Comedian Marc Maron gets animated when voicing his ‘Bad Guys’ role
The “WTF” podcaster, who performs in Chicago next week, says his sessions for the new cartoon film were a time of bellowing and bonding.
When Marc Maron isn’t on the road delivering memorable stand-up bits like those captured in the 2020 Netflix special “End Times Fun,” or hosting guests like Barack Obama and Paul McCartney on his award-winning podcast, “WTF With Marc Maron,” the New Jersey native can be seen—or just heard—on the big screen.
Maron has enjoyed roles in such films as “Almost Famous,” “Joker” and “Respect” and now he assumes the character of the cantankerous Mr. Snake in the DreamWorks animated action-comedy feature “The Bad Guys,” now in theaters.
MARC MARON: THIS MIGHT BE THE LAST TIME
When: 7:30 p.m. April 29
Where: Vic Theater, 3145 N. Sheffield
Tickets: Starting at $58
“I think that most of my success has been built around my voice in one way or another, and certainly being on mics as much as I am, they all kind of feed each other,” said Maron in a recent conversation about the inner workings of his successful multi-disciplinary career, one that has led to Critics’ Choice Awards and an audience of roughly 6 million monthly listeners for “WTF.”
Yet, animation has become newer territory in recent years for Maron, who plays one of the pivotal characters in the film based on the best-selling “Bad Guys” kids book series from Aaron Blabley. (Maron will also take on a role as Lex Luthor in the upcoming animated feature “DC League of Super-Pets.”)
“My experience with animation has been pretty limited in terms of watching it. I remember from when I was a kid, seeing ‘Wizards,’ the Ralph Bakshi film … and I read a lot of underground comics and stuff, but I certainly didn’t watch much animation,” Maron revealed.
To help his case, not only did he recently invite Blabley on an episode of “WTF” to get inside the book creator’s brain, but in making “The Bad Guys,” Maron also leaned heavily into his co-stars, including Sam Rockwell, who plays the ever-chill con man Mr. Wolf, Craig Robinson as the gentle-giant predator Mr. Shark, Awkwafina as the genius hacker Ms. Tarantula and Anthony Ramos as the spitfire sleuth Mr. Piranha. Together, they make up a gang of notorious animal rebels that are on a mission for what is being called “their most challenging con yet—becoming model citizens.” Of course, with a few twists and turns along the way.
“Because he was wearing that Hawaiian shirt, I was picturing like an ex-con vibe,” Maron said of finding the mobster-esque voice of Mr. Snake. “I always do some variation of a yelling guy when I do voices for cartoons for some reason, and I just thought Mr. Snake would do that. And here, Sam [Rockwell] is just like relaxing through it and I’m sitting there breaking my vocal cords and I realized, ‘Wow, I could have done this a different way and not be hurting myself every time,’’ ” Maron added, laughing.
In particular, it was the camaraderie between Mr. Wolf and Mr. Snake–and Rockwell and Maron in real life–that formed the basis of the kinship that’s at the heart of the film.
“We were fortunate in that there was an emotional relationship between us that is at the forefront of the movie,” said Maron. He had known Rockwell through his late partner, filmmaker Lynn Shelton, and the two actors became closer after Shelton’s passing in May 2020, around the same time they were going into production for the animated film. “We kind of came together in grief there in the beginning of this process, and because of that there was a fairly real emotional connection,” Maron shared, also adding that he and Rockwell were actually able to be together in a room recording over several occasions and improvise, which is not always possible with voiceover work.
In the end, Maron doesn’t think Mr. Snake is the “bad guy” he’s portrayed as at the start of the film and he hopes that audiences, in particular kids, take away the message of “not judging and people changing and friendship and loyalty … and that you can scheme for the good.”
No doubt it’s a tactic he’s used in his comedy with inherent societal messages that flavor his works. His next Chicago stop will be headlining the Vic Theater on April 29 for a show called “‘This Might Be The Last Time,” a test run for a possible new HBO special early next year. But before anyone gets worried it’s a retirement statement, Maron assures the title is not insinuating anything.
“I just feel that about the world. … Sometimes I don’t know whether I’ll have something to say or what the point of it is or whether or not things will get weirder or more difficult, or whether we’ll be able to do the shows that I like to do. There are a lot of questions at this juncture in history,” Maron said. “Something very stressful is afoot and is seemingly out of our control on so many fronts, so I’m trying to approach those things with honesty and acknowledge them and build out the comedy from there. I think it works. it’s personal and seems to be resonating.”