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Marc Maron Learned the Meaning of "Feral" from a Cat

Cats are big in the comedian's life. He records his podcast from a house he calls The Cat Ranch.

 |  Aug 6th 2012  |   2 Contributions


UPDATE: Marc Maron has a TV show called Maron that debuts May 3 on the IFC Channel. The show has been compared to Louie, the show starring Maron's friend and fellow comedian Louis C.K. Maron also has written a memoir, Attempting Normal, that was scheduled for release on April 30. On April 29, NPR broadcast an interview with Maron by Terry Gross on Fresh Air. You can read the highlights from that interview and listen to it here. In the interview, Maron revealed that one of his cats, Boomer, has gone missing. He told Gross he hopes Boomer merely wandered away and was adopted by a person who lives near him, and that if he finds Boomer he will thank that person "and take my cat back." -- Catster Associate Editor Keith Bowers

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“I had no idea what ‘feral’ meant,” says comedian Marc Maron from his home in Los Angeles’ Highland Park neighborhood. We aren’t discussing his stand-up act, or his wildly successful podcast. We’re talking about Maron’s five cats and how he got them. Maron, who records each episode of his show in a renovated garage adjacent to his house, is a notorious cat herder. In fact, fans know Maron’s house as The Cat Ranch.

Maron enumerates his pets thusly: “Monkey and LaFonda live in the house. Boomer used to live in the house but now lives outside. And then there’s a stray cat that, as of recently, who seems to live here. We call him Scaredy-Cat. And then there’s this black death cat -- we don’t have a name for him. He’s a stray, too, and you can’t touch him or Scaredy-Cat.”

When Marc Maron went to the shelter, "There was this one lunatic cat ... jumping all over the place, just crazy. And I said, ‘Well, that one seems interesting.’” That cat was Boomer. Photo by Dimitri von Klein

He has accumulated the cats over a decade, beginning in New York during his stint as the host of a morning radio program. During that period, he says, he would get up “at 2:30 or 3 in the morning to get to work at 3:30. I would take my garbage out, and there was this huge family of cats out there, eating out of the garbage. They were probably three or four months old -- five kittens and a mother. They were clearly eating on their own.

”I had no idea about cats. But they were adorable. I started to realize that no one was going to deal with it, and that they were going to continue making cats out there. I got ambitious one night. My neighbor and I took a shoebox, cut a hole in it, and put food in it. One by one, we trapped four of those kittens, brought them up a four-flight walk-up to my apartment, and released them there.”

At that point, things stopped going well.

“It was just insane,” Maron says. “Two of them wedged themselves behind the stove. One of them tried to jump out the window -- kind of climbed up the screen and wedged itself between the screen and the window. And another one got stuck on a glue trap. That cat was flopping all over the place and I had to rip her off the glue trap. And I got all ripped up.”

The logo of Marc Maron's podcast includes Monkey, LaFonda, and Boomer.

The drama of getting the kittens into the house was followed by the struggle to acculturate them to living with a human. (“I just wanted friends,” Maron says, “and none of them wanted anything to do with me.”) He wound up keeping two of the cats he trapped and finding homes for the others. Beforehand, he had them all checked out by a vet and fixed.

”The one that got stuck on the glue trap [LaFonda], I still have -- and I think that sort of permanently damaged her. That was her Vietnam. And the one that tried to jump out the window, I still have -- that’s Monkey,” Maron explains.

A couple of years later, Maron relocated to Los Angeles -- and found himself faced with the task of traveling with feral cats.

“Initially, my ex-wife took Monkey across the country from New York. Then, I took LaFonda, and that was just a travesty,” Maron recalls. “Just to get her in the cage, I had to wear leather work gloves, and she still bit through them. I had never traveled with a cat before. I finally got her in the cage -- and I was bloody.”

Then came the great meeting of the minds: caged feral cats and TSA officials.

LaFonda dined at a garbage can as a kitten until Maron provided a better life. Photo by Dimitri von Klein.

“I get to [airport] security, and I was about to walk her through and they’re like, ‘You gotta take the cat out and walk her through.’ And I said, ‘Are you [bleep] kidding me?’ I threw this weird … fit. They’re like, ‘Then, you can’t travel.’ I said, ‘You don’t understand! Look at my hands!’ I made such a production about taking LaFonda out of the cage that the TSA guys were startled. By the time I went to try to take her out of the cage, there was panic on everyone’s faces -- like this tiny little cat was going to start ripping people apart. Then I got her out, and I walked her through, and she just wanted to get right back into the cage.”

Since settling in Los Angeles, the cats have become well-known as a part of Maron’s life and work. Cat stories sometimes feature in his introductions to episodes of his podcast , and LaFonda appears in the show’s logo. And both of the ferals have become decidedly indoor animals.

Maron added Boomer to the brood shortly after arriving in L.A. “I went to a shelter,” he says. “They had all these tired old fat cats, and there was this one lunatic cat, this gold cat that was jumping all over the place, just crazy. And I said, ‘Well, that one seems interesting.’”

In retrospect, Maron suspects that Boomer was feral as well at the time he adopted him. Unlike Monkey and LaFonda, Boomer stays outside. “He pees on things, and I just couldn’t have it anymore. And I couldn’t stop him. It’s sad, because he’s a sweet guy.”

Marc Maron caricature by DonkeyHotey.

The past two years have been the busiest of Maron’s career. The podcast, which features lengthy one-on-one interviews with fellow comedians and other artists he knows or admires, has vaulted him to a new level of fame and fandom. He tours constantly, is writing a book of essays due out next year from Spiegel & Grau, and is preparing a half-hour semi-autobiographical comedy series for IFC. But the cats have been with him through thick and thin, and he has turned several of their stories into stand-up bits, including the tales of trapping and traveling with the feral kittens.

In addition, Maron is known for performing at animal-related benefit concerts. On Wednesday, Aug. 8, he will be at Cobb’s Comedy Club in San Francisco, doing a benefit show with Arj Barker for the city’s Animal Care & Control shelter.

“It’s so ridiculous how attached I get and how stupid I am with cats,” Maron says.

He tells a story that demonstrates that even though he's known for being a little pointed as a comedian, caring about the kitties has become part of his everyday life.

“My first cat was called Butch. And when I moved out [to Los Angeles] in 2002, we drove Butch cross-country," he says. "Butch had this potted plant that she liked, so I put that in the car. We had a U-Haul and a car, and we thought she would want this plant, so we brought this horrible plant so she could be comfortable in the car.”

As it should be.

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