“I’m a big fan and I love conversations like this,” Barack Obama told Marc Maron today in his Highland Park garage. As Deadline exclusively revealed late on June 17, the President of the United States went on the WTF With Marc Maron podcast today for a wide-ranging discussion with the comedian. The full 1-hour WTF podcast with Obama will go up online early Monday morning but we know that they discussed Presidential ups and downs, Louie C.K. and the fatal shootings in Charleston, South Carolina this week.
“Is there a way of accommodating that legitimate set of traditions with some common sense stuff that prevents a 21-year-old, who is angry about something, or confused about something, or is racist or is deranged, from going into a gun store and suddenly is packin’, and can do enormous harm,” the President said to Maron Friday, talking about hunters, and referring to the likes of Charleston shooter Dylann Storm Roof, who supposedly got his first gun from his own father. “And that’s something we’ve ever fully come to terms with. Unfortunately the grip of the NRA on Congress is extremely strong,” Obama added. “I don’t foresee any legislative action in this Congress.”
A few hours after the President was in his garage, Maron told me what the conversation was like for him, why the White House reached out to him and why he won’t have candidates like Hillary Clinton, who was in L.A. for her own fundraisers today, or Jeb Bush on the show.
DEADLINE: When we broke the story about the President coming on WTF, I had people emailing and texting me that it sounded like a joke. Did you get that response at first?
MARON: It’s crazy that the President was going to come to my house and talk to me in my garage. That sounds like the best Onion joke ever – “President Talks To Marc Maron In Garage At Home.” So that reaction didn’t surprise me but it also didn’t surprise me that it was possible he would come. Over the years, I’ve been doing this show, podcasts have clearly become a more legitimate medium. I’ve been doing it a long time and I think they got a sense that maybe I’d be somebody he’d like to talk to.
DEADLINE: Why do you think White House reached out to WTF?
MARON: I think I have a fan on his staff and I thought that it was pitched to him. What he told me today in the garage was that his agenda for doing my show was to get and to provoke people to get involved in politics. He probably thought our talk was going to be a little breezier that it turned out to be. It did get heavy in places and there was some talk of politics in places obviously. There was some personal stuff, some fun stuff and just a nice conversation.
DEADLINE: Seems a lot like the administration was looking to you and your massive fanbase to be a pipeline to some of those Americans who are almost actively removed from the body politic.
MARON: Well, my audience is more sensitive, intelligent and slightly cynical people that become self-involved and do not engage in the process of politics. I’m a guy that has detached himself from politics privately and publicly as well so I felt the weight of what he was saying.
DEADLINE: Because of the terrible events in South Carolina did you think the interview was going to be cancelled or at least postponed?
MARON: We assumed that it wouldn’t happen but there was no indication so we didn’t know. We waited until the next day and we were told that they were formulating a statement. We were obviously not on the top of their list of concerns. So my producer Brendan McDonald and myself, we watched the statement. It was very understandable that this was not going to happen given the situation. Then it was reported that he was in the air heading to his commitments in Los Angeles, but we still didn’t know for sure if we were one of those. Yet the construction of the tent for the driveway was underway but I don’t really know if it was until he was here in L.A. that we were positive it was a go. It wasn’t clear until essentially well into the day on Thursday.
DEADLINE: He was very blunt about his feelings about guns in America and what will actually be done or not done politically about them in light of the massacre in Charleston. Were you surprised that he did that on the show?
MARON: I didn’t know how we would handle that. I felt that he was as blunt as he has ever been and as angry as he’s ever been in that brief press conference yesterday. So for him to say what he said on my show, it was surprising. But this is a guy who has less to lose now. That bluntness was candid and I was happy that happened.
DEADLINE: With today’s interview, do you think WTF could become the town hall for the 2016 election like Larry King was on CNN back in 1992?
MARON: I won’t let that happen. I don’t have any desire to be part of that. This is not me re-entering political talk. I had an opportunity to talk to the President of the United States and that’s how I saw it. That’s what that is and that’s what it will remain. I don’t have any interest in partisan politics or being an outlet for that.
DEADLINE: So, if Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton came calling, you’d say no?
MARON: During the campaign, I think I would have to say no to them.
DEADLINE: Still, now that you’ve had the leader of the free world on, does this take the show to a whole new level for you?
MARON: Sure, I think, but I don’t know why I’m not sure why I’m not thinking about it right now in those terms. I didn’t think I was ever going to talk to the President. I mean maybe when I was doing political radio on Air America I thought that might happen but I didn’t think that would ever happen on this show.
So I’m very honored and flattered that I was chosen just as a person that I had an opportunity to talk to the President. I don’t care who you are, how cynical you are or who you think you are, or what party you are in, you meet the President and you’re an American, it means something. Whether it’ll take the show to another level, we’ll just have to see, I’m still coming down from the experience. I just hope I did the conversation justice, I did myself justice, I did him justice and I hope that when people hear the conversation they think it went well.
DEADLINE: Will the conversation be edited or is it going up on Monday as is?
MARON: This one is definitely going up as is.
— marc maron (@marcmaron) June 19, 2015