LOS ANGELES (AP) — Marc Maron is fumbling through his glove compartment looking for coffee. A certain record store owner in East Los Angeles lets him trade the nice blends he’s occasionally sent for discounts.
“Barter economy,” he shrugs.
At 55, he’s in a place where he is finally enjoying stability after years of struggles and he doesn’t spend his money on much, but he likes his records, invested in some good equipment and has found himself in a pretty deep dive on jazz these days.
“I’m not bringing you garbage records this time,” Maron announces as he walks through the door. “Just four bags of coffee!”
Every little bit counts when the good jazz albums can run a person $140 or more and the owner has an eclectic stack of albums on hold that he thinks Maron might like. So does the man working at the second shop we visit. And after some conversation and browsing, Maron walks away from both with an arm full of new goodies: A William S. Burroughs recording, Robert Johnson’s “King of the Delta Blues Singers” and “The Modern Lovers” among them.
Maron is doing this hometown record store tour to promote the film “Sword of Trust” in which he plays an ornery pawn shop owner who can wax poetic about Charley Patton. The charming indie comedy from director Lynn Shelton, which opens in limited release Friday, finds Maron’s character on an adventure trying to sell a Civil War-era sword that may or may not prove the South actually won.
It’s almost entirely improvised, and includes a show-stopping monologue from Maron that Shelton says affectionately is one of her “favorite performances by anyone in anything.” She said it even made him cry at the South by Southwest premiere — a detail Maron doesn’t offer himself.
“He’s one of the most natural actors I know,” says Shelton. “He is just built for it in a way. He has a complete lack of self-consciousness. I don’t even think is he really aware of where the camera is.”
Maron is adjusting to this new reality where he has the freedom to choose what he wants to go out for.
“For years I didn’t even have an agent. Acting was not where I was going,” Maron says. “I was barely surviving in any way before the podcast.”
But the success of the podcast “WTF with Marc Maron,” which is turning 10 this year and has over 1,000 episodes in the books, including famous interviews with Barack Obama and Robin Williams, begat more success: His own show, which ran for four seasons on IFC; Netflix’s “GLOW”; and more interest in his standup.
It’s certainly afforded him a level of fame he didn’t predict when he purchased his old home under his own name and started a podcast in his garage, or when he decided to make revealing highly personal information about his relationships, his demons, his enemies and his daily mundanities part of every episode. His candor and introspection has endeared him to millions, but it’s also something he’s had to reevaluate.
“People who listen to the podcast know me pretty well, and it’s all good. They have a relationship with me that’s one sided, but it’s real and I try to be as gracious about that as possible,” he says. “My particular little slice of the show business world is very me specific and it’s very personal and usually that’s a good thing. But I’ve had to learn how to balance how much of my life I reveal and what I keep to myself and try to find a little space.”
That included moving to a different area in Los Angeles. People had been showing up at his place, which he says “wasn’t horrible,” but it got “a little weird if they knocked on the door.”
Right now, he’s satisfied with how things are going professionally, although he wishes he could channel the energy and spontaneity he feels while doing an improvised scene into the scripted work he does. The long days on set can be tedious.
“I think that would be a good trick to learn in evolving my craft,” he says, over-enunciating the last three words as though they’re in air quotes. “Acting is a lot of time and is a big investment and my life isn’t really like that. I can’t really go out an audition and for something that’s going to be shooting for four months in Bosnia.”
Still, he’ll audition for some big things, like small parts in “Joker” (which he got) and James Cameron’s “Avatar” sequels (which he didn’t, and is kind of relieved about). His own pop culture legend just keeps growing, too, whether he can fully appreciate it or not. Even his big gets on his podcast wash over him a bit nowadays (“It’s hard for me to tell what’s culturally big and what’s big for me,” he says). And something like getting to play himself on “The Simpsons” was “cool” but not some landmark moment in his life.
Plus, he says he’s usually being hired to play some variation of himself.
“Eventually I’d like to get the skill set where I can lose myself in a role that is not anything like me,” says Maron. “I’m not there yet and I don’t know if I’ll get there but I’ll keep it in my wheelhouse for now.”
He’s not jaded, ungrateful or unambitious, but more of a realist about why he’s doing it at all.
“I didn’t get in it to be the greatest Shakespearean actor in the world, or to be a circus clown,” he says. “A lot of it was about self-realization and managing my own emotional and psychological issues and sort of resolving them in a way by doing what I do.”
So it’s understandable that he might not want to stray too far from that.
“I think I have a fear of losing myself,” he adds with a chuckle. “It’s taken so long to find me.”