Get to Know a Comedian: Nick Glaser
As he was growing up in Pittsburgh and then Northeast Ohio, the idea of becoming a comedian wasn’t something Nick Glaser ever considered. When he moved to Columbus to study philosophy at Ohio State, he still only had a casual interest in the world of comedy.
“I was a standup comedy fan, especially in college. I had been to a comedy contest in college that was specifically tailored to college comedians, but I was just there to watch. I had no interest in even being on stage. It never occurred to me”.
That all changed when Nikki Glaser, an up-and-coming comedian who has since gone on to host her own show on MTV and perform on the Tonight Show, contacted Nick online.
“I think it was my senior year”, Glaser remembered. “My last year in college. Just out of the blue. Facebook was maybe three years old at the time, and she sent me a message that said ‘hey we’re name twins, wanna be friends?’ At the time she was in St. Louis doing a lot of what I’m doing now, doing the Open-Mics, getting on wherever she could. We just kind of chatted. It was pretty innocuous. We talked about standup comedy, but I still didn’t at that point really think about it. What got me to the point of actually thinking about taking it to that level is when she got on Last Comic Standing. That made me realize that hey, this is a real person. This is somebody that I would consider a friend of mind in terms of just knowing people online. This real person got on Last Comic Standing and made a career out of it”.
That unplanned online interaction planted the seed for Glaser, and grew his interest in comedy from nothing to an idea and, eventually, to an opportunity.
“During that time, she did start to encourage me just to write my thoughts down, just to start thinking about being on stage. And then once she started touring nationally, she did a show in Pittsburgh. I have family there, so I brought my aunt, uncle, cousin and one of his friends out and we went to the show. That was the first time I met her in person and she was really really nice. And she was the headliner at a show at a dive bar, so she could pretty much do whatever she wanted. She had them give me five minutes. I had no idea that she was going to make it happen that night. But by that time I had thought out a set that was about five minutes of material. I went up on stage and I basically read my set, I didn’t even have time to memorize it. I read it off of my phone I think”.
Like most people trying their hand at comedy for the first time, Glaser experienced some growing pains.
“It was bad. My first set was absolutely terrible. The only laughs that I got were from my family reacting to hearing me say fuck for the first time. And they laughed. But a laugh’s a laugh. It was encouraging. It got me thinking that I should keep doing this”.
Nick was still in school, though, studying philosophy.
“It teaches you to questions things”, Glaser said, regarding the study of philosophy. “It teaches you to not take things for granted and to always be asking questions. The down side of that is that you’re always asking why, and I eventually asked myself ‘why am I studying philosophy?’ And I dropped out. As a fifth year senior, I dropped out of college”.
However, having recently returned from the show in Pittsburgh with new aspirations, Glaser was ready to get back on stage.
“I came back to Columbus and I found an Open-Mic at Surly Girl”, Glaser recalled. “I did the exact same set, but my family wasn’t there that time, and it was just blank stares”.
The setback could have derailed Glaser, but he instead took it as a learning opportunity.
“I decided I’d have to go back and I’d have to actually think about it and put in some effort and some time and some work and come back next week”, Glaser said. “And I did that and I came back. But that was actually eighteen months later for my next time on stage”.
The obstacle of not performing at his best took Glaser some time to overcome.
“It really did scare me. It was a very bad feeling and it wasn’t something that I ever wanted to repeat. But eventually you have to realize that the bombs are going to come and you got to get back up anyway”.
Glaser also got the motivation to get back on stage from home.
“I had lost my job right before my daughter was born, and I just kind of fell into the role of the stay at home dad. My wife had a good job and she went back to work in the day, and I took care of the kid while she was gone. For about nine or ten months I almost didn’t leave the house at all. I’d just wake up, do the work, go to sleep. It got to the point where I didn’t have anybody to talk to. She was less than one at the time. She didn’t speak English. I kind of went a little bit stir crazy. I needed to get out and talk to somebody. I needed to talk to as many people as I could at once. So I got on stage, got a microphone and started spouting whatever came out of my head into people’s ears”.
On April 27th, 2011 Glaser made his way back on stage, this time at the Scarlet and Grey Cafe, and he hasn’t missed a week since.
Glaser draws inspiration from influences like George Carlin, whose varied interests in scholarly subjects shape a broad comedic point of view.
Glaser is intrigued by Carlin’s “interest in linguistics, the way that words work, the way that language really controls everything that we do. Carlin also had a huge interest in music. He called himself musical, not musically talented, just musical. That’s the lesson that I picked up from George Carlin. You don’t have to be an expert in a field to benefit from it. You don’t have to be a great singer to enjoy singing. You don’t have to be a linguistic master to write a book. Sometimes you just have to take an interest and see where it takes you”.
Glaser’s own interests span a range of issues, sometimes drawing on his background in philosophy.
“I’ll talk about some questionable material; about the question of God; or Sex; or swearing, which is something that will offend a lot of people. A lot of comedians have a lot of hang-ups about race, or politics, or abortion, or any really divisive issue, but those are a great ground for comedy”.
“I love offending people, Glaser admitted. “It’s one of my favorite things to do in the world. It’s because as soon as you offend somebody it forces that person to ask themselves a question: Should I be offended by this? Is this actually problematic or am I just overreacting to it? And when you offend some people it forces them to ask that question. And regardless of the answer, whether they decide they’re right or they decide their wrong, that’s beneficial to a person. It forces introspection. And I like that. I like thinking about the deep questions of the world. I don’t have any answers. I don’t think there are any answers to have about a lot of them. But they’re fun to think about”.
When you think about the deep questions of life, doing so through a comedic lens can help provide some perspective.
“I try not to take life in general very seriously”, Glaser said. “I’m just up there trying to have fun, trying to entertain some people”.
Glaser can be found entertaining people every Monday night at the Shrunken Head at 9:00pm, where he hosts a comedy Open-Mic. He also hosts a Burlesque Trivia show with Ooh-La-Las at the Shrunken Head on the fourth Saturday of every month.
“I do a little bit of comedy there, and then I host a trivia contest. It’s trivia with burlesque dancers. So if you like working out your mind, getting a few laughs, and seeing girls take their clothes off, it’s something for everybody”.
When I asked Glaser about the state of comedy in Columbus, he seemed optimistic.
“I’m married. I have a mortgage. I have a kid. I couldn’t just uproot to do comedy. For right now, I’m invested in Columbus for better or for worse. I have to believe that there’s something here. I have to believe that we are a comedy town. And Columbus is where I got my start. Columbus is where I’ve been doing all my stuff. There are Open-Mics. You can get on stage four, five, six, seven times a week sometimes. And that’s not something you can say about some other cities. Cities that are comparable in size to Columbus don’t have comedy scenes like that sometimes”.
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More information about Glaser can be found at: www.facebook.com/OrangeHatGuy