Any time is a good time to pick up a book, but summertime sure feels like the right time to lounge poolside or on the beach, or anywhere you feel most comfortable, really, with a great read to pass the carefree day away. On Fridays this summer, The Comic’s Comic will showcase an excerpt from a worthy hardcover or paperback in the world of comedy.
This week, it’s “The Todd Glass Situation,” the sincerely gripping memoir from stand-up comedian Todd Glass. Here are the opening pages, as written by Todd Glass with Jonathan Grotenstein. which set the scene during a life-changing moment for Glass in 2010.
The Coronet (Part One)
Todd’s act develops an unexpected wrinkle.
I’m standing backstage at Largo at the Coronet where, once every few months, Sarah Silverman invites a group of comedians to put on a show. Tonight’s lineup includes Sarah, Jeff Ross, and Chelsea Peretti. I’m the closing act. I can’t wait to get out there.
I’ve been a stand-up comedian for almost thirty years and I can honestly tell you, without exaggeration, that it is my favorite thing to do. Every time I’m about to take the stage I feel like a kid twenty feet from the entrance to Disneyland. Performing gives me an adrenaline rush like no other. Some nights I’m so amped I’ll sprint from backstage right into the middle of the crowd, doing some silly bit as I run up and down the aisles.
Tonight is one of those nights. Sarah introduces me and I go straight for the crowd, overenthusiastically greeting each and every member of the audience, an exaggerated take on a comic who’s way too eager to please.
Five minutes later, when I ﬁnally make my way to the stage, I feel light-headed. My heart is pounding too fast and I can’t catch my breath. So I turn it into a joke:
“Hey, what if I was having a heart attack and you guys didn’t believe me?”
A few laughs.
“No, really . . . I’m having a heart attack!”
A few more laughs.
That’s all I’m going to be able to milk out of this one. I look down at my notes and move on.
“I saw a sign in my hotel room that said, ‘A towel on the ﬂoor means I want a new one—a towel hanging up means I’ll use it again.’ So I called down to the front desk and asked them, ‘What does a washcloth on my night table with a little bit of lotion next to it mean? I’m just asking, you seem to know what all the towel placement means . . . What? It means I’m lonely? Okay, thank you.’”
Thirty-ﬁve minutes later, the set comes to an end. The second I leave the stage, so does the adrenaline. All of my energy just evaporates and I can’t seem to catch my breath. I feel like I have a massive hangover. I think I have to throw up. I step outside for air.
I still can’t catch my breath, so I stumble back inside, put my hands on my knees, and stare at the carpet. It is absolutely the ﬁlthiest carpet I’ve ever seen. I spend a couple of seconds thinking about how many other performers have stood on this rug, spilling beer and ashing cigarettes into the crusty ﬁbers.
The carpet suddenly looks like the most comfortable resting place in the world, so I sink down into it, face-ﬁrst.
Sarah kneels next to me. I can tell by the way she’s looking at me that she thinks I’m just stoned. The truth is I smoked about a half a joint before I went onstage. It’s not something I usually do—a couple of years ago I did the same thing before a show in Seattle and had a panic attack. Now that I think about it, the symptoms were almost exactly the same.
Sarah was there that night and remembers as well as I do. “Is Todd feeling nauseous?” she asks.
I let out something that’s halfway between a grunt and a moan.
“Poor baby,” she continues. “Do you want some scrambled warm eggs? I can make them extra runny!” I bang the rug a couple of times with my hand. “Is that your way of telling me you think that was funny?”
It was. I’m glad that she understands because I seem to have lost the ability to speak.
Now Jeff Ross is standing next to her. “Let me take your shoes off for you,” he says. He slips the shoes off my feet and then pinches his nose in fake disgust. “Let me put your shoes back on for you.”
This time I let out a muted cackle. “Aww, look,” Sarah says. “He gave you a mercy laugh.”
“No it wasn’t!” I manage to croak.
At this point I hear Jon Hamm screaming at the top of his lungs:
“Will someone call a goddamn ambulance? Or are we all just going to sit here and watch Todd die?”
Okay, Jon Hamm wasn’t there, but give me a break: I’m just trying to move some books. And by the way, if the imaginary Jon Hamm in my story cared so much, why didn’t he call the ambulance? Like he doesn’t have a cell phone? Typical Hamm—I love the guy to death, but he’s always bossing people around. Anyway, he wasn’t there, so let’s move on.
There’s something clearly wrong with me. But I know that it’s not a heart attack. I’d be puking all over myself. Or unconscious. Trust me, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about heart attacks. Heart troubles run on both sides of my family. My dad was forty-ﬁve when he died. Which is kind of funny when you think about it: I just turned forty-ﬁve a couple of months ago.
“Todd, I think we should call an ambulance,” Sarah says.
I’m probably just having another panic attack. In a few minutes I’m going to feel like an idiot for scaring the crap out of everybody. “No ambulance!” I say, worrying less about my health than my insurance plan’s $5,000 deductible.
Sarah leans down and whispers in my ear: “Oh, honey, don’t worry, we’ll pay for it! But it will have to be your birthday and Christmas present, is that okay?”
I give her the best laugh I can, which at this point isn’t much. I hear Jeff Ross telling Flanagan, the owner of the club, that an ambulance is on the way. Jeff is going to look pretty fucking silly when this thing passes and I’m back onto my feet.
Minutes later, an EMT is kneeling down next to me. “Why don’t we get you into the ambulance and check your vitals, maybe save a trip to the emergency room,” he says. I’m not exactly in any position to argue. A small crowd has gathered around the exit, watching as I get wheeled out on a stretcher.
This is really starting to get embarrassing. A few minutes ago, I was performing for these people, feeling like I was in charge of the room. Now I feel helpless and weak. I can’t wait for the medics to ﬁnish up and send me on my way. Tomorrow the whole thing is going to seem hilarious. Maybe even later tonight . . .
“Sir, I don’t want to alarm you,” the EMT says, “but you’re having a heart attack.”
Okay, maybe not tonight. I don’t want to alarm you? If he didn’t want to alarm me he should have told me I was ﬁne. Telling someone they’re having a heart attack is very goddamn alarming. “We’re going to take you to Cedars,” he continues. “Is there anyone we should call?”
Right. If I’m dying—which is suddenly starting to feel like a real possibility—I should probably tell the person I’ve been sharing a life with for the last fourteen years. I look through the faces around me until I ﬁnd Sarah’s. “Call Andrea for me,” I say, trying to wink. At this point it looks more like an involuntary facial tic.
Sarah winks back. “Don’t worry, I’ll call . . .Andrea.”
We both know that “Andrea” is actually Chris, my boyfriend. But there’s no way in hell I’m going to say his name in front of everyone.
I mean, that might make people think that I was gay or something.
Here I am, forty-ﬁve years old, possibly at death’s door, surrounded by friends—and I still can’t be honest about who I am.
How the fuck did I get here?
Read the rest of “The Todd Glass Situation,” by Todd Glass with Jonathan Grotenstein, with a preface from Marc Maron, by buying yourself a copy!