Todd Glass started comedy at age 16. He has performed stand-up on The Daily Show, Jimmy Kimmel, and Conan O’Brian. You can see his recent special “Act Happy” on Netflix.
Listen to Episode #81 here:
Cheap Transformations with Todd Glass
Our guest is Todd Glass. Todd started comedy at age sixteen in Philadelphia and he has appeared on The Daily Show, Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O’Brien. You can see his special, Act Happy, on Netflix. Welcome, Todd. I know this is going to be a good conversation. I can tell because we’ve been having a great conversation as I’ve been setting up.
I thought about that. I thought, “Why don’t you just shut up, Todd.” This is my favorite thing to do, full disclosure. Next to doing comedy, I love talking about comedy.
I’m taking that off the list of answers for my first question, which is if you weren’t working as a comedian or talking about comedy, what would you be doing?
I thought I was going to do landscaping when I was younger. I know what I like about it. You can transform a lot in a very small amount of time. It’s fun. I don’t have a lot of patience. You can only build so quickly. As a matter of fact, if you build too quickly, it’s probably not a good sign. With landscaping, with the right equipment you can transform a home in a day depending on what you’re doing and do major amounts of work. When I was younger, I liked that I would see a home get landscaped and in a couple of days I’d be like, “What the fuck?” I was a little kid. The truth is I don’t like doing labor. In my head, here’s what I thought when I was approaching, “What am I going to do for a living?” I was getting ready to graduate from high school. I’d started stand-up at that point. Before that at fifteen, “What am I going to do?” I thought maybe I could be a landscaper. I thought, “Todd, you don’t like doing the work part.”
I would see the guy who was probably 50 who own the company. He’s got so many people working for him. He shows up. He’s like, “Put that there, we’re losing light.” He hoses the sidewalk off. He’s got three guys making sure the hose doesn’t get tangled. That was a real guy by the way. I thought, “I don’t need to make that much money in the beginning because I live at home with my parents. I’ll hire two people to work with me and maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll breakeven, but I’ll establish my business.” That was my plan. I don’t like the heat either, so I thank God for stand-up.
We’re at your very lovely house, which is nicely manicured in the front. You must pay people to do that.
It’s pretty reasonable in LA because labor can be so cheap. I get my hands a little dirty.
You actually made a comment about how you’re going to have the AC on when I got here. It would be nice and cool. Both you and I run hot. I actually had a landscaping business when I was a teen in South Jersey. I agree with you about the transformation of a yard. To makeover a home quickly, you landscape it and paint it. To makeover a person quickly, you give them a haircut. Give them some new clothes. That’s the house version of a makeover.
I always feel like the way I want to say it is, and I know people say, “Landscaping makes the home look better,” but it can do so much more than that. If you have tons of money, you can do tons of things, but sometimes relatively reasonable. When I see someone what they spend on their home and I go, “I couldn’t find something in that home that would have freed up money to do more landscaping and done a lot more.” That’s why I wanted to do a thing called Flip This House when all I did was paint them and redo the landscaping and then let someone else have the vision, but a home that they wouldn’t even give a shot at. I’ll just come in there a couple of days, paint a little landscaping and then flip it. That’s all I do.
I did a lot of shitty menial jobs when I was a teen. The one thing that was nice about the landscaping job was it was my job. It was just me. I had a wheelbarrow and I would put the lawnmower in the wheelbarrow with a rake and a weed whacker. I’d push it around the neighborhood and do this on my own. The nice thing is when you finish a yard, both you and the owner felt good. There are not a lot of jobs that both people feel equally good about.
It’s like therapy for certain people when you do a job like that because they had it on their mind. They can’t even imagine doing it. You come in, all of a sudden the lawn is cut, it’s weeded.
Who doesn’t love giving a sixteen-year-old $20 to do something?
You were super young. By the way, there’s a place called First Image up the street. I’ll give them a shout-out because I saw they did exactly what we’re talking about to a house up the street.
You’re not a landscaper. Congratulations. I came across your work when I was working on The Humor Code. One of the things I like about you is you have strong opinions. You have very strong opinions about comedy clubs. When I was unpacking, you were talking about bad comedy clubs in Philadelphia and why Philly was a bit of a desert for good comedy for a long time.
Now, they have a great comedy called Helium. For a long time, they didn’t. There was the Comedy Works in the ‘80s, and that was great. What I mean by great is that there was Comedy Works and they brought in guys at the beginning of their careers, Richard Lewis, Paul Reiser, young Eddie Murphy, Jerry Seinfeld, Garry Shandling, Chris Rock. It had a broad-tasting comedy. Even back then, he represented as many types of comedians you could. If there were funny women, they worked there. It didn’t have anything for a while. People always say, “Comedy’s over.” It’s not over but you have to keep carrying. You have to know what you’re doing. A guy came to me and he said, “Do you worry about opening up a club in Philly? Why has no one done it?” I said, “Let me tell you something. Don’t go to the five people or six people that have tried it in the last few years because I have a common thread of everything that they all do. Nothing that has anything to do with why their business failed will have anything to do with them. Does that say everything, Mark?” He opened up in Philadelphia and did it right and it’s doing very well. It really bummed me out when they didn’t have a top-notch club in Philly, but now they do.
Philly deserves one. Philly is on the cusp of being an elite city.
Let me say this without insulting anybody because I am obsessed with the perfect club. I always ask myself, “Why am I telling you this? Why am I talking to you about this?” I’ve talked about it before and I could talk about it more.
I know you’re a blue curtain tirade.
If you’re interested, I love to talk about it but I’ll preface why. I do hope that somebody hears it and listens. I always have a new angle on it. I’m not going to name clubs. I have raved about a lot of clubs. A friend of mine said this to me a long time ago and I’m glad he said it. Otherwise, I’d look like I was going crazy like, “Now you’re going to pick on the good clubs?” Even some of the good ones suck. They build comedy clubs and I can’t figure it out that it could look like a hip jazz club. It doesn’t cost more to just get different materials and different backdrops.
Let’s step back because you’re already a mile ahead already than my audience. Let me tee this up. Comedy is a special art form, in the same way that opera is a special art form. Opera works best in a particular venue and comedy works best in a particular venue. Opera is about sound and comedy is about laughs. There’s some good behavioral science to support these ideas but people talk about there are some very basics that should happen for a comedy club. We were talking about this earlier, cold is better than warm.
We know that the reason that some clubs are hot is not that they don’t know the cold would be better. It’s been proven that people buy more drinks. When it gets too hot in the club, they don’t buy expensive drinks. They already feel gross and sticky, they don’t want to drink with sugar. I don’t think they do it, as we said before because they don’t know that. I think a lot of times fixing the air conditioning is very expensive and they don’t think it’s worth it, but they’re very wrong.
Cold for comedy. The next thing is darkness for comedy. You want a sense of anonymity. It’s easy to laugh when you’re cloaked in darkness, especially in a world where people are telling jokes that might be off-color or is gay and so on.
I’ve learned that no one’s going to take this to heart unless you stop and preface it. Let’s say someone that owns a club is reading this. By the way, there are very good clubs, so those people, if they were reading, would probably go, “We do pretty much everything he’s talking about.” There are some that could present comedy so wrong. They think bright means the sun is out and every window is open, although it’s been done that way. Sometimes there are too many neon things around the room. Enough for those staff to see, you put rope lighting in but it has to sometimes be even like a door to a bar. I hear people that hear me talk about it and they will come see my place and I feel bad. Quite the contrary, do I want to go on and pick? I want to go on and fall in love. When I see it done right, I get excited. The things that I’m mentioning are just iron clad wrong. They have a bar, maybe even put a curtain in it. The people were sitting back there, the noise in the curtain when it opens and it shuts. You wouldn’t go to a movie if that happened. If you went to a movie, and I won’t exaggerate because it’s the same. If you own a club and you are listening to the words that come out of my mouth, you have to tell me my analogies in bed or you have to fix what you do. Make it like a movie theater.
Even the worst movie theater in the world where they need new carpeting and maybe this, they know double doors and dark. Twelve times during the movie, a side door open and an outdoor light came in. Once you’d be like, “What the fuck was that?” Twice, you’d be like, “Yeah.” Third, you’d walk out and go, “What’s going on?” Three door openings realistically, and you know that’s true. It’s the same at a club. It’s like you can’t have it. You’ve got to get people into a room. By the way, the clubs that do that, it doesn’t have to be a multimillion-dollar club. Some are big expensive clubs and done right. Sometimes it could be The Comedy Attic in Bloomington, Indiana. It’s dark and they don’t want to hear the noise. They don’t want to hear a bar. They have that right. They’re paying to see comedy, cut them off from the outside world. If you can’t do that, then you don’t know how to present comedy. Stop it already.What makes a bad comedian is the same thing that makes a bad club owner. You have all this potential but don't have the ability to grow. Click To Tweet
I had to be honest, I know the theory and you’ve been in hundreds of clubs and hundreds of venues, good, bad and ugly. We’ll get to the rest of the list of these things. It’s like I have a list. They’re right down there in my head. You’re a professional. How do you not lose your mind when that door is opening and closing while you’re doing your set?
Luckily, I’m at the point where most of the clubs that I work are good. I’m moving on. What I do is if either I’m touring with someone big and opening up in theaters for them, which makes it mean that I only need to work about 30% of the year, I do that opening up. I’m able to pick the clubs I like. I’ll lose people even when what they say a good club, a club that’s good but they still have that, “I wish they’d fix it.” I try to be nice.
Will you stay away from these? Are there places that you go, “I’m not going to do it?”
If it’s really bad. I’ll give you an example. I won’t name a club. There’s noise that comes in from the kitchen and from the bar. I was like, “You’ve got to put a speaker up over that door.” First of all, they’re trying to be quiet back there, but it’s not their fault. The best of the best when you’re building your club, you make mistakes. When you see two, three, four clubs all making the same mistake, you go, “You’re not figuring it out.” In the beginning, yes, of course, good, great clubs make mistakes. It’s not their fault that the bar is so close to the showroom, the staff, they’re trying to hustle drinks. I said, “Put a speaker over the door,” and they did.
Is the speaker pointed towards the crowd?
Yes. It’s so loud that it helps. They still have to try to be quiet back there. A speaker right over the door that opens and close help muffle the noise coming out of the bar. You just ask for that. Sometimes if I’m in a club and there’s light coming to the kitchen area. There’s a long hallway at one club and then down the long hallway is a kitchen area. The good clubs let me do it and for lack of a better way of saying, “God bless them,” but I go and unscrew the lighting. At least when the door opens, light isn’t pouring. I change and manipulate as much as I can and try to make it great.
I like the fact that you actually step in and try to do some things. The next thing which you probably can’t fix, which is you want a low ceiling. Comics love a low ceiling, get those laughs bouncing down on the audience and spreading throughout the room.
There must be some people that disagree with us. I want to be very fair here. If you’re doing a one night and you’re going to an existing room and everything else is right about it but you’re like, “I wish it had low ceilings.” We’re talking about when you build from the ground up or when you’re looking for a venue. They don’t have to be pretty low. Some clubs get it. If they’re really high, they can bring them down in other ways through things you hang from the ceiling. Sometimes I’ll look in a club and there’s one in Philly, not the Helium but the other one. I’m past the point of just wanting to complain. I know a lot. I’m not going to be sarcastic. Maybe I’m completely wrong.
When you build a cavernous club, there’s one called Laugh Out Loud in Austin. The ceilings are so high, it’s a cavernous room. It could hold 400. They are not prepared if there’s 100 to make it look quaint. I want to ask them. I want to go, “Help me understand it. Part of what I’ll do for you is even if it comes out of your mouth, I don’t agree. I will shut up and listen because I’m not going to get the truth out of you.” Here are the two questions. I fantasize going to the person. One, “Do you think the low ceiling thing is it can’t be that way but it can be high? Help me out here.” I don’t know what they would say. It’s not an opinion. There are certain facts.
The science backs all of these things up. You can pull from different areas of psychological research or ecology and so on around this. The last one I think is an interesting one. That is the color red. There’s a belief. The effects I think from a scientific standpoint are probably rather small, but the idea that there’s something special about the color red versus other colors. The Improv in New York, the first comedy club in the United States has this red brick background. Do you know the story behind the red brick background?
I don’t. I know why the brickworks. What is the story?
It’s a fascinating story. The place was a Vietnamese restaurant that he converted into a club. They’d pulled the paneling off the wall. I think it was old wood paneling. Maybe it was drywall, I can’t remember, and exposed this red brick. He didn’t have the money to put anything over it, so he just left it.
He lucked out because it’s not only brick, but it was brickworks because I’ve always said it’s warm and it’s cold and it’s everything. It’s not assuming. There are other things you could do. I don’t want anything drawn behind me. That’s another thing for some that put things behind the comedian. I’m not saying it looks horrible. Some of them I like better than others.
What would be behind you besides the name of the club?
I know Comedy Works in downtown Denver. I had Wende Curtis on. We actually did the interview on her stage. It has the Comedy Works logo behind you with a brick wall.
Hers is perfect and it looks nice and it’s industrial, which I think is cool. Comedy Works does it right. I don’t like murals. Here’s the thing, I’m going to say this. There are going to be some clubs that I have great affection for that do the mural. I grow as a comedian. You can grow as a club. It still means your club is great but the next time around, don’t just do it. What makes a bad comedian is the same thing that makes a bad club owner. You have all this potential and then you don’t have the ability to grow. That’s what happens with a lot of comedians. I’ve been through phases.
You have a mural behind you like Charlie Chaplin, a bridge or whatever. A lot of places do it. A lot of places are really good clubs. On that one, “Todd, does everything have to be the way you want it?” No, we’re not talking about saying I would use the lighter green in the green room. “Come on, Todd, you’ve got to give a club credit.” These are tangible things that can be fixed. If a mural behind the comedian makes sense, picture it this way. There’s a club and they have a brick. I saw a club that had corrugated metal, clean, simple and then they had a gobo and it shines an image of light that says the name of the club, corrugated metal, real classy up on the corner. There are other things you can do. It’s like the Acme Comedy Club. When I see a curtain, I don’t mean a curtain-like at a house, like a heavy, theater curtain. At the end of the day, when it’s dark in a room, all they see is what’s behind the comedians. It has to be clean and vibrant and brilliant.
When they have a mural, I always fantasize. If you went into a club and there was nothing behind the comedian, a brick wall or just a thick theater curtain, in your head you’re thinking, “I know this isn’t going to make it a lot better and it won’t be too distracting at all. What about like a drawling?” Why? There’s one thing for them to look at. You don’t need anything else. If I’m wrong, help me understand. I can get a little sarcastic. You are doing it because you think it makes the stage better. I’m going into that thinking that’s what you’re doing. If you were going, of course I want to make this stage, I want to have it. I present comedy, I want to do it well. Either I’m right and you have to go tilt your head a little and go, “We’re going to redo our club, we’re going to change it.” You don’t need fucking shit drawn behind the comedians. By the way, it also looks good in perspective at the club sometimes because you see what’s on either side of it and you see it’s a beautiful club. When you videotape there, it looks like you’re in a shit hole.
We’ve got darkness, this low ceiling, cold, clean background. Is there anything about that level of importance that you would add to the list?
Yeah. Whenever there’s a great club, sometimes you can simplify it. There’s a club called The Comedy Attic in Bloomington, Indiana. They have one of the best audiences on the planet. My brother goes, “Why?” because it’s not a fancy club. I said, “You need some standards.” It has a nice sound system there. It’s not expensive but it’s clean. You can hear yourself, there’s a monitor. The lighting is simple, but it gets it. It’s a compliment, like a shabby chic type. I’m not saying if you do the thing I’m about to tell you right now, that you don’t need a few others but this is the icing on the cake and so ignored.
They always make those announcements. A comedian friend of mine said, “Don’t heckle,” which they should, “Don’t heckle. Don’t yell out.” That’s not really the death of a comedy show. It’s talking at the tables. People get irate. They say, “We were just laughing.” It’s been going on forever, but it’s not a sign of phones. It’s nothing to do with now. Now, since the comedy started, people talking, they always go, “He’s just laughing at the joke.” He goes, “What makes that club so good?” I’m going to be very specific about it. “What makes John Mulaney pass the point when he goes clubs go there? What makes Patton Oswalt go to the comedy?” If ten is the strictest, you can be with table conversation, every club is going to be a five at least. If it’s too loud, they will go over. Six is a little stricter. He’s a ten. This is art. I can’t do comedy, but to me what he’s saying is, “I’m presenting it right and I did zero fucking talking.” Because of it, the crowds are just the best and anybody can do that. That’s what boggles my mind. If they see that you could do it at your club, that’s where I get lost. You hear stories about his club.
They’re afraid of disappointing the customers, but they don’t realize it’s the one in ten that’s poisoning the room.
At the back area, one person is talking. I always tell doormen when I’m in a club, I’m very friendly with them. I know most of the doormen. I’d say, “One doorman can deal with usually heckling, unless the club is a shit hole. One doorman can deal with the heckling in a room that holds 400.” You have one heckler. Table talk, you have to roam. A good club has a doorman. If they only have two, you have to roam because there could be someone talking all the way in the back that’s only affecting twelve, thirteen, twenty people but that’s not good. You just got to have a zero-tolerance for that. You develop these wonderful audiences. Let me tell you this. Louis Lee owns Acme in Minneapolis. Louis had told me. I hope that people hear this. I always do. I hope I say it in a way that makes somebody go, “He’s right. Let me make it better. I want it to be great.” He said, “People know not to heckle. No one wants confrontation.”Be very careful if you're having childlike reactions to common sense requests. Click To Tweet
I’ve talked to comedians about this. Heckling is not a problem. Comedians can handle a heckler.
If someone’s bad, you want someone there. I’m not trying to act because I don’t like heckling at all, but I’m saying it’s not the problem. He said if someone’s heckling, they know what’s wrong. If you go over and you tell them, they might be a little indignant. When you have to tell them to shush, I know I’ve been in the business for a long time. When he told me this, I go, “I know they act as if there was a videotape of just their reaction.” Someone said, “How was this customer told to be quiet?” You’d have to go a new staff like, “Shut the fuck up or shut your fucking,” rolling in its entirety. They act and their heads turn. I see the doorman walked back to where he’s standing. They can’t believe that someone politely told them to shush. I never wanted to deal with it.
I also had a mortgage to pay. If they’re not heckling and they’re talking on a scale from one to ten, I’ll put everything in numbers to be very clear because I think it explains everything. At ten, yes. He knows we’d have to get him out of there even if it was talking. If it was a four or a five, maybe they’ll stop. The first time he went over and he had to throw a table of four out, as he went back to the table because a girl forgot her purse. Three times on the way out, people at other tables looked at him, “Thank you,” thumbs up. He goes, “I’m so worried.” If you don’t have the money and you opened up a comedy club, I think it’s what happened. If you’re running out of money, you’ve got to keep the doors open. You start going, “I’m going not to mind that.” Who wouldn’t want to present comedy like The Comedy Attic in Bloomington or Helium’s at their best or DC Improv? Who wouldn’t want to present it like that?
There’s nothing special about Bloomington per se. It’s the way the club’s being run.
If you’re out there reading, “I want to open up a good club.” It takes a little longer because by masses you’re asking for a percentage of society that values comedy. They don’t come and think it’s a shit festival. Maybe you need the money to stay open and not mind if it’s half of a house. You’ll go slow and do it. Maybe when they’re running out of money, they’ll go, “We’ll let people talk. We’ll advertise birthdays.” I see how it happens. Don’t tell me every city on the planet, you’re not looking for 10,000 people, five shows a week. You’re not looking for 1,000 people to do five shows a week. I know it’s not as easy as it sounds, but you’re looking for maybe 250 people to have six shows a week. If you wait it out and do it right, you’ll get the best of the best.
I love this idea because I’m working on this new project where I talk about why you want to fire customers at times. This idea of firing customers and how it’s good for your employees and it’s how it’s good for your other customers and being aware of that. This is a nice example of that. Going back, darkness, ceiling, cold, clean background, I need you to rank them, so you can’t have them all. You need to rank them.
Why can’t I have them all? That’s like a clean operating room. What makes an operating room important? They list six things. The surgeon goes, “You can’t have them all of the surgeons.” He goes, “I’m not fucking operating here. That’s not like a fucking best stuff here. I need these ten things that make an operating room at its best. If I have eight of them, what about nine? If I have nine out of ten, what do you think we’re doing? What the fuck is this? Why get all of them?” I know what you’re saying.
Which one do you care most about? If you had to choose, it’s like Sophie’s Choice for the four things.
The darkness, number one.
What’s number two?
Because you can hide.
Ceiling, cold, clean background or the next.
If I had to have two, darkness and cold. Do you know what I take it over? I have to say cold more than anything. For me, it’s more than even the audience. My mind is made.
It’s cold, darkness, ceiling, clean background. That’s what it sounds like.
Hopefully all. By the way, I always like to end by being positive. Even if the majority of clubs don’t do this, there are some that do. The more you do right, the more you’re open. Clubs are open for many years. If you’re looking at it from a two-year, I get it. If you go many years, these are some things, “I’m done.”
My last question about this, have you thought about opening a club? Rodney Dangerfield opened up a club. It does happen.
I thought about it, but here’s the problem. I’m not delusional when it comes to the other side of it. It sounds like I’m hard on club owners. I’m not, I have great affection for a lot of good club owners. On the other side of it are comedians. I probably have some dear friends that maybe are not old school trash, the green room like, “They just ripped the lighting off.” I don’t want to know about them. I don’t want to get a call because even though I’m a silent owner, “Todd, I hate to tell you this but blah, blah, blah was here. They said they’d pay for it.” I’d be like, “I do everything perfect, that fuck.” What I would like to do is maybe open up a club with someone else and I go in and I’ll make it a signature Todd Glass club. He can sell it that way to comedians. It’s Todd Glass’s signature club. I do it, I open it up to prove a point, how it would run everything, how it would run, what would happen, see if it does well, then I stand back. Whatever you do with it, you can do with it. I’m done. Give me 10%, the rest of its life. I don’t want to call, I don’t want of any, just the silence.
I’m going to look for a third story here. The landscaping is about transformation. For lack of a better word, your rant about comedy clubs is about transformation. Is this a thing for you? Do you do this with cars? Do you do this with meals? Are you constantly looking for ways to make improvements?
It’s funny you say that because overwhelmingly, a lot of people might be. It’s funny when you put it together that way, I’m obsessed with it. Sometimes like a quick transformation, like easy fixes. I was trying to sell a show to HGTV once called Low Amounts of Money, Big Fucking Change or something like that. It’s not like, “We spent $100.” “What are you going to do if someone’s got $100?” You’d be like, “Watch.” I do like to transform things. Even if it’s a club, sometimes I’ll go to a club and I love to look at it when it’s done.
There was a club in Philadelphia, it’s still there. I would go there in the summer, it’s in the suburbs and they let me do whatever I wanted. You’ll think what you can do in two hours, two-and-a-half hours before the doors open? A lot of times it was black tablecloths. They had them there. I said, “You get them. I’ll pay for them.” He goes, “No, we’ll get them.” Black tablecloths and candles. They don’t normally have candles, no problem. There are fake brick walls all around the club, but they look good. They have free soda. I go, “If you think I’m crazy, it’s fine, but you’re asking me to come back. You’ve got to take those down.” He goes, “We took them down Thursday last week.” I have a three-piece band playing jazz as they’re coming in. The steps up to the place, it’s all white.
They’re walking into the place, it’s above a restaurant. They don’t want me to turn the lights out because people trip. I’m not kidding. I bought twenty flashlights off of Amazon, $9 flat with batteries, taped one on every single stair, turn the lights out. Now you walk up dark stairs, saw all these pictures of comedians over the last 30 years. Turn the corner, every light that existed was only four overhead, I gelled blue. You’re in a deep blue room with a three-piece band playing jazz as you’re coming in, black tablecloth everywhere. It’s still pretty much a shabby room, the carpeting’s old. The waitress came in and I’ll never forget it. She goes, “This is not just a little bit better. This is fucking night and day. Now this place is a find in two and a half hours.” Not like, “It looks a little better. I see that.” Now I’m proud to work here. If someone came up the stairs and came, they’d be like, “This is where he works.” I think I enjoy that transformation to a certain point.
That might be the most interesting part of the stories you’ve been telling me.
With food, I’m constantly looking like, “If I take that food, I take a doughnut and put ice cream on it.” It fixes. I don’t like to cook, but I doctor. I like to fix up what’s already there.
I’m always working on the title of the show while I’m on the episode while I’m talking to my guest. I wrote down, “Transformations with Todd Glass,” but I think I might change it into, “Cheap Transformations.”Comedy is more brilliant if a comedian knows how to ignore the pulse of certain audiences. Click To Tweet
A lot of people don’t have money and you think, “What can you do?” I’m always thinking that way. Even when I’m doing some Instagram food, I always think like I’m not loaded but I’m more comfortable than I was when I was 21. I’m always thinking like, “What can I make that tastes amazing?” I can go, “That’s $5 we just made.”
Last thing about this comedy club thing and the environment stuff because I like it. We talked about it in The Humor Code. It’s coming up again in my new project. Talking on my show helps, talking on Rogan about it helps. It seems like when you go to a club, you listen and then you’re willing to give friendly advice and even go beyond friendly advice. You’re willing to say, “Do you mind if I fuss around here a little bit?”
I kiddingly just figured out the whole problem to where it goes wrong. It actually makes some sense in the head of a bad club owner.
You care about this. You can show the results. There’s no writing a book on how to make a comedy club. If this becomes your mission to make comedy better by making venues better, how do you do it? I’m going to do exactly what you do. On a scale of one to ten in terms of as a comic making comedy clubs better, you’re probably about a five right now. How do you get to ten?
I go into, I try to find something I like about the club, number one, because I don’t walk into a club and just go, “Do this, do that, do this.” Most of the clubs I work now, if it’s a new club asking me to work there, I call them on the phone myself. I go, “I’m going to tell you this instead of my manager calling you.” They’re always super nice, “Todd, how are you doing?” I go, “I’ve been doing this awhile and my manager can try to explain it to you.” I tell him what we talked about.
It’s your club. I always say it might be uncomfortable with you on the phone right now. If it sounds like you play your own walk-in music, I play my own walkout music. I might go, “Can we gel that light near the bathroom?” If everything I’m saying on the phone to you sounds like, “Yeah, I’d love to have you,” because they have to want there to be because they don’t want me there. Why do they want a guy changing around things? I never have a problem because I do that. I went to The Blue Room Comedy Club. He was warm and took all the suggestions. Here’s what I think happens. A lot of times when you have a comedy club, you also have a restaurant. The battle is, “What comes first?”
This is the problem with comedy as an art form. No one’s serving steaks during an opera.
Here’s the thing, I’m going to meet in the middle. It can be done right. This is if you give a shit. If you don’t and you’re a club owner and you want to make money, but you can do both right, that’s the sad part. You can do both right and doing it my way you’ll do it longer. You don’t want to be a club that’s serving dinners during the headliner. There are clubs that have food that can be made not shitty. I don’t want Nachos pumped out with a basket. I don’t want to work at club where an orange basket comes out. I can’t make pretend it’s nice and I’m right. I’m not picky. If you serve food in an orange basket with a white piece of paper, I don’t care if you use a metal basket with a brown piece of paper, but I can’t make pretend I’m in a nightclub and I’m not picking one. If an orange basket with a white piece of paper doesn’t say, and I seriously want an answer, I’m not kidding you. It sounds like a sarcastic question. If an orange basket with a white piece of paper doesn’t say this at least, “I love comedy but I could give a fuck about the way the food is presented.” If you have a club that has orange baskets with white paper and you hear this, I would imagine you go, “Right.” What’s your rebuttal?
You think orange basket with a white piece of paper, that’s you trying. I’m just picking. In other words, there are tons of ways to serve food properly. I’ve been to clubs because I’m up there, I’ve been doing this a long time. I want to make pretend I’m in a cool place and it’s hard when there’s a fucking bowling alley chicken strip served. I’ll throw Helium a credit. They have food that comes out looking beautiful, but it can be made quickly and that’s what you need. People come. It doesn’t have to be shit, but it has to be where they can do it quick. At Helium, 90% of the dinners are done by the time the show starts. You then hear a manager go, “Do a clean sweep.” Some clubs, if you ask, won’t serve food, some just in the first row. I want those people. I need them 100% all the time.
There are clubs that can do food and drinks. They can do it right. The problem is sometimes you see the money the food is making and you get lost. Even a good person gets lost, “I’m making a lot of money on food.” Mark Babbitt said the answer to this. He does not deny that it’s good to make money. This applies even if your club just serves drinks. “How dark do you have it? When do you stop serving food? Will you not serve food that you notice? We’re serving dinners during the headliner. I don’t want a club like that. You’re making money and then everything gets clouded. Mark Babbitt says everything. He’s not defined that money is made from food and drinks and that money sometimes help keeps the doors open. He goes, “In many years, I never ever drove a hamburger to radio.” That says everything. They’re coming to your club to eat your food because you drove a comedian to radio. The food’s so good, you can never go in and go, “Who does the comedy club have here this week?” “We don’t but we brought in all the food we serve and everyone’s going to sample it.” I’m not even so sarcastic, “We’re then going to serve it.” When it comes to making choices, remember you’re getting to serve that food and you’re getting to serve those drinks because you drove a comedian to radio.
This is what we call an augmented service, not a core service in marketing. The laughs are the core service and the augmented service is that you’re not hungry.
Do you want me to tell you something you think I’m crazy? I’m right. I know that seems crazy.
I’m not silently judging you. I love what you’re doing.
I always try to compare. What I’m asking a club to do, it’s the same thing a comedian should do. Sometimes you make Gargantua changes in your act. Sometimes there are little changes. Because I make little changes, I don’t think I’m a bad comedian. When I say these things to clubs, I don’t think it means they’re a bad club. It means don’t you love things that are easy to fix? If I say something that makes sense, don’t you want to be the club owner that goes, “He’s fucking right.” If black napkins aren’t right, I’m going to use my Todd Glass’ silly way of saying it. Imagine you have a club owner and he has all black napkins. People wipe their mouth and sometimes they wrinkled up. It’s all over the table. If you’re saying white napkins are better, I would imagine again being a little sarcastic, you’re saying white because you feel it makes your establishment look better. If you say, “I’m no white because I could give a fuck.” I won’t invest my energy with you.
Which do you want?
I want black but I’m saying if black is wrong. Imagine you have a club that had all black napkins and there’s another club owner that he has white. He’s hanging out at the club that has black napkins. Would he go, “Can I make a suggestion? I love your club. I noticed you have black napkins. White napkins are right. What I’m about to say shouldn’t sound crazy. I noticed you have black napkins. They disappear into the dark.” “Can you make a little suggestion?” “It’s not a big suggestion, but I think it’ll make your club look better. If you use white, you can see them all over the place with some sauce on them and dirty. White napkins, you’ve got get them like you’ll see ten dirty there.” Doesn’t that sound silly? Who wouldn’t want a napkin that people are wiping their mouth with a mic back up on the table in a busy night? There might be five scrunched up black napkins when you’re getting a little behind. Anybody who reads this and doesn’t go, “He’s right,” I wonder what the fuck you’re trying to do then. I don’t want to look at him. I don’t want to be on stage and look out and just see it. Let them be black. Let them disappear. It’s dark, let them disappear into the night.
I like what you’re saying because it serves a few purposes. I promise the readers we’re going to move on. It serves you perfect. I have a saying. I don’t say it to my students to their face but I say to them, “Be a professional.” I talked to my students about being a professional. What I’m saying is be a fucking professional. I just can’t drop F-bombs in my MBA class. There’s professionalism. Why does comedy suffer? Comedy suffers when it’s not treated in a professional way. When you look at who are the most successful clubs, the most successful comedians, they have this thread, which is they are professionals, that they treat this as a craft. They’re always looking for an edge. They’re constantly trying to improve things as a result. I agree with you. These things are not trivial and they add up. I think it’s neat. I am going to ask you something though, because this seems incongruent. Something that you said once that I think is surprisingly incongruent given what I know about you as a professional. That is, you rarely listen to your sets. You rarely record and listen to your sets.
I know and I’m embarrassed. Maybe embarrassed isn’t the right word, but I will tell you this. I always knew it was a good thing to do. Since the beginning of time, “Comedians, tape your set.” I would imagine some of them listen to them all. Some listened to them 30% of what they’d take, but 30% is probably amazing. When I’m getting ready for a special, I do. I would go on the road with a comedian. I work two of my favorite clubs, whatever they are, when I’m getting ready and I bring somebody. We get up in the morning at 11:00 or 12:00. I have posters. I have stuff all over the wall and cards and Post-its. We will listen to the set and see.
You’re writing on the poster and you’re making changes and edits and so on.
It’s so helpful.
You have someone there who is also listening and helping you.
It’s the comedian, whoever it might be that time. I go, “Just go on the road with me, but I’ll pay a little extra because we’re going to work.” It makes such a difference. Where I learned it and you would think, “Why aren’t I doing it?” I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense that you would think, “Now I do it.” I used to say after my special and it made a difference, “I don’t want to lie. I’m going to tape my set every night. Something for me to work towards, how about once a week you listen to your set?” I didn’t, I never have. I listened to the podcast and again it helps me so much probably because there are other people and it doesn’t seem so boring to me to listen to it. The podcast is other guests I hear things I didn’t hear. Nevertheless, from listening to that podcast, about 50% of it every week, I have learned so much and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I’m bored easily and I just listen.
My world is I give professional talks. Watching the professional talk, I find it painful because I see my mistakes. All the painful things about it are the reason why I should be listening to it. It’s also the thing that keeps me from listening or watching it. It is a little bit of a sense of it’s mildly embarrassing to watch yourself or listen to yourself.
You’re echoing what’s in my head, some of those sentiments.Making mistakes can be the best thing that can happen to you when you are building your club. Click To Tweet
Speaking of transformations, you’ve transformed your life somewhat in the last several years. You had a heart attack in your mid-40s. You’re a lot leaner than you used to be.
I lost 30 pounds. I feel amazing.
You look great. I can’t tell all the work you’ve had done.
Back then, I lost 30 pounds and I also smoked cigarettes. It was so much fun to smoke pot and smoke cigarettes. I wanted to live, so I quit.
Was it difficult?
I used to say, “Ask smokers that hadn’t smoked for a few years,” because to me I got a few years. They don’t miss it. That’s all I was looking for. They go, “You always miss.” I was like, “What? Am I going to spend the rest of my life missing smoking? Now I know what they meant.” If someone asked me that’s trying to quit, I could tell them the right answer.
What is the answer?
Yes. You always miss it, the smell, the sentiment of it. I don’t give a shit about smoking anymore. 90% of the time, I don’t even crave it. As a matter of fact, 100% of the time I don’t crave it. I had my heart attack, I quit smoking. In that five-year chunk after it, I smoked six times. Three I actually liked, then the fourth, I got nauseous. I remember being bombed and then I went, “That’s good.” That time after that I took one puff and then never again. I still miss the sentiment of it. I’d walk out, it smells good. It would be fun to go out and talk to those people, but I don’t give a shit anymore. You always miss it. It’s easy not to smoke after a while. I didn’t even want to go anywhere. I thought, “Todd, do you want to go to The Improv?” “No, not if I can’t smoke,” because that’s what I’ll do at The Improv. I’ll hang out in the patio and I’ll smoke a cigarette.
That’s the dirty little secret of habit formation and resetting habits is being aware of context.
I’ll try to do it with food because that’s the struggle of my life, but I’m doing good in every other area.
The context thing is you can’t have the food in your house.
Look around my cabinets because I don’t. My nephew was staying here. I was like, “Tyler, hide your food somewhere.” He goes, “You’ll find it.” I go, “Still hide it.”
I don’t think it depends on what your bugaboo is or whatever. I had a party and one of my previous guests helped me plan the party. It was a big success. Thank you, Troy Campbell. I have a bunch of chips and my thing is no processed food. I don’t want to buy food that comes in a box or a bag. It’s worthless for your health. I have a bunch of stuff that comes in a bag. It’s in my pantry. I’m not tempted by it. When I first was giving up processed food many years ago, I probably would have had to throw it out. I have done this at times where there’s a bag of nachos that’s half done and I’ll just smash it. People look at me like, “What the fuck are you doing?” Now, it’s impossible to eat. No one wants to eat nacho crumbs.
You still have to have some self-control but it will put an end to it. If I’m on the plane and I go tied with half a sandwich, I wish I could be the person that wrapped it up and had it an hour later, but I can’t. I take the napkin that I’m holding and I’ll just touch under the seat. No one even notices this. I press it on the sandwich. I will never eat it all after that again. At a restaurant, I’ll take a napkin at the table and press it on the food. No one noticed it.
Now, the world knows. I want to talk to about your health. You were living the traditional comic lifestyle. You’re on the road, you’re eating chicken fingers, you’re smoking. Were you drinking at the time?
Yes, I still do. All I cut out was the smoking and my eating is gone.
You’ve exercised more now?
No, I exercised then. I ran an hour-and-a-half the day I had my heart attack. The reason that I quit smoking and this will explain where I’m at with my health. I take the Lipitor. I’m on nothing else but Lipitor. That’s it. I don’t have anything else. One Lipitor, I take it. I could eat crap and be on 50 milligrams of it, but I’m on ten milligrams of it, “You try, but we’ll help you out to sand down the edges.” My diet can get pretty bad at night. If someone goes, “After your heart attack, how’s your diet?” “It’s a little bad. I take my medicine, just smoke.” At least, it looks like I’m making an effort like, “How’s your lipid? Do you take the Lipitor?” I go, “Everyday. I have missed two days in the several years I take it.” “How’s smoking?” “I haven’t smoked a cigarette.” “How’s your diet?” At least at that point I can go, “It’s still a battle. I can eat a lot of shit but I juice every single day.” It’s good juice like kale, carrots, celery, beets, ginger. My theory is at least my cells or whatever needs to replenish can go, “Todd, you ate a lot of shit now, but thanks for giving us something pretty good. Thanks for not smoking too because that’s helping us out and the juice does help. I wish you wouldn’t eat that crap late at night, but you don’t smoke. You gave us some good nutrients in that juice.” That’s in my head the way I deal with it.
I think that the reason that so many people like intermittent fasting is it works for the reason that they don’t anticipate. The idea of intermittent fasting is you limit your calorie intake to eight hours a day. For sixteen hours of the day and night, you’re not eating at all. EC Synkowski, she’s among many other things. She’s a nutritionist in Boulder, Colorado and used to work in CrossFit and so on. She talks about this. Let’s say you stop eating at 8:00 at night and then you don’t eat again until noon the next day. One, that limits your calories. Obviously, limiting your calories is good for the average person. The other one is almost no one in the world eats a delicious healthy salad with light dressing and salmon on it at midnight. The food that you eat after 9:00 at night is almost universally bad for you. What happens is the intermittent fasting is this safety net that keeps you from that fourth shitty meal.
I know it’s hard if you look at me right now. I’m about thirteen pounds overweight. Physically, I look good. I know that sounds weird to say because I know a lot of friends go, “Todd, you look good.” I gained thirteen pounds, which I want to take off. That thirteen pounds make me snore. For some people, their snoring isn’t their weight. Some people it is. I know for a fact, so it’s torturous and I’m trying to take it off right now. I don’t get a good night’s sleep. I’m tired all day and I want help. Somebody said, “What’s the difference between a bad habit?” My friend is a therapist but a common-sense therapist. He’s got street smarts mixed with some good technique and that was my favorite. He goes, “Call it whatever you want. How long have you had this goal of bad habit? How long have you had it?” I had to think and I went, “It’s so embarrassing.” I go, “Many years.” He said, “In many years, you had a bad habit that you want to stop. It sounds like an addiction.” I go, “Who gives a shit what we call it?” If it’s a bad habit that you can’t get control for many years, I don’t know what to do. I know it’s going to take me working. No one’s going to have any tricks. I’ll ask myself, “Can I get ahold of this?” Because right now, it’s hard.
The tough thing about the thirteen pounds and the snoring is that it actually creates this loop. When you don’t sleep well, what happens is you compensate by eating more because your energy is low. There’s this nasty situation where you don’t sleep well. In order to have a normal day, you up your calorie intake, which then leads you not to sleep well. It’s a vicious cycle as a result of that.
Some things make a lot of sense. I think you’re saying some things that are clean and make sense. It all goes back to like willpower. I know I quit smoking but six nights a week, I eat it.
I hate to tell you this, but I have the solution for you.
I’ll tell you one more thing though. The only thing that helps me motivate to lose weight now is if I’m doing something like if I’m shooting a special, if I’m going to Philly and I want to look good because I’m going to see my friends and family. I want to feel good on stage. That’s my motivation. That’s not the type of motivation I can use anymore. I get it. If you tell me something and it’ll work, it can’t be like what I eat, because I know what bad food is. I know what good food is. How do you get the power to go, “No, I don’t need to eat at 11:00 at night?”
Goals and willpower are overrated. It’s all about creating new habits. The way to create new habits is to create a context.
Doesn’t creating what you’re saying take willpower?
Some of it does, yes. The best way to create new habits is to actually have some change. When there’s some change in your life, that’s a good way to do so. I have some common sense of things. These are things that EC would say. EC has something called The 800 Gram Challenge. I don’t want us to go too long on this, but this is important. This is your health. Some of this is pulled out of CrossFit. What do you want to eat? You want to eat meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, little starch and no sugar.
Here’s the question. I don’t need help what I need to eat. I need help what I shouldn’t be eating and how not to.
You know the things that you need to eat. Those are those things. One of the things what EC puts forth is she wants you eating 800 grams of fruit and vegetable a day. There are two purposes for that. You said you juice.
Is that bad?
It’s not that it’s bad. It’s not as good as if you ate the kale and the orange and the banana. Here’s why. It’s because that food crowds out the other shit that you’re putting in your body. What it does is it keeps you full and digesting and thus sated in a way that juice doesn’t. You have to stop drinking calories even if it’s fruit or even if it’s vegetable calories. It is eating 800 grams of fruit and vegetable crowds out a lot of bad food. What she would say is if you want to eat late at night, that’s fine but you’ve got to eat fruits and vegetables. You’ve got to get your 800. It’s six cups of vegetables. Her name is EC Synkowski. She’s on some podcasts.
I want to talk to you about some of your stand-up. In Act Happy, you have a band, which I think was neat. You even did a little singing. The other thing that you do in your stand-up is you do act outs. Will you describe for the audience like when you take on a character and you start being someone else, not in that show per se. In general, I’ve seen you step into a character beyond who’s more than just Todd Glass.
Maybe it is me. I think I know what you’re saying, but I think it might just be me getting into something that it’s me, but it’s another version of me.
I recall watching some of your stand-up.
Maybe I’m just confused what you mean. If I knew I’d be like, “You mean that?”
It’s like you take on, you become another character. Instead of just you telling jokes on stage, now there are two people having a conversation.
Sometimes I take the opposing view. I always like Phil Donahue when I was growing up. Phil Donahue would always go up to someone in the audience. He’s like, “What are we going to do? In my day, we didn’t do this. These kids are up there and I don’t know what’s the world turning into?” That was his way of saying, “That’s what you’re thinking.” I argue something and then I take the character of the opposing side. You’re not going to change anyone’s opinion unless you know what they’re thinking. I’ve made the mistake of saying it’s sarcastic. I know the other side’s gone blabbing. That’s not going to make them like you. I’m desperately trying when I take the opposing view.
You’re trying to take a fair stance on the other side.
Do you want an example?
I’m just curious about it as a technique. When I think about it, comedians use lots of techniques. Obviously the first goal is laughs and the second goal is to convince, to change people’s minds about things. People do a lot of things. They use self-deprecation. They act in silly ways. They sing. They do more than just stand in front of a microphone and just tell jokes. I’m curious about some of those techniques. You had a band. You obviously thought this was important enough to incorporate into your act. It’s unusual but I think it is neat. It fits.
I’ve been having the time of my life out on the road with most I have a band, even if it’s a band from that city. The plan is that people are being seated. I want it to get fucking good quick. They’re speeding, seated. They’re seating, it’s 45 minutes, there’s a three-piece band playing cool music.
People want to have fun.
It changes the experience. They walk into a club, they split the curtain, they look at the room, they’re like, “What the fuck? Is this where we’re at tonight?” I think if that’s what you’re talking about the opposing view. I have this thing I’ve been saying in my act. I always say you have to be funnier than preachy. I crossed that line and I don’t like to and I work at it. Meaning you can say you want on stage, whether political, whether it’s social or whatever it is or whether you dig deep into the bowels of silliness like a guy like Steve Martin would do.
I’m learning new ways. One of the things I’ve been saying to the audience is, “Let me ask you a question and you’re not going to want to say no to this. If the answer is no, I’ll respect you.” If you have an opinion and I say something that’s clean and clear, forget about the other half of the things I say. Half the time I don’t even think I’m trying to say something. I think I say it’s shitty myself. When it comes out perfect, if that happens tonight, be honest. Do you want to change your opinion? Be honest. Now’s the time to go, “Fuck no,” I’ll respect that. I’ll be honest with you. If someone says, “Do you want to discuss whether hitting children is okay at any level?” I’ll be honest with you, I’ll be like, “No, I’m past that. I’ve done enough research. I’ve asked enough people and I have zero tolerance.” It just makes sense. I’ve heard people discuss it. I’m not going to lie to you if you go, “Todd, can I tell you why you should hit your kids?” I’ll pay you the respect to go, “I don’t anymore.” It’s like if you told me why black people shouldn’t marry white people. Does that make me a fucking cocky asshole that doesn’t want to hear the opposing side? No, I don’t want to discuss that. I don’t say all that I just said to the audience.
This is your perspective?
Yeah. To get into the mindset of people that don’t want to nip and tuck the vocabulary. How can I get them to yank them out of this? I noticed most people feel like kids feel because when you’re a kid, you’re always asking your kids, “Say polite, say thank you. If there’s a man holding something and there’s a delivery man behind you and you’re leaving the store, hold the door for him if he’s carrying boxes. Give that older person your seat.” I say this on stage, it feels like, “Can I just live my life?” When history writes itself, the majority of the things you are asking your children, we’re just right. Not picky, not leaving one finger up, that’s an extreme level of manners that most people that I know don’t want their children to have. That’s how I feel about the people in the audience. I’ll say, “When you were saying this group wants to be called that. Say please. When we’re saying this group would rather be called that. Hold the door open. We nip and tuck our verbiage.”
You’re like your kid, you feel like you’re being yelled at. The truth is a lot of times a little kid will go, “Daddy yelled at me and said I couldn’t have a cookie.” The truth is he probably just said, “You can’t have a cookie,” but that felt like being yelled at. I feel like that’s what most adults are like, “I don’t want to be yelled at anymore.” Were you yelled at or you just lovingly did someone with all the passion in the world try to tell you how that would make you a better person? It’s just like you with your kid. Be very careful if you’re having childlike reactions to common sense requests because to me, that’s all it is that goes around. It’s changing your verbiage. I’ll try to hit him and give both sides of it.
I don’t have kids, but I have a niece and nephew. I took them on a family vacation. They’re from South Jersey, so not far from where you grew up and really provincial upbringing. I’m trying to expose them to the world. This thrusts me into their world, which I’m not used to hanging out with two certainly teens. They’re good kids, but they’re teens. There were a number of times during the trip where I just said, “You need to learn to live better. I know how I sound, but we’re working on you living better. You will be better off and the world would be better off.” They seem inconsequential to little things, but they add up and they matter because polite people don’t do them.
The last thing I want to talk about was something you brought up when I reached out to you. This is actually a perfect segue I think because you talked about changing your verbiage and nipping and tucking so to speak. This idea of comedy being under attack. You’re starting to hear comics, for lack of a better word, complain about what’s happening in terms of PC culture, outrage culture and so on. This is something I know you’ve thought about and I’d like to hear about it.
In full disclosure, when you reached out through email, I think that it’s a topic that is coming up. For the audience to know, I’m on the opposite side. I don’t think it’s ruining comedy, if it’s refreshing to hear.
It is refreshing to hear.
Can you do me a huge favor? Don’t be afraid to tell me if you disagree with me because I’m so passionate. Usually when someone’s sitting across from me and they might go, “Todd, don’t worry.” If we listed everything that has been an outcry on the internet like, “Don’t use that word,” 95% of the time I agree with the outcry. It’s just like a kid with manners. To me, it overwhelmingly will. All the things that we’re asking people to do, I’m coming to this with some science. If we’re going to talk about this, at least I’ll let you lead and ask me the question.
I’m afraid you and I are going to be too close on the same side. I’ll give you my opinion and you can pile on. I did Shane Mauss’ show, Stand Up Science. If you’re reading this, you will love Stand Up Science because it is scientists doing TED-style talks, interspersed with comedy, panel at the end. Shane does great comedy about science. This idea of PC culture came up, it’s come up in previous podcasts. My feeling is that most of the outcry about it is a bunch of older men whose stuff doesn’t work as well as it used to. They’re complaining about young people and what they should be doing is recognizing that they’re not changing with the times. What they should be doing is seeing this as an opportunity to challenge themselves in new ways. If they’re not, they’re just going to get left behind, that there’s going to be another generation of young comedians who are going to come up. These older comics go, “I can’t do college campuses anymore. Everybody’s too sensitive.” What they’re failing to realize is that a fundamental element of comedy is the need for novelty and that you need to embrace constraints in order to make good comedy and call it outrage culture, call it PC.
It’s probably been going on for years. We just changed the title.
My thing is, first of all, it’s not that this is new, it’s just people have a voice. There are two things that are happening. One is the jokes are now reaching people they weren’t intended for. That’s first. The second one is those people have a chance to respond when they weren’t able to before. The question becomes, are you going to either weather it without complaining like, “This is my line in the sand,” or are you going to go, “This is a big audience?” If you truly are a comic who speaks truth to power, these are not the bad guys. Trans people are not the bad guys. Women are not the bad guys. It’s a matter of like, “You’re a smart person, you have a craft that allows you to make things funny. Let’s start using it to make some new things funny.”
Let me say this first because I don’t like to have this conversation without this prenup thing. I defend the comedians at the end of the day. It sounds like I’m contradicting myself. They should be able to do whatever they want. That’s what’s great about comedy. You can be PC. PC is not the issue. I made this up, but I think I’m right. PC is why you stopped or started something. Is it genuine? If you’re using the word retarded around your house like, “That’s retarded,” instead of clumsy, but you don’t use it on stage just because you’re tired and getting corrected. You’re PC because you’re doing what the masses want, it’s not from your heart.
I am a comedian. I defend that every comedian should do whatever they want. If this was a conversation right now about should we ever ban a comedian, that doesn’t mean in the right way. Comedians should do whatever they want and everything can be funny, whether it is 9/11 or whether it’s cancer or whether it’s death, everything can be funny. I’m allowed to give my opinion on it. This is the part that’s hard for me not to yell, the preamble, when they go, “You can’t say that.” I’m defending your right to say it, but can’t we comment on it? We would not have a brilliant comedy if we didn’t know to ignore the pulse of certain audiences that night. It doesn’t mean they were all a bad audience but as a whole. Sometimes, we wouldn’t have brilliant comedians, if sometimes those comedians didn’t ignore the pulse of that given night. That doesn’t mean that it has to be always that. Can’t you grow in your own fruition?
With that said, I go into this with somewhat of a science and I’m very passionate about it. I believe at the end of the day that it all boils down to the kids nowadays. That is going to do more detriment to this society than a drug overdose. I’m not saying that those things you get, I’m not marginalizing those things, but because it stops our world, it’s bigger than comedy. I appreciate you letting me talk about it, but I’m even angry that no one’s writing about it. An article on, “Is the PC ruining comedy or can it help it?” The fact that no one is writing an article about it, no one doing a documentary about it, it annoys me because it needs to be stopped. If I’m right, I can better comedy. Why can I think while I was on this planet that I finally got the platform to say it and I changed some people’s beliefs? “It’s ruining comedy.” Everybody thinks it’s just ruining it. They don’t even ask me my side. They think because I’m a comedian, I go home for Thanksgiving or you’re talking to someone with a thing or a situation where they don’t know your community, “Is it hard to do comedy with this PC culture?” It’s even more frustrating. You’re not even asking me what side I’m. You’re thinking, “Of course, you’re a comedian,” because most comedians agree.
Here’s the part where I think I bring some facts into it. There’s an old expression, me and my friend, Kevin, made it up. When you’re having a discussion, I call it therapy detective lawyer. Therapy of course means, and I work on this, try to remember to listen. Listen, don’t yell. A lawyer asks questions out of context because if you say to someone, “How would you feel?” They know where you’re going with it. You have to hit them. With that, I ask this question, my fantasy of asking a comedian that thinks PC is ruining comedy. I would say, “Overwhelmingly, most people agree with you.” He’d go, “Yeah.” I’m sure he’s going to say, “Yeah.” I go, “That doesn’t concern you. That doesn’t right there.” Here’s an expression I have. Anybody that read what I just said either doesn’t know what I meant or I’ll explain myself. You have to say, “I don’t care if it changes your opinion with what I’m saying. What I’m saying is the masses have been wrong since the beginning of time. We’re not talking about eventually where they get them, but the fact that you’re saying that you know that most people are tired of PC.
As a comedian, if you’re not going, “That’s not good, I’m on the side of most people.” Most people didn’t want women to vote. Most people didn’t want women to be cops. Most people didn’t want gay people to get married. You’re on the side of most people at the beginning of the fight. I don’t bend your ear on that. Listen what I said, I didn’t say change your opinion. I have to go, “Todd just made a great point. I’m completely changing my opinion.” If I didn’t bend your ear, bend your ear means, “That’s a good point.”
I’m nodding my head and smiling because I agree. This idea that we know we’re wrong. Chuck Klosterman wrote a book about this. It’s the idea that when you look back through human history, at any one moment of time, most of things that we believed ended up being wrong.
When you talk about resistance, how am I going to bring some with me? My fantasy still is. It’s a comedian maybe that likes me personally, but disagrees with all my social beliefs. I imagine that’s out there because I have comedians like that. Their act, I can’t fucking take but I have affection for them and I love them. If I separate that, the words that come out of their mouth cause people anguish, which sounds a little sarcastic. Sometimes you like somebody so much. If I didn’t bend your ear and go, “He has a point.” I’m on the side of the masses, the masses tend to be wrong. There’s a little science to that.
It’s also what makes a person a comic is that they’re typically a misfit. They don’t fit in, but they don’t see the world the way everybody else sees the world. What you’re suggesting is now you’ve gotten to a point where you see the world the way most people see the world. That goes against your instinct as a comic.
It’s not on your side and again, this goes bigger than comedy. This is the kids nowadays, the people that should be leading. By the way, children aren’t mad at us. I’m also not saying that there aren’t young people that make a lot of these mistakes. They’re allowed to make mistakes, young people. Older people who think they have so much to offer, one of the things you have to offer is wisdom. If you’re twenty and you use whatever the word should be, gay as an adjective, “That’s gay or that’s retarded,” and you’re twenty, that’s all right. If you’re 40, hopefully by 40, you have some wisdom that you’re able to offer and you do. There are tons of people that are 40 to 70 that have this wisdom to offer.
Defending the word retarded, I blame all old people for that word because young people are allowed of mistakes. They shouldn’t hear a 40-year-old housewife or a father go, “That’s retarded.” It’s all your fault to me. I’m going to put the heat on anyone reading. If you’re not writing or someone taking this to town, taking this to test. You ever watch a news anchor talk about what’s going on right now? He gets it out of your head. Once in a blue moon you’d turn on the TV and you see someone putting sense to everything that’s going on. Someone needs to do this with this. I know you said someone’s doing a documentary but it needs to be done. I think it pretty much all boils down to the kids nowadays or whatever.
It’s some other stuff too. It’s words you can’t say. It’s scared of death, I think. It’s subliminal. That’s why that word exists. Whenever I thought cock, could it really be that subliminal? They came up with that word. I don’t think people are literally thinking it, but with a little digging I think people are scared of dying. It’s scary. I get scared too. Instead of facing it with a real way, “Maybe this is a good way. At least I was born at the perfect time.” “Stop it.” “Come on. You’re supposed to put a litmus test on absurdity.” I’m thinking all people, but especially comedians. You’re supposed to put a litmus test on absurdity.
You’re afraid to die so you’re going to make pretend, “I was born here at a better time. I was born when music was at its best. I was born when people played outside.” Stop, you weren’t. You were born at a great time, but there’s still good music and kids are brilliant. Kids are so brilliant that sometimes I get a crush on youth because they can do it all. They’re polite and they’re everything. They’re not mad at us. That’s the thing about youth. They love old music. They just happened to know that there’s also still good music. They’ll play cassettes. They’re not mad at you. You’re mad at them. I know there are some brilliant people. I’m talking about what you talk about the majority of the time. I’ve never walked into you ever because I’m not saying kids are perfect.
I know people and I can say never. People don’t say never. I can say never have I overheard them. If it’s a friend of mine that is just a regular friend who’s not a comedian or podcast. Never walk in on them going, “You know what fucking blows about old people and what we do into this world? You know what’s great about young people?” I don’t mean once. I don’t mean now you’re going to tell me a story while I’m talking, I’m talking about what I overhear you all the time that not you are now trying to add in a few good things to prove you’re well-balanced. 100% of the time, you talk about how kids nowadays are less than worthy.
You think you’re right about that even though the history of the planet shows you’re wrong. You talk about addiction. That is the addiction. Short-term gratification for long-term horror that you’re right. If you’re right, you don’t have any work to do on yourself. I get it. That’s a lot easier than you have to remember what this group wants to be called and what that group wants to be called. That’s your kid. We go right back to a little kid. You’re not being picked on. We’re asking you fair request to trim and tuck your verbiage and not because people are sensitive either. That’s another thing that throws me into it. No one’s sensitive. It’s like if you said to someone, “Four plus four,” and then you hear them, they’re adding their check, “Four plus four is twenty,” and you go, “No, four plus four is eight.” They go, “Did I offend you?” “No, I’m correcting you. I’m not offended. I’m not a frail flower.”
I’m going to say two things. I think it’s tough to be a kid these days. It’s always a little hard to be a kid. When I hear people criticize Millennials, it’s just old people judging young people for being young. That’s what it is.
Do we stop people from doing it in a loving way? Can we bring any signs? What happens when someone disagrees with us? They’re reading and they disagree.
Here’s the way that I think these stuff works is first of all, we know that it can happen. You brought up gay marriage earlier. In many years, attitudes about gay marriage in the United States flip-flopped. That’s incredibly fast when you think about prejudice in that way. How did that happen? It’s like you’re one voice right now on this show and the idea is that voice gets repeated, it gets amplified, it shows up here, it shows up there. What ends up happening is the good guys start saying gay marriage is fine. What ends up happening is the people you admire, the people who have sway, it starts to roll.
I’m literally trying to take people with us. When somebody says they’re okay with gay marriage, I don’t ask this because we want people to change their views. I get it, I’m not asking this. When there’s a new thing we’re trying to get people not to do, just like a kid, it never ends. It’s just nipping and tucking. When somebody says they’ll give their resume as I do too, let’s say they don’t understand the binary thing. They’ll be like, “I don’t give a fuck about gay marriage. I’m all with gay marriage.” I want to go, “Let me ask you a question. When were you all right with gay marriage? If you tell me it was a year ago, I’m not going to say, “You were last on board.” I’m going to say, “You got on board and I’m proud of you.” You lead people into it. We’re going to start the same thing with nonbinary or transgender bathrooms. We don’t be less this time. I’m glad you got on board. I am going to say this because maybe it’ll make people go, “Maybe he’s right.” I wasn’t all right with it right away. I didn’t understand it. It was confusing.
If I could come to this conclusion maybe because there are a lot of good sweet people that are confused on this. They’re nice. They’re kind, they’re going, “What’s going on?” I’m driving down the street and I thought because at first, I adhere to it because I know it’s the right thing to do. I learned slowly and I asked questions. People go, “You can’t even ask questions anymore.” You’re some detective-lawyer therapist. When you say you can’t ask questions anymore about it, you get caught in your lie because I know from talking to enough people going through it, they love questions. Do you understand how if you say that you’re getting caught, “You can’t even ask a question?” A question is not saying that grosses me out. There are some facts and that is not a question. If you want to make dissertation towards it, call it for what it is. Don’t cry the victim and go, “I can’t even ask that question.” You ask one question, you get yelled at. I’m driving down the street and I thought, “There are eight billion types of bugs. There’s a fly and there are 80,000 types of fly. There’s a flower and there are 80,000 types of flower. There are chromosomes and they split up.
Why can’t you look at it this way? Maybe when it came to sexuality, it’s simply that this wasn’t enough to go, “There are men and there are women and there’s gay people were done. Everyone should fit into that.” All we’re saying is it might get confusing. When there was a sexual revolution in the ‘60s, it gets confusing but we want to shred it up. Some people don’t fit into that and you think everything’s out of control and I get it. Even nice kind people in the audience are going, “I do feel that.” It’s confusing in the beginning because it’s new but on the other end of it, forget about just for transgender people or just for gay people or just for women. The sexual revolution can be for straight, white men that have some confines.
Why is this so bad that we’re shredding up expression and these people don’t feel like they fit into three categories? It’s almost silly. You should go, “Of course they can.” Guy, girl and you can be gay too. We’re all done. Everybody should be able to live a healthy life by conforming to those three things. If you’re reading this and you’ve had a problem with it, I don’t know why you can’t go what you want your kid to do, what you your nephew to do go, “I’ll fight to be right. On this one, good clean point. I think I might have understood it.” If you don’t, I love you but I want that to bother you that what I just said didn’t make sense because it does.
I want to give you a different way to think about the death part of your argument. It’s simpler than that. I don’t think it has to do with dying at all. It has to do with what’s called reactance. It’s simply this. People don’t like to be told no. It’s just Romeo and Juliet, don’t date that boy. It makes you want to date the boy. Whether you’re a four-year-old, “No, you can’t have that cookie,” or you’re a 40-year-old, “No, you can’t say those things,” our first reaction is, “I don’t like to be told no.” I think that’s where some of this comes from. It’s a very simple part of being human.
I think you’re right on some, probably a big dose of it. It reminds me of something an audience member told me once that it’s just as simple as some of it was. It’s feeding into what you’re saying. I’ve been on the other side of this. It could be as simple as, “You’re talking too loud.” You tell a friend that at a restaurant, someone you love, “Your breath is a little damp.” Sometimes you can get mad because you were told something. Don’t do that to life. If someone’s asking you something that’s fair, it’s even helping you and you’re like, “I’m not talking too loud.”
I have a friend that every time he’s talking too loud, I would get nervous. It’s my friend, Daniel. I go, “Daniel, I didn’t want to say it but you’re talking too loud.” He goes, “Thank you. I know it’s true. My girlfriend tells me that and I’m happy to hear it.” Whenever I have to remind him, I’m always just as warmed that he will take it because I don’t want to say, “Thank you. I appreciate that,” then he lowers his voice. Be that person with these changes. I’ve got to tell you something. You’ll be so proud of yourself. If you’re doing it now to make me proud, later in life you’re going to make yourself proud that you were always able to grow and change and call people change that and you go, “I don’t know why they want to be called that.” I bet if you ask lovingly, you learn.
It’s a much nicer way to live. Todd, I knew this would be spirited. I appreciate your time and having this conversation.
This was great. I always say I like to talk about this. It reminds me by no means do I get up on a pedestal and it sounds like it and I get it. I’m constantly learning. I repeat it and maybe change someone else’s opinion, remind myself to live a better life and be different than I was several years ago. I watch old shows I did several years ago, nothing horrendous but I go, “Todd, you made those mistakes back then and you weren’t a bad person. Watch your material because it lives in infamy.”
Thanks so much.
- Todd Glass
- The Humor Code
- Wende Curtis – previous episode
- The 800 Gram Challenge
- Stand Up Science
About Todd Glass
Todd Glass started comedy at age 16. He has performed stand-up on The Daily Show, Jimmy Kimmel, and Conan O’Brian. You can see his recent special “Act Happy” on Netflix.
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