When you hear the name “Glazer” in comedy, your mind rifles through a rolodex of at least five major comedians in New York and beyond: Jon, Nikki, Ilana, Eliot and Aaron (though we doubt the latter comic will be working much anymore).
It’s usually a curse to share a last name with another working artist in the entertainment industry, as personal branding becomes a challenge. But 33-year-old comedian Eliot Glazer has never worried about that, because he’s never had any trouble standing out.
When we sat down to talk about this Saturday’s much-anticipated return of Glazer’s musical comedy show Haunting Renditions, the comedian said he felt as though he never quite fit the “rubric” of standup comedy.
“I’ve done improv and I’ve done standup and I’ve done storytelling,” Glazer, who currently writes for Fox’s New Girl, told us. “And having tried all those other mediums, this is the perfect ideal channeling of what I can do best that separates me from other comedians. Haunting Renditions was a web series that we turned into a comedy show, and that’s my standup now because it’s what comes most naturally to me — a strange left-of-center amalgam of music, concerts and nostalgia.”
Even though Glazer now lives in LA, he shared his excitement to revive Haunting Renditions in Brooklyn as part of the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival, which runs through Saturday. Brokelyn chatted with the comic about his show, the Glas/zer Family Reunion, and what it means to discover a comedy identity that falls outside the rubric.
By the way, Glazer is one half of the only real blood relation in the Glas/zer comedy dynasty. He’s the older brother of Ilana Glazer (and plays her TV brother on Broad City, too). Far from standing in his sister’s shadow, though, Glazer has cultivated a unique brand of alt-humor entirely apart from hers. Where Ilana settled into the quintessentially absurd, beginning with her video game commentary web series and moving into Broad City’s hyperbolic territory, Eliot found a comedic pairing in his classical music training and his fascination with nostalgia.
Billed as a “twisted version of MTV Unplugged,” Haunting Renditions is a concert of modern pop songs that get orchestrally stretched into sweeping ballads by Glazer and his arrangers.
“We like to say that Haunting Renditions is ‘bad songs made good,’ but it’s really songs that tickle your nostalgic funny-bone,” he said. “They’re not necessarily bad songs, but they’re millennial touchstones, songs that have just left your frame of reference but light up a part of your brain when you hear them.”
The comedian refers to the current 90s-obsessed millennial era as one of “now-stalgia,” wherein pop music from the past few decades pervades dive bar dance parties and Spotify playlists seemingly without cause. Haunting Renditions enters the fore to debunk the mystique of this obsession, by satirizing both the concert-going experience and the preciousness that comes with experiencing music.
“I actually don’t really enjoy a cover of a song for the sake of a cover of a song,” Glazer said. “I’m interested in unpacking it and figuring out where it falls in our sense of nostalgia, second-guessing what the song actually is in the first place.
“‘Too Close’ by Next, a 90s R&B song, is really about erections but you have to stop and hear the lyrics. Then you’re like ‘Oh my God, this song I danced to at bar mitzvahs is the most vulgar and graphically explicit song I could possibly imagine.'”
This Saturday’s Haunting Renditions show is paired with Glazer’s other long running comedy show, The Glas/zer Family Reunion, a simpler concept of a show that simply brings together all the Glas/zers in comedy. Up until this year the show had always included UCB comedian Aaron Glaser. But after multiple women in the comedy community came forward with allegations of sexual assault this past August, Glaser was quietly dropped from almost every lineup in the city, including the Reunion.
One man down, that’s still a lot of Glas/zers in one room. When we asked Eliot Glazer to explain the prevalence of his family name in the comedy scene — apologizing beforehand, since we knew it was probably the umpteenth time he’d been asked — he half-jokingly attributed it to a shared Jewish history of oppression.
“All that Depression-era anti semitism had to be poured out through some outlet, so I guess we all started trying to make people laugh for a living,” Glazer said. “My mom insists that we come from a long — it’s very Jewish — a long line of people who hate us, that we lived in shit and in the shtetls so now we try to live through retribution, to somehow emancipate ourselves from being shit on.”
Retribution, indeed: the shared Jewish last name served as a kind of endorsement for a younger Eliot Glazer from the already-established Jon Glaser (of Parks and Recreation, Girls, Delocated and more) and when the two first met.
“He was for me someone that was a comedy hero and legend in New York,” Glazer told us. “I remember when I interned at Conan in my junior year in college, and Jon wasn’t working there at the time but had been somewhat of a legend there, and all the writers had Polaroids of themselves on the walls, faces for the interns to familiarize themselves with. Even though Jon wasn’t working there, his picture was somehow plastered to a ceiling tile.”
These days, though, there aren’t as many reunions for the Glas/zer clan. With Haunting Renditions having made the permanent move to LA, Eliot is left to muse about the difference between LA and New York comedy audiences.
“Both placed tend to be equally supportive,” he said. “I think a Brooklyn audience can be tougher and they can be a little harder to please. Which is a terrifying prospect for me as a comedian, which forces me to work harder. But in LA, it’s a little bit more of a slow build to catch people up to the experimental nature of Haunting Renditions.”
Brooklyn certainly has experimental going for it, and the ongoing success of Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival is living proof (it’s still billed as “a very silly festival that people seem to enjoy”).
So, what’s Glazer’s advice for aspiring comedians who don’t seem to fit the “rubric” of traditional comedy?
“I would just say play detective and figure out which thing you can do that actually separates you from the rest of the scene, that makes you stand out and gives people a reason to want to come see your show again and again, rather than trying to find what box you’re ‘supposed’ to fit into.'”
Follow Eliot’s Haunting Renditions on Twitter: @HRenditions
For more from Sam (not a Glas/zer): @ahoysamantha