WTF listeners dedicated and casual might have noticed that host Marc Maron has a bit of an obsession with Lorne Michaels. Maron met Michaels in 1995 in the hopes of joining SNL, which didn’t happen. That encounter has haunted him in the decades that followed. “There’s no doubt Lorne Michaels has been a constant presence on this show for six years, even though he’s never been a guest until today,” Maron said on Monday’s episode. “The only thing that’s been more of a constant presence than Lorne is probably Stamps.com.”
When he met with Lorne for the WTF interview, Maron realized he was sitting in the same place that he had for their meeting in 1995. “But it was completely different right out of the gate,” Maron said. “I see Lorne, and I’m struck immediately with this moment of, ‘Oh, fuck, he’s just a guy. He’s just a guy—he’s a man, and this is his job.’ ” But still, Maron is audibly surprised when the first words out of Lorne’s mouth acknowledge that meeting from years ago—referring to where they stand as “the scene of the crime.”
So, Maron finally got to ask: WTF happened back then?
Michaels explained at length that when he and Maron met, the show was in a rough transition period. “I think you were ready,” Michaels offered, but things just didn’t work out.
Michaels: Everything then was compared to the original cast. Did they measure up? … The critics were really fierce. And ratings were starting to suffer.
I’m always sort of looking for what I think are original voices. And I thought—I wouldn’t have met with you if I didn’t think you had one.
Finally, Michaels got slightly more pointed, if still diplomatic:
Michaels: I learned early on that if you bring people in and there’s no real spot for them—Spade used to, I think, when we did the debate with Bush, Clinton, and Perot. Dana did Bush and Perot. And David was on the wide-shot filling as for Dana, dressed as Perot, so if you see the three shot of them, it’s actually Spade because Dana can’t be in literally both places. But once we cut in, it’s Dana again. So it was just tough for David to catch a break, because Dana was… Writers will always go with whoever came through for them on the last show. And so they’ll go with the performer that they know can deliver and it’s just harder to—unless you play some other kind of part or unless you bring some other kind of voice that’s clear and can withstand those first five or six shows when the audience is less than friendly.
After a bit more chat about SNL’s ups and downs, Maron transitioned into a more traditional interview that covered Michaels’ younger years, why he started the show, the electric chemistry of its early days, and why he’s stuck with it. The interview is actually two hours long—after the first session, Maron thought too much was left unsaid, and Michaels agreed to meet with him one more time.