calls the post-trauma of it all “mystical” because all these odd, coincidental, kismet-like things kept happening that he attributed to potentially… not communicating with Shelton from beyond the grave, but… Look, he sees it as absurd too, but if you watch the special, some strange things did happen that he at least wants to acknowledge.

It was a real treat, honor, and pleasure to have Maron on the podcast, and dare I say; I think this is an excellent conversation. We got into many different details of the special and talked about Lynn. He even opened up about the screenplay he was co-writing with Shelton before her death, and his mixed feelings about reviving it and maybe making it into a movie—the short end of the answer is perhaps not. Possibly yes, one day, though he did reveal to me that he sent it to indie filmmaker Nicole Holofcener known for “Enough Said,” “Friends With Money” and her most recent Sundance film “You Hurt My Feelings” (you can read more about that here).

Anyhow, I really loved talking to Marc; I believe we had a terrific conversation that is one of my recent favorites, and I hope you listen and share it with those you love.

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