What do they say about New York City: There are eight million stories, and sometimes it seems as though eight million of the people telling them think they’re comedians? No, that’s not it. It is a fact, though, that America’s biggest city is also its biggest comedy mecca. Hollywood may be Hollywood, but New York City is where comedians are born funny, become funny or arrive to thrust their funny upon us. I think we should meet some of these people. This is a recurring feature, a mini-profile of newcomers, up-and-comers and overcomers of New York’s vibrant comedy scene. It’s called Meet Me In New York.
I first saw Eliot Glazer performing alongside his sister, Ilana, in the basement of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. Or maybe it was the basement of Comix. They played a lot of basements back in 2007-2008. But these Glazers had such chutzpah! And gloriously gleefully so. In 2012, they put their talents to perfect timing with the video sensation, “Shit New Yorkers Say.”
He since has been the brains behind such web sites and webseries as “It Gets Betterish,” “My Parents Were Awesome,” and “Eliot’s Sketch Pad.”
And so, Eliot has been here, there and back again, coming to NYC first as an aspiring singer and undergraduate at New York University, then moving to Los Angeles to write on the TV Land series, Younger, and now back in the Big Apple where he writes, acts and consults on his sister’s show, Broad City, and hosts a live singing showcase called Haunting Renditions, in which he “takes some of pop music’s most infamous songs and turns them into highbrow, sweeping ballads.” He’ll host Haunting Renditions Live tonight at The Bell House in Brooklyn with special guest Michelle Collins (from The View). I caught up with Eliot at the original Shake Shack in Madison Square Park for our conversation. Although, full disclosure to Eliot’s personal trainer — he didn’t order any Shake Shack, but went across the street to dig into a salad at Dig Inn instead, bringing it back to the park.
Name: Eliot Glazer
Arrived From: Long Island
Arrival Date: September 2001, as an NYU freshman “perfect timing”
When and where was the first time you performed comedy?
“So that would be after school, 2006 I think? I graduated in ’05 and then in ’06 I somehow found — I don’t even remember how I got it — but I got wind of Mortified. And they were looking for new people to read from their journals. So I thought that — I don’t even know where I heard about it, but I went in to technically audition for two people who are now my friends, Giulia Rozzi and Brandy Barber. That was the first time I had really done — I mean, I had done comedy onstage at NYU, I was a writer for a sketch group, and then I was in an a cappella group and I sort of infused a little bit of live comedy into our shows, but it wasn’t until I did Mortified that I had really gone onstage.”
What was your best credit before moving here? Did you use any of that NYU stuff as a credit for Mortified?
So what was your first credit?
“Mortified. And then Brandy Barber and Sara Jo Allocco had me on The Kissing Booth. So they had me do a video with them. Then they had me do a live thing at their show. And from there, that’s how I sort of unfolded in the scene. Really sort of following that, I call it the nice camp. All the comedians who were nice. And supportive. And communal. Community-oriented. Katina Corrao, and I just love those people, it’s so easy to get along with them right off the bat.”
Why did you pick New York over Los Angeles or anywhere else?
“I just always loved the city. Was always here anyway, to come in, go see shows, go see comedy stuff, and was just always part of the fabric. I wanted to be in the city anyway, so it wasn’t really a tough choice. Until I realized we couldn’t afford it. But I got a great scholarship. Otherwise I would have had to go to like, I don’t know — I would have gone to Marymount or something, but my parents didn’t want to pay for a private school unless I had a scholarship. I got a scholarship to NYU for singing. That’s how I started. And then I switched to film and TV pretty quickly.”
How long did it take to get your first paid gig in NYC after moving here?
“Probably like three years. Three or four years. And it wasn’t like I was making much, but doing gigs that were small-paying gigs at like 92YTribeca, Comix, that’s where I started getting, like, nothing pay. 25 bucks, or cab fare. But that was more than anything, that was more than — I wasn’t doing it for the money. I was doing it for the experience.”
How is the comedy scene better/worse/different from where you lived before? Or in your case, Los Angeles, since you’re bicoastal now?
“The people or the scene itself?” Both. “I just find as a comedian, it’s like, it’s not harder to get laughs, it’s just the audiences are more apt to be polite and a little slower on the uptake, which is weird. It’s not bad. It’s not like you go to the UCB and do a show and people are slow to respond. It’s just they’re more polite and they’re more willing to be a more polite audience member than engage loudly, I guess. I don’t mean heckle, I just mean be an effusive audience member right off the bat. And that’s a New York thing. You get people who are into it, who are all about it. Or you get people who heckle you or whatever. I think there’s more of an edge here in the audiences, and the comedy scenes in L.A. I find to be just as supportive. I’m still friends with a lot of comics there. It has the same sort of community feel — at least the shows that I do, that are again, not clubs. I’m not doing the big clubs. I’m not doing The Laugh Factory. I’m not doing The Improv. I’m doing NerdMelt. I’m doing both UCBs. I’m doing iO West or whatever in Santa Monica. And then the small shows around town, like Casey Jane Ellison’s show. I do The Virgil a lot. I love doing The Virgil for Kurt and Kristen (Hot Tub). That’s actually my favorite venue to perform at there. I love it. I think that audience reminds me most of New York, but with the warmth of L.A. where they are just so on your side. It’s just the most wonderful audience there, at The Virgil. They’re just the best.”
And New York, you’re mostly at The Bell House, Union Hall, UCBs… “Yep. We started this show, Haunting Renditions Live, a couple of years ago. A year and a few months ago. April 2014. We started it at Union Hall, and then it started getting bigger, so we brought it to Littlefield, and it continued to get bigger, and now we do it every month at The Bell House.”
What’s an “only in New York” experience mean to you? Do you have one?
“The everyday mishegas that comes with being in the city, and living your life with the whim of the city in a way that you wouldn’t necessarily in another place. Whether it’s transportation — subway, traffic, it’s so expensive. Money. Mice. Cockroaches. There’s just so much, so many obstacles to living here.”
Is there one day or experience you usually cite when someone asks you to explain New York? “No. For me, it’s, I have a car here. I got it last year because I live a little out in Brooklyn in Ditmas Park, and I was in L.A. for three months for work. When I got back, I was like, I need a car. So I got a car. And you just — the ultimate experience is driving here. The ultimate experience when it comes to citing a major challenge is driving. How purposely inconsiderate people are. They want to make your day worse. They want to cut you off. They don’t mind holding up traffic while they go slow looking for a spot. People are just inconsiderate. And I think I got that in Shit New Yorkers Say, but I don’t think I felt that until I got a car. You know what I mean? The everyday hassles of life, they weren’t there for me, because I’m from New York. Long Island, and lived in the city forever. But it wasn’t until spending enough time in L.A. that I’m like, ‘Oh, I see! Life doesn’t have to be, by default, a nightmare.’ An obstacle course.”
What tip would you give any comedian who moves here?
“Be prepared. Don’t get a car. Don’t move here with a car. Be prepared. When I think of somebody moving here, I think they’re in their 20s. And everyone here in their 20s is not looking to live sort-of humane. Forget luxurious! A humane existence. People in their 20s are hustling and bustling and partying and looking for work. Whatever it is. Who’s acting in their 20s is not worried about the sort of, I think, ornamental ways of living that someone like me, who’s in his early 30s, is. Where I also think, when I turned 30, something changed, and I can’t — No. I can’t. There’s no reason I have to smell piss all the time when I’m outside. You know? There’s no reason that I should have to deal with the inequities that come from being a middle-class, if not middle-lower class New Yorker, you know?”
What about in terms of navigating the comedy scene in NYC? “Oh. That’s different. To me, that’s about building community. Finding your community. For me it was worthwhile to try different formats. So I started at UCB. My sister and I came up together, we had an improv team, met tons of people that way. And that was great to build a network for not just improv, but videos and friendships, and that was amazing. Those relationships have lasted now through today. That’s where jobs come from sometimes. It really is all about community and I think being forthcoming when it comes to collaborating. That’s really the main thing. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. Meet people. Go to shows. Ask to be put on certain shows. Go to open mics. If you really want to make it, spend every night working on it, meeting the people. That’s what I did. You know, I was at Rififi all the time. I was doing shows there, but also seeing shows. Mo Pitkin’s. Comix. Ochi’s Lounge. All the places.”
All the places that are no longer around. But you still are!
“Yeah. But those places, they’re still — it’s The PIT, UCB, UCBeast, QED in Astoria, The Creek and The Cave. Those are places that people who are new and want to make a splash need to hang out. That’s my opinion. I don’t know if it’s everybody’s opinion, but I think you need to meet people. To see the comedy that inspires you. That’s what I did. Union Hall was great for that. Seeing people like Kate Berlant and John Early and Jackie Novak. Just witnessing them as both friends and peers. That’s like, Oh My God, that’s where I found my favorite comedians, just like doing shows with them. I could watch Jacqueline Novak talk for hours. I would! I really would. I think she’s astonishing. John as well. Kate Berlant. They blow my mind. They blow my mind.”
Where do you see yourself in five years?
“I sold a pilot earlier this year. But it didn’t go at the network I sold it to, but maybe it’s my naivete, but I really feel like I have this amazing team behind me, between my manager and my agents, and friends and family. I think I’m going to be able to sell this pilot — if not another one. So hopefully within five years I’ll be in that school of working comedians who either has his own show or is working on a friend’s show, whatever that is. That’s my goal, is to be making a decent living. I’m making a decent living now, for sure. But I’d love to be able to do it with a little more face time. If that makes sense.”
Yeah. Well, the Glazer family history has a great track record for having a TV pilot passed at one network and working out somewhere else.
“It’s really weird.”
At least you have the power of example to know that if you believe in the idea.
“I do. I’m trying basically to –” (police sirens interrupt us) “I hope people watch Younger. I write for Broad City as well. I think those are two shows — I don’t think a lot of comedy people necessarily would think that Younger would be this edgy comedy. But we really do — a bunch of the writers are comedy people, comedians, and really work in that area. And so you can see this sort of like, fun glitz of the show, this Sex and the City extension of the show, mixed with a lot more, fringy humor. Alternative. A little of an alt voice. So I’m really proud of it, and I hope people watch it.”
Here he is explaining Haunting Renditions, and then performing with Abbi Jacobson in April 2015.
Glazer also published a book based on his former site, “My Parents Were Awesome”