Prepping as he is for an East Coast live show run starting at Helium Comedy Club Philadelphia and New Hope, Pennsylvania’s John & Peter’s Place at the end of February reminded me of the fact that in the last ten years, I’ve happily spoken to writer, comedian and podcaster Todd Glass on several occasions and witnessed his stand-up gigs several times over.
Because he is a comedian’s comedian, one loved by any and every comic you speak to. Just go to YouTube and find Glass’ conversations with fellow comedians Conan O’Brien and Marc Maron (whose WTF podcast Glass came out on) for further proof.
“It is the same now as it has always been: If you want support from fellow comics, you have to give it,” Glass once told me about the reciprocity among truly great minds of comedy. Ask him about the present-day of stand-ups and Glass generously recounts sets from the likes of John Mulaney. Paul F. Tompkins and more.
Because, ever since he started his life in stand-up comedy while still in high school – 1982 and Conestoga High to be exact – Glass has been a gently innovative, wryly observational comedian whose best feature was that, even when monologue-ing, seemed as if he was creating a dialogue with his audience. Conversationally and convivially, his crowds – whether on A&E or Comedy Central or in person – were always in on the joke. And the joke never seemed altogether too planned or pre-meditated, but rather more stream-of-conscious. No Todd Glass gig late on one evening, to my recollection, has ever been the same as the early show, those of the evening following or those of the evening proceeding it.
Because, with his book of autobiographical rants, The Todd Glass Situation: A Bunch of Lies about My Personal Life and a Bunch of True Stories about My 30-Year Career in Stand-Up Comedy, the stand-up exploded the mythology of the stage, while discussing the childhood realities of dyslexia, the hassles of being a Jew in an antisemitic society, and the hiding of being a gay man until he was 48-years-old. The Todd Glass Situation even reveals how he moved from mainstream stand-up comedy to the alternative comedy scene and podcasting so to speak/joke more freely and abstractly (without the confines of traditional set up and punchline) as well as “managing his situation” with lame attempts to “cure” himself from being gay as well as making up fake girlfriends so that he could craft relationship jokes for the stage.
Because, as he told the Articles of Antiquity website, podcasting gave radio “in one clean swoop, the purity of stand-up comedy. By not having any people to have to answer to, like with stand-up comedy, it took the great medium of radio and made it a million times better.”
With that, his podcast, The Todd Glass Show, is more personable and open-ended than most interview driven podcasts with fellow comedians, unrushed, as they breathe openly the air of friends at a dinner table chatting without aim or reason. Like drunks. “I used to rush, until I realized that no one was in a hurry but me, so I slowed down and learned to enjoy the process and the conversation,” said Glass during the last time he toured, mid-pandemic, in 2021.
“I did some work on Zoom, and wish I had actually taken part in some of those drive-in stand-up shows,” said Glass. “The Zoom thing? You begin to tailor your work to the art form itself. I have a comic friend who would smoke a little pot, get high, do three minutes and just Tweet that out. The pandemic was about adaptability. I tried to tell comedians this like six months into the quarantine, I was doing my podcast with my stand-up sensibilities. You read the room without compromising our craft and move forward. Do what you think is funny. You don’t need an audience in front of you to know you are funny. A punching bag is better than nothing when it comes to staying loose and keeping he skill set up. And it’s not like I’m grading myself above the curve with an A+. The process was cathartic.”
Pent-up energy, then, must be key when it comes to returning to a live setting, and to the East Coast specifically, as Philly and New York City were his first true stomping grounds for the stage. Glass’ evolution then, as a stand-up, envelops the current line of thought that points toward censorship. “Dropping words out of my lexicon onstage comes down to how you develop, and evolve, off stage. Comedy being more diverse, being able to say more as a person, makes your audience smarter and more intelligence. Not calling your children ‘stupid’ or ‘fat’, is a good thing, not something to be angry about. That’s better for your life, let alone your stand up. Evolution as a person is great – a key – and makes me into a better fresher comedian.”
And being a better, fresher, freer stand-up comedian seems to be exactly that which Todd Glass is striving to achieve.