Marc Maron has long excelled at putting his interview subjects at ease. His podcast WTF with Marc Maron sees the comedian chat with guests in the garage of his East L.A. home, often drawing out candid opinions or previously untold personal truths. The informality of the setting, and Maron’s own propensity to overshare, both work to his advantage.
The show typically features other comedians, so when President Obama dropped by, he made for an atypical guest (Maron talked about the intense security measures that come with a visit from POTUS, down to the snipers perched on the garage roof.) But unconventional interviews seem to be the president’s favorite kind—he’s spent time with Zach Galifianakis on the satirical web series Between Two Ferns, and even switched roles when he grilled David Simon about The Wire and incarceration rates at the White House earlier this year. Obama’s interview with Maron retained WTF’s characteristic informality, allowing the President to bring a little more candor to topics he’s wrangled with since taking office.
The most widely highlighted aspect of the interview was the President’s blunt language in talking about the country’s legacy of racism and its sometimes-superficial standards of progress. “We’re not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of not being polite to say ‘nigger’ 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 or 300 years prior,” he said. It was quickly noted as his first public use of the racial slur, prompting rapid pundit debates that perhaps underlined his point: that the primary manifestation of racism isn't merely impolite public discourse, as America wrestles with the profound tragedy in Charleston.