The Beautiful Brutal Honesty of Nikki Glaser

A photo take through a doorway of a woman sitting on a gray floor against a light gray set of wooden doors. The woman has light blonde hair, is shoeless and is wearing a black strapless dress with her legs crossed.

A candid talk with America’s hottest comedian

I can’t recall exactly how I landed on You Up with Nikki Glaser during the pandemic but I was so glad I did. Each day I would walk five to six miles to keep myself sane—mostly listening to books on tape and podcasts on the journey.

This was an incredibly lonely time, especially for a person who was living solo and extremely covid cautious. The isolation was getting to me and I did my best to be as productive as possible—however, the lack of social life was seriously taking its toll on my mental health. 

At some point on my quest for new listening material I stumbled upon Nikki’s podcast—it was like finding an oasis in the desert. Her upbeat demeanor and no holds barred storytelling reminded me of conversations I’d have with girlfriends getting ready for a night out or on a lazy weeknight hang. It literally felt like having a friend come over to talk and laugh, a simple normalcy that had suddenly become out of reach. I was thoroughly impressed by her ability to come on air nearly every day and honestly talk about everyday life, make jokes and stay energetic in the darkest time. It was refreshing and very comforting!

Instantly, I got hooked only to shortly find out that the podcast was ending—after a moment of internal panic I was relieved to hear this was only a temporary hiatus. Soon after, her current show, The Nikki Glaser Podcast started. What I love about the show is Nikki’s unmatched ability to cover any topic under the sun—from ADHD, sex, deep philosophies on life, Taylor Swift and random topics like scabies (more on that below), Nikki candidly talks about it all—with enthusiasm to boot. She is brutally honest about her life, her own shortcomings and everything in between—it’s all relatable and of course, hilarious. 

Most importantly, Nikki has created a much-needed space for women like myself in their late 30s and march to the beat of their own drum, who don’t necessarily relate to the status quo. In an overly retouched, often inauthentic, perfection obsessed Instagrammed world, Nikki’s show keeps it raw and real—and I love that.

Last month I had an in depth convo with her about her current show, The Good Girl Tour, and of course, her podcast. If you want to catch her live (go if you can! The Good Girl Tour does not disappoint!), buy tickets here.

Conversation has been condensed for readability

Black and white photo of two women, Laura June Kirsch and Nikki Glaser, both in black clothing with their arms around each other in a doorway smiling at the camera

Laura June Kirsch: Before we get into your podcast and tour, I wanted to ask a quick question about Masked Singer. Do you get to pick the character you are? Do you have any say in that?

Nikki Glaser: No. You can if you absolutely hate it. It was a really big reveal, it was over Zoom because I don’t live there and they had the whole wardrobe team there and there’s a huge part of the show that is designing the costumes and they presented it to me and said “if you don’t like it, you can totally do something else. But here’s what we thought of because you’re a roast comic and you can be really icy.” They just sold it to me. I really thought they were going to give me a hedgehog or a shrew or a shaved beaver or something comic-related. I’m never associated with anything dainty and pretty, or at least my perception is that I don’t ever get the pretty roles and things and I’m always given the scraps because I’m the funny one—so you don’t get to be pretty.

They presented it to me, and I was so excited. I was like, “Yes. Of course, I love this.” But I did make it way sexier because she at first had this huge skirt that went all the way to her ankles, almost like a Mormon wife-type skirt. And then a big top bodice thing that was just in the way. And I was like, “I’m already slugging around this 40-pound snowflake on my back in the front. Can I just wear a catsuit?” Because there was a catsuit underneath it all. I was like “can we just wear this?” And they were like, “You just want to wear that.” I’m like, “Yeah.” And they were like, “All right!”

So, I did get to wear a hugely padded bra though. It added an inch thickness of tit, so I was also on the masked tit show, like my tits were also masked, so it threw off the scent a little bit. Even though my boobs actually can’t get that big around my period. So, I guess it wasn’t that deceptive. But yeah, so the bottom line is yes, they came up with it and then I altered it.

LJK: It looked amazing. Was it hard to perform in that mask? It looked really heavy.

NG: Yeah. It was both the best and the worst because it was really heavy and annoying. But it was also great because I was inside there, no one could know who I was and I felt, it almost felt like if you were under the covers with a flashlight telling a ghost story or something. You really feel like you’re in a little isolation chamber in there, which eased my nerves. Also, with how heavy the outfit was and so wide, I couldn’t really move or see out of the mask perfectly. So, any dancing that I might have otherwise been obligated to do, I couldn’t do it.

I didn’t have to worry about my hair or my makeup until I was revealed. It limits what I had to worry about because there was so much to worry about on that show that that’s exactly what I needed, just to sing inside of a giant snowflake costume that made me forget who I was. Yeah. So, I kind of liked it, even though it was a pain in the ass to put on and take off every time.

A woman (Nikki Glaser) and a man (Nikki Glaser's dad) standing on a dimly lit black stage. The woman is wearing a long, sheer black dress and speaking into a microphone while pointing at the man to her left. The man is playing a light brown acoustic guitar and looking at the woman.

LJK: I mean this seriously, where do you find the time to do all you do? You’re an incredibly hard-working person, you really are a powerhouse. You have your show on E!, touring on stand up, you host FBoy Island, and you have your podcast in addition to having so many friends and in a relationship. How do you find the time and what are your tools to stay motivated and organized?

NG: I hate when people that are busy say this, but it’s an illusion of busyness. Don’t get me wrong, there can be times when it gets so crazy. I taped FBoy Island in February/March and that was wonderful because I was stuck in Mexico, so I can’t do anything else, right? So that really chops down on social life and just any things that I would fly to, to go film or any other TV shows. So, FBoy Island it was seven weeks of just being in Mexico and I did my podcast four days a week there, but it was easy because I had to shoot one out of every four days, or I guess two out of four days and those days were seven hours on set. So, in the scheme of things it wasn’t that demanding.

But in terms of my other life, I don’t know how I do it all. Before I had an assistant, a tour manager and my manager’s assistant constantly helping behind the scenes I was a fucking mess, and I was really falling apart. It’s hard in your career to reach a point where you go, “Okay, I’m going to have to pay someone a full salary because I can’t get my life together and I can’t be organized.” I’m not really good at answering emails and I mean, it’s just too overwhelming for me.

And it got to be a place where I was going to lose my mind with all the flights I had to book and then the hotels and figuring out the ground transportation and then scheduling an interview. How I do it all is having an assistant and having her be able to look at my schedule, my assistant Jen, and having her be able to say, “Okay. She can’t.” And working with her to keep it so that I don’t have too many things stacked back to back. But sometimes she’s not available or I’m just talking straight with the person, and it goes through me and the schedule starts to get insane.

So, I’ve gotten really good at being able to say no, because you really can’t do everything that you want to do. And so, for me, I know now that in my heart that a no isn’t necessarily because I don’t like the person or because I don’t like the thing they are doing—it’s because I just don’t have the time. That really helps me, I think a lot of people struggle to say no because they feel like, “Someone’s going to be mad at me.” But a no doesn’t mean you’re mad at someone. It just means you just can’t do it.

I think when I switched that in my brain, I was like, “A no does not mean they won’t ask again, or a no doesn’t mean that they’re going to be mad at you and tell everyone that you are a bitch. It just means you’re busy.”

LJK: Absolutely. Even if you accidentally blow them off they come on stronger, it’s funny the psychology behind it, I need to start trying this in dating—being less available.

NG: Watch the Harry and Meghan doc. Harry asked Meghan Markle out, she had plans that night and instead of doing what I would’ve done or what any other girl would’ve done, which is like I’ll cancel my dumb plans to hang out with the prince, she said, “I have plans. I have this amount of time to hang out.” And then she went to the thing with him and then she still left to go do the other thing. Even though she was desperately in love, she still kept her own life. That was such a moment for me of why she is with Harry. This is why she’s Meghan Markle. She has good self-esteem and isn’t going to change her life for someone else. I thought that was such an important lesson.

Black and white photo of a woman (Nikki Glaser) wearing a black corset top, staring at herself in a circular mirror with her arms above her head as she pulls her hair back into a pony tail.

LJK: Totally. I mean, for me, it’s always been the anxiety of missing an opportunity. If I don’t get this done now, maybe I’ll miss the chance. And then it backfires nearly every time.

NG: I know, that’s another thing of having chronic regret about missing out. I was never really a spiritual person until recently. Even now I’m not that spiritual but I have accepted and believed that everything that is meant to be is going to shake out. It’s already determined—I believe in determinism. It’s already set in stone. So, whatever happens is always going to happen that way and to not think that I have so much fucking control over everything.

Sam Harris’s book about free will and how we don’t have any really helped me let go of feeling responsible for how my life shakes out, good or bad. I don’t really have to feel guilt over what I don’t accomplish, and I don’t have to feel this sense of pride or superiority over the things I do accomplish because it’s just luck really, that you get anything done or that anything good happens to you—we’re lucky we weren’t born in the fucking Middle Ages and born in a country that we could drive or have our hair out or long, you know what I’m saying? It’s all just luck in the end.

LJK: While we have very different careers, we are both freelance creatives and there are so many ups and downs in our industries—I find it helpful when you discuss work disappointments on your podcast. Sometimes I have to remind myself that 50 percent of opportunities aren’t going to work out in our fields. Things come and go constantly—it’s like a roller coaster. You’ll get attached to a project and then it doesn’t work out—it’s super hard.

NG: Yeah. I just suffered that this week. I was going to be in a Super Bowl commercial. I flew to LA for it and then I tested positive for COVID, and it was the highest-paying gig I’ve ever had. And it was obviously a high-profile gig too. And I spent a lot of time working on it and I was very excited, and I got COVID and they replaced me and flew me back home and I lost the gig and I was so mad at myself, just rethinking every single step. Why am I not wearing masks on planes? Why do I think I’m invincible? Usually, it would’ve taken me days, I’d still be suffering from it, but I just was like, “Okay, this was always going to be this way. That money was never yours.”

In fact, I thought, “What are the good things about not having to do this?” It’s like, “Okay, now I don’t have to be in a commercial that might come off really cheesy and might be something I’m associated with forever.” Like, what if I became Flo from Progressive Insurance?

I’m also looking at the flights that I would’ve taken back today from LA and there’s a blizzard in St. Louis. I would’ve probably missed a little bit of the Christmas fun. I’m just trying to focus on all the good and then I was out of it within two hours of the gloomy. I focused on gratitude and I focused on making something else.

Black and white photo taken from behind of a woman (Nikki Glaser) in a black dress standing on a stage and speaking into a microphone.

LJK: One of the many things I love about you is how you normalize not drinking. Full disclosure, I still do drink from time to time but in my 30s I really reigned it in and scaled back in a massive way. This was a huge thing for me to reconcile with, that I’m just not into getting drunk all the time, which can be hard in cities like New York where people love to drink to excess and most socializing revolves around it. For me personally, drinking all the time gets boring, I think it’s really great the way you talk about it. What was your main inspiration for quitting?

NG: The main inspiration…it was tenfold, I think. Whenever I am struggling with something and I’m even thinking “Should I quit?”—the fact that you’re thinking about quitting is probably not a good sign. You would never consider quitting jogging in the park or petting your dog. The fact that you’re considering is already a glaring sign. There’s a problem here, right? I read that book by Allen Carr, The Easy Way to Stop Drinking. That’s the number one thing I recommended to people. The real reason, which I got from that book, is that it wasn’t bringing anything good into my life.

In 2011, I had just gotten my pilot for Nikki and Sarah Live, which was my show—on MTV in 2013. It seemed like the biggest opportunity of my career, ever. I was at a place where every time I drank, I was loud and I was sick the whole day afterward. I knew that if this show didn’t work out or if this pilot didn’t go well and I lost this one chance that I had, I would always blame it on drinking, whether or not it was responsible for it. I couldn’t live with myself if that was the reason it didn’t work out—because I had to get drunk. So, I just was like, “I have to figure out a way to quit.” Thankfully I had that book to help me.

And after being sober a little bit, you see that all the things you thought were so fun when you were drunk without alcohol, they’re not fun, which means they aren’t fun. You were just drunk! And then the real thing that unlocked everything is that alcohol doesn’t make you more fun. It could maybe make you more fun after one to two drinks, sometimes that makes people a better version of themselves, I’m not one to deny that, but I don’t think anything past two drinks makes anyone better than they are without zero drinks.

Alcohol is poison and it makes you stupid, that’s why you have liquid courage. I mean, my joke on liquid courage is that if it were actual courage, they would have firefighters get wasted before they ran into a building. But they don’t because it would make them dumb. It makes you dumb.

So you do things that you’re scared of, you tell the girl you like her, you lean in for the kiss, you are able to dance on the dance floor or get up on the bar and shake your ass and sometimes you do need to get on the bar and shake your ass and let loose a little bit. If you really are meant to do those things and they’re good ideas, they’re waiting for you in sobriety. You will learn how to do those things if you really want them without booze.

I mean, I have but it took me years, but I can dance now without alcohol. I can lean in for a kiss without alcohol. I can have sex. I’m still getting nervous about these things. But once I do it, then I’m having fun. Once I just start dancing, then it’s fun. I’m not nervous the whole time. I can meet friends. I can meet strangers. I can go to parties. All the things that I thought I couldn’t do without alcohol! I can go on stage. I don’t even think about it anymore. And as someone who used to drink literally every day of their life and all of my friends drank and that’s all I did. And I quit when I was 27. If I could do it, I really think anyone can do it.

Black and white photo of two women (Nikki Glaser in center) in fancy clothing and a man in a button up shirt all sitting on a couch next to each other in a row and staring at the camera with slight smirks on their faces. There is a mirror hanging on the wall behind them.

LJK: Let’s talk about your current tour! Are there any special topics you’re going to touch on? What’s in store with Nikki coming up on the road?

NG: My tour is ever-evolving so I never know exactly what I’m going to be talking about because it’s a rotating door of jokes. Some jokes that I’m bringing back that never made it onto specials that I’ve been doing for years and finally bringing to life. There’re some jokes that you write as a comedian early on that you don’t have the skill to execute yet but have a really great message, or something you truly believe in so much. I have a whole chunk about dating short men and dating autistic men, stuff that never ended up in a special but that I’m excited about bringing on this tour because I really am at a point in my career where I can feel like I can talk about anything I want on stage.

I really hate when comedians think they can talk about things and have a license because something’s happened to them or they have a family member with it. Comedians should be able to talk about anything. I have opinions about literally so many things that I don’t necessarily have experience with but I’m honest about the fact that I haven’t had experience with them. So, I might have the wrong opinion, or I might have an out-of-touch opinion, you know I’m not running for political office. I am just a comic on stage just saying what I believe about things.

I just think that comedians tread lightly—the ones that don’t want to be canceled—and then there are some shock comics that just say whatever to offend people. I’m neither—I just want to talk about what I want to talk about.

LJK: I love that you address these topics on your podcast. It can be light and silly at times but then you touch on really deep and serious subjects too. It’s really a great podcast and often thought provoking show. When you guys talked about scabies, I died (for our readers—scabies is similar to lice but on the body and very easily treated). When I was in college my boyfriend at the time got it from the hospital. It’s so uncommon that both our doctors didn’t believe us when we brought up what we thought it was. They each gave us the medication anyway, and it worked. Anyway, I thought it was hilarious when you brought it up, nobody talks about this kind of stuff! It’s why I love your show.

NG: That’s pretty much what I’m drawn to as a comedian and why I like having a podcast. Performing was my first love and I was drawn to it because I was like, I want people to like me. But I really like it now because I have the skill set and the “I don’t give a fuck any more attitude” to bring to light the things that I know are going to make people feel less alone, I know how alone I felt with weird stuff about myself. So, whenever I stumble onto something that I’m feeling alone with, I try to make people feel less alone.

Because I still struggle with it. A lot of my act now is also about the beauty industry and the pressures on both men and women. I have 15 minutes about celebrities and how much they lie about the work they have done and the makeup they use and the products they use. And then, I do another five or so minutes about men being shamed about their penis size and trying to make men with smaller penises feel good about that and genuinely feel good about it. I actually don’t care about penis size, and I want men to know you could probably fuck me if you wanted to. I know you think that no one would fuck you because you have a micropenis, but I would gladly date you. I’m trying to make people laugh, but at the same time make people feel better about stuff that might make them feel less than.

Black and white photo of the back of a woman (Nikki Glaser) in a long, feathery black dress next to a man (Nikki Glaser's dad) holding a guitar standing on stage and looking out at a crowded, multi-balcony theater. The woman has her arms raised in celebration.

LJK: What’s next for you career-wise? And also, are we ever going to get an EP from Nikki Glaser?

NG: Yes, I’m slowly working on songwriting and getting comfortable with that. It’s a really slow process for me because it’s trying different avenues to get myself to do it because I’m just so scared of the rejection, or the judgment. As someone whose whole thing is making people feel like I don’t care what people say, I still struggle with it when it comes to music. So, I’m trying all these different avenues of approaches to get it done because I can’t die before I at least write an album of songs, I have to try. So that’ll be coming from me. I want to continue working in reality TV because I love it so much. I want to keep shooting specials, but I really don’t know what’s coming up for me because if you would’ve asked me a year ago, I couldn’t have predicted The Masked Singer.

I want to continue doing wacky shows that I never would’ve thought were possible. I’d love to have a talk show some day. I want to continue my podcast and take that to the next level. I want to get to a place where I’m confident enough to put out a TikTok. They’re meager goals, but more self-acceptance in the new year for sure. More just feeling that I’m enough. I’m thinking of freezing my eggs, and potentially maybe moving out of St. Louis to somewhere else. I don’t know, I guess just like we were talking about the beginning, just accepting the way things are. With music it’s like, okay, just write one song. Let’s see if I can do that. But the ultimate goal is to see Taylor Swift like a dozen times next year, which is already in the works.