Rank #1: Episode 1030 - Stephen Colbert
Before Stephen Colbert knew what he wanted to do with his life, all he wanted was to be Hamlet. Not to play Hamlet, but to be Hamlet. That’s how he felt as an outsider teen dealing with family tragedy and deep, unaddressed grief. Stephen tells Marc how comedy gave him a refuge from sadness, how his anxiety dissipated when doing improv and sketch comedy, and how a nervous breakdown made him realign his life. They also talk about The Colbert Report, the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and doing The Late Show in the age of Trump. This episode is sponsored by the new Mailchimp podcast The Jump, Hair Club, and Allbirds.
Rank #2: Episode 1023 - David Letterman
David Letterman started out doing the very thing that scared him to death - getting up in front of strangers and trying to make them laugh. Now after wrapping up a legendary and influential career as late night host, Dave talks with Marc about his early days at The Comedy Store, his enjoyment of the longform interviews he’s doing for Netflix, and his focus on the hard work of becoming a better person. Dave also reveals his favorite thing about his old show and the one comic he always thought was the funniest, despite everything else that happened between them. This episode is sponsored by Turo and Starbucks Tripleshot Energy.
Rank #3: Episode 1012 - Brené Brown
Brené Brown’s degree in social work and her research into conditions like empathy and vulnerability led to one of the most viewed TED Talks of all time, millions of readers of her books, and celebrity boosters like Oprah Winfrey. But it was her academic work on shame that started it all and is the aspect of her work that resonated strongly with Marc. Brené talks with Marc about the evolution of her work, how it’s reflected in social and cultural changes, what her research told her about hope, and what is the biggest challenge of adult life. They also discuss her new Netflix special, The Call to Courage. This episode is sponsored by Ramy on Hulu and Capterra.
Rank #4: Episode 939 - Jay Leno
Jay Leno came up as a comic's comic, a performer recognized by other comedians as one of the best in the game. He also became one of the most successful late night television hosts in history, not once but twice. Those two sides always seemed at odds with each other, especially in the minds of many other comics, but Jay never saw it that way. He tells Marc about the early days in the clubs with Pryor, Carlin, Robin and others, how he and Letterman influenced each other as comics, and how things went south as they both made it big. And then there's the whole Conan thing. Marc and Jay deal with all of it, and then some. This episode is sponsored by The Happytime Murders, Sennheiser CX Sport Headphones, ZipRecruiter, and Stamps.com.
Rank #5: Anthony Bourdain from 2011
From Episode 233, this is Marc's conversation with Anthony Bourdain, conducted in 2011. Anthony died on June 8, 2018, at age 61.
Rank #6: Episode 613 - President Barack Obama
Marc welcomes the 44th President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, to the garage for conversation about college, fitting in, race relations, gun violence, changing the status quo, disappointing your fans, comedians, fatherhood and overcoming fear. And yes, this really happened. This episode is presented without commercial interruption courtesy of Squarespace. Go to MarcMeetsObama.com to see behind-the-scenes photos and captions.
Rank #7: Episode 1048 - Betty Gilpin
Betty Gilpin’s performance on GLOW has brought her critical accolades, Emmy nominations, and personal fulfillment. So why does she feel like she’s constantly running from a monster that is snapping at her ankles? Part of it is she lost a certain degree of invisibility as a performer and as her visibility rises the job gets harder and weirder. Betty and Marc discuss the strange out-of-body experiences of talk shows and junkets, and how learning to fight for yourself becomes a critical survival tool. Betty also deploys an elaborate metaphor for life that involves vestibules, Patti Smith, soil and brain scrolls. This episode is sponsored by Anchor (anchor.fm/wtf), Spotify (spotify.com/drive), Google Fi, and BetterHelp.
Rank #8: Episode 1049 - Buddy Guy
Legendary blues guitarist Buddy Guy had many insecurities about performing and they didn’t really subside until musicians like Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck would tell him how big of an influence he was on them. Buddy tells Marc about is humble beginnings, growing up in Louisiana to sharecropper parents, picking cotton for small amounts of money. His high energy performances, inspired by Guitar Slim, helped Buddy stand out among his peers, but respect in the industry was hard fought and late coming, with his breakout record arriving when Buddy was in his 50s. This episode is sponsored by Starbucks Tripleshot Energy and Ben & Jerry's.
Rank #9: Episode 1043 - Greg Kinnear
Greg Kinnear actually bailed on being an actor. Even though he performed in high school plays and hosted his own radio show as a teenager, when he started acting in college he decided it wasn’t for him. As Greg tells Marc, it felt like too much of a crap shoot. So he tried broadcast journalism instead, eventually hosting Talk Soup on the fledgling E! channel and Later on NBC. Greg explains how these gigs led him back to acting, and they discuss some of his best roles in As Good As It Gets, Auto Focus, Little Miss Sunshine, and his new movie Brian Banks. This episode is sponsored by Anchor (anchor.fm/maron), Good Boys from Universal Pictures, Capterra (capterra.com/WTF), and Google Fi.
Rank #10: Episode 1020 - Lisa Kudrow
Of course Lisa Kudrow talks with Marc about Friends. But first they discuss several other topics Lisa knows well, including genealogy, global migration patterns, evolutionary biology, and headaches. Lisa also explains how Jon Lovitz was responsible for pushing her toward improv, how Conan O’Brien helped her put it all together, and how the cast of Friends stuck together to get what they deserved. Plus, some talk about The Comeback, Web Therapy, and her new movie, Booksmart. This episode is sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Squarespace, and Starbucks Tripleshot Energy.
Rank #11: Episode 1034 - David Lee Roth
You only need to hear David Lee Roth talk for a few seconds to understand why he is the consummate rock and roll frontman. Diamond Dave takes Marc on a stream of consciousness ride through his past, present, future and whatever else he’s thinking about in the moment. They talk about David’s love of Big Band music, jazz guitar, his Uncle Manny, working as an EMT in the Bronx, and his serendipitous pairing with the Van Halen brothers that created musical perfection and nonstop personal animosity. This episode is sponsored by Present Company with Krista Smith, SimpliSafe, and Stamps.com.
Rank #12: Episode 1042 - Walton Goggins
Walton Goggins has played tough guys, weird guys and guys who completely defy description, but to him it’s all just playing pretend. Walton found himself as the center of attention at a young age while he was being raised by a group of women - his mother, his aunts and his grandmother. He caught the performance bug wile living in Georgia and a random American Express mail promotion became his ticket to Los Angeles. Walton tells Marc what it was like to learn on the job from Robert Duvall and Anthony Hopkins, why he panicked after watching Vice Principals for the first time, and how he first met Quentin Tarantino. This episode is sponsored by Lights Out with David Spade on Comedy Central, Squarespace, and SimpliSafe.
Rank #13: Episode 1038 - Geena Davis
Geena Davis says the biggest thing she had to learn as she made her way through show business was how to speak up for herself. This was particularly difficult because she was taught at a very young age that politeness was paramount, to the point where it endangered her life. Geena talks with Marc about how the industry as a whole needed to go through a similar change, which is why she gathered a team from her institute to amass evidence of institutional sexism and gender bias. They also talk about the legacy and cultural relevance of movies like Thelma and Louise and A League of Their Own. This episode is sponsored by Good Boys from Universal Pictures, Starbucks Tripleshot Energy, and Ben & Jerry's.
Rank #14: Episode 951 - Kristen Bell
Kristen Bell had an experience as a guest on WTF that not many others get to enjoy: Marc made her a meal beforehand. So with a full stomach, Kristen and Marc talk about why Dax Shepard is pushing her to have an ecstasy party, why does she have a hard time remembering things, and why she began singing opera at a young age. There's also some talk about her beloved projects like Veronica Mars, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Frozen, and The Good Place. This episode is sponsored by YouTube Music, the Around the NFL Podcast, Starbucks Doubleshot, and Fahrenheit 11/9.
Rank #15: Episode 1050 - Dale Beran
Unlike Marc, Dale Beran was immersed in internet culture for most of his life. He considered himself an artistic, creative person with aspirations to become a writer. But what Dale discovered in the online communities he frequented was a disconnected, nihilistic disposition that evolved from meme creation to activism to alt-right and white supremacist ideologies. Dale thoroughly documents the online worlds that created a culture of toxic trolling in his book It Came From Something Awful, which provides a major piece of the puzzle to understand what happened in the 2016 election and what is happening to youth culture in America. This episode is sponsored by The Comedy Central Roast of Alec Baldwin, Squarespace, and Bombas.
Rank #16: Episode 948 - Sir Paul McCartney
Marc talks with Paul McCartney about, well, a lot: The Beatles and Stones rivalry that wasn’t, his current relationship with Ringo, the influence of Little Richard, The Who, The Beach Boys, how he needs to have an out-of-body experience to really examine the Beatles legacy, the reception of his solo work after the Beatles, recording Band on the Run in Nigeria, what messages are in his songs, which songs still make him emotional when he performs them, and what he brought to the table for his latest album, Egypt Station. This episode is sponsored by Squarespace, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah: Ears Edition, and Casper.
Rank #17: Episode 1036 - Sean Lennon
Sean Lennon admits that he was naïve about his family legacy when he began a career in music. He also admits that when he received bad reviews for his first solo record, deep down he agreed with them. Sean talks with Marc about how he grew into himself as an artist and musician, how “John and Yoko” as the world sees them are different from his dad and mom as he knows them, and how the trauma of losing his father at a young age left him with memories that will never go away. They also talk about his work with Les Claypool, scoring films, and producing for other artists, including his mom. This episode is sponsored by Google Fi, Ben & Jerry's, and Stan Lee's Alliances: A Trick of Light, an Audible Original.
Rank #18: Episode 1014 - Jane Fonda
Jane Fonda is still acting and is still an activist, two constants in her entire adult life. But as she tells Marc, Jane spent a lot of her life thinking she was a worthless person. Carrying the twin burdens of her mother’s suicide and a strained relationship with her father, Jane talks about why she gravitated throughout her life toward strong men, how she struggled with her own compulsive behavior, and what finally happened to convince her that she was worth it. Jane and Marc also talk about the real reason she started making workout videos, what current issues she believes need our urgent attention, and why she feels like she has a real handle on acting for the first time in her life as part of Grace and Frankie. This episode is sponsored by Ramy on Hulu, SiriusXM, and Leesa.
Rank #19: Episode 1022 - Timothy Olyphant
In the last decade or so, Timothy Olyphant realized that a lot of his interests when he was younger were either impractical, ill-fitting or not very cool. He found himself going in many different directions because, as he puts it, he was scared to death of success. Timothy talks with Marc about his false starts as an artist and a standup comic before falling into acting. He explains why Deadwood was the gift that keeps on giving in terms of what he learned while making it and why he started taking a counterintuitive approach to acting in order to get out of his own head. This episode is sponsored by Leesa and Stamps.com.
Rank #20: Episode 1010 - Christina Hendricks
Christina Hendricks can relate if you had a lousy time in high school. Between moving around a lot to her goth fashion style and music choices to her time spent with the school theater crew, Christina was a target of bullies and wanted to get as far away from school as possible. She tells Marc how this alienation led to careers in modeling and acting, and how her agents dumped her when she insisted on pursuing a role in a little show called Mad Men. Christina talks about growing along with the character of Joan and why she made the creators of her new show, Good Girls, make a promise to her when she took the gig. This episode is sponsored by Yousician, Ramy on Hulu, and Stamps.com.