Jon Glaser on Turning His Love of Gear Into a Funny New Show

Jon Glaser Loves Gear
Jon Glaser and Tom Callahan

One of the things you might expect from truTV’s new series Jon Glaser Loves Gear are scenes where its star, Jon Glaser, acts like a bit of an insensitive jerk. After all, the writer, producer and actor’s most familiar roles all had somewhat of a jerky quality, from Councilman Jamm on Parks and Recreation to Jon in Delocated to the title character in Neon Joe,: Werewolf Hunter. Here, he plays an enhanced version of his gear-loving real self, who becomes so obsessed about playing with all the cool gear he gets he has no problem alienating his family, friends and co-workers.

Glaser sat down with TV Insider to talk about the show, and why obsessing over something makes for great comedy.

When did the idea come about to make a continuing story about your obsession with gear? Was that something you had in mind from the start?
No, that sort of evolved during the writing process, and even between the pilot and then the pilot getting picked up, and then heading into the writing process for the show. Looking at the pilot, seeing what worked, what didn’t work. The pilot was something that did not air, that was not the first episode that you saw. We had made this entirely different episode, and based on network feedback and our own internal thoughts, he script just changed a little bit and started getting a little more ambitious I think in a good way, and sort of turned into what you’re now seeing and describing.

The whole thing where I come home with my real wife and then having the fake wife audition, that was all in the pilot. We already had that dynamic in there, we just basically expanded on it to include the sidekick, and how those relationships just evolved throughout the season from episode to episode. It was basically established dynamic of the show from the early onset and then it just grew bigger as we were writing the series.

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The person who plays your real wife, is it actually your real wife, or is it an actress?
That is an actress, her name is Miriam Tolan.

She doesn’t mind being behind a dot for the whole season?
Yeah, it’s funny, I’ve known Miriam for so long, I knew her from Chicago days when I was doing improv in Second City. She’s a very old friend and one of the funniest people I know, and it was a funny phone call just to say “Hey, I thought of you for this part, we won’t see your face at all, that sound cool?” She was game for all the stupid comedy part of it; she’s been joking in a couple press things about how liberating it is to show up and not have to worry about getting all done up. Even for me being in Delocated and having the ski mask on, I loved it, it was an easy process for prep. As long as you can remove your ego from it it’s kind of fun.

In the second episode, in every instance of your family, whether it’s in a picture in the background or your son coming into the room, there’s that blurred dot over their face. Are we going to see more Easter eggs like that?
It’s really not even an Easter egg, that’s just the thing we do, that’s the application of family. My wife doesn’t want them on camera and anytime they may happen to appear they have to be blurred. I like to do that, it’s fun to notice all the fun details like when you see photos in the background, we blur those faces also which I think is funny.

What other types of gear are you going to be doing later in the season?
The next episode is hockey, and the following episode is dogs so that becomes very different. It’s all about the gear you can buy for your dog, the gear you can buy for yourself when you’re walking your dog if you’re going on a hike. There’s a wide range, there’s a lot of outdoorsey stuff right now. There’s a surfing episode, there’s a fishing episode, there’s baseball. Then there’s also a leisure episode about what you’ve got at home. We’re trying to cover a wide range but there’s so many topics you could call gear, and if we get to do another season then we just find them. We had a really huge list we just had to pear it down to 10, so there’s no shortage of ideas for episodes.

What comes first, the comedy, the gear, do they kind of go together? How does that process happen?
I think it’s mostly what’s the idea, and then we find the gear that works, and every now and then there might be a really cool piece of gear that we’ve found that we try to incorporate into the episodes. It’s a little bit of both and we are trying to stay true to me as a real person, like the stuff that I would actually wear or use, or the stuff that I like, or the stuff that I go “Ooh, this is cool,” based on whatever the episode is.

We’re trying to keep it all positive as far as what brands we’re using, because it’s such a generic show about gear I don’t think we were really limited by what we could and couldn’t show and we just try to keep it all positive. We weren’t going to slam products, it’s not about that. It’s not a review show where we are talking about the good and bad of different pieces of gear like “Here’s one helmet that’s better than another, and this one sucks.” It’s more about embracing a celebrating the joy of it.

Do the brands provide you the gear or do you guys go out and buy it?
It was a little of both. There were certain things we would reach out and some brands and some companies provided stuff and some didn’t, and then we would just get stuff. We made it clear to everybody that this is the show, if you wanted to send stuff that you think is cool looking it would be considered. There’s no obligation to use anything and some companies sent that knowing it and I’m sure some companies that didn’t send it either because of that or because they didn’t feel like sending stuff.

It was fine either way, there was no hard feeling about it. Sometimes there might be a company that didn’t send us stuff and we’d just buy it, we still had a budget. It was cool, I certainly discovered some new brands of things that I liked, and like I was saying before we discovered some things I’d never heard about and weird unique items that we’d try to find places for in the show, and sometimes we couldn’t find a place for in the show but it was still fun.

What was the most fun piece of gear that you used or discovered during the first season?
That’s tough, I’ve been asked that question before and I go back and forth about saying it because I don’t want to give it away because it’s such a cool thing to see. I’ll just say it’s in the finale episode, it’s a really cool piece … It’s this cool thing we found and it does appear in the finale episode. It’s pink.

Where did the idea for this show come from?
I had done this bit live on stage several times where I wore this really nice rain jacket that I own, and I’d go on stage wearing it. It’s more of like a high tech, high end rain coat with pit zips, a lot of zippers, a lot of pull tabs, a nice good hood. It’s more for if you’re going ice climbing, it’s not really a jacket that you need for walking around town. But they’re very fashionable right now and I ended up getting one just because I thought, “This is a cool coat and I can also use it if I’m on my bike or whatever and I’ll use it a lot.” Even the joke in the show where my wife says, “It’s too much watch for you.” This jacket was definitely too much jacket, I didn’t need this for the city but I got it.

I wore it on stage and I walk out on stage and I’m wearing it and I have the hood on and I just basically tell the audience that I was trying to think of a new bit to do tonight. Challenge myself creatively to come up with something new and I was having a tough time, a little bit of writers block. I went back to that device just write about your passions. Just write about what you love and ideas will come. I realized that I love this raincoat and I thought I’d come on stage and talk about it.

And I do just that, there’s no jokes I just describe the jacket and all the features and for whatever reason it usually seems to go well. It kind of rides this wave of people laughing and then not laughing and not being sure of what this is exactly. After I’m done talking about the coat I just open it up to a Q & A with the audience, they can ask me any question they want, it just has to be about the jacket.

It always felt like a smaller idea and a bigger show, whether it was a sketch, or a variety show or whatever. The more I thought about the idea it just kept getting bigger and bigger, and the individual ideas that could go along with it. The idea expanded from there into this still somewhat loose pitch which then became the pilot which then became the series.

That reminded me about the story about the neon jacket that you wore on Conan that morphed into Neon Joe. Does your passion for the gear generate or inform the bit?
All my ideas have come from my clothes yes. The Neon Joe thing was just this random arbitrary joke of putting on a costume and pretending I was excited for my new show that I was promoting, it was all fake. They are a little bit different but I guess you could certainly point at gear as the common denominator.

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Is it more satisfying to know that there are jokes there that there are people who, if they’ve been watching the entire series will get, as opposed to someone who just dropped in for an episode?
That’s always satisfying, no matter what you’re working on, whether it’s a comedy or a drama. You’re doing things that people who watch the show are going to see that and go, “Oh wow, okay, I see maybe they even started planning that several episodes ago.” That may be more in a serialized show that has continuing stories where you realize what an amazing job the writers did as far as setting something up for several episodes down the road.

For example, I’m really happy truTV showed the first two episodes back to back. I remember when we had a premier party and a screening and we showed the first two episodes, it was really satisfying to hear people’s reaction to Steve’s face blocked out in the opening credits. That was a really great … that’s one of my favorite jokes from the show, and I’m glad we got to do it, and it was really nice to hear people respond to it.

John Hodgman plays Geary, is Jon on the show going to be more and more dependent on Geary as the season goes on
Perhaps, there is certainly a relationship that’s been established.

Is Geary going to go rogue?
That was a fun relationship to play.

How much of that is John following the script?
That is pretty much scripted stuff, and if there was anything ad-libbed it was in the edit, and then he just comes up to the ADR session and does the voice. He’s not on set with us when we were shooting.

What are we going to see from that storyline as we go on, your  arriage, your relationship with Geary, your relationship with your expert co-host?
I don’t want to necessarily give story lines away but all I can say is that they are continuing story lines that will come up here and there through episodes. It’s a constantly evolving thing, so for sure we are following these relationships. You’re going to see me and Geary, you’re going to see me and my wife, you’re going to see me and my fake wife, and you’ll potentially see Steve popping up and staying alive throughout the season even though he’s been fired. All of those things are going to come up.

Was Neon Joe a one and done or is there going to be more of that? Any other stuff you’re working on?
Yes, we’re making more Neon Joe and when we wrap the edit for Gear we’re going to roll right into Neon Joe which is great.

Jon Glaser Loves Gear, Wednesdays, 10/9c, truTV