By Ben Kharakh
Todd Glass’s silly side has been on display on Comedy Central, Jimmy Kimmel, and Last Comic Standing, but when he wants to get serious he vents on his podcast Comedy and Everything Else. When Todd gets on mic with his co-hosts Jimmy Dore and Stefane Zamorano, he proves that his knack for explicating the absurd also makes him excellent at picking out and explaining what’s ridiculous about our modern world.
It’s a skill that will be on display at New York City’s Comix when Todd makes his first NYC appearance in nearly six years on Sept. 26 and 27.
You, Jimmy, and Stefane talk about and find the humor in a lot of stuff on the podcast, but is there anything you think that can’t be funny?
There’s humor in everything. The only people who think there’s not humor in everything are people who are lying in a public forum. You don’t want to be too extreme though. If you’re dad dies, for example, and all you do is laugh and make jokes, that’s probably not healthy. But if all you do is cry, that’s also not healthy. It’s better to have a mix. To feel sadness, but also try to find the humor in it. You might wonder what humor there is in it, but, believe me, when my dad died it was very sad. My stomach hurt so bad I threw up, but my brother and I also made jokes that were funny. I can’t remember them right now though. I think we may have done an impersonation of my aunts coming over and fighting over his clothes, for example.
Or, what about 9/11? Is that out of the question?
No, but it depends what you’re making fun of. No one makes fun of the people who died. There’s nothing funny about that. The jokes are about how 9/11 was dealt with or how someone who didn’t know anyone there might act like a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend was a close acquaintance just so they can be depressed and become the center of attention. I can’t imagine a comedian going onstage and saying, “Hey, how about these people who died in 9/11 and now there’s someone without a father! Isn’t it funny that someone lost their husband or wife?!”
In Team America there was a song about AIDS. I once heard someone say, “Team America? Didn’t they make fun of AIDS?” Well, no, they made fun of people’s portrayal of AIDS. No one’s making fun of people dieing due to a disease, but instead poking fun at how it’s portrayed in the media.
So what’s the key to pulling something like that off?
As long as it’s funnier than it is twisted, preachy, or demented, it’s alright. With the good comics, it is funnier than it is whatever else. I wouldn’t like them if they were just the other way. I think you owe it to an audience to do just what you would do in social circumstances. I wouldn’t make a joke if I just met some people about AIDS. They don’t know what’s really in my heart. I don’t know if every comedian I like follows that formula, I imagine they don’t.
AIDS might just be too strong of a topic even as an example, though. But the reason you might feel more comfortable with friends making a joke about something like that is because they know how you really feel. I can make jokes about my brother, for example, that you can’t make because he knows that I love him. If I just met someone at a party and they told me their dad died, I wouldn’t say a month later to them, “Hey, is your dad still dead?” But my friend said that to me once and I spit my drink out. My friend knows how I really feel and it was really funny, so I was able to laugh at that joke, and it’s hilarious!
If I make a twisted joke, I make sure to put a joke before hand that illustrates my real belief because it shows them where it’s coming from. Sometimes comedians don’t do that and they say, “It’s just a joke!” but how is the audience to know that? It could be your persona, though. Really, it’s different for everybody. One of my favorite comics is Sarah Silverman and some people know that what she does is like a character, so they either get it or they don’t. I don’t think you could really make fun of racial stereotypes, though, unless you get how gross and wrong they are. I don’t know if I’m saying that right.
No, you are. What’s funny about it is how gross and disgusting it is, especially how gross and disgusting it is if someone actually agreed with it and laughed with the person as opposed to at them.
Exactly, and to tell that joke you have to get how gross and disgusting it is and, indirectly, you are saying how gross and disgusting it is. I like to bring the audience along with me when I tell a joke that reveals my actual stance on things. I have a joke, for example, about how I told someone I was going to San Francisco and the guy tells me, “Don’t drop your keys!” And I go, “Really? Now I have to talk nicely and respectfully to this dumb guy when what I really want to say is `plefffffft’.” And then I go on to say, “Yeah, that’s what people do in San Francisco. They stand on the side of the road, wait until you drop your keys, and then they fuck you. Because they don’t have families, they don’t have lives, and they don’t have jobs.” Later in my act I make a more twisted joke because they know where I’m coming from.
It’s great how well you’re able to convey what’s absurd about a certain stance that someone may have on an issue. It’s also a good way to get someone to see how ridiculous something actually is.
Sometimes it’s the only way. Shows like The Daily Show and Real Time with Bill Maher are programs that can actually change people’s opinions. A 13 year old who watches Jon Stewart can actually end up thinking about and changing what they think is right or wrong. Those shows will change the opinions of America’s youth much more than Meet the Press.
I’ve always said that I’d love to do a show that does for social issues what Jon Stewart does for political issues. Social issues tend to charge me up more. I talk about them on the podcast. I’m obsessed with the way people raise children. When people defend hitting their kids, I think, “Am I wrong?” but then I realize, “No, I’m right and time will tell.” Sometimes people say, “Well, you think you’re right, I think I’m right, so I guess we’ll never know.” Nope! We will. Mark my words, in this lifetime everything I’m saying in this podcast will come to be seen as right.
Jimmy Carter used to say that we ought to start using solar power, and back then it was just his opinion. But what is it now? Fact. Thirty years ago a lot of people thought that a white and a black person shouldn’t marry. Plenty of people still think that, but they look a lot dumber now. I always think that I don’t want to look dumb when I’m telling my grandchildren my stance on issues. I want to be the grandparent that says, “We knew it was wrong,” as opposed to someone saying, “That’s just how it was back then.” What’s going on now that’s just gross and wrong? And time will be able to tell.
Have you been incorporating such commentary into your stand-up?
Well, on the podcast I talk about how I don’t think hitting your children is correct. I wouldn’t use spanking as a form of punishment. I do a joke about how when I say that people tell me, “Well, you can’t say that because you don’t have kids.” And I say, “If I told you I wasn’t going to hit my girlfriend or my wife, would you go, ‘You can’t say that, wait till you have a girlfriend.’” It makes people laugh, but it can also make people say, “Yeah, he’s right.” So, it’s creeping in.
When you’re growing as a comic, you may sometimes wonder, “Am I serious comic or a silly comic?” After George Carlin died, I watched a lot of his HBO specials again and I realized you don’t have to be one or the other. George Carlin would talk about political issues, social issues, or sometimes just be silly about the monotony of everyday life. I was happy to see that. One thing I hope is that if I talk about a social issue onstage is that it’s always funny.
Sometime people feel that being a political comic can be an excuse to not be funny, but with the best ones you don’t realize they’re being political. You can watch someone talk about something heavy and if they’re good enough you’ll never go, “Enough already!” Anyone can give an opinion and make it sort of funny. My uncle can give his opinion and flavor it with some humor. But when you give an opinion and leave people in hysterics, that’s magical.
Sounds like what you had in mind for Todd Glass Saves America, where you would expose societal ills through humor.
Definitely. The way I got my last pilot, Todd’s Coma, is that I filmed my own version of it very cheaply and then like seven years later I sold it to Happy Madison. So, at this point, I feel like if I don’t get a full-blown pilot out of it that I’m about a month away from just doing my own $10,000 pilot. Just shooting the concept of it. There’s some great things online, for example, that are great because people work with no boundaries.
Now, you may think I’m going to say you end up with 100 percent brilliance, but you don’t. You end up with a lot of awful crap, but you also end up with a lot of really great things. That’s the advantage of letting things breathe. Again, if you let some things breathe, they can get worse, but the flipside is the brilliance that can come out of it.
The problem is that sometimes when people give you a budget, they start to micromanage it and it gets ruined, but if someone came up to me and said, “Here’s a hundred thousand dollars, go make a show,” I imagine I could be do it and it’d be great. In fact, here’s an idea for a show.
Picture this. Cold opening, voice over: “For years the talents would tell the network, ‘If only they’d let us breath’ and the networks would say, ‘If only the talents would listen to what we have to say,’ Who’s right? Who’s wrong? When a sitcom fails, whose fault is it? We’ll never know…or maybe we will. On this show, we take old sitcoms, re-do them, but this time we let them breathe. Do we have a hit on our hands? If at the end of eight years we’ve made fifteen, how many would have worked and how many wouldn’t? Will we one day make a science out of what has up till now only been everybody’s opinion.”
So we take a show like Titus or Todd’s Coma and we let it breathe. I think if a show like that were on the air for ten years we’d have more hits than failures. I can just see that cold opening in my head, “For years….Will we ever know?…. Will we have just the talent saying, ‘If only?’ and the suits saying, ‘If only?’….Will we ever make a science out of it? Maybe we will on ‘You Think You’re So Fucking Smart.’”