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Todd Glass on His First Year As an Out Comedian and the Support of the Comedy Community

Exactly a year ago, veteran comedian Todd Glass was a guest on Marc Maron's "WTF" podcast. (Listen to the full episode below.) After some jokes about a "big announcement," Glass, at age 47, after doing comedy for 31 years, came out of the closet. Throughout the very powerful episode, he discussed why he did it. Much of it was personal, but he also said he felt an obligation to the kids having a terribly hard time growing up homosexual. Maron remarked on his palpable passion and clarity of thought. Glass is a brilliant comedian whose act is often self-referential and silly, so hearing him discuss these things with such focus was arresting. Now a year later, it appears Glass has grown more comfortable talking about being gay and gay issues, especially on his podcast, "The Todd Glass Show," where the topic occasionally comes up. Wanting to know how it's been for Glass since his public announcement, we spoke to him about his first year as an out comedian, how his fellow comedians received the news, and his upcoming book project.

Do you remember how you felt the day the episode was released?
It was a mixture. Number one, I felt relieved. I got in the car, and I was like, [sighs] "Even if I’m nervous, it can only get better from here." I didn’t know anyone who had ever told a story in which the truth led to anything but something positive, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a scary road. I knew eventually that I was in the right direction. I wasn’t going to be one of these people that lives their whole life with that type of lie. So I felt relieved, but also everywhere I went I was nervous. Like at the Improv, I walked in nervous. When I went to my first radio show, I walked in nervous. And that’s completely over. That’s completely gone now.

Did you listen to the episode?
I did listen to it six months later. I could make fun of myself a little but also defend myself. The opening made it sound like I had cancer, but I was that nervous. When I had called Marc the night before it dropped, I had a horrible stomachache. I knew that I couldn’t call Marc and ask him not to air it. He said, “If you have second thoughts, call me.” And I said, “No. I have had second thoughts my whole life. I just gotta fucking do this.” And then very quickly, I was glad that I did it.

So then six months later, why did you decide you wanted to listen to it?
Probably a mixture of everything: Did I make my points well? Did I think that I bring clarity to certain things that I thought I did?

So you've said the response was generally overwhelmingly positive. Do you remember anything specific one of your fellow comedians did or said?
Well, of course all of my comedian friends were awesome. I remember walking into the Improv, and Jeff Garlin, really loud, said, “Oh my god, Todd Glass, my favorite gay comic.” And at first I got fucking embarrassed as shit, and then instantly, within five seconds, I realized, Oh, that’s comedy. And I went up to him and gave him a big hug. I went from being like, “Oh, no, I just want to come in here and never talk about it again,” to “That’s exactly what we comedians do.” My friend said comedians roast each other at our funerals. So I can certainly be roasted at the Improv. It was actually great that he did that, and it made me feel really good that I can get teased about it. I want to be teased about it.

So everyone was really good at joking about it immediately.
Everybody was awesome. And by the way, I knew they would be. I was really proud of my peers because they sent me the nicest, warmest e-mails or texts, and, you know, it made you melt. But the thing I wanted to do the most is say it and then go back to my regular life. It’s why I’m apprehensive to do interviews. That doesn’t mean that I won't talk about it at all, obviously, because it’s part of my life. I don’t want every interview talking about it, because that doesn’t mirror how I talk about it in real life. The best example is when I went to WMMR in Philadelphia, and the first time, we talked about it for a half hour and then went on to do a two-hour show not talking about it at all. The next time, we didn’t talk about it at all until something in the news brought it up. They were doing the news, and something came up about gay marriage. Well, now I was able to tap in on it from an honest perspective. And I remember leaving thinking, That’s the way I want it.

How have you dealt with negative feedback, however rare it has been?
Even though it was crazy overwhelmingly great, I still got to read a tweet here or there where someone uses the word fag now, and that was never an adjective anybody got to use against me. I'm talking maybe fifteen tweets. I can get to the place where it doesn’t bother me. But that’s the key thing. I have to get to the place. I am not so evolved where at first I'm not like, “Fuck, someone gets to call me a fag, goddamn it.” Look, that’s what happens. That’s what you get nervous about.

I think it’s important to point out that there’s a lot of decent, good people in this world, and even though social media can sometimes hurt your feelings, social media can also be a doorway to some incredibly kind people. It was overwhelmingly a lot of kind people. But when it happens, and it’s not that often, yeah, it's still a little bit like, [Sigh.] Fuck. They get to call me something that has nothing to do with my actions. I understand when someone says, “Hey, you fucking shitty driver,” or “Your fucking comedy sucks.” They’re wrong, but at least it’s an opinion of something I did. For the first time ever, someone got to make a slur or be negative toward me about something that has nothing to do with anything I did.

How long after the Maron interview did you go onstage again?
It was that Jeff Garlin night. I was putting off going onstage for a while, so my friend affectionately said, “Todd, are you not going to do comedy anymore?” And, you know, I was nervous. It was probably around five days later. I was really nervous, but it went away pretty quickly. Once the audience was laughing, it just went away. It went away maybe in two or three months.

So it took a few months to feel normal again?
Yeah, the first week I did at a club was maybe at the ACME comedy club and then the DC Improv, so I was going to very progressive — for lack of a better word — "hip" clubs, and I didn’t talk about it. I did a little joke about it, but I still don’t really talk about it. You know, at least I’m not lying saying “my girlfriend” anymore. And in all fairness, all my girlfriend jokes – for anybody who thinks, Oh, that’s sad, he had to make up whole stories — I didn’t make up whole stories; they were real stories, I just changed the gender. And by the way, if that doesn’t prove how much same-sex couples are the exact same as heterosexual couples, not once in my career did anyone ever hear a story I told and say, “Wait a second, that doesn’t sound like anything we … ” It’s all the same.

You’re from Philadelphia, and a few months after coming out, you had shows there. How was that?
One of the things I remember specifically is the people who would come up to me after the show and say the simplest things that got me a little emotional. Somebody would come over to me, and I’d assume that person didn’t know or that they were the type of person who wouldn’t be accepting. And they’d come up to me after the show and then as they turned to walk away, they’d turn back and go, “Hey, by the way – good for you for being honest. No one should have to live with a lie; there’s nothing to be ashamed of." And he looked like a Philadelphia factory worker, but there he was, so warm.

You said it took you a while before you mentioned coming out onstage. Do you remember how it came about?
Yeah. I still don’t talk about it that much, but I don’t want people to think that it’s weird that I’m not talking about it. Sometimes I’ll make a little light joke. Like: “I was in the mall today — there were a lot of hot girls. You know me and hot girls!” And then the crowd laughs, whoever knows. And then I’ll maybe just effectively look at them and go, “That’s all I’ll talk about that for now.” But I will when I’m ready. It’s just right now … It’s just … Nothing. It will happen.

Regardless of whether you say it explicitly, do you now feel more honest onstage?
Absolutely. Absolutely. I used to hide anything in my act that I would perceive as feminine. Like, I’m very into design, and I’m very into creating an atmosphere for dinner. And I used to not talk about any of that stuff because I thought it would be perceived as too feminine. I hid it. Now I talk about that stuff. It’s like, what the fuck. Plus I think there are a lot of straight people that are into all that stuff. It’s like my friend Paul F. Tompkins said: “When people found out that you were gay, some of them were like, ‘I knew it! Because he’s so into this and that.'” He goes: “Let me tell you something, if I told people I was gay, they would say, ‘I knew it!’ If Greg Proops told people he was, they would go, ‘I knew it!’” It’s just because they’re creative, honest, and in touch with their feelings.

In the interview, Marc Maron drew attention to the way that you talked about this topic. There was such a clarity, a drive, a focus. Did it feel that way? Has it continued?
I talk for a living, and there was one major thing that I had to hide and dance around. I'd sweat when it was brought up. If I was doing a radio interview and people asked me if I had a girlfriend, you could visibly see the sweat — it looked, no bullshit, like a Saturday Night Live sketch. They would turn to me and go, "Do you?" And I was like, “Aw, it just got hot in here.” The front of my shirt within 60 seconds would be noticeably drenched. So it was a lot of lying and deception, and it’s hard. So I had all these thoughts and opinions that I was never able to discuss, and in that one and a half hour interview, it all come out. I felt lighter and better, and all those clichéd things.

It seems like you’re definitely comfortable talking about it on your podcast. It's not every episode, but it definitely comes up when it feels natural. What is it about the medium that has helped you become more comfortable?
It took a little while even on that. But, you know, not that long. I’m sort of proud of myself. I don’t really reference, you know, anybody that I’m with. I still have a hard time. When I’m referencing him, I go my “boyfriend,” with a hard “boy," you know, and quotation marks. I said that in front of Sarah Silverman a few months ago, and she went “Aww. I’m so proud of you.” And I was really glad she said that instead of saying, “Stop saying boyfriend!” She went: “No, the fact that you can even do that, I’m impressed.” The podcast is a vehicle to be truthful. It’s not all I talk about, because like I said, in my regular life that’s not all I talk about. It comes up, it doesn’t come up — and I want my podcast to represent the truth. So I am more comfortable to talk about it on the podcast, and I would imagine it’s only going to get more and more comfortable.

You spoke in the "WTF" interview about how you used to lie in everyday life. For example, you'd be buy a shirt and say it's for a "friend."
I had two incidences where somebody asked me about my girlfriend. One [time], I lied; it was just easier — it wasn’t a big deal. And the other time I said it to somebody, we were in a comedy festival and all these comedians were going to this gay bar, and I was like, “Uhh, I don’t want to go.” And they were like, “Oh, don’t be homophobic; it’s going to be fun.” And I was like, “Oh, I’m not homophobic. I’m … ” and I mumbled it. At least I fucking did it. And there were like, “Oh, okay, you just don’t want to go.” I said, “Yeah, yeah, I just don’t want to go.”

It's a year later, and now you definitely know how well it went. Do you wish you did it sooner?
I think I just had to be where I was at. I don’t think I could have gone about it any other way. I would never rush anybody to do it. You really have to wait for when you’re ready. As a matter of fact, I always said, instead of telling people to come out, we should just, as a world, put out a welcome mat — that makes it a lot easier. Do I wish I had done it before? It’s easy to say yes — why wouldn’t I want clarity and truth in my life earlier? But I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready, and I did it when I was.

What do you look forward to in the coming year, both in terms of this and just in general?
Really, it's back to my regular old life and hopefully opening up more doors of truth. All the comedians I respect are usually truthful in their act, even if it's silliness. Whatever it is, it's all about being honest. Obviously that makes a good comedian, and now I can be more honest. And I hope that makes me grow to be a better comedian. I don't think I was a bad comedian before — just because I lied about one thing, I was still honest about a tremendous amount of things that made me upset or ticked. Now I can be more honest onstage, and I can talk about more things. The best example I can give you is the other day on the podcast, we started talking about — and I’m trying to be very clear when I say this because I couldn’t talk about this before with the anger that erupts in me — we were talking about the Catholic Church and the churches that have broken off and are not hateful. I can’t fucking believe that they’re not done abusing people. They don’t want to be evolved, and they still believe in conversion therapy. That’s fucking crazy to me! Crazy. And now I can talk about that more openly from this place.

Thank you for taking the time.
I hope it came across that overall this has been positive. There’s a lot of negativity that goes on in this world — I don’t want to have a delusional positivity — but I don’t think it's everyone. This taught me there are a lot more decent people maybe than I thought. And the nice e-mails! Especially from younger kids. Some of these young, brilliant kids are 13 and 14 and know they’re gay. Of course they would. Because when you’re 12, you know you’re straight. And I read them and am like, “Let’s move past this. Like, you [homophobes are] killing these kids. You’re crushing their souls. They’re in their rooms writing letters on computers. Stop it already." You know, and those letters inspire me. It’s one of the things that helped me with coming out. If I’m helping them, okay, good, but let me tell you something, no bullshit, they help me more. When you read a letter from one of these brilliant, young, decent, healthy children, and you just want to say to the world, “Come on, now. If you’re not sure whether being gay is a disease or if you can do conversion therapy on your child, go educate yourself. Go educate yourself. I’m begging you.” I just sold a book to Simon & Schuster, and I’m going to put a lot of those e-mails in it.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the book?
Yeah. I’m working on it right now. They heard me on the Marc Maron show, and somebody approached me about writing a book. It’s funny because I’ve never even read a book, just because of having dyslexia from a young age. Obviously, people who have dyslexia can read, but I just never did. I can read the words, but it’s very hard for me to comprehend it. But my manager asked me, “Do you ever want to write a book?” about a month before they asked me. And I said, “I can’t even grasp doing it.” And although it’s been a monstrosity of a thing to take on, I’m glad I’m doing it. It'll be autobiographical mixed with what you could call rants — my theories on different things. I think March is when it’s all due.

Listen to Marc Maron’s WTF podcast featuring Todd Glass:

Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast — Episode 245 with Todd Glass

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