Jon Glaser On His Love Of Gear And The Awfulness Of Reality Shows

Jon Glaser is a comedian whose name you may not know, but whose jokes you’ve definitely laughed at. Nominated five times for an Emmy as part of the writing and sketch team of Late Night With Conan O’Brien, he’s tended to excel in strong supporting roles, like Councilman Jamm in Parks and Recreation and Laird on Girls. With his previous series, Delocated, found comedy in confronting the emotional drives and ignored conceits of reality TV via the story of a man in a witness protection program. His latest collision of comedy and documentary is Jon Glaser Loves Gear, a show about his love of gadgets and how it tends to go horribly wrong for him. Glaser sat down with us to talk about reality TV, working with tech, and recasting your family.

You seem to have a strong interest in taking apart the tropes of TV shows based on news, documentary, and other material, both here and in Delocated. Where does that come from?

I don’t know if it’s necessary a specific thing. They’re a little more independent. Delocated came from a place of… you know, so many people so driven to become famous. I find that nauseating. I find it gross that these people put their families on camera.

Is that where the plot in Jon Glaser Loves Gear about “recasting” your family came from?

Being in a real reality show where I put my family on camera, I would never do that, even if I wanted to. I don’t think my wife wanted to do that, and I wouldn’t make my children do that. So we got actors to play my family! [Laughs.] Jon Glaser Loves Gear was just its own idea, though. I didn’t set out to parody anything. I love gear and it was smaller idea and it became a bigger thing. That to me is really where this came from.

So was it a webseries or a segment?

When I first had the idea for Gear, it wasn’t a show. It was more “I could see this being a smaller segment in a larger show.” And as I thought about it, it became bigger and bigger, and it was constantly evolving. Even when I pitched the show, it was still a fairly loose idea. Once we got into writing the pilot, we realized what worked and didn’t work. During the writing, it became more scripted and less of the reality than I expected, and I think that’s a good place for it to end up.

How much do your interview subjects know, going into the shoot? You get some very surprised reactions.

We prep them with as much information as we can. We try to very clear what the episode is about, so there’s no prank aspect of it. We’re not trying to make anyone look bad. We might tell them here’s the general idea, I’m going to say some stupid sh*t, and there might be some surprise, there might not necessarily be a written joke. It really worked well because we had a lot of genuine reactions, even though they know what’s up.

How much gear do you pick ahead of time, and how much do you just find and screw around with on location?

A little of both. We know what’s all in the episodes, and there was certainly a list of things I really wanted, and some I got, some I didn’t.

Did you write for specific gear, or did you work stuff you found into the story?

There were plenty of cool things we found, sometimes we used in the show. The process was less of us just looking for gear, and more, “Here’s the story, and what gear serves the story?” But we certainly found some interesting gear. There are things that are just very strange ideas, and they look really cool, but I don’t want to ruin the show. Just know there are things in the show that we implement in stupid ways.

Were there any moments where you had to push yourself? You do a lot, physically, on the show.

The first episode wasn’t an issue. I ride my bike all the time, I commute to work, and I’ve always biked through the city. And that’s one of the aspects of the show. It was important that it maintained the quality of trying to be a real gear show. “Oh wow, he actually rode his bike through the city and got those shots!”

There were a few things, though, where I’m like “I wrote it, I approved it, and now I have to do this!” There’s a surfing episode and I’ve never surfed before. There was nothing too extreme, the show isn’t necessarily Jon Glaser Conquers His Fear. We discussed it and some of those things we didn’t do, probably because I was too scared. We might do that if we get a second season!

Jon Glaser Loves Gear premieres tonight at 10/9c on TruTV.