Authors: Todd Glass
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You think you know a guy.
I have known Todd Glass for about twenty-five years, half my life. We were never that close, but I always knew him, kinda. We are in the same business. We all know Todd. I knew Todd was hilarious, big-hearted, persistent, incredibly quick-witted, original, and absolutely one of the most fun people in the world to be around.
I had no idea he was gay. None.
I never thought about it, never once. I say “gay” because I know Todd has a hard time saying that word, using it, in relation to himself or others. It's a label. It implies something. People make assumptions and attach stereotypes to the idea of gayness. I respect Todd's discomfort with the word “gay.” Which is why I'm using it a lot. Gay. Todd is gay. So what? Todd was Todd. I think Todd thinks that too. That's why he didn't think it was necessary for anyone to know he's gay. Todd is Todd. He actually couldn't be any more Todd. Especially now that I know he's gay.
I'm a comic. I host a podcast. Lots of people listen to it. My guests are mostly comedians. It is my belief that comics can
talk about anything. Our job is to sit around and think about stuff so there is very little we can't speak to or about. We embrace even the most difficult parts of life. We filter the world into funny. We have risked it all to do what we do, and there's an amazing freedom in that. We don't live by the same rules as everyone else. We can be brutally honest because we're funny. It's our job.
Todd called me one night. He left a message that he needed to talk to me. It sounded urgent. I had never talked to Todd on the phone in my life, but he needed help. My help. I called him back. He was a little more intense than usual but funny as always. If I recall correctly he was calling from his parents' house. I asked him what was up. He didn't sound sad or scared. He sounded a little fed up with himself and excited. He had resolve. He told me he wanted to come out and he wanted to do it on my show. He sounded like he had been wrestling with the decision to do it for a long time.
Todd chose my show because he knew that comics listened to it. He also knew that people who like to listen to people talk about the struggle of being a person listen to it. Todd wanted to come out, but he only wanted to do it once. He wanted word to travel, as opposed to e-mailing everyone he knew with the subject line “Hey, I'm gay. Just kidding. No, really, I am. What?” My show would enable him to do that.
When he told me I was surprised but I wasn't that surprised. You know when you know someone, even casually, and there's just a missing piece and when you hear it or see it, you get it? “Of course, that makes sense. How could I
have known?” Well, because it shouldn't matter.
My first thought after he told me was, “Am I the right guy
to do this?” As if it was a job that someone could handle more efficiently than me. “Isn't there a guy who does that, professionally?” I was happy that he was going to do it for his sake, but I had my own insecurities. I wanted it to be a good experience for him. I wanted to be there in any way I could to help him out with it. I didn't want to make it about me and I wanted to be a good sounding board for this big event in his life. I told him I would be honored to be there for him. He said he didn't know when it would happen but it would happen soon. He had to take care of some things. I said okay.
He would call me every other week or so for a month or two telling me that it was still happening. He would tell me with a tone like I was pressuring him. I wasn't. I think knowing he made the commitment to me to do it on the show forced him to pressure himself. I had my own preparation to do. I had to make myself understand that I was just there to support Todd and listen to him and push him when he needed a push and reel him in when he started to get away from the feelings. I was very conscious of my role.
When we finally sat down in my garage to record the show, Todd had really gotten himself into a mental place where he could do it. I can't imagine the adrenaline and intensity of saying something that will change your life forever, something that you had not been able to say for your entire life. Something so honest, revealing, and precise that it could be the key to your freedom, but also so frightening that you could not utter it before. It was an exciting day. Todd handled it with humor, candor, and humility. It was an amazing conversation. It reverberated.
I don't think what kept Todd from coming out was shame, specifically. He just thought he was protecting himself. I think
Todd is very comfortable being gay. I think that the energy it took to manage the secret had defined his entire life to the point where it had become second nature, and that became draining. I think what drove him to come out was anger. Anger at the secret, anger at himself, and anger that we live in a culture where the hostility or judgment you think will come at you for being who you are corners you into hiding yourself. So I guess it was shame. Todd called bullshit on himself, finally. What drove him to do it above anything else were kids who are bullied, shunned, beat up, and killed for being who they are. I think if there was any kind of shame that drove Todd, it was the shame of not standing up for himself or those kids.
Todd is now a real stand-up guy.
The feedback from the show was amazing. E-mails came in telling stories of gratitude for the strength and honesty Todd put out into the world. It helped people. It gave people strength. It made people feel less alone. It made it okay.
Todd calls me every few months to tell me he's still gay.
standing backstage at Largo at the Coronet where, once every few months, Sarah Silverman invites a group of comedians to put on a show. Tonight's lineup includes Sarah, Jeff Ross, and Chelsea Peretti. I'm the closing act. I can't wait to get out there.
I've been a stand-up comedian for almost thirty years and I can honestly tell you, without exaggeration, that it is my favorite thing to do. Every time I'm about to take the stage I feel like a kid twenty feet from the entrance to Disneyland. Performing gives me an adrenaline rush like no other. Some nights I'm so amped I'll sprint from backstage right into the middle of the crowd, doing some silly bit as I run up and down the aisles.
Tonight is one of those nights. Sarah introduces me and
I go straight for the crowd, overenthusiastically greeting each and every member of the audience, an exaggerated take on a comic who's way too eager to please.
Five minutes later, when I finally make my way to the stage, I feel light-headed. My heart is pounding too fast and I can't catch my breath. So I turn it into a joke:
“Hey, what if I was having a heart attack and you guys didn't believe me?”
A few laughs.
“No, reallyÂ .Â .Â . I'm having a heart attack!”
A few more laughs.
That's all I'm going to be able to milk out of this one. I look down at my notes and move on.