Nikki Glaser Talks 'Not Safe,' American Politics and Sexual Liberation
Published Jul 11, 2016Nikki Glaser had a festive, long Independence Day weekend.
"It was really good," she says. "I just got a new dog so I was worried that he'd hate the fireworks, and he did, but just because he's not a patriot, not because of the loud sounds. The loud sounds he's fine with — he just hates America."
That same weekend, some of her comedian colleagues made hay of the fact that, with a Donald Trump presidency a distinct possibility in the near future, the United States might want to enjoy itself and its independence while it still has the chance. Glaser can see their point of view.
"I think it might've been the last one just because I think climate change is real and the world is ending," she says. "But if anyone's going to bring about mass extinction, it'll be Donald Trump.
"It's something I don't have a choice about," she says about the possibility of Armageddon. "I can't change myself and I'm contributing to it because I'm selfish. So, I feel hopeless about it and am just like, 'Whatever, if it happens, it happens."
Glaser might be too busy to be despondent, because she's having a banner year. Her Comedy Central special Perfect has earned rave reviews and her frank, funny yet informative magazine show for the network, Not Safe, is a much-talked-about hit. Though she mostly discusses sex and issues that might well empower women, Glaser's take on Not Safe topics has a certain political bent.
"I get nervous because I'm not always that caught up or savvy about it," she responds when asked about fielding topical, news cycle questions, as a comedian. "But I can make sweeping statements based on little facts, just like most politicians, so I fit right in.
"It just makes it less terrible, to laugh about it," she adds, explaining why we often look to comedians for a take on world events. "A lot of comedians are also super smart so we look to them to process it for us and explain it to us.
"It reminds me of the Reddit thread, 'Explain it like I'm five.' That's always helpful for me and I think we look to comedians like, 'Make it funny so I can absorb it.'"
In her work as the host and star of Not Safe, Glaser says she's become far more astute about local and international politics.
"I went down a to a Trump rally myself and did some research on it and it was so disturbing. That was a depressing day of leaving there and thinking, 'Everyone's so dumb and racist.' We have a researcher here and every morning we go through the headlines, so I feel like I'm more up-to-date than ever.
"I just paid for my New York Times subscription so — I'm not trying to brag, but I've been reading that and it's nice to get my news from something other than The Daily Mail. I'm an adult; I need to be up on shit."
In terms of the current U.S. presidential race and the partisan political climate generally, Glaser is truly aghast.
"The transgender bathroom thing — it's just so obvious that people are scared of what they don't understand. It's like, 'I don't want to deal with the fact that some people might have been born in the wrong body.' So they make up shit like, 'I don't want my kids next to some man in a wig.'
"People are just so insensitive because they're ignorant; they don't understand so they're scared of what they're ignorant of. The whole transgendered bathroom argument is just insane to me. It's so stupid. 'How'm I supposed to explain this to my kids?' Your kids are probably pretty open-minded because you haven't fucked with them yet.
"And obviously the laws they're trying to pass to shut down abortion clinics — like the hallways have to be a certain width and length and if they're not, they get shut down," she adds. "It's just a way to shut down abortion clinics even though there's no reason for them to have the same structure and hallways as a hospital but they're holding them to that standard because it's an operation.
"Plastic surgery centres don't get held to that standard and I look at abortions, as plastic surgery," she says, carefully pointing out that she's just kidding. "Yeah, because it saves me from getting stretch marks. No, but all the bullshit loopholes they try to pass to 'protect women's health' — it's just the opposite. They're stealing Planned Parenthood's argument for their own agenda and it's just insane and infuriating."
Glaser's standup is often a startling torrent of personal information about her sex life, callous self-absorption, and bodily functions and she brings some of that flair to Not Safe. But, on, say, the recent episode about female orgasms, you can see the show striving to entertain viewers but also to empower and inform them.
"It's a constant battle," Glaser admits. "We are struggling to make the show important while still remaining funny enough so Tosh.0 fans will stay and watch us because we're funny. Because people now trust us to be funny and either like it or they don't. The people who do are willing to go there with us.
"We're taping an episode tomorrow that will air next Tuesday that tackles rape in collegiate sports and the cover-ups that happen. It's a dense subject and I'm like, 'We're doing this right after we play Tinder tap-out?' It's a jarring step but it's important to get that out there to the demo that watches Comedy Central.
"But striking that balance is always so hard. First and foremost, I'm not a political comedian; it's not my strong suit, I don't get up on stage and tell you what I think and how to live your life. I'm probably going to become that after this, because I'm learning how to be vocal and heated. But most of my standup is goofy, gross and immature. I try to be smart but I do silly stuff. So it is hard for me to compromise that side of my sense of humour, where you can't really make those kinds of jokes dealing with rape. But we're figuring it out.
"I have a platform, I have a voice and I'm 32," she explains with great self-awareness. "It's like, 'Say something important, bitch. It's time; this ain't MTV anymore.'"
Part of what bolsters Glaser to take a stand and discuss her personal life so brazenly is the fact that a lot of us are more comfortable having these conversations now. The traditional lines of decorum, which can at the very least, be somewhat repressive and frustrating, are melting more and more and Glaser has watched that transpire, firsthand.
"I've been doing standup for more than ten years and, in that time, I've seen attitudes switch. They got more PC, now they're getting cooler about stuff. I still get people who say 'You're dirty!' And for me, it's like, 'What does that say about you that you need to comment on that and it's weird for you?'
"It's never occurred to me that things are dirty. That's not something I'm trying to do — 'I just gotta throw it in their face and change the way they think.' I just feel that it's stupid not to talk about sex and be open about it, because it's one of the greatest things about life, it's something we all do, so why are we acting like we don't do it? It's just insane to me. So, I'm just trying to make everyone have more fun because sex is so fun to talk about and being shameful about sex leads to so many problems.
"I had a friend who told me that her friend is a big fan of the show and is now considering going outside of her marriage because she's miserable. I don't advocate cheating but I think there's a time when it benefits the family. My friend is like, 'I really think your show has inspired her to act out sexually.' I don't consider that 'acting out;' that's getting your needs met and doing what makes you happy.
"I've noticed fewer people make a big deal about me being dirty," she continues. "It was a big thing when Amy [Schumer] was dirty at first and people were like, 'Oh, that's what all female comedians talk about.' And now it's a lot less jarring because we have been talking about it frankly."
Because she speaks so freely and bluntly about her own sexuality, Glaser says there are occasions when fans think they can tell her anything. She says that's half-true. "I don't mind them sharing stuff about themselves. But when they feel like they can talk to me about my sexuality because they hear me talk so flippantly and are like, 'Oh, I can talk to you about your vagina then,' that's where I draw the line. I say, 'I'm a freak on the stage and a lady in the streets.'"
Glaser says she's hopeful that Not Safe will get picked up for a second season after the last five episodes of this debut year wrap up. For now, she's eager to hit the road and cover new topics for the first time.
"I just got a dog so I'm talking about that," she says, somewhat coyly. "I'm in a three-year-long relationship so I have a lot of material about being in a long-term relationship because it's the first one I've ever had. And I'm still sprinkling in the pussy jokes; don't ever let those go.
"It's interesting though because I'm working on so much new material since my special aired. It's coming at such a fast rate that by the end of July, I think there's a lot of stuff that I can't predict will even be working. I'm really excited to perform though because doing new stuff is the best."
Nikki Glaser will perform at Just For Laughs in Montreal on July 30.