Todd Glass and the art of the sustainable comedy career - Reverb

Why So Serious, Todd Glass?

You've seen him everywhere, but have you listened to his podcast? Photo courtesy of Comedy Works.

You've seen him everywhere, but have you listened to his podcast? Photo courtesy of Comedy Works.

In some ways, Todd Glass is the most representative comedian in America.

The Philadelphia native has seen his industry rise and fall over the decades, starting his career during the 1980s stand-up boom (and subsequent bust) before carving a spot on the national touring circuit during the ’90s.

Like dozens of others, he’s had his own special on Comedy Central, and spent time on NBC’s pervasive “Last Comic Standing” and several late-night talk shows. He was an early adopter of podcasting, which has been a boon for comics everywhere, and he continues to open for the boldface names of the current stand-up renaissance, from Louis C.K. to Daniel Tosh to David Cross.

He’s also had his fair share of drama, collapsing backstage in L.A. in 2010 after suffering a heart attack (due to bad genetics) and coming out as gay on Marc Maron’s wildly popular “WTF” podcast in January (inspired by the wave of gay teen suicides).

So where to go from here? We caught up with Glass via phone recently before his headlining sets at Comedy Works South Thursday, May 17 through Saturday, May 19.

Do you feel like you’re starting to get better-known on your own, between opening for big names and all the publicity from the “WTF” podcast?

Whether it’s at its high or low doesn’t really affect me that much. I’ve always consistently worked, and new social media has definitely been great. I’ve said this a million times when people complain about social media too much: I compare it in a silly way to a knife. Yeah, we can get rid of knives because they can cut and stab and kill people, but they also operate on people. Same with the podcast. I really don’t get people that make fun of podcasts.

Perhaps because they’re everywhere these days?

Podcasts are like stand-up in that they’re another vehicle that can be 100 percent pure. Stand-up is great because it’s out of a comedian’s mouth and straight to your ear. Podcasts are basically radio, and they’ve made radio as pure as stand-up for comedians. It’s that simple. I think it would be the same for people that make fun of small film festivals when camera equipment started getting so cheap and everybody was shooting a short. “EVERYBODY’S shooting a short,” they say. Yeah, and you should too, ya dumb fuck.

You just passed the 40-episode mark on your own podcast, “The Todd Glass Show,” which is part of the Nerdist digital empire. How much longer do you think you’ll keep doing it?

I’m going to just keep doing it because I’m constantly learning and growing. It’s like starting stand-up in the beginning. You have shows where you doubt yourself and hope you’re going in the right direction. I give myself the same advice I was given by other comics when I started: There’s not a lot to learn, there’s not a lot to really think about. Just keeping doing it and you’re going to get better.

Who are your favorite guests? Who would you like to have on that you haven’t yet?

I’m not pitting them against each other, one being better than another. But my favorite guests are definitely when I’m serious and silly and they take that roller-coaster ride naturally. People like Paul F. Tompkins, Jen Kirkman and Rory Scovel. High-profile guests are a treat but not something I need, because then I couldn’t enjoy myself if every week I had to book them. I’d like to have Patton Oswalt, Judd Apatow and Jon Hamm, but I just want it to happen. I want to love doing it and just represent purity. We walk in there, we turn the mics on, that’s it!

Where are we at in comedy right now? You’ve seen a lot of highs and lows in terms of the mainstream exposure of the industry, and stand-up in particular.

I think if you’re meant to do comedy it’s always a good time, and right now here are a lot of funny comics coming onto the scene, which is exciting because I like to think there’s always good comedy. Comedy is always going to be around, it just goes through different births with “Do the masses know about it?” It’s like a diehard music fan: there’s always cool music but just because it becomes popular to the masses doesn’t mean there’s more of it. I always look at it that simply. When the boom ended in the ’80s that was the boom for the masses. The people that really truly love and adore comedy, whether they were 13 or 50, they found where it was at. And it changes where it’s at sometimes — where to go to see it — and that’s what happened with the alternative scene. It really wasn’t alternative comedy, it was alternative venues.

That’s an interesting point, and you were there in L.A. in the early ’90s for a lot that, hanging out with “The Ben Stiller Show” and “Mr. Show” crowd (David Cross, Bob Odenkirk, Janeane Garofalo, etc.)

I do think there are a lot of really great comics now. I don’t know the reason. Maybe it’s because there was a generation that just wanted to get on TV… as much as I complain about what’s on television sometimes. And when you’re 13 or 14, when kids start liking comedy a lot, maybe those kids were watching guys like David Cross or Paul F. Tompkins or Brian Regan or Greg Proops or Louis C.K. Or Patton Oswalt. Good comedy. And that inspired them to want to do it.

Do you feel like you have your own crowd, so to speak, these days?

The more a crowd comes out to see you, maybe. But the truth is, when you work great comedy clubs, there really is just good comedy vs. bad comedy, and there’s not a big difference in the alternative scene vs. when you just go to a good comedy club that books good comedy. All you have to do is look on a wall to see what type of audiences you get. You can see what kind of built-in audience a club has, just look at that wall. That’s indirectly what they’ve been trained to like. I remember in the beginning stages of my career, all I had to do to know what type of audience they were was look at the wall, the pictures of other comics, and go, “Oh, fuck, these crowds are going to suck.” Or if there’s a lot of great comedians up on the wall, when I go to those really great clubs it’s not that much different than the scene in L.A. And there’s a lot of great comedy clubs. When they’re run right, they’re awesome. Any club that sucks, it’s not fucking brain surgery when the crowd heckles and talks. That’s because they’ve let them.

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John Wenzel is an A&E reporter and Features blogs editor for The Denver Post and the author of “Mock Stars” (Speck Press/Fulcrum). Follow him @johntwenzel and @beardsandgum.

  • mickrussom

    Todd Glass. Worst comic standing. Loser. Hack. Ham-fisted. Rude. Unfunny. Really. Its sad to see such a worthless hack use coming out to get press.