Just For Laughs: talking comedy with Todd Glass
Todd Glass made his Just For Laughs debut in 1992, during the festival’s 10th anniversary edition, as a “mobile comedian”.
Glass had a makeshift comedy club that he operated out of the back of a Jeep pickup truck, complete with a fold out comedy club brick wall backdrop. During his stint in Montreal that year, Glass would take his mobile comedy club around the city (I had the chance to see him perform outside the Rialto Theatre with his mobile comedy get up) and would do his comedy act to whoever gathered around his truck/club.
“I started doing the mobile comedian bit half as a joke. My truck had a fold-down brick wall, a stage, speakers, a spotlight and a generator mounted on the front of the truck to power up the P.A. system. As well, I had a cordless microphone so I could work around the audience,” said Glass during an interview with him in the quiet, deserted lobby of the Hyatt Hotel. “Bruce Hills saw me do the act in Irvine, California and wanted me to bring it to Montreal, and made it very easy for me to bring the act to Just For Laughs. I just set myself up all over the city and I was having a great time. Fortunately, these days I am no longer performing from the back of a Jeep pick-up truck.”
The Philadelphia native, who launched his career as a comedian 36 years ago when he was only 18, has toured with the likes of Sarah Silverman, Jim Gaffigan and David Cross and has done several stand-up specials on cable (including his most recent special “Act Happy”, which aired on Netflix). This time, the back of a pick-up truck is not his stage, but instead it’s the MainLine Theatre on St. Laurent Boulevard, where he is performing his solo stand-up show throughout this week.
Glass is a very serious student of comedy and what makes people laugh, and is quite passionate when he talks about his craft (which was quite evident during our conversation). “When I say what’s on my mind, people think it has to be deep, and it can be. But what’s great about comedy is that you hear people talking about their depression, alcoholism or just about everything,” he said. “However, some people are just sillier when they are onstage. I like to learn by watching other comedians like Rory Scovell as he gets his silly juices going. What makes you laugh, what makes you giggle and bringing that onto the stage is what stand-up comedy is all about.”
“And loving stand-up certainly helps. I genuinely love it now as much as I did when I started in the business 36 years ago,” he added.
Glass is a firm believer that anyone who asserts that comedy these days is not what it used to be 20 or 30 years ago is quite wrong. “If you think comedy is not what it’s used to be, then I think you are through being as great as you can possibly be as a comedian because you’re wrong. Here’s a fact: comedy is getting better and better,” he said. “It’s like a litmus test on absurdity.”
“When I was 17, I got tired of hearing guys like (veteran comedian and TV host) Steve Allen talk about nothing but how comedy was over, and it really bothered me. I felt like telling him to just shut up. On the other hand, I heard legendary comedians like Alan King and Don Rickles say in interviews that there has always been good and bad comedy, and it will be that way until time dies. And I always wanted to thank them for saying that,” he added.
A major attribute to Glass’ longevity in the comedy world is his open mindedness to subsequent generations of younger comics, and how he can be a role model to them, and in turn be inspired by them.
“My genuine belief that comedy is still great helps me to at least stay on my game and admire new generations of comedians. It’s comedians like Chelsea Peretti and Rory Scovell who really motivate me to tap into a sillier part of me. There are times when I am in a room and when I see a comedian I like, I will turn to my friend who is with me at the time and tell them ‘Watch this guy! Watch this girl! They’re really funny. Watch them!’,” he said.“You really have to be immersed and be out there checking out what’s going on in the comedy world. When I get into a town the night before a gig, I find out if there is an open mic night around taking place. I want to hang out and talk with other comedians because where else am I going to have a better time than in a comedy club?”
As well as his week-long solo gig at the MainLine, Glass will also do a live taping of his podcast “The Todd Glass Show” on July 27 at the Hyatt Hotel. Rated as the #1 podcast by the Podcasters Association of America since it went on the air in 2011, he asserts that a lot of what goes on during his podcast filters into his stand-up act.
“I am going to have Gary Gulman as my guest, as well as a live band that will play some slinky music as the people are walking in,” he said. “We will take the room that we will be doing the podcast in and darken it up, and get it as funky and cozy as we can. We’re going to have a good time with all the bells and whistles involved. It will basically give me the chance for some good talking and spend an hour being silly with another comedian.”
For more information – or to purchase tickets – to the Todd Glass show or any other Just For Laughs show, go to www.hahaha.com.