Philly native Todd Glass is coming to Helium Comedy Club this week for a string of shows with Chip Chantry Chip Chantry. Todd asked me to write it twice because he thinks Chip will get excited. [Scroll down for Chip's reaction!]
WitOut: Hi Todd! Where in the world are you?
Todd Glass: Hey, right now I am in Kansas performing with Jim Gaffigan.
WitOut: What’s a comedy crowd like in Kansas?
Glass: Well if you’re with someone as big as Jim you’re drawing his audience and they’re good. But the city doesn’t make the audience, the club does. If you have a good club it doesn’t matter where you are. Granted, there are cities that are more beautiful than others but as far as the way the audience acts it’s based on how the club operates. In my opinion, the best comedy club in America is Acme Comedy Club in Minneapolis. Who’d think Minneapolis would have the best club? But when a club has high standards and respects the comedy, the audience will follow. They train the audiences. Helium, I give them an A++. One of the best clubs in the country. When Marc (owner of Helium Comedy Club) wanted to start Helium he went to the Montreal Comedy Festival and asked comics, “What’s your favorite club?”, and they kept saying Acme. So, Marc decided he had to check this place out. He went to Minneapolis, met with Louis Lee (owner of Acme Comedy Club), and made it happen.
WitOut: Do you have any memorable stories about shows you’ve done here in Philly?
Glass: It made me proud whenever I’d come to Philly with other acts. Once I was on tour with Louis C.K., Sarah Silverman, and David Cross, and when we came to Philly I so didn’t want it to be a bad crowd. The crowd ended up being unbelievably great. So great. And I was so proud.
WitOut: I know you’ve shot a couple pilots over the years, is that something you’d like to do again?
Glass: I just sold a pilot to Comedy Central actually, I’m very excited about it. It’s called The Todd Glass Situation. My character owns a college bar/restaurant–which is one layer of the show but it doesn’t consume the whole show. It also deals with me being in the closet all those years…gosh I hate that term but what the fuck else am I gonna say? There’s never been a show about hiding in the closet. Like, what does it REALLY mean to be in the closet on a day-to-day basis? It’s important to who I am but I didn’t want it to be the A slot of the show so, it’s a layer, never the primary story. At least I hope it’s that way in the show.
WitOut: I’m curious, what is it you don’t like about the phrase “in the closet?”
Glass: “In the closet,” ugh, I don’t know, it’s probably my own issue. It’s just so…flamboyant. Maybe that’s not it.
WitOut: Is it because it’s sort of a pithy way to describe it?
Glass: Yeah, see, you said it better than me. But also, ya know, sometimes you just don’t like something and ya can’t even explain it? It’s hard to explain but, obviously one day we won’t have that expression because we won’t need to.
WitOut: I was actually not going to ask about last year’s WTF announcement unless it came up naturally since it seems interviewers always ask about it .
Glass: As far as the Maron thing goes, I don’t mind talking about it, I like the mix. I didn’t talk about it my whole life so I’m good talking about it. But yeah, I appreciate your thought to not ask. But, it’s a gigantic part of my life. If we pull it off right on the show it won’t be a gigantic part of the show. It was very rarely the A plot of my day. Mostly B or C slot. It’s not gonna drive the show. But I’ll say this, it’ll be funny obviously, but it’ll also hopefully shed a lot of light on the issue and make people say, “I never fucking thought about that.” Like, how to handle it when your parents are in town, or, if you’re in a diner and three people there know but the fourth doesn’t. If you’re smoking pot and worry, “Shit, did I just misspeak and say something I didn’t mean to?”
WitOut: Do you remember where your first set was?
Glass: Absolutely. It was at Comedy Works on 2nd and Chestnut. It was an amazing place. I first went when I was in high school. Some friends and I went to see comedy and I was completely unaware that there were comedians that weren’t household names but had followings. Established, really great comedians. It was a 300 seat room, we saw so many greats: Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Gilbert Gottfried, Richard Lewis, Tim Allen, Roseanne Barr, Eddie Murphy, Stephen Wright, just amazing comics. Eventually I went up there. I was almost 16, I had a very frenetic energy. Everyone was very kind and told me I’m funny but that I gotta calm down. Then, and I’ll never forget this, [The Legendary] Wid comes up and says to me, “You don’t have to change anything, you’re funny just the way you are.” I have a special place in my heart for him. He’s very supportive and that’s so fucking important.
WitOut: What do people most often recognize you from?
Glass: Good question, times have changed with social media and podcasts. So, either a show like Comedy Bang Bang, podcasting or Jimmy Kimmel since I’ve done that show quite a few times. But people still remember me from Last Coming Standing too.
WitOut: How do you view the Philly comedy scene now compared to when you started?
Glass: Right now there’s a really good scene in Philly. There wasn’t for years but now there is, basically since Helium opened. It re-sparked excitement for comedy in the city. Between Helium and lots of niche one-nighters at bars or music venues or theatres, it’s great. And there are a lot of new, really funny people in the last 7, 8 years. I love watching stand-up comedy and if I get to a town a night early I’ll go to the open mic night. Some people are there for the first time, some have been there 7 times, but there’s also established really good acts who just live in Philly and go down there. You see a lot of funny new people which is exciting.
See Todd Glass (with Chip Chantry) this Wednesday (11/27), Friday (11/29), and Saturday (11/30) at Helium Comedy Club (2031 Sansom St., Philadelphia, PA 19103) .
Excited? Here’s what I would be excited about.
1. I’d be excited if I was working with a headliner that does NOT belittle me in front of the staff, customers, and management on a nightly basis.
2. I’d be excited if I was working with a headliner who does not insist on having the venue pay HIM my check for the week, and who then takes a 40% “mentoring fee”.
3. I’d be excited to work with a headliner who doesn’t throw glasses of whiskey at me when I forget to get extra pickles with the panini that he likes from the deli all the way across town at midnight. And who screams at me about how he’s friends with Jim Gaffigan, and how “friends with Jim Gaffigan get extra pickles, Goddammit!” And then he burns me with a cigarette and screams outdated racial slurs that don’t even apply to me.
4. And I’d be excited to work with a headliner who doesn’t force me to do wind sprints in front of the club right before I go onstage, so I’m all out of breath for the first minute of the four minutes he lets me do. And most of those four minutes are announcements he makes me read about how great Todd Glass is, and how Todd Glass is best friends with Jim Gaffigan, and how Todd Glass is so much funnier than I am, and how I should just quit comedy altogether and get a job cleaning up monkey shit at a monkey zoo. THAT’S NOT EVEN A REAL ANNOUNCEMENT, DAVE! AND I DON’T THINK THERE IS ACTUALLY A THING CALLED A MONKEY ZOO! IT’S JUST A ZOO!
I’m dreading this week.
Dave Metter is a Philly comedian, check him out on Twitter @DaveMetter, and check out his fake local news show Your News, Philadelphia December 5th and 6th at the Shubin Theatre.