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Arts and Entertainment

LAist Interview: Todd Glass, Comedian

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Want to be a singer, a model, or maybe a comedian or TV Host? Then Big Shot Live is your chance to do just that. Simply go to the site, submit your video, and see if you're one of the lucky winners to get flown to LA (given that you're not already here) to pursue your goal and have it documented on the web. But unlike most talent contests, you get flown out right away, so there's no wait to start making your dreams come true.

We caught up with one of the managers who host Big Shot Live, Todd Glass, who himself is a comedian who's been featured on Comedy Central Presents, Last Comic Standing, and performs all over the country and LA. Todd explained how the show works, shared some anecdotes of his own, and talked about two pilots he's working on, Todd Glass Saves America and Dr. Todd.

One of the stipulations of Big Shot Live is that you cannot be a convicted felon.
I think that's going to eliminate a lot of good people, unfortunately (laughs). It's for safety reasons. If I have to spend four days with the contestants, I'd prefer it if they not be murderers.

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As a young person, would you have entered a show like this?
I think so. People can upload their stand-up or a short film and they could be flown out right away and we'll try to help them out. It's not at all negative. That's actually one of the things that I wanted to know for sure before I agreed to participate in this, which was that it not be like one of those reality TV shows where you can see that people are being clearly manipulated. So if they would have told me, "This kid's going to come and you're going to tell him that he's talentless and he's going to start to cry," I wouldn't have gotten involved. What I like about Big Shot Live is the act of helping somebody. It's not one of these negative reality shows where the judge is always shitting on somebody.

Sometimes the webisodes aren't even about the competition. It could be me and the other managers driving in the car on the way to pick up the contestant and we're having a chat.

Life goes on in these webisodes and we explore the characters that I and the other comedians, Brian Huskey and Eddie Pepitone, portray. It's part competition and part sitcom.

In your career, have you had anyone help you out in the same way that this show might help an aspiring model or comedian?
I've had people do very nice things for me. When I was 18 I opened up for Patti LaBelle and she was pretty much, for that short period, just very nurturing and taught me a million things that she probably doesn't even know she taught me. I also had Adam Sandler see my pilot, Todd's Coma, that I shot on my own and he called me up and said, "We've got to turn this into a full-fledged pilot!" That was extremely nice of him.

Have you opened for many musicians?
I've opened up for a lot of traditional musical acts like Patti LaBelle, The Temptations, George Benson, Luther Vandross, Gladys Night & The Pips, a lot of those people, but that was a long time ago. Those audiences were actually very good, very receptive. There were some rock bands, I don't even remember who they were, that were a little much. I wouldn't do that anymore. I don't want to perform for people who don't want to see me. That's a good rule. You don't want to be in a situation where you're being thrown upon a disinterested audience.

What was the most unwilling audience that you've ever performed for?
It was right out of high school, I opened up for the Hooters, who were a band out of Philadelphia. (Sings) "You got to dance all night and take the paint off the walls!" It was one of those things where you're onstage and literally, midway through, you stop trying and go, "Yeah, well fuck you! I've got to stay on stage for a half an hour so yell all you want you stupid fucks!"

How did you get involved with opening for the likes of Pattie LaBelle or The Temptations?
It sort of happened indirectly. Right out of high school, I used to work at this place called the Valley Forge Music Fair In Philly and they had all of those types of acts there. I'd occasionally see the owner around and he'd say, "You ready to open up for those acts at the music fair yet?" and I'd say, "No, not yet." I knew I wasn't ready. Then one day Patti LaBelle came through and didn't have an opening act, so the music fair called the Comedy Works, which was a big club in Philadelphia, and they sent me.

How do you know when you're ready to do something like that?
I didn't think I was ready, but I did it and I did ok.

Have you ever done a traveling tour of Make Me Laugh at colleges?
Yeah, I've also done it on TV on Comedy Central. I prefer not to perform for anyone who's getting paid not to laugh. I actually had fun doing Make Me Laugh at colleges because I didn't take it seriously. I'd just go in there with my friends and just be silly.

How long did you do Make Me Laugh?
On and off for 2 years. I never went crazy and did like 20 shows in a month, but I'd do about 75 a year.

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How would you get around?
I flew from college to college. Sometimes when a College was real close, I'd drive to the next one. I would actually pay the students to drive me. If I was doing a college and the next one was 2 hours away, instead of renting a car, since I hating driving by myself, I would offer students 150 dollars to take me. I always got someone to take me.

When you go on car trips like that, do you play any sort of car games?
(Laughs) No. You're just usually talking. They're usually interested about comedy and I love talking about comedy.

Performing at Make Me Laugh at colleges seems to be something that many comedians have experienced that the casual comedy fan doesn't know about. Another thing like that is the comedy condo.
The comedy condo is somewhat a thing of the past. They still have them. Thank goodness you get to a point in your career where you don't need to stay at them. I stay in hotels. Back in the day the club would rent an apartment, they'd try to keep it neat, but they were just horrendous. They just got dirtier and filthier and dirtier. A condo says, indirectly, everything that a club owner thought about comedy. Of course, there were certain club owners that really tried to make the condo nice, but, overall, they were horrendous. I've always said keep your condos as nice as this: you have a friend in from out of town, you own a comedy club, and they go, "Hey can we see where you keep the comedians?" Would you be mortified or proud?

What are some horrific things you've seen in a comedy condo?
Used condoms. I don't want to open up my night table drawer and see porno magazines from 10 or 30 people earlier. Filthy rugs that have had bong water poured on them every week for two years. Tons of broken things.

So when you would walk into a place like that what would you do?
I'm pretty anally clean. I've done everything from calling a carpeting cleaning service and spending seventy-five of my own dollars for them to clean the rugs or just keeping it dark and lighting a few candles. Really, if the condo was bad enough, I'd just not work the club again.

How would you describe your attention to cleanliness? Are you like Danny Tanner from Full House?
(Laughs) Well, I'm not afraid to touch things and I'm not a germaphobe. I just like being neat and like things orderly. Maybe it's my ADD; I can't organize the things I need to organize because of my dyslexia.

Sounds like you just psychoanalyzed yourself.
Somebody did that for me already once on a plane.

How did that go down?
Some lady I was sitting next to, I was talking about that, and she could tell how I was straightening my magazines on the plane. Some people like things organized, it doesn't have to be so deep. Some people just like things neat. She goes, "It could be, though, if you're over organizing that you're doing it because it's something you do that makes you feel organized, but the real things in life you need to organize, you're ignoring," which I've done.

When she said that, how did you react?
I punched her in the vagina.

You do quite a bit of material based on those sort of exchanges.
I do a lot of stories in my act. I'm always sort of listening in or going to somebody's defense who I feel is getting shit on. My friends always ask me, "Why does this stuff always happen to you?" and I think it's not that it happens to me as much as I just pay attention to it.

What do you tell people you meet with when, like on a plane, when they ask you what you do for a living?
I always do the same thing. They go, "What are you going into New York for?" And I say, 'Ummmm', and I get about a second and a half to decide what I'm going to say. If it's a nice person sometimes talking about what you do can be very interesting and make the time pass. Other times it leads to just nothing.

What do you tell people if you don't want to tell them you're a comedian?
Usually they just ask where you're going. I say, "I'm just going to visit some friends and stuff". If they ask me what I do for a living, I lie. I usually say I do like contracting.

Which isn't so far off.
From what?

From what you actually do. You sign a contract and perform stand-up.
Well, you know, I can sort of get out of that easy enough. I used to make up all types of lies when I traveled. I used to tell people I was a cop.

You portrayed a cop on a few occasions, is that something that interests you, law enforcement?
I always wanted to be a cop, probably because of the most sophomoric reasons, which are driving fast and running through red lights. I just think it'd be fun. I've done like a 100 ride-a-longs. I have a lot of friends that are cops.

What do you do during a ride-along?
Just sit and talk if it with my friends. Sometimes I get to play on the PA, which is fun. Then I get to turn on the siren if we get a code 3, as they say in the business.

What do you usually say into the PA?
"Red Chevy, move over to your left!" You always have to say the color of the car and its make. "Red Chevy Pull Over!" "Red Chevy stop blocking the entrance!" Sometimes I play around on the PA, like tell people to stop kissing if I see a couple kissing on the corner and they laugh. "Guy with red shirt, stop kissing!"

After they laugh, do you ever tell them that you're serious?
No, they know I'm kidding. Hopefully there's no law against kissing.

Have you even been on a ride-along where something intense happens, like a high-speed pursuit?
I've been on a few high-speed chases on the 405 in Los Angeles up to speeds of about 90-100 miles an hour where all the guns are drawn. It's pretty intense.

You do a lot of driving, and just traveling in general, as a comedian. Do you see a lot of stores with puns as names?
I hope any store that has a pun as a name goes out of business. I hate them. Like Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow for a haircut place. They're dumb. They don't help the store. You know what I hate about puns the most? When people think of them, they LOVE them! They love their puns! I can just see them sitting around, going, "We got it!" I just see it as someone worrying about the wrong thing.

So what are some things that people should be worrying about?
We always worry about the wrong thing. Ask yourself, "What's the grossest thing we are doing in society right now?" Fifty years ago they thought Elvis was corrupting the world, but meanwhile they were going, "Excuse me, sir, you can't go into that bathroom. You're black." Those are the sort of issues I want to deal with on Todd Glass Saves America.
Some people today think that movies and video games are corrupting the young, but fifty years ago people marched against Elvis. Can you imagine that? They'd wake up in the morning and say, "What are we going to march for today?" Women weren't equal, blacks weren't treated fairly, handicapped people were kept out of the public realm, but then Elvis hits the air waves and some people went, "What the?! That's it! That's the end of the world." I just wonder, "Why not tackle something more important?

So what is Todd Glass Saves America about?
It would be like The Daily Show, but for social issues and etiquette. I think the best way to live your life is to ask yourself before you act, "Is that nice?" Some might say it's not that simple, but I think it is. "Blacks can't use the same bathrooms as whites." Does that sound nice? No. In fact, it sounds gross. "Women shouldn't be treated as well as men." That doesn't sound nice at all; it's actually scary and disgusting.

Also, you know what we should be worried about? Organized religion. I see it as being responsible for a lot of destruction. People say, "Well, they do good too," but it doesn't make up for the horrific things they've done. If I said, "My neighbor has murdered ten people last year," and then you said, "Yeah, but he gave $400,000 to the Boys Club of America too," that wouldn't make up for the people he's murdered and religion's responsible for a lot more bad than good.

I'm going to be clear about this: what I'm saying right now will change nobody's opinion. But with the show, I want to get people to change with humor, as opposed to just barking at them.

How would you do that?
Well, for example, I love it when people say, "Lets go back to the way things were in the 50's." It's especially silly when it's said by people who would be victimized in that era. So the show could have a sketch where we go back to the 50's. We have a guy in a wheelchair and we make him get out of it and go sit on the sofa so nobody is grossed out by his wheelchair because, you know what, back then people would hide the handicapped. Someone might say, "My son is visiting this weekend. He's mentally handicapped," and someone else would answer. "No way! We're in the 50's. You keep him away." And suddenly you see that things are much better now than they were then.

Who are you working on that with?
Chris Albrecht, who used to be the President of HBO. He's now at a place called IMG World and we're just in the beginning stages of putting this show together.

And what about your other work in progress, Dr. Todd?
That's another show that I'm working really hard on right now, although the writers' strike put a damper on it. Basically, what 30 Rock is to Saturday Night Live, Dr. Todd is to Dr. Phil. It's not a parody of Dr. Phil, but a behind the scenes look at it.

What else bugs you about religion?
It bugs me when people say to other people that they're going to burn in hell. There's no reason to threaten me or anyone else with hell because having to endure the sewage that's spewing out of your mouth is hell itself. A comedian friend of mine, Jimmy Dore, tells a story about how after a show a woman came up to him and said, "You're going to hell," and his response was, "If you really believed that, wouldn't you feel bad for me? You know what, you don't believe it. And that's why you're angry. You'd like for me to go to hell, but you're not entirely positive that it exists, and that's where your anger's coming from." And he's right. If someone insulted you and then as they're walking away you realized, "Wait, there's a hole in the ground and they're about to fall into it." You wouldn't yell at them, "Hey, you're going to fall into a hole!" You're just going to keep it to yourself and let them fall. You might even smile at them or tip your hat as they walk away, but you're not going to tip them off to it. That's because you're certain it's going to happen and there's no doubt making you angry. Instead their fear of, "What if there is no hell and this person gets to do what I perceive as wrong and there will never be a punishment?" is what causes all of their rage.

Personally, I don't believe in God. I mean, I can never know for certain, but, really, I don't think it matters. And let's say that those people who believe in the pearly gates are right. I show up, there's God, and there's some person saying, "Hey, he didn't believe in you. You shouldn't let him in." God would just role his eyes and say, "Listen, I don't care. He lived a good life and was nice to people. Let him in." That person would get angry and scream, "But he wasn't nice for you!" And God would respond, "I don't care who he's nice for as long as he's nice. It could be me, Buddha, or even some rock he found on the side of the road. Nice is nice."