Heart of Glass: Comic Todd Glass Talks Gay rights, Teaching Empathy

Todd Glass, the Philadelphia-born comic and host of a show on the Nerdist podcast, called “The Todd Glass Show,” is headed out on the road in support of Sarah Silverman and will be touching down in Boston for two shows on June 2 and 3 at the Wilbur Theater. For Glass, this outlet of entertainment has always been his true love.

“I always wanted to [do comedy], and I understood it. I guess people are drawn to it for different reasons, but for me, I didn’t do very well in school and didn’t really understand anything,” said Glass. “When I saw stand-up comedians, I understood what they were doing. I was very attracted to it, very early on. Around ten or eleven years old, I really started to like it,” he continued. “I loved Rodney Dangerfield, George Carlin and then when I was about 15 years old, I started watching people like Garry Shandling, Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno. They are all the big ones that drew me into comedy.”

Part of Glass’ struggle with his academics was his battle with dyslexia, which he has learned to cope with but has not overcome even to this day.

“I just have to work around it. I’ve never really done anything to overcome it, but I just figured out ways around it,” said Glass. “With stand-up comedy, I can make it work when I need help doing things that are technical. It hasn’t gone away, but I cope with it.”

Back in January 2012, Glass came out as openly gay, and while he feels like he has a responsibility to those in the LGBT community to bring awareness to the importance of being oneself, he doesn’t plan on letting his sexual orientation overtake his comedy act or on-stage persona.

“I’ve loved [comedy] the whole time I’ve done it. I don’t think [being gay] is the most interesting thing about me, so I didn’t want it to define me, which it naturally wouldn’t,” said Glass. “I don’t talk about being openly gay all that much on stage, but it still certainly opens you up to talk about a lot of other things that you might have been hiding,” he continued. “If you come to see my act, there are certain things that have nothing to do with [being gay], but it still has freed me up a little artistically, and I think your creativity tends to come out more when you don’t have secrets. You’re dealing with your true self.

“I’m not trying to preach to anyone. I feel everyone who needs to come out should come out, but only when they themselves are ready to do so. I was asked to do Nikki Glaser’s show, ‘Not Safe,’ and although they said it was still a little uncomfortable to talk about, I thought to myself that it was a good idea [to do the show]. When younger people see it, they can be like ‘Oh! All types of people are gay! That older guy is more like me!’ It’s always important for people to be who they are, so I do think it helps.”

For the stand-up veteran, coming to terms with his own sexuality was tough for a number of years, but he later learned to embrace it.

“I think a lot of people think it’s a phase. Well, maybe subconsciously you hope it’s a phase because you’ve heard so many negative things about it,” said Glass. “So when you start having those feelings, you hope it’s a phase. If you were living in a world where it isn’t shunned upon, you wouldn’t think it was a phase. Most people won’t think when they’re just starting to feel those emotions inside, that it’s just a phase. They would just embrace it,” he continued. “So I think people probably think it’s a phase because they want it to be, but I was probably around twenty when I was like, ‘s—t, this isn’t going to change.’

“It took me awhile to be okay with it, but then I started getting around other gay people, and thinking, ‘wow, this guy is gay and he’s cool, this lady is gay and she’s cool. These are all types of people, and I’m just one of them.’”

Glass touched upon the idea that adults feel that millennials are only saying they identify with the LGBT community to be a part of a trend and the controversial anti-Trans Bathroom Law that was recently passed in North Carolina, which has caused numerous big names in rock and roll to postpone and cancel shows previously scheduled in the state.

“We’re getting to a period where kids, young adults, are getting smarter, not dumber. History shows that kids are not following the behavior of adults—because they’re getting smarter and becoming more open-minded and more privy to things. There are still a lot of older and even younger people who think negatively about being gay, but it’s getting better.

“When it comes to North Carolina, I’ve heard people say ‘what about the money those people spent on hotels and tickets, and all the planning to travel and stuff?’ If you really understand the plight of what it’s like to be transgender or just have an idea, I guarantee you, that if you had tickets to see Bruce Springsteen, you would be a little bummed that you couldn’t see that concert, but emotion is what would win, ya know?” said Glass. “It could be like, ‘I lost so much money on that trip, but good for Bruce Springsteen!’ and I honestly think it’s good for him to shed that type of negative audience. Everyone wants to perform in front of kind, understanding, decent people,” he continued. “If that protest loses him that audience, good for him. At least he’ll gain a non-judgmental audience.

“In all honesty, I think we should just leave everyone the f—k alone. Because there are gay people who are racist, or women who are homophobic, or there’s black people who are homophobic, and they just perpetuate exactly what was just done to them. As you fight for your own rights, make sure you don’t turn around and hurt another group of people fighting for theirs.”

For Glass, understanding each other and co-existing comes down to one core characteristic.

“It all comes down to having empathy. We don’t really need to teach kids in school about equal rights for gay people or black people. We just need to teach them empathy, and they will learn to learn and understand everyone’s story, which will in essence, help us deal with all that stuff,” said Glass. “Just talk to people, understand people. There are a million ways to teach it, and I think if they taught it, it would be so powerful, and so doable, honestly.”

While Glass is very passionate about teaching empathy, he also understands the importance of being vocal from his position in the spotlight.

“From a comedian’s standpoint, don’t use comedy for evil. In that, I mean take a verbal punch at the right group. People say we shouldn’t make fun of people who are against interracial marriages, for instance. No, those are the people you want to take a verbal swipe at,” said Glass. “In my opinion, you don’t want to take a verbal punch at transgender people, because they’re the people who need a hug and who are already getting punched,” he continued. “I don’t care if comedy makes people feel uncomfortable, as long as it is making the people that need to feel uncomfortable feel that way.”

Todd Glass has been called “a comic’s comic.” He’s toured with some of the biggest names in comedy like Jim Gaffigan and Louis CK, but he’s been friends with New Hampshire native Sarah Silverman for a long time and is more excited than anyone to go back on the road in support of her on her upcoming theatre tour.

“I’ve known Sarah for a long time, and it’s like being in high school. You’re hanging out, you’re giggling, being goofy. You go out and do your shows at night, then you go out to dinner, and it’s just such a riot to tour with her. It’s pure joy for me!”

While tickets to the June 2 show are sold out, you can still catch Todd and Sarah on June 3. Tickets to that show are available at thewilbur.com.

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