For the last 15 years, Jon Glaser has been simultaneously ubiquitous and invisible in the comedy world. After getting a start at Second City, he wrote for several short-lived sketch shows before landing on Late Night With Conan O’Brien, where, for five years, he created characters such as Wrist Hulk and Dave “Tiny Hands” Gordon. After leaving Conan, Glaser wrote and appeared in live-action (Human Giant) and animated shows (Comedy Central’s Freak Show, Adult Swim’s Lucy: The Daughter Of The Devil) while still performing a heavily improvised brand of anti-comedy in clubs around New York. Most notably, Glaser’s recent creation Delocated has taken off during Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block. The show, co-produced by the PFFR art/rock collective, which includes Wonder Showzen creators Vernon Chatman and John Lee, is ostensibly a reality series about a family in the witness-protection program, all wearing ski masks and using voice scramblers to avoid being killed. The second season of Delocated begins August 22.
The A.V. Club: Now that you’re producing, writing, and performing, how much pressure do you feel to make everything go right?
Jon Glaser: I am enjoying having all this work to do and having it be my own show, but there’s so many people that go into making the show great. It’s almost like—and I literally haven’t thought about this until now—when my wife got pregnant, I thought, “Jesus Christ! Now what?” There’s so much anxiety. But once we had our midwife and our doula, that just took the anxiety away. This show is very collaborative, and because these people know what they’re doing, if anything goes wrong, we’re fine. The network is also very supportive of this weird, dumb idea, and they just let us do our thing. Obviously, there’s a little pressure, but it’s been more enjoyable than anything. [Adopts cocky tone.] Probably just because of how confident I am.
AVC: You started at Second City as a performer; how did writing become such a focus?
JG: When I was at Second City, I never thought of writing as something I could do to make a living. When I got my first job writing, I thought, “Here’s what I’m going to do for now, but I still want to get into acting. I’d still rather do more
AVC: What do you miss about working about for Conan?
JG: The day-to-day job of it was really fun, but [Delocated] is very similar, working with a group of people and fucking around. The credits will say “Written by Jon Glaser,” but it’s really me and Vernon Chatman and John Lee, the PFFR guys. It’s really just getting to hang out, doing bits while you’re writing.
AVC: You’re starring in this show, but given its premise, you seem determined to remain anonymous.
JG: Kinda fun. I didn’t specifically set out to be anonymous, it’s just a byproduct of the idea.
AVC: How do you feel about working on TV without receiving much attention in return?
JG: It’s weird. I don’t like the self-promotion angle, and all that stuff makes me uncomfortable. I understand why it’s necessary, and I don’t shy away from it, but for me, it makes it easier to do it because I’m in a mask. [Laughs.] It’s a hard, weird thing, because even when I say I want to perform more, which I do, I don’t mind a lack of attention. I’ll take the least amount I can get away with and still make a living.
AVC: Is your character “Jon” a jerk by nature, or, say, lack of nurturing?
JG: [Laughs.] I haven’t thought too much about the guy’s backstory, but to me, it’s just fun to play that kind of smug, confident asshole.
AVC: A fair amount of bad things happen to him, though.
JG: That’s one of the ways it works. It can’t just be a show about this jerk—we have to acknowledge that he’s a jerk. Otherwise, who cares? Also, it’s kind of fun when he gets dumped on.
AVC: You pretty much deflate the premise of the family reality show in the first episode by having Jon’s wife and son leave him. Was this just for a joke, or do you like to flout convention on principle?
JG: I just thought it was a funny, dumb thing that [the show] immediately falls apart. Ultimately, for me, it’s always serving what’s best for the episode and what’s best for the show.
AVC: But when you perform live, you like to frustrate expectations. What interests you about comedy that tests the limits of an audience’s patience?
JG: I enjoy things that take their time and are played a little more straight. I like things that have a gravity or an emotional resonance to them. I want things to go well, and I certainly want people to think what I’m doing is funny. But if they don’t, it doesn’t really bother me. Somebody once said to me, “I love it when you go onstage; it’s like you want your audience to hate it!” And I was like, “No I don’t. That’s 100 percent untrue.” It’s just not traditional joke-telling. It’s stuff you have to be a little more patient with.
AVC: How do the live performances and the show creation feed each other?
JG: They go hand-in-hand. I know that sounds obvious, but any performer that performs live, you’re just going to be doing an extension of what you do if you happen to get a show. At least with this show, it is.
AVC: Delocated doesn’t push viewers’ patience that much. Certainly not as much as other PFFR shows, like Wonder Showzen or Xavier: Renegade Angel.
JG: No, it’s not like Xavier, which is a very specific, aggressive, challenging thing to watch, even though it’s extremely funny. I would imagine for some people, though, Delocated is not something they would enjoy. [Laughs.] Ultimately, it’s still a comedy show. This guy has no business putting himself out in the public eye, seeking fame and putting his family in danger. It’s all really stupid, which I like.
AVC: In the first episode of the second season, things change fast. An angry Russian assassin hijacks the show-within-the-show by telling a TV executive, “It is not a silly comedy anymore; it is a silly drama.” How much did you set out to echo this change in tone?
JG: It’s funny, we joke about that line. We didn’t write it to encapsulate things, but it has become like a silly drama. [Laughs.] It just sorta happened. Once it became half an hour, we wanted to expand it on a lot of levels. We wanted to add more characters, and we needed somebody to play that intimidating factor a little harder so we could still let Eugene [Mirman, who plays Russian mobster and aspiring stand-up comic Yvgeny] still be silly. And we got this phenomenal actor, Steve Cirbus, who gets better as the season goes on.
AVC: Okay, so how many murders in season two?
JG: There are a lot of murders. I can’t give away who, but there are some very spectacular murders involving major characters. That’s something to tune in for.
AVC: People don’t like to tune in unless the murders are spectacular.
JG: Oh, man, there are some super-spectacular murders this year. There’s a couple of spectacular murders. There’s a cute murder. There’s a weird murder. Then there’s a super-fun murder.
AVC: A little something for every palate?