If you see Jon Glaser as “that guy you want to punch in the face” every time he pops on screen, then he’s doing his job. The prolific comedic actor, director and writer has made a career out of playing assholes. The asshole he’s best known for is probably the slimy Councilman Jamm, archenemy of Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) on Parks and Recreation, but he’s also played sweet jerk Laird on Girls. Glaser is not afraid to write himself a jerk role; he played a guy who does a reality show while in witness protection in his cult hit Adult Swim series Delocated.
Now he plays an asshole who gets called into a small town to hunt werewolves, in the Adult Swim miniseries Neon Joe: Werewolf Hunter, which will air every night from December 7-11 at midnight EST.
Here, Glaser gives us a guided tour of a career spent channeling assholes, d-bags and jagoffs of all stripes – in the process revealing himself to be a cool, on-the-level kind of guy.
You can say I play assholes. I’m not offended. I think Laird from Girls is a sweetheart. He’s not an asshole. But Jamm in Parks and Recreation, yeah: that’s a major asshole.
Obviously there’s the times where it’s just like, Yuck. Doing Jamm, there’d be times when I felt bad saying some of these things to people. No one gives a shit because it’s all fiction but every now and then…
I shot this thing for Parks and Rec – it wasn’t even for the show, it was for a DVD – where Jamm sort of hosted the outtakes. So we shot all this footage of me talking to the camera and setting up a lot of clips and then there’s one part where I just berate the crew off camera. It was a character talking to real people and the line was blurred, but only for myself. I was actually saying, “You know that I don’t mean any of this” when I’m actually making fun of real people. Like, “Hey, Silver Top,” about like a grey haired guy. Then I’m thinking, “Yuck, now I’m closer to being a real jerk.” That made me feel especially uncomfortable, even though no one cared.
There’s been a couple of times where people will say stuff about my characters and it’s mostly more funny than strange. No one’s ever really serious or intense about it but I remember one of the editors on Delocated made some comment to me and I thought she was kidding but I don’t think she was. Based on the Delocated character and then also doing Parks and Rec, she said something along the lines of, “Boy, it’s a good thing you’re married,” the implication being no one would want to date me because my characters are such assholes so that must mean that I’m an asshole.
I actually just shot this pilot just this past month for truTV. It’s called Jon Glaser Loves Gear; it is a reality show about how I genuinely love gear. “Gear” in this term being less the technological gadget stuff and more like if you’re a runner – all the stuff you get for running from the shoes to this cool hat, and these gloves and this cool belt. We were shooting in a store and when our producer reached out to see if we could shoot there, one of the concerns was that my character on TV is an asshole. So I think there was a concern that maybe I was going to be an asshole or that I was going to be perceived as an asshole and somehow make the store look bad. I couldn’t tell. It was really, really funny, and very strange.
When I play jerks, there’s not even a thought in my mind that, “Oh, I look physically strange,” or “My character’s a jerk.” To me it’s just this is a job, I’m an actor and this is what I do. If anything, it’s more fun to do that. When I go on a show like Jimmy Fallon’s, it’s more fun to do some kind of comedy bit than to go on as myself. It’s more interesting, and maybe more people in the comedy world are more inclined to not give a shit about how they come across because they’re not preoccupied. It’s not an ego thing.
Neon Joe was created as a goof for an appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night show. I was promoting the series finale of Delocated and just for my own amusement I wanted to do something stupid for the interview. I paired these two articles of clothing, which I actually own, arbitrarily. There was no preconceived idea beforehand; I just came up with this dumb name for a character. It was a pretend character and a pretend idea for a TV show. So the top half was the neon yellow hoodie and knit cap, and the bottoms were these Coors Light sweatpants. I basically said that I was really sad that Delocated was coming to a close but I was really excited about my new project. It’s called Neon Joe and it’s about a guy who hunts werewolves. I think I said something along the lines of, “I’m dressed as the character right now. That’s really all we have so we’re excited to figure out the rest,” and it was a joke. I was just trying to be dumb.
I don’t know what his accent is. It was almost a random choice to be vaguely southern, vaguely Cajun, but I kind of like not knowing where he’s from. Is that really his accent? Is he full of shit? Is that fake? Maybe we’ll discover that one day but I just like that it at least gives him an enigmatic quality.
Two people who pop to mind who are great at playing jerks are Zach Galifianakis and Amy Sedaris, who are both funny as hell and they go out of their way to look crazy. Amy Sedaris, who couldn’t be more stunningly beautiful, in my opinion, portrays these hideous-looking hilarious people and she just doesn’t give a shit. Maybe it’s a confidence thing in real life. I don’t know.
I’ve been lucky. It’s fun to have the freedom to say whatever you want and just be really outlandish and obnoxious and there’s no ramifications for it. It’s all pretend, it means nothing, and it’s kind of liberating to get to do that and say those things when I’m sure there’s lots of times where it’d be fun to say those things in real life and you just can’t.