Jon Glaser is not a super asshole, but he plays one on TV
The mind behind "Neon Joe Werewolf Hunter" talks about Instagram lies, helicopter moms, and the two way street of masturbation.
Cover: Jon Glaser at Comic Con. Photo by Paul Zimmerman / Getty Images
WHEN I CALLED COMIC AND WRITER JON GLASER, he was sitting in his offices in Manhattan, scheduling meetings, editing a new pilot for truTV, answering press calls for his current series (Adult Swim’s "Neon Joe Werewolf Hunter"), and simultaneously, eating a sandwich. But not just a sandwich, a salami hero with olive paste, artichokes, and fresh mozzarella. A sandwich fit for a king. “It’s amazing,” he tells me as he apologizes for the food, motioning towards a coworker to take a phone call, and closing the door.
The guy likes to keep his plate full, with recent roles in "Parks and Recreation", Trainwreck, "Inside Amy Schumer", "Girls", "Delocated" and most recently, writing, directing, and starring in "Neon Joe Werewolf Hunter", a gig he landed by accident, (“It was an arbitrary stupid joke and [Adult Swim] went ‘Hey, let's make that a show!’"). Yet when talking with Glaser, the 47-year-old comic acts cool and collected, always quick to make a joke while simultaneously developing new projects, soliciting new roles, and pushing strollers down the street in Park Slope (He unwaveringly admits, “We’re part of that culture.”)
The Detroit native took some time out of his busy schedule to go on a Skype vision quest with me, foraging through Instagram lies, helicopter moms, and what it means to be “the O’Nutters” guy when you’re a dad.
HOPES&FEARS: I am kind of borrowing from that Interview Magazine interview between Will Oldham and R. Kelly, but what’s your favorite time to write?
JON GLASER: My favorite time of the day to write? Maybe I'll say like the late morning. I think because it feels like there’s the least amount of distractions. [It’s that point in the morning] where I've dropped my kids at school and I'm not hungry for lunch yet. After lunch I'll probably be just a little full, maybe I want to get a little snack now, go get a cookie, maybe a coffee, now it's kind of the end of the day; I'm thinking about getting out of here. There's none of that from maybe ten to noon.
H&F: So you literally get two hours every day to do everything?
JG: That seems to be the most distraction free window. That's what pops to mind, at least.
H&F: While you are currently doing "Neon Joe", I feel like most of my friends probably know you best from your roles in "Girls", "Parks and Recreation", "Inside Amy Schumer", etc., where you usually play a kind of creep. Is that ever an issue in real life?
JG: One of the editors for "Delocated", we're friends and she's really great, but she said something to me once that I thought was really strange and made me laugh. She said something like, "It's a good thing you're married." And I said, "Why? Because if I weren't married women wouldn't want to date me because they think I'm an asshole because my characters are assholes?" And she said "Yeah." It happens.
I'm editing this pilot right now and it involved a few locations and part of it is reality based. One of the locations was a little hesitant to let us shoot there because they said "Well, I don't know, his character is such a jerk on TV." And I just felt so strange, to hear someone say that and have that be a concern. I actually had something happen during "Neon Joe", you know I had all the tattoos, and they're all temporary. We would put them on at the beginning of the week, take them off at the end of the week. And during the week we'd touch the ones up that needed touching up or replacing. There were a few days during the shoot where our call time was later in the day and I got to take my kids to school, and it was really fun because it was in the spring and summer and I was wearing t-shirts and I had these tattoos on my arms. It was fun to take my kids to school like that. My daughter was always trying to roll my sleeves up to show her teachers. She's only four. I just assumed all my friends and all the parents at school know what I do for a living, but a couple people thought that they were real, that I was having a midlife crisis. And I just felt like, “You're dumb. Even if that was happening, it's a werewolf, it's severed werewolf head kebabs. And a moon.” That would be an extreme break down.
H&F: One bit that I've been trying to unsee was the one on "Insider Amy Schumer" that you starred in, the O’Nutters bit, which is basically a sketch about a Hooters except it’s testicles instead of boobs. That green jumpsuit (uuuugh).
Jon Glaser on "Inside Amy Schumer"
JG: Why would you ever want to unsee it?
H&F: You know, just to live a normal life.
JG: I had this thing where my daughter is four, she goes to a preschool. [As a parent], you certainly meet a lot of really cool parents and you deal with a lot of annoying parents. Just like life. So, we had something where one of my parents in my daughter’s class sent out this mass email to all the parents in my daughter’s class because her daughter was having trouble in school. And she felt like "Hey, maybe we can all get together and talk about if anyone else's kids are having a tough time." Like really just annoying, super indulgent, and I didn't even respond to it. But I just wanted to say "Just go talk to the teachers about it." You know? You don't have to involve everyone in your problems. Some people are like that.
And it turned into this thing where other parents are responding, "Oh, my kid's feeling like that too. I thought I was the only one." And oh yeah, it just took on this steam with a bunch of the parents, not all of the parents, but some of the parents, and wanting to have a get-together, but not include the teachers. And it was making me really uncomfortable to read all of this. It's like, this is a terrible idea. You know, go talk to the teachers if you have a problem. Don't go behind their backs and do it. It became this thing where certain parents were not happy about it, some parents were fine with it. One of the school administrators was involved. And once she got involved I actually reached out to the administrator and I said, "Look, I want to make it really clear and go on the record that not all the parents support what's going on here. I'm one of them, I think this is a terrible idea."
She was really nice, the school is really great; the administrators are great, the teachers are awesome. So we start meeting this administrator, start having an email exchange about "how do we best deal with this, what's the best approach." And it went on for a few emails, and it was really nice and we were both helping each other, and then after one of the last exchanges she writes back, "Thanks so much for helping me with this. Who knew the O'Nutters guy could be so wise?"
That made me laugh so hard. It was so funny coming from this administrator of the school; that is way more articulate and eloquent than I could ever be as far as the exchange. And I actually emailed Amy and I told her the whole story and she laughed really hard, that this wise school administrator is even watching that show.
H&F: Do your children watch your shows? Like, have you introduced them to any of your work at all?
JG: Well, my son is nine and some of the stuff obviously he can't see. But some stuff he can see. There's some things out of context that are okay to show him. And my daughter is four and obviously she can't see any of the inappropriate stuff. But same thing. I can show her clips and pictures. One of my favorite stories is that with Neon Joe, how he does that "heyump", they really like that—especially my daughter, and she just started making that noise on her own. Like everyday. Various situations where I would take her to school and she's taking her backpack and you know, it's not heavy heavy but she's just pretending, "Oh, my back, it's so heavy, heyump." And she would just incorporate it into her life and it was killing me. And I have a handful of videos of her, pushing a drawer closed "heyump".
Hopefully they'll like it all. It's funny to think about my son, now that he's old enough to kind of understand more what I do, and there're moments, thankfully I don't get recognized a lot. But it happens. Sometimes when people know who I am, it's very strange. It's very weird. But he knows that I do this, and he knows that people know me. He's like asked me once "Are you famous?" And I said "No, but people know who I am."
H&F: Yeah, I mean, you have a comic about you.
JG: Oh my god. It is so kick ass. I hope they make the whole series. I don't think they will, but that would be such a kick ass comic. I actually got to meet people from DC Comics because that's who it was with. They gave me a couple of the DC Lego video games that I play with my son constantly. They're really fun, but he loves them. It's all the DC superheroes, in Lego. And there are all these bonus characters that you can find in some of the levels.
I wrote them and said, "Please have Neon Joe be a bonus character in the next version of DC Batman." And I can't imagine they'll do it. But if they did that would be the fucking coolest man. A little Neon Joe Lego video game guy, and he just runs around going, "heyump, heyump" and just shooting. I mean, it's already awesome for me being a dad and having my son see me in a comic.
H&F: We do these questions for Hopes&Fears, and one I’ve thought about a lot is, “Is masturbation good or bad for writing?” As a pretty prolific writer, what’s your take?
JG: I don't see how it could be a bad thing for anything. I mean, right? What's the harm?
H&F: I'll take it.
JG: I guess, if it's going to keep you from writing. You could say that's a bad thing. If you're not writing because you're masturbating. But if you're masturbating, maybe that inspires your writing. I'm writing a book right now, it's called Masturbation: The Ultimate Two Way Street. I'm going to cover both sides of the topic. It's going to be more in depth.
H&F: So no Twitter. But Facebook. Do you Insta?
JG: If you were to do a search for Instagram Neon Joe you'd find it. I have an Instagram page, and I already have followers because I posted about it [on my blog and Facebook], but I have yet to even post a photo [of my own] on it. But I was laughing at the idea of having followers on a page that I don't even do. I want to keep doing that and almost have that become a thing where I just say, “We need more followers guys, we need more followers," and I don't post a thing. That will become my Instagram page of nothing.
H&F: That's a really good business model.
JG: I'm going to try it, and maybe I'll start posting things. But it'll just be text images [saying] "Hey guys, first photo coming soon! Just need more followers though!"