Marc Maron was clearly very excited and somewhat terrified to host President Obama in his garage last week; in countless interviews, in the intro to his last “WTF” podcast, he’s made sure everyone knew it was happening, perhaps just so he could have confirmation that he wasn’t dreaming. Obama was clearly tickled by the experience, too, especially since Maron’s garage — where the interview took place — isn’t too far from Occidental College, where Obama briefly went to college.
“I love conversations like this,” Obama said on the podcast, which was posted on Monday, “because if I thought to myself when I was in college, that I’d be in a garage, a couple miles away from where I was living, doing an interview — as president — with a comedian, it’s not possible to imagine. Nobody could imagine it. So that’s fun.”
Obama could not commiserate with Maron about being nervous about doing the interview, though, noting that it would be very bad if the president of the United States were nervous about doing a podcast in a garage.
Overall, the podcast felt more like every other Obama interview than it felt like any other episode of “WTF” — talking about politics instead of comedy tends to have that effect. However, Maron did ask Obama about his father, his identity, what makes him a crazy person, how he compartmentalizes, and his emotional state of mind during certain moments in his career. The president noted periods of disgust and frustration — focusing a lot on mass shootings, given the church shooting in Charleston last Wednesday.
He noted the outpouring of grief for the nine people who died, but added, “It’s not enough just to feel bad. There are actions that could be taken to make events like this less likely. And one of those actions we could take would be to enhance some basic common-sense gun safety laws, that, by the way, the majority of gun owners support.”
Later in the interview, he also addressed racism in the context of last week’s shooting, Ferguson, and Baltimore.
“The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives, you know, that casts a long shadow, and that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on. We are not cured of it,” Obama said. “And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say n***** in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.”
However, he also said, “I always tell young people, in particular, do not say that nothing has changed when it comes to race in America, unless you’ve lived through being a black man in the 1950s or ‘60s or ‘70s. It is incontrovertible that race relations have improved significantly during my lifetime and yours.”
Overall, Obama is adamant that he is an “optimistic guy,” that the country is better off than when he started, and that he might have finally figured out this being-a-president thing. “I’ve screwed up,” he said. “I’ve been in the barrel tumbling down Niagara Falls. And I emerged and I lived. And that’s always such a liberating feeling.”
After nearly an hour of discussing such tough topics, Maron pivoted to asking Obama, “What do you do for fun?” His favorite thing to do is watch his “magnificent” daughters grow up — even though they think he is boring and it breaks his heart. Basketball is not as fun anymore, he added, because he’s “not as good as [he] used to be.”
President Obama also announced his love for Louis C.K., which Maron noted would definitely make the comedian’s day.