Todd Glass is one of the few people on the planet who can vacillate between wildly earnest and devastatingly funny without ever coming off as contrived. A veteran of the ‘90s alt-comedy crowd, Glass still tours relentlessly, while also maintaining his podcast, The Todd Glass Show. In 2012, at age 27, Glass came out on an episode of Marc Maron’s WTF after a lifetime of passing for straight. That led last year’s book, The Todd Glass Situation, where he opens up on just what was happening during all those years he spent hiding from the truth. Glass returns to his old stamping grounds, the Improv at Harrah’s January 20-25.
How’s your new year going?
My new year is going great. I’m back in L.A. mainly. I’m right now getting ready to do another special. I’m really working hard at that. We’ll shoot it in March [for Netflix]. I’ve never done this before, but we’re going to tape my stand-up and go back and forth from my podcast to the special. It’ll go from me on the microphone in my podcast, and then you’ll see when it turned into a bit.
You talked in your book about working the Las Vegas Improv when Steve Schirripa was running it. What’s the difference between playing Vegas in the ‘90s and playing now?
I always have this theory that a lot of times people say “back then, things were better.” It’s just because back then they didn’t have as much on their minds. The truth is no one should want to think it was better back then. It’s better tomorrow. But it was great back then because I was 22 years old and I’m doing 21 shows a week at the Improv when Steve ran it. Steve was larger than fucking life. Like I said in the book, he was easy to work for in a way. He wanted what he wanted.
I remember I was 22 years old, I did three shows on a Monday night and Steve tells me I’ve got to go see Cook E. Jarr. I go to the Silver Slipper. He plays from 1 ‘til fuck in the morning. I fell in love. It was like I’d gotten a five-hour massage. I started calling my friends the next day and telling them you’ve got to come out to Vegas. Some of them did the next night, and back to Cook E. Jarr I went. When you’re 22 and walking down the Strip it’s like holy shit! This is Las Vegas. Now there’s still great stuff. I still go to Vegas and it’s fun. Nothing like smoking a little marijuana and walking down the Strip at night.
Has anything come close to replicating that Cook E. Jarr experience?
No, and nothing ever will.
You’re a very sincere guy. You’re not afraid to wear it on your sleeve, especially when it comes to the issues. How does someone like that survive in comedy?
That’s the big question. Can you be funny and not be an asshole? I think crass is funny. I think vulgarity is funny—Richard Pryor, George Carlin. I don’t worry about offending people. Fuck it, I don’t give a shit about offending people. I just want to offend the right people. Don’t punch the people who are already getting punched who need you to throw out a lifeline. Do you know what it feels like when you hear a guy like Joe Rogan or Louis C.K. or Doug Stanhope defend a group that needs defending in a brash way, a way that a poet couldn’t do? You know the lifeline you throw the people? Just don’t be a bully with the microphone. I just want to make sure I offend the right people. You think who’s to decide that? History, and it never lies. Go listen to old CDs from the ‘60s and ‘70s and see when someone’s punching the wrong group of people and see how it stands the test of time. It’s nauseating and sad, too. Because you’re like “oh, they’re punching the people who needed a hug.”
Has there been any kind of effect from Serial in terms of casual listeners discovering podcasting and exploring other shows?
I don’t know, but there’s an example of podcasting—some people were saying that everyone’s doing a podcast. Well, do something different. You don’t have to sit around and do what everybody else does. I’ve never even heard the show, but just hearing about the show makes me think, “good.” I don’t even care if I’d like it or I wouldn’t, but I like the concept of it. I think it always helps. I try not to pay attention to the numbers. I do know something about that podcasting audience. They’ll go to see shows. I’m surprised after shows today—I did five shows in Philadelphia, about 300 people per show, and I’d say about half of the people came because they heard me on a podcast, if not more. Podcasting is basically like you give radio the purity of stand-up.
One of the videos I’ve watched obsessively is the Bing Bong clip. Do you ever think of yourself as someone who does meta-comedy, or is that just an artificial label?
Since I was little, I always liked repetition. When I would listen to Stern and they would go off on one thing that was funny and they’d do it and do it and do it. I would never do anything because if I don’t think it’s funny I won’t do it. Oh, I get it, I’m doing this song way too long but I’m not enjoying it. I would never do it because oh get it, I’m being irreverent or I’m trying not to be funny. I don’t think that’s cute. I respect an audience. They’re coming out to pay and see a show. If I think it’s funny, I’ll do it. I just like repetition. I think Family Guy does it the most.
Bill Cosby finally did a joke about the allegations against him. What did you make of that?
I’ll say this, because sometimes I think, “Do I want to comment on it?” But I think it’s important for the women coming forward that they know not somebody is putting out a hand, going “not every one of those women is lying.” I think him performing live, what he was doing was acting like what he thought an innocent person would do. Because there’s something worse than if it was true that would make him feel worse. If all 30 were telling the truth, what could be worse than that? If all 30 were lying. If I was innocent, I would cancel my tour dates. Because do you know what it feels like to be innocent and be accused of this? I can’t go on stage and pretend like everything is all right. I’ll do interviews and get my voice out there. Can you imagine the stomach ache and the nausea and the pain to be totally innocent? I couldn’t get up on stage in front of people. That’s my guess. He sat and thought, “what would an innocent person would do?” Oh, perform. There’s where you go, “I think we caught you. Hey Bill, that’s not what an innocent person would do.” Thirty-two people accuse you of that and you’re innocent? You can’t even wrap your mind around how much that would blow.
The Improv Comedy Club
8:30 and 10 p.m. Jan. 20-25, $29.05-$44.95 Harrah’s, 702-777-2782.