Comedian Todd Glass made waves in the comedy world on Monday by using Marc Maron's widely popular WTF podcast to publicly come out after over 20 years of silence. In doing so, he's created one of the most memorable moments in recent comedy history.
Since premiering in late 2009, Maron has interviewed hundreds of comedians he's met over 25 years of performing stand-up comedy. The WTF podcast is known for its frankness and honesty; while he and his guests always talk comedy, conversations tend to veer towards what's going on underneath the surface in their lives.
The recent interview with Glass, however, is sure to go down as one of the most significant moments from the podcast's 240+ episodes. That Glass specifically chose Maron's show to come out is only the tip of the iceberg — Glass repeatedly mentions his decision was motivated by the increasing trend of gay teen suicides.
Stand-up comedy is an art form predicated on brutal honesty — many of the most celebrated comedians are the ones who embrace their struggles and fears for the sake of laughter.
"This is the reason that motivated me to do it. I cannot listen to stories about kids killing themselves any longer and not [think] 'when are you going to have a little blood on your shirt for not being honest about who you are?'" Glass admits. "And if I do it in a public forum, as opposed to just doing it privately, I can then maybe do something to help kids."
With a benevolent anger in his voice characteristic of his onstage persona, Glass reserved his harshest judgment for people who spew homophobic vitriol toward young people.
"If you are a homophobe and you're out there, you better be positive you're right. Because this is going to blow. And how convenient that you get to write a book in 20 years to say how wrong you were — they're dead. So why don't you have a soul searching moment now."
Glass struggles to even use the term "gay" when identifying his sexuality. "I have a hard time saying that; I've always hated using that term. And that is why I've always been sympathetic to people who don't want to be called this anymore. Because I'm not honest about who I was, it was hard to show why I had empathy. "
At one point in the interview Maron pushed back about Glass's reticence: "You have a hard time saying it at all. I don't even know how you would frame it. We're here, we're doing it, and can't really frame it."
As a comedian and fan of the show, this part resonated with me more than others. Todd Glass was one of the first celebrities I encountered when I moved here, and he remains one of the nicest people I've ever met. I always admired his intensity onstage and willingness to not shy away from uncomfortable situations in his comedy. So, the manic energy he poured into this interview was quite telling — I will admit, it forced me to rethink some of my own choices in how I approach certain topics onstage.
Fellow Austin comedian Katie Pengra wonders if the podcast will have an effect on the words local comics choose to use onstage.
He says his act is probably not going to change right away, but it will be more honest than it was before. In the meantime, we can begin to think of how we might change ours.
"Every subject should be open in comedy, so I would never say that gay jokes shouldn't be made. However, when someone who claims to be open minded and accepting when they are off stage, and then do anti-gay humor, then they are a hypocrite. I feel like all comics who have a joke with 'faggot' as a puncline should listen to this (podcast)."
Stand-up comedy is an art form predicated on brutal honesty — many of the most celebrated comedians are the ones who embrace their struggles and fears for the sake of laughter. In laughing with them we are invited to disarm those fears. Sounds cliche, but think of the most influential bits from Richard Pryor, Louis C.K., Dave Chappelle or Roseanne. Some of the best comedy comes from the darkest places, the places where it is important to be honest first and foremost with yourself.
This is what Glass said he failed to do for most of his life. He says his act is probably not going to change right away, but it will be more honest than it was before. In the meantime, we can begin to think of how we might change ours.
Todd Glass's interview with Marc Maron can be found at the WTF website.
More info on Todd Glass can be found at his website.