I saw Todd Glass on film at an Improv before I ever saw him onstage. The comedy club chain had employed Glass to deliver the all-important pre-show announcements for audience members to turn off their cell phones and pagers, sit back, "laugh, shut up, laugh, shut up, laugh, shut up." His conversational style and humor would put folks at ease.
Then I saw Todd Glass onstage six years ago. Funny, funny, funny. Jokes upon jokes, jokes about jokes, and Glass had an extra guy on tour with him just to set up all the bells and whistles (and sometimes, seemingly actual bells and whistles) that accompanied his headlining stand-up act.
"I used to sometimes have the middle help me out," Glass (captured in photographic glory by Steve Agee) explains to me in the here and now. "I would go, get 33 ready! Get 22 ready!" A Philadelphia native now based in Southern California, Glass often works the road, but makes a fairly rare New York City appearance this weekend at Comix (Sept. 26-27). You can read part of our interview in today’s NYC editions of the Metro paper. Glass said he stopped doing all of the music and sound cues "when I was trying to get a special ready for Comedy Central," and began concentrating more on his stand-up material. "I’ve had two years where I haven’t done any music, and I sometimes listen to an old CD and think, ‘Oh, I miss that, and I miss that.’ But I’ve moved on. And it helped me work on more material."
He also appeared on the second and third seasons of NBC’s Last Comic Standing. You may remember him as the guy in the house who was always on. Four years later, no regrets. "I was really glad I did it," Glass said. "That kind of exposure you just
can’t get. You don’t get that type of exposure from one appearance on The Tonight Show. It was crazy and it’s primetime exposure. As far as the reality bullshit about it, I knew about that
going in. (The) it’s all fixed, all that. I didn’t care. I think once America
votes. And I went out second. I think America
votes. So I wasn’t going to be one of those guys who whined and complained. I kwew exactly what it was going into it. I think I probably did it the best year you could do it,
because it was still hosted by Jay Mohr."
"What makes you successful as a comic is a three-month
conversation, but one thing that can make you unsuccessful is success too
early…not as an actor, but as a comic…If you want to be a good comic, success too early will f&*$
He said people still recognize him from that primetime TV exposure years later. Further TV appearances on shows such as Jimmy Kimmel’s keeps him in the public consciousness. "So really, they’ll come up to me in a club, two years later, and they’ll say ‘I saw you on Last Comic Standing.’" And that’s more than fine by him. "If I saw someone on TV that made me laugh and three years
later they were in my town, maybe I was busy the first time they came
through…so it’s very helpful in that sense," he said. "It makes you more visible."
The show also opens up other opportunities. "A year after, I shot my own pilot…even regular people in the business watch TV, too. They say, ‘Oh, I saw you on TV.’ It was produced by Happy Madison, Adam Sandler’s company.
Obviously I would have wished it sold. But that’s still an experience most
people don’t get to do in their lives. You show up on the set. Cops are
blocking the street. Hundreds of people watching you."
Glass is working on a new TV project called Todd Glass Saves America. "It’s hard to explain although I should get better at it," he tells me. So let’s give it a shot! "The most miniscule things to things that are very deep. Like Oprah does. She gets to talk about whatever she wants…She can deal with her favorite toys of the year, or child
hunger…So this is my sort of going out there and dealing with the world and
things that I think are silly or things that can make the world a better place."
"Before Jon Stewart or Politically Incorrect, people didn’t
think a comic could talk about these things. Not only do they do well, but they’re more responsible, they
do more than people ever thought they would do. Because comedy can do an amazing amount. That’s what I’d
like do to with the issues I care about. They’re serious. They’re silly. But I’m dealing with them with
a comedy tool…that’s very palatable. That would be my ultimate show. Once a week, type of show. If I had my dream come true, I’d have a show once a month on HBO. You don’t have the pressure of once a week. But I’ll take
whatever I can get."
He can meet with production companies and networks, and says that sometimes, instead of pitching meetings, you just need to come up with your own money and shoot a pilot for $50,000. "Just putting together 15 minutes even," he said. "It’s always easier to show people."
What stood out to me years ago about Glass as a stand-up was his hyperawareness onstage. Where does that come from?
"Some of my friends have said don’t do it. Others said that’s
who you are," Glass told me. "I just have that voice, 50 percent serious, 50 percent
joking. I’d say the majority of Jim Gaffigan is joking…just the absurd thoughts
of some person in the audience…the other thing that I do is really more like,
maybe it comes from doing comedy since I’m 16. Maybe it comes from doing stand-up so long, it just happens. I can’t help but like second-guess things. A lot of time the
crowd’s laughing. They enjoy the silliness of dissecting this thing that’s not
Is that part of your secret formula? "I don’t do it in some phony way, where I tell the same joke
every night. It’s not like a tool," he said.
Glass also is tune with the Internet with his own podcast, Comedy and Everything Else. "This is the one job where you can do whatever you want," he said. "So why not?"
"I think it’s the same for comedy 100 years ago as it is now.
It’s the same thing. Trying to find something that’s funny to you. I definitely
know the difference between making an audience laugh, and making an audience
f&*$ing laugh. You hit the audience in another way. Guys like Brian Regan, Paul Tompkins, Chris Rock. I have a horrendous habit of going long-winded with things. I like Jerry Seinfeld’s answer of "trying not to annoy the
comedy god" — just go about your job and do it well. That’s why I like working the UCB. It sounds a little cheesy but I mean it…I’m not usually nervous when I go up onstage…but there, I get
nervous. They’re such good crowds that you want to be as good as they are. The
majority of times…they’re so nurturing. So giving. You just want to live up to
What’s your sense of the state of comedy these days?
"I see a lot of new comics coming along that are great, and
exciting. And I want to see good comics. It’s more exciting. Up in Montreal, or at the UCB, you see a lot of new younger guys,
and they’re funny. It means comedy is in a good place. They were 12 then and now they’re 21, 22, 23, so now you see
a lot of good people in the scene."
Do you feel like it’s possible to be fabulously wealthy and rich and still be funny? "If you’re complaining about the high price of milk and then you become rich…but look at what Chris Rock talks about. Whether you have $100 in the bank or a million in the bank,
you still have to deal with your girlfriend or wife. You still have to deal
with prejudice. George Carlin, whether you liked him or not — I loved him — as
long as you’re true to yourself. You can’t be 60 and still talk about things that
make you look old…That’s why Chris Rock, before he does his special, is out there
at the comedy clubs and hitting the pavement. You just have to put the work
into it. There’s no way around that. That’s why you saw Carlin at The Comedy & Magic Club
when he was 71 years old."
And where will you be in your 70s? "Oh God, I hope still doing stand-up. These days 71 is young
for doing stand-up. Look at these guys..how old was Rodney Dangerfield? George
Burns. Don Rickles. Bob Newhart."
"I’d love that. Being on a tour bus. I just want to get to the point where I have a tour bus. I did
that with Mike Birbiglia, a tour he did for Comedy Central, did that for 3 days
and it was so much fun. One, you’re together and you’re laughing. Something about driving
through that night air. It’s very intimate. The other thing, it takes away going
to the airport. That nauseous feeling of getting up early. On the bus…we’re watching movies. You get a full night’s sleep. And then when you wake up you’re at your new destination."
"People ask me, you still like dong stand-up? I love it. I
love hanging out with comics. It’s fun. You get to be in seventh grade for the
rest of your life. I’ll do a show at a college, or at a high school….my friends
think its funny that I’d want to hang out with students…I have an appreciation
for culture…I don’t hang out at parties that cops break up…an element of youth,
just to be silly, not have your guard up."
Earlier this year, he recorded a CD for Comedy Central Records along with a DVD, recording in the side lounge of the Tempe Improv for an audience of about 100. Look for the CD/DVD in November, "A Ridiculously Intimate Evening with Todd Glass."
"I just love working in a small little room," Glass said. "It’s not that
you can’t have a blast in a big room. But there’s something special about doing comedy
in a little room. That’s how I wanted to do my Comedy Central Presents…In Tempe, we did
a show for 100 people, but we had curtains so we could cordon off the room for
30 people…or 25…I had a little jazz band onstage. With the curtains, it was packed. It was so much fun, and I thought, first show is for 100 people, and then a second show for 25 people. A bonus track. You knew they liked you already, so you could just tell stories."
The later show, he called "A Ridiculously Ridiculous Intimate Evening." "There was a baby grand piano. It was truly magical," he said. "Sometimes you’re having a great time with the people in the
front row and you forget there are also people in the 20th row…It was a little room, but it was run like Carnegie hall that
night. The band had a red light on them…ladies and gentlemen, please
welcome Todd Glass..the lighting was perfect, there wasn’t food…Everybody always go so big. I thought why not shoot a
special that’s intimate? The tour bus pulls up. And then you walk in and it’s this room
that holds 100 people. When the guy’s shooting this he says, ‘I’ll make it look like
1,000 people.’ I said no. I want it to look like Unplugged."