Jon Glaser loves gear. “Jon Glaser” really loves gear.
TruTV’s new series “Jon Glaser Loves Gear,” which premieres Wednesday night, defies classification. It’s a fake reality show about a celebrity who loves cool gadgets, but it includes segments with real people showcasing real cool gadgets. It’s heavily improvised, but with real scripted story tangents, as comedian Jon Glaser, playing an awful version of himself, watches the narrative unravel.
“It is weirdly hard to describe,” Glaser said. “And when people ask, ‘What is gear?’ that has an even wider definition.”
“Jon Glaser Loves Gear” follows the fictional Glaser as he pitches TruTV on the show, which the network quickly greenlights. He finds a sidekick (Steve Cirbus, “Delocated”) and in the first episode, and sets out to go camping. After his wife refuses to play along, he auditions models to play his spouse… and things fall apart once the camping gets started.
Other episodes follow a similar formula: Jon is excited to try out gear while playing hockey or going cycling. But there’s always something that threatens to derail the show. Guests this season include Janeane Garofalo, Michael Shannon, John Hodgman, mixed martial artist Renzo Gracie; bass fishing champ Woo Daves and former NHL All-Star Ron Duguay.
Glaser is familiar to viewers and comedy fans thanks to his turns in films such as “Trainwreck” and “Sisters,” as well as his TV stints on “Parks and Recreation,” “Delocated,” “Inside Amy Schumer,” “Girls,” “Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter” (which he created) and “Louie.” The real-life Glaser came up with the idea for “Jon Glaser Loves Gear” based on a performance idea he had many years ago. Glaser would go on stage in a high-tech raincoat… and proceed to talk about nothing but the raincoat. The bit would go on for an excruciatingly long time – and then Glaser would open it up to a Q&A with the audience, but only about the coat.
“It turns into this spontaneous ad-lib dumb thing that usually goes well, and I enjoyed doing that piece,” Glaser said. “I thought it could be a funny segment for a sketch or variety show. But the more I thought about it, the more ideas I kept coming up for it. It became a bigger idea, and then TruTV responded to it.”
“Jon Glaser Loves Gear” originally was supposed to be much more about the gear. But the storytelling eventually got more ambitious. Still, real cool gadgets are still a part of the show: “No matter how far the show goes off the rails and takes these tangents, you still see the show trying to be the show that originally set out to be,” Glaser said. “It’s trying to be this show about the celebration of gear, while walking the fine line of dealing with the emotional unraveling of this world.”
The show has already coined a bit of a catchphrase, as Glaser’s character frequently screams “GEAR!” into a megaphone, usually held by a conveniently nearby production assistant.
“I don’t even know how to describe why it works. But it seems to resonate with people,” Glaser said. ” I don’t know if it’s the primal scream, or the celebration of gear, to me its just dumb and it makes me laugh.”
The show also includes real people, when Glaser (as his alter ego) goes shopping for gear in real stores. The clerks seen on the show have been told beforehand that Glaser will spout off nonsense – and that they should simply react as if an actual customer came in their store and started acting like that.
“The reality moments we try to be very upfront with everybody,” he said. ” Whenever I watch pranky stuff it makes me uncomfortable, unless it’s a worthy target. We made it very clear to people, this is not a prank show. We’re not looking to make you look bad. I wanted to make it feel as real as possible. Here are these people trying their best to deal with this annoying asshole.”
Glaser plays the douchebag quite well — a skill he has also honed playing other jerks like City Councilman Jeremy Jamm on “Parks and Recreation.”
“It is a douchey, asshole version of myself,” Glaser says of his “Gear” persona. “This one just makes me feel uncomfortable while I was doing it and also watching the edits. I know I’m not really like that, but am I? I need to get home and be a better dad! It’s a little weird. It sometimes doesn’t feel great even though it’s all fiction. It’s tragic and sad but I’d like to think that I’m not like that for real.”
Glaser joked that he’s especially worried because most actors bring a little bit of themselves to every role they play. “Why am I good at being a dick? But when you’re doing comedy, its fun to be an asshole and get to act like a real jerk. It’s enjoyable because it’s not real.”
Of course, watching the current presidential campaign, Glaser noted the similarities between Jamm and Donald Trump. “Playing someone like Jamm you think it’s a crazy stereotype and the caricature of it,” he said. “But then there’s really people like that and its bizarro.”
“Jon Glaser Loves Gear” premieres Wednesday, Oct. 26, at 10 p.m. ET on TruTV.