Nikki Glaser: Hilarious, Hot and Human

Nikki Glaser on purple background
Photo by Luke Fontana

This is the first time we’ve really appreciated someone telling us we’ve asked a stupid question.

Mind you, it’s not the first time we’ve heard it, but it did sound a lot better coming from stand-up comedian, reality TV show host and actress Nikki Glaser. The following interview took place way back when the world first jumped into the volcano in March of 2020—luckily, we were able to safely secure it in the vault while Nikki went about making herself a household name. It all still stands up.

Nikki Glaser collage with rose and money

WHALEBONE: If you could trade all your talent in comedy for being equally talented in another line of work, what profession or line of work would you choose?

Nikki Glaser: I guess tech innovation. But my answer before the quarantine would have been just being a supermodel. Because then you can just marry whoever you want to protect you during the end times.

WB: Can’t you marry anybody you want anyway?

NG: You would think that, but it takes a lot more than being super funny and a St. Louis eight.

WB: All right, so tech innovator or supermodel?

NG: Well, if money wasn’t a factor and survival wasn’t a factor, what would I just love to be great at? I would be a pop star. I say pop star because even if I’m a pop star, let’s say I’m as successful at that as I am at comedy, I’m going to be a pretty great one. So I’ll be A-okay in terms of the money department. So pop star, final answer.

WB: What is your joke-writing process like? What is the formula?

NG: My joke-writing process is not really a process these days. I go up on stage every single night and I’m someone who gets really bored doing material that doesn’t speak to me, and the only material that really speaks to me is the stuff that I’m building and working on. I’m drawn to do bits that I’m exploring and I’m still writing, and then I end up writing on stage. And I’m not even joking, I don’t write down anything in terms of stand-up. The only time it gets written down is when I have my assistant transcribe my specials after the fact so that I don’t repeat material in the future. I don’t really catalog it, I don’t have any memory of it. When I’m building a special, I certainly pay more attention to setlists and order—but if I don’t have to, I just go on stage and talk about what I want to talk about.
So it’s not like it’s really any different than me sitting down at a desk, I just happen to do it while I’m on stage.

WB: Do you think you could be a better comedian if you sat down and wrote more jokes?

NG: I know I could. Because I see guys that always have their notebooks, and they’re reviewing their jokes before they go on stage, and then they’re going over it after they get off stage—like Gary Gulman, he’s very proficient. Those guys get it done. I’m existing without the extra things, but if I added them to my life, I could be so much better. That’s the thing about being an artist that I struggle with is that I could always be better. People are like, “It’s great,” and I’m like, “You don’t know my potential. I’m so lazy. You think I work hard, but my process is lazy and I’m just getting by on it. I could be so much better if I actually tried.” But at the same time, I’m dying of exhaustion slowly.

WB: We steal all your money, we steal pretty much everything that you have, we don’t get your identity, but we’re kind enough to get you a bus pass to one town so you can rebuild and start over. You can do that with comedy, you can do whatever you want. What town are you picking?

NG: Well, I still want to be a comedian and I don’t really care about a crowd, I just want to go where other creative people are doing it and there’s a scene for it. I mean, I care about crowds, that’s why I want to be in New York because it has the most places where you can get up and do comedy. You just want to go where you can work as much as possible, in as short an amount of time as possible, and get the reps in. Right now I’m on stage about 300 nights a year. I have to say that’s a dumb question because it leaves many holes. For instance, do I still have my notoriety? Do I still have my followers? Because if so I can rebuild pretty quickly. I can just book a couple of gigs, make a couple of thousand dollars, boom, put that on a little one-bedroom in Bushwick. I’ll be okay if I lost all my money because of work. I’d just stay in New York, is the short answer.

I have to say that’s a dumb question.

Rachel Feinstein, Jessica Kirson, and Emil Wakim collage on purple background.

WB: While we work on better questions … who is the most human person you know?

NG: Probably Sam Harris. I don’t know him, but he does follow me on Twitter. But he’s someone that I look to for guidance on how to emotionally handle situations. If I could be anyone, if I could switch brains with anyone, it would be him, I think because he seems to have a lot of acceptance and understanding. He’s done the perfect amount of LSD and psilocybin and meditation. But I don’t know him. Someone I know? I don’t know anyone who’s present. It’s so hard to find someone who is truly present. Usually, they’re tripped out, so they’re present because they can’t store memory. They’re usually not the ones you really want to be around.

WB: If you could bring together your ideal dream set of you and three or four other comedians, what’s the dream lineup looking like?

NG: There are a lot of factors that play into this. Who I want to
hang out with—that’s number one. If I’m going to be honest—all my
friends are funny, so the show is going to be good no matter what. But, on the other hand, do you want to just give people a show that was the best comedy experience of their life? That’s a different conversation because a lot of those people I don’t really want to spend that much time with. For the hang and for the show, if I was to combine those two it would look maybe like this:

Rachel Feinstein, without a doubt; she’s my favorite person. I just love watching her perform—and one of the best writers that exist. Jessica Kirson, who is just a truth-teller and just one of the best; talk about present and in the moment on stage, anything can happen, says anything, totally honest performer. Then I’m going to go with Chris Distefano. And I’d be on it as well. People need my opinion, I guess. Then I’ll throw Ryan Hamilton into it, too, because he’s a great hang and like one of the best comics working today. So, that’s my list. Oh, and Tim Dillon. Tim fucking Dillon. He is one of my very favorites. That’s my lineup.

WB: Who is an up-and-coming comedian that you think will blow up?

NG: There’s this kid in the Midwest, Emil Wakim, who is going to be big. His stand-up is so smart and he works really hard and he has stuff to say. And he’s just a sweet kid too. He’s a good person and he’s going to be something.

A woman with hair pulled back and wearing a blue shirt with white stripes leans forward in what appears to be a kitchen. Jennifer Anniston in The Object of My Affection (1998)

WB: Your favorite actor or actress of all time? And their worst and best movie of all time?

NG: Well, Jennifer Aniston. I haven’t seen them all, so I want to be very clear about that. My least favorite was Horrible Bosses. I couldn’t watch it because she was too much of a mean slut. I was uncomfortable with it because I was going through something at the time and I just related to her so much, and I want to be her so much, that I was like, “I don’t like that she’s acting sexual.” But man, she’s in some great ones. The Break-Up is so good. Goddammit, I might have to go with The Break-Up. The Good Girl. The Good Girl is so good. Don’t make me choose. Okay, final answer, I’ll say The Object of My Affection just because it doesn’t get enough love. I know everyone will disagree with me.

WB: What is the future of comedy?

NG: The future of comedy is brutal honesty. I hope. It better be. Or else I’m not going to have much to do.

So funny, smart and human, and a hot pop star.

Nikki Glaser performing stand-up at Comedy Cellar. She is a blond woman wearing a black blazer and jeans. She is holding a microphone and standing close to a wall of bricks and a sign of mosaic glass that reads "comedy cellar."
Photo by Graceanne Parks

WB: When did you know you were a professional comedian?

NG: I first felt like I was a real comedian when I was on Last Comic Standing, because the name of the show has “comic” in it. So you’re like, “Oh, I guess I’m that.” That was when I was a year and a half in. But you never really know when to start feeling like you’re a real comic. I kind of started feeling like it when I got on TV the first time. I didn’t feel like a celebrity until I got asked to be on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Celebrity Edition. And I didn’t know that I was a star until I got asked to be on Dancing with the Stars. That’s how you know.

WB: Best and worst reality TV show of all time?

NG: Haven’t seen them all but I think I got to say the best and worst is The Bachelor. They just know how to do it. They’ve lasted the longest. It’s compelling. It’s must-see TV. It is something that everyone’s watching so you feel connected to other people. But it’s also the worst because it inspired so much bad reality TV. I just think the producers want people to be unhappy. Which is scary.

WB: How do you want to be remembered a hundred years from now?

NG: I don’t think the world will exist as we know it a hundred years from now. I think we’re on our way out way sooner than that. But in a hundred years, if there is a world, I would like to have been remembered as hilarious and human. I want someone to be like, “Nikki Glaser’s so human. So funny, smart and human, and a hot pop star.” That’s how I want the history books to describe me—it would be pretty inappropriate to put it in a history book, but they got to tell it like it is. These are facts.