Filmmaker Lynn Shelton died suddenly at the age of 54 in May 2020. In the wake of her passing, some of her most famous collaborators paid tribute to the late talent. However, it was Shelton’s boyfriend, the comedian Marc Maron, who provided one of the most moving tributes.
Now, Maron had first met Shelton when she appeared as a guest on his successful WTF with Marc Maron podcast in 2015. During the next few years, the pair would collaborate on a number of projects. However, it wasn’t until 2019 that the two creatives seemingly became a couple.
Unfortunately, Maron and Shelton would have just one year together before her untimely death in 2020. However, the romance clearly had a lasting impact on Maron and the loss of his girlfriend left him utterly heartbroken. He subsequently shared his anguish in a statement.
Maron is perhaps best known to his fans as the funnyman behind his eponymous podcast, WTF with Marc Maron. The show features revealing interviews with celebrities and well-known names. And Maron even got to chat with Barack Obama in 2015, when he was still serving as U.S. president.
However, prior to the success of the WTF podcast – which launched in 2009 – Maron had already enjoyed a lengthy career in comedy. Growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he’d dreamed about becoming a comic since childhood. And in order to hone his craft, he studied legends of the stand-up scene including Richard Pryor and George Carlin.
But despite Maron’s long held interest in comedy, it wasn’t until his time studying English and film at Boston University in the mid-1980s that he made his stand-up debut. Then, he later moved to Los Angeles where he continued to perform, while also working as a doorman at the legendary venue, The Comedy Store.
While in Los Angeles, Maron was influenced by the “scream” comedian Sam Kinison. Sadly, he also began a struggle with alcohol and cocaine abuse. But Maron would relocate again, to Boston and San Francisco, before arriving in New York City in 1993. Here, he became a prevalent part of the new alternative comedy scene.
Following a trip to Israel in 1998, Maron was inspired to create his hit off-Broadway show The Jerusalem Syndrome in 2000. By that time, he’d also become a regular guest on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. In fact, he appeared in over 30 episodes between 1994 and 2008.
However, the 2000s proved to be a tempestuous time for Maron. For you see, he was fired and rehired from his role at Air America Radio twice in 2009. And in 2011 the comedian found himself in the midst of a divorce with a faltering career. It was in this climate that the WTF podcast was born.
Yes, WTF with Marc Maron began after the comedian started sneaking into the Air America Radio studios to covertly record the podcast. And Maron began each episode with a monologue lasting around 10 minutes. After that, he’d segue into a lengthy chat with whoever his guest was on that occasion.
Strikingly, Maron’s interviewing technique proved to be successful. He empathized with his guests and showed genuine interest in their lives. As such, interviewees felt at ease to open up to him. And in one memorable early episode from 2010, Robin Williams revealed his battles with addiction and depression in candid detail.
Following the first 20 episodes of WTF with Marc Maron the comedian returned to live in Los Angeles and started producing the podcast from his garage. By 2013 WTF was being downloaded as many as 3 million times a month. It would go on to become a global hit, propelling Maron further into the spotlight.
Off the back of his successful podcast, Maron got his eponymous TV show which ran between 2013 and 2016 on the Independent Film Channel. After that he starred in the Netflix comedy-drama Easy from 2016 to 2019. He also picked up a part in GLOW, in which he stars as a women’s wrestling show director.
It was through his revived TV career that Maron first met Shelton. Now, Shelton was born in Oberlin, Ohio, in 1965 but grew up in Seattle. She briefly returned to her hometown to attend Oberlin College. However, she would later take up a place at the University of Washington School of Drama.
Following her stint at university, Shelton moved to New York. Here she studied at Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts in the Master’s of Fine Arts program, specializing in photography and related media. Even at this point Shelton had an interest in filmmaking, but in 2009 she told The New York Times that she “did not have the confidence to do it” earlier.
But that all changed in 2003 after Shelton went to a Q&A with the French director Claire Denis. The filmmaker left a big impression on her. Shelton explained, “I thought: ‘Oh, my God.’ She was 40 when she made her first film. I thought it was too late for me, so in my head I was, ‘Oh, I still have three more years.’”
And just like Denis, Shelton went on to make her directorial debut at the age of 40. Though she came to her craft later in life, as an indie filmmaker she became known for her naturalistic style and perceptive humor. Her breakout film was Humpday which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009.
Humpday would earn Shelton a Special Jury Prize for Spirit of Independence at the Sundance Film Festival. Also, the film was included in the Directors Fortnight program shown at Cannes. Furthermore, the movie won the John Cassavetes Award – which honors films costing under $500,000 – at the Indie Spirit Awards in 2010.
It seemed that Shelton preferred working with modest budgets and humble stories. And she championed everyday narratives that revolved around the interpersonal connections of complex characters. Following Humpday, some of Shelton’s subsequent indie flicks included, Laggies, Your Sister’s Sister and Sword of Trust.
But in order to subsidize her independent films, Shelton took on a number of director-for-hire jobs in television. She got her first TV gig off the back of her Humpday success, directing an episode of Mad Men in 2010. She would go on to enjoy stints on shows like New Girl, The Mindy Project and Master of None.
As Shelton was making waves as a TV and indie film director she was invited onto WTF with Marc Maron in 2015. This was how the future couple first met. However, Shelton would go on to direct two episodes of TV’s Maron in 2016 first. Between 2017 and 2019 she also worked on five episodes of GLOW, in which Maron appears.
However, it wasn’t until 2019 that Shelton and Maron seemingly became a couple. At that point, Shelton was separated from her husband Kevin Seal, with whom she had a son named Milo. And that year Shelton and Maron had reunited once more on the set of her film Sword of Trust.
But sadly, Shelton and Maron’s romance would be short-lived. They enjoyed just one year together until Shelton suddenly passed away on May 16, 2020. She died in Los Angeles at the age of 54 as a result of an undiagnosed blood disorder. And her untimely passing was subsequently announced by her publicist Adam Kersh.
Coincidentally, Shelton’s untimely death came soon after some of her most recent directing on the Hulu show Little Fires Everywhere. You see, Shelton had taken charge of four episodes of the miniseries, which is based on Celeste Ng’s 2017 bestselling novel of the same name.
Furthermore, Little Fires Everywhere was produced by and stars the actress Reese Witherspoon. And she had previously worked with Shelton on an episode of The Today Show, which also saw Witherspoon take on roles in front of and behind the camera. As such, it seemed that she had a strong professional admiration for Shelton.
Given her working relationship with Shelton, Witherspoon was among the celebrities to pay tribute to the director following her death. In a lengthy Instagram post from May 2020 the actress-turned-producer wrote, “I’m so devastated to hear about Lynn Shelton’s passing yesterday. I’m in complete shock that this vibrant, talented, and soulful filmmaker is no longer with us.”
Meanwhile, Witherspoon’s Little Fires Everywhere co-star Kerry Washington said on Instagram, “Lynn Shelton. You walked into my life and immediately changed me for the better. What an inspiration!!!! Your vision. Your enthusiasm for life. Your fiercely independent spirit. Your humor and love and dedication… Thank you for your shining example. And your shimmering grace.”
Elsewhere, actress and comedian Mindy Kaling, wrote on Instagram, “Lynn Shelton loved actors and we loved her back. She was a dream on set. Her lovely, sunny energy was infectious and actors always drifted to video village between takes to be around her. She had such a quiet power and I will miss her. Rest In Peace, Lynn. Love you.”
However, it was perhaps Moran who paid the most moving tribute to Shelton. In a statement obtained by IndieWire in May 2020 Shelton said of his late partner’s death, “I have some awful news. Lynn passed away last night. She collapsed yesterday morning after having been ill for a week.”
Explaining Shelton’s sudden passing, Moran added, “There was a previously unknown, underlying condition… The doctors could not save her. They tried. Hard. I loved her very much as I know many of you did as well.” With that in mind, Moran went on to describe the heartache he was experiencing as a result of Shelton’s death.
Revealing his sense of loss, Moran told IndieWire, “It’s devastating. I am leveled, heartbroken and in complete shock and don’t really know how to move forward in this moment. I needed you all to know. I don’t know some of you. Some I do. I’m just trying to let the people who were important to her know.”
Moran continued, “She was a beautiful, kind, loving, charismatic artist. Her spirit was pure joy. She made me happy. I made her happy. We were happy. I made her laugh all the time. We laughed a lot. We were starting a life together. I really can’t believe what is happening. This is a horrendous, sad loss.”
To add to that, Moran opened up about Shelton’s death in a special episode of his WTF podcast. He revealed how Shelton had collapsed in the middle of the night, as she headed to the bathroom. Moran said, “I got up and she was on the floor and she couldn’t move.”
Revealing how the tragic series of events in the run-up to Shelton’s passing unfolded, Moran continued, “She was conscious but delirious a bit. I called 9-1-1. They came and got her, and that was the last time I saw her alive was on the floor being taken away. Then, over the course of the day, there was never any good news… and they eventually had to let her go.”
Given how raw the death of Shelton must have been for him, Moran struggled to contain his emotions as he described the late director. He said on the WTF podcast, “She was my partner. She was my girlfriend. She was my friend, and I loved her. I loved her a lot. And she loved me, and I knew that.”
Speaking of his romance with the late director, Moran said that he’d found something special. He explained, “I don’t know that I had ever felt what I felt with her before. I do know, actually. I did not. I have not. And I was getting used to love in the way of being able to accept it and show it properly in an intimate relationship.”
And Moran recalled how he’d felt “nervous” and “curious” about meeting Shelton for the first time. However, it seems that he had nothing to worry about, as the pair would later hit it off. Struggling to describe the bond they had, Moran said, “My relationship with her is, I can’t even explain it.”
However, Moran wasn’t the only one with warm feelings for Shelton. He revealed, “I gotta tell you, nobody’s got anything bad to say about Lynn Shelton, that’s for … sure. She was amazing. Her movies were amazing — they are amazing. I’ve worked with her. Everyone who’s worked with her loved her.”
Continuing to pay tribute to his late partner, Moran added, “She was an amazing woman. She was an inspiration to so many people. So many people loved her. She was a very determined artist who just needed to put her expression out into the world in any way. Tremendous love for people, for her friends, for her son, Milo.”
While Maron was clearly heartbroken by Shelton’s passing, he said that the well-wishes he’d received in the wake of her death were “really helping.” As he mourned his loss though, he remembered the effect that Shelton had on him. Maron explained, “I was definitely a better person when I was engaged with her… I was better in Lynn Shelton’s gaze.”