INTERVIEW: Jon Glaser
Jon Glaser has led an enigmatic career in comedy with writing credits for Late Night With Conan O’Brien, MTV’s Human Giant and various shows for Cartoon Network’s [adult swim] programming block. His latest creation is Delocated, a faux live action reality show that follows the story of a man who enters the witness protection program while constantly being followed by a reality TV crew filming his every move. In the show he wears a ski mask and utilizes a voice harmonizer to help conceal his identity at all times, thereby obscuring his true identity as one of today's premiere comedians even further than it already is. Several years ago Glaser could be found around the various alternative comedy rooms in New York City, reading fake letters which he claimed his dead father had written detailing his experiences as a member of ZZ TOP before they reached mainstream success. One of his readings was captured live on the Comedy Central release, Invite Them Up in 2005, and after years of rumination and preparation, he turned that comedy bit into his newly released book, My Dead Dad Was In ZZ TOP. The book is a collection of fictitious letters chronicling the origins of songs and stories from such heralded bands as Led Zeppelin, Credence Clear Water Revival and Yo La Tengo to name a few. SanDiego.com was fortunate to spend some time with Jon Glaser to discuss his various projects and found out that he’ll be appearing in what may be the last season of Curb Your Enthusiasm alongside guest star, Michael J. Fox.
What was the first album you ever remembering buying?
Jon Glaser: I’ve been asked this question before and I feel like I can never remember. I sort of have like a vague notion of Boston; the first Boston album. I know we had it in my house and I would imagine I got it. That could’ve been the first album, or i was just talking to someone else today about buying the B-52’s album, I remember seeing them on SNL in 1977 I think, and was just like, ‘Yeah I gotta get that!’ But I can’t really remember a specific thing that I can say was for sure the first.
You performed the book’s concept as a live performance piece around New York City years ago. Was this always your intention to release a book of these fictitious letters?
No I had never really thought about it as a book. I certainly thought about maybe putting the letters online or something, I didn’t have a website and I still don’t. I kind of felt like these would be great to see in print, to actually see the physical letters. A few years ago I had started thinking about it again and thought it might actually be a funny book so I pitched it and thankfully someone went for it.
How often did you do “My Dead Dad Was In ZZ TOP” live?
I’m sure I had done it several times; I don’t think I had done it a bunch. It was probably around the Invite Them Up CD came out I had probably been doing around that time, which is why I chose to do it for the DVD. I hadn’t actually performed it in many years. I can’t remember what made me think of it as far as a book is concerned.
How long did it take you to write the letters and fabricate all the documents?
It’s hard to say exactly how much time, because I really was kind of working on it in between when I was working on Delocated. I just haven’t had a lot of time, I’m pretty sure I pitched the book in 2008, and finished it last fall as far as it being done. It was a lot of work, as far as me sitting down to do all the actual writing of the ideas and then working with my graphic designer as far as all the Photoshop ideas. And anything that’s hand written, those were physically hand written letters and what I did was just ask a whole bunch friends to help with that. I would just meet a friend for lunch and sort of sit with them while they would go over the piece and I’d give them notes. It took a lot of time. I know the Jay Leno letters was sort of the last idea.
You have always had an incredible knack for parody songwriting; will the American public ever get to see your band Detroit Octane again?
Ha ha. I doubt it. That’s probably just a one and done.
Why was there no trace of the group you created at Late Night with Conan O’Brien, the Slipnuts?
Not every band can make the book, and it’s also not a real band.
The foreword for the book was written by Ira Kaplan from Yo La Tengo. Why did you ask him to handle that?
I reached out to him because we’re friends, so I really wanted that to be somebody I had a personal relationship with at least on some level. He was my first choice just because I know him and we are friends, so I was very happy that he did it, it actually means a lot to me that he did it. It was really great.
Did you have anything to do with Yo La Tengo inserting an option for “Sitcom Theatre” on their recent “Spinning Wheel Tour”?
I had nothing to do with it, but I heard about it and it sounded pretty funny.
My Dead Dad was in ZZ Top
How did Jon Hamm end up doing a reading of one of the letters at your book release party a few weeks ago?
I actually met him that night. I just reached out to him to see if he wanted to do it. I heard he liked Delocated and then he happened to be in town shooting a movie. Thankfully he was free; it was pretty cool that he did it.
Might we see an appearance of Jon Hamm in season three of Delocated?
We’ll see. That could be nice but I have no idea.
What was the free unnamed gift that you provided for the people who showed up at your book release party?
It was the Butthole Surfers patch. I had that made, because obviously it’s not a real thing so when I ordered it from the patch company; you have to order fifty patches is the minimum. So I had given a bunch away to friends and then I had a bunch left over and thought this would be a funny cool gift for people to receive who bought the book at the party.
Will we ever get to see A Matter of Trust perform again?
I would imagine; I have no idea. There’s certainly no plan to right now. But that was very fun and it comes up every now and then, so hopefully we will to do that one more time.
Did you sell your “Tiny Hands” character to Burger King for those commercial spots or did they rip you off?
Of course I did not sell that idea to Burger King. You know someone told me about that and then a year later it was an actual commercial on TV, and then of course all my friends were like, ‘Holy shit you got ripped off!’ and it is what it is. I think that happens all the time in advertising and there’s probably nothing I can do about it.
Do you have a twitter account?
I actually don’t have a twitter account and I never have. So if anyone ever sees a tweet from me, it’s not me. I do have a Facebook page which I sort of do as my Delocated character, and there’s a Delocated page I do. They’re basically the same thing, and then I have a blog.
Will we see you in any episodes of the upcoming Comedy Central program, Jon Benjamin Has A Van?
Yes, I did something for the show.
You had a small role in Emily Hubley’s independent film “The Toe Tac Tic” where you portrayed an open-mic performer named “Toots.” Was that a character you came up or was that role already written out?
No that was her idea. She just cast me and asked me to do it, and that was very, very fun.
Did you do a lot of open-mics in college?
I did a little stand-up in college, and I tried some open-mics and did some comedy clubs in the area, and a couple things in college. What do you remember about the first few times you did stand-up? I mean it was really fun, but I can’t remember a lot of the material. It was probably pretty terrible.
Will you be coming to Comic Con in San Diego?
We just did a Delocated panel at the New York Comic Con and I would love to come out for San Diego, but it feels like since Delocated started, we’ve just been busy with the show. We’ve either been shooting or editing.
Is there any chance we could see you promoting My Dead Dad Was In ZZ TOP on TBS with Conan O’Brien?
I mean I talked to him about it and it just depends on if they’re interested and if they are if I have the time to go out. I would love to do it of course, we’ll see. And if they don’t want to do it I certainly wouldn’t take it personally.
I think it’d be great to see your character from Late Night, “Pubes” come back for one night on TBS.
You mean to see the thing that I hate the most.
Why do you hate “Pubes” the most?
Whatever, it was just a super dumb bit. I will probably never do “Pubes” again. The only way I’ll do “Pubes” is if for the next Presidential election someone’s like, ‘President Obama, he loves “Pubes” and he wants you to come out for a ten thousand dollar a plate fundraiser, dressed as “Pubes.”’ Then I’ll do it.
Why do you hate dog owners who fail to pick up their dog’s poop?
It drives me out of my fucking mind. Who would not get pissed off except the assholes that don’t feel like they need to pick up shit off of the ground? It’s insane to me that people just leave their dog’s shit on the sidewalk. It’s like telling your neighbors, ‘Hey! Fuck you! I don’t care about you or the community I live in!’ To me it’s so vile and disrespectful.
If you could institute a fine or some sort of penalty in your neighborhood for people who don’t pick up their dog’s poop, what would it be?
You should be allowed to beat that person. There should be public beatings, no question about it. Or at the very least be able to throw it at them. Let’s go with public beatings. That’s pretty extreme but I really do think it’s awful. I can’t understand it. And now all of the snow is melting in New York, and all the shit that people left, now it’s on the ground. All the shit people left in the snow because they didn’t feel like picking up it didn’t disappear, it was frozen and now there it is. It’s nasty, it’s everywhere. Believe me I’m happy to talk about it and raise awareness. I want people to feel bad. But you know what those people aren’t going to feel bad. They obviously don’t care.
Do you have any new shows or outside acting gigs coming up?
I’ve been really busy with Delocated script writing. I haven’t had time to really do much else, which is certainly one of the great things about doing Delocated, is that I don’t have to worry about that, but nothings coming up on the horizon. I did do an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, so whenever the new season starts I’ll be in one of those episodes, the one that Michael J Fox is in. It was really fun. It was very cool to get to be on that show.
I heard it might be the last season of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
I’m not sure. I’ve heard that, but you know who knows?
Does Jon Glaser have a message for the children?
Eat healthy, brush your teeth and respect your mom. That’s my message for the kids. It’s pretty straight forward but it’s true. Respect your mom, unless she’s being shitty to you, then don’t worry about it.
Delocated Seasons 1 & 2 will be released on DVD July 5th. My Dead Dad Was In ZZ Top is out now.