Jon Glaser is not the man he plays on TV. That isn’t shocking—nothing on TV is ever real, and no man who has stayed alive into his forties could ever be as huge of an asshole as Glaser’s characters in Delocated and Jon Glaser Loves Gear. But it’s also easy to confuse those characters with the real man because their names are “Jon” and Jon Glaser, respectively. Expecting Glaser to be like the Jon Glaser he plays on TV is as natural as expecting Larry David to act like Larry David, or expecting Bob Newhart to somehow be both the nicest and most deadpan man you’ve ever met.
“I’d like to think I’m not that big of an asshole,” Glaser responds when asked how much of himself is in his characters. “I certainly hope it’s a big, wide line. You’ll have to interview my friends and my family.”
On the phone Glaser is a perfect gentleman. If anything we’ve talked about has annoyed or bored him, he hasn’t let on at all, no matter how often I compared his new show with his old show. He was even cool with me derailing our manly sports talk by bringing up the hockey romance novels my wife’s gotten into. (When I tell him she likes the team with the best looking players, he totally blurs the line between actor and role by blurting out “She’s following the hunks—the hockey hunks,” which was just some voice distortion away from sounding like a Delocated line.)
So yes: Jon Glaser, by all accounts, is a good man. When his characters act awfully and selfishly, it’s not him unleashing some inner part of himself, or projecting his own fears and self-doubt onto the screen. It’s him isolating the traits that most commonly unite the stars of reality TV and tearing them apart, amplifying the desperation and narcissism that would drive somebody to star in bottom-feeder reality shows to deafening levels of absurdity and derision. Not that he’d ever say that himself, in so many words—again, he’s a real jam-up guy, a total breeze to chat with, and also probably realizes that kind of flowery praise I just unspooled is as pointlessly ostentatious and hollow as any reality show goof. He is totally Midwestern.
What he would say is, well, below. Because he did say it. At least the parts attributed to him, and not to Paste. Those parts aren’t his.
Paste: Why a gear parody show?
Jon Glaser: It’s in the title, man. I just love gear so much. So I’m like, let’s just do a comedy show about it. It was a loose idea that I had. It’s rooted in a genuine place of really being into “gear” and activities. I like to bike and I like to run and I like all the stuff. I had done a live bit on stage years ago, and I’ve done it a bunch since, where I just went on stage and talked about this rain jacket that I love. There are really no jokes. It’s a dry thing where I went on stage and did this whole set-up about having writer’s block and trying to think of a new idea to do on stage and having trouble and I went back to that tried and true device of just writing about my passions, about what I love, and ideas will come. And I realized I loved this rain coat, so I’m going to go on stage and talk about it. So I go on stage, the hood is up, it’s all zipped up, and I just talk about the features. There are really no jokes for it and for some reason it just goes well. I did that for like two minutes. It’s not long, but it’s just long enough to be on stage talking about a jacket. And then I open it up to a Q&A with the audience where they can ask me anything about the jacket. And that just becomes really stupid and ad libbed. It’s a fun bit to do for sure. It has be the right audience. I don’t think I can go to a random comedy club and do it, but who knows. I still would do it—it’d be fun to do even if it bombed. That stuff doesn’t bug me. That’s where the idea came from. And then it expanded and changed over time as I was working on it, from the pilot to the series.
Paste: Is that the rain jacket you wear at the end of the first episode?
Glaser: No, it’s a different one. We ended up getting that for the show. The one I have is even more, even with the joke in the episode about that being too much watch for me, too much watch, the rain jacket I have is truly too much jacket. It’s one of those high end brands. It’s jacket that you need if you’re ice climbing, and you need a technical coat. I just thought it was cool. At the time it was one of those really misguided decisions where I needed a new winter jacket, and I thought instead of buying a big parka I was going to buy a really nice rain shell and then a jacket that could go underneath, and I’d use the rain shell in the fall and spring as just a jacket, and then… whatever, it was just stupid. And then I had this super expensive rain coat that I didn’t even wear that much. And even when I did it was like the wrong coat for the city. This jacket ends at the waist, because you don’t need the coverage when you’re ice climbing, but when you’re walking into the subway you need something that goes down to your knees. Anyway—you just heard all the details and conversations for the show.
Paste: Do you keep the gear when an episode is done?
Glaser: There was some stuff we got to keep and some stuff we just used and returned. It was a combination. I did walk away with a small bounty of treasure.
Paste: Was the plan to always use the gear as a sort of launchpad for a Delocated-style slow burn tragedy?
Glaser: Not necessarily. In the earlier incarnation of the idea it was a little more about the gear, and then it slowly evolved into what you just described. We were joking about that as we shot the pilot, that it felt like Delocated without the ski mask. It sort of became that. I think that’s a good thing, certainly—funnier and more interesting.
Paste: So the first episode, between Steve Cirbus’s role and this version of Jon Glaser acting almost identically like “Jon” from Delocated, it really does feel like something of a continuation or successor. Are you cool with people thinking that or do you wish you had done more to differentiate the two?
Glaser: I feel real cool about that! It just sort of became that. Like I said, we really were laughing a lot during the pilot about how it felt like Delocated. And I think that’s okay, because it’s so different at its core. It’s strange because I’m playing this asshole version of myself that a lot of times does feel like “Jon” from Delocated, but I’m playing myself and there’s no mask and there’s no quote-unquote “character” even though it is a character that I’m doing, so sometimes it just feels weird because it’s supposed to be real. It’s supposed to be me, even though it’s an exaggerated version. And sometimes it’s like,” ugh, I don’t like this.” With Delocated there was at least a character, and things like Councilman Jamm on Parks & Recreation, it’s clearly fiction. But this is a heightened version of myself, even though it’s not accurate at all.
Paste: This is the second show you’ve done that is ostensibly a parody of reality TV. Like Delocated, it branches off from that almost immediately and is way more than just a genre parody. Why does that fake reality show concept a good framework for comedy?
Glaser: I don’t know. It wasn’t even necessarily—Delocated was certainly more the approach, and this one sort of transformed during the process, but with this one it wasn’t the agenda, like to “skewer” reality shows. This was just the idea that I think was funny and it became what it is. It’s so prevalent on television and I find it to be a mostly depressing genre, at least with the shows that we’re skewering. The whole notion of people who want to be famous, that was more Delocated. Here’s a guy driven by fame. With Jon Glaser Loves Gear, that’s not what it is. This is “I love this thing, and I’m gonna do it no matter what, even if it’s to the detriment of a friendship, because it’s all rooted in this thing.” Maybe that’s why—it’s so much a part of television. It’s all over the place. I don’t want to say it’s an easy thing to parody—it’s not an easy thing to parody. You’ve got to do it right. But it’s relatable.
Paste: Jon Glaser Loves Gear also gets a little intense at times, like Delocated. Why do you think violence, or the threat of violence, works well with comedy?
Glaser: It just depends on the context. For me I’d make it less specifically about violence and more broadly about encompassing drama. Certainly with Delocated, and most of what I do and what I like, it’s when things are taken very seriously and played very straight and very dramatically. That, to me, is where the comedy comes from. You can certainly look at Delocated, Neon Joe and this show. Sometimes it’s just straight-up stupid comedy shit, but this is being played like a real reality show, playing things straight. If you’re playing things honestly and truthfully, and if it feels real, that’s appealing to me. That’s what I like about it.
Jon Glaser Loves Gear airs on TruTV on Wednesdays at 10 PM.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s comedy and games sections. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.