As the third season of "Maron" concluded, the IFC show’s fictionalized version of comedian Marc Maron had finally hit rock bottom. After years of sobriety, debilitating back pain sent the irascible comic on a downward spiral that led to a painkiller addiction and resulted in the loss of his talk show. It would’ve been tragic to watch if it weren’t so funny. It seemed like there was nowhere left to go but up, but as the fourth season, which premieres Wednesday, reminds us, sometimes rock bottom even has a refurbished basement. Or, in this case, a lived-in storage unit — a “studio apartment situation” — as Maron calls it.
Having lost his home, job, and his cats, alienating all his friends, started sleeping with a home health aid in exchange for a sick old man’s medication, and waiting for a call back from Louis C.K. that may or may not ever come, Maron finds himself keelhauled into rehab, where he crosses swords with a particularly unprofessional therapist and a tough young roommate with a penchant for defecating in inappropriate places.
Maron explains some of the changes the show underwent this season and the line between fiction and reality.
I know you talk about your own sobriety a lot but was this storyline based on any close calls you’ve had in the recent past?
I think it’s more based on a fear that any of us who have long term sobriety experience when we see somebody that’s got 15, 20, 25 years decide they can use again. I’ve heard stories about that. It’s obviously a possibility, and the way I depicted it happening is usually sort of how it happens. The painkiller slip is very common. But no, I’ve never experienced any close calls; I’m doing ok.
Where do we pick up this season?
We have a lot of freedom with IFC, so I figured let’s make a totally different show and have this guy move through rehab, then transitioning back into life, and deciding what to do with his life now. So I saw it as three separate shows in a way, three separate sections. It was ambitious given our budget, but we pulled it off. I think more than any other season there was a pride of really challenging ourselves.
There’s a refrain while you're in rehab, and you keep saying like, 'I’m not a 20-year-old, this isn’t my first time.' I know you talk about getting older a lot, was that on your mind?
I think it was like we wanted to play it pretty close to the bone without blowing up the program too much, and without it being hacky, so in most rehabs, I imagine you have the group and the meeting and stuff. So what we focused on was, the reality is, a lot of these rehabs now — a good friend of mine, my sponsor actually, works at a rehab, so I used him as a resource — it’s primarily teenagers and people in their 20s. And I thought this would be a great environment for me to have some wisdom, also act like a baby, and also take some higher ground. And to have some foils that were young.
The character of the therapist, it’s exaggerated for absurdity, but was there any nugget of truth in that?
The core to that character, why it’s funny, in a way, is because all those guys come into that job as recovering addicts. They may be sober, but like anybody who has that personality, you’re going to have these other flaws that may or may not be manageable. They’re not like school principals, they’re usually guys who blew their lives, and rebuilt it and decided to stay in that world. So that was really based on that idea, that this guy was sober, but he was not morally necessarily on point.