Todd Glass is obsessively preparing to throw a party at his Los Angeles home. Cameras follow the veteran comic as he makes ice-cream sandwiches, sets up instruments and dims the lights to create the proper atmosphere. It’s all being captured for an episode of the PBS Digital Studios documentary Web series “Modern Comedian.”
When the party starts, the feel is similar to Glass’ weekly podcast, “The Todd Glass Show”: On the podcast, Glass invites a bunch of friends into a studio for improvised bits, musical riffs, fake phone calls and an unlimited amount of silliness. At the party, Glass and his friends do bits, sing songs and generally get goofy. It’s a vibe Glass also tries to integrate into his stand-up — which he’ll perform at the DC Improv this weekend — if the audience is there for him.
“When the collective audience is nurturing, they reap the benefits,” Glass says. “It’s like you’re hanging with friends.”
When a crowd sticks with a performer, even if a bit isn’t working, it makes him feel like he can try new things and improvise without flopping.
“When an audience is loose and loving, I’m gonna play,” he says. “If I’m playing, that means they’re a good audience.”
Audiences have been pretty good to Glass this past year, especially considering that a little more than a year ago he faced his biggest fear and came out on an episode of Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast. The news pushed Glass into the public eye after years of relative obscurity.
Glass’ coming-out story earned him a deal for a memoir, which will be published later this year. 2012 also marked the release of his hourlong “Todd Glass Stand-Up Special” on Netflix Instant. He headlined dates across the country and opened a series of theater dates for comedy giants Jim Gaffigan and Louis C.K. To top it off, he says he recently scored a sitcom deal with a cable network, though he can’t yet reveal the details.
Even with his career skyrocketing, Glass hasn’t forgotten that his responsibility as a stand-up is to show the audience a good time — much like the host of a party. It’s something he remembered recently while attending a Brian Regan show in San Francisco.
“Some people who work at my podcast, we all went to a nice dinner, got a cab, went to the theater and sat down,” Glass says. “I remember thinking, ‘This is what your audience does.’ It gave me a perspective: This is special and it’s something they don’t get to do all that often.”
Birth of a Bit
After six shows this weekend, Glass will tape an episode of his podcast, “The Todd Glass Show,” live at the DC Improv on Sunday night. Glass says there isn’t much difference between the studio-recorded episodes of his podcast and the live ones — just that the audience gets to see the visual elements of gags and that he gets an immediate reaction from the crowd. The biggest difference between his stand-up shows and the podcast, though, is the material. “There’s a different type of polish in the podcast,” Glass says. It can also be a place to start germinating new material. “It’s easier to talk about things that happened that day or on the flight coming in. Eventually, those things may go into your act, but in the podcast, you see them in the very beginning stages.”
The DC Improv, 1140 Connecticut Ave. NW; Thu.-Sun.; see Dcimprov.com for showtimes and prices; 202-296-7008. (Farragut North)