MOST COMEDY MEMOIRS are mediocre. And if Todd Glass had wanted to write a mediocre comedy memoir—riffing on his career, bragging about his achievements—he totally could have. His pedigree is flashy enough: starting stand-up when he was still in high school? Opening for Leno at age 17? Touring with Patti LaBelle? That's good stuff right there, and it would've made for a dishy, run-of-the-mill memoir that gave comedy fans plenty to chew on, and went ignored by everyone else. You know—like most comedy memoirs.
But The Todd Glass Situation is in a class of its own, thanks to Glass' frank and humble exploration of his lifelong struggle to be honest about his sexuality. Glass has worked as a stand-up comic for his entire adult life—he's 49 now—and for much of that time he was deeply closeted. It wasn't until 2012 that he came out publicly, on Marc Maron's WTF podcast, a decision he made in part because of high suicide rates among gay teenagers.
Glass grew up with prejudices that those of us two decades younger probably have never experienced. It's painful to consider how deeply ingrained those prejudices can be: Glass was brave enough to get onstage and risk humiliation in front of strangers every single night, but he couldn't be honest with the people he knew best.
In his book, alongside the usual stuff about childhood and parents and pivotal career moments, Glass describes the tactics he used to keep friends and colleagues from finding out he was gay. He explains how uncomfortable he's always been with the idea of being stereotyped, and how every stray homophobic comment from a friend further reinforced his determination to keep his secret to himself. He gets a little preachy, even—if you needed a reminder not to use "gay" as a pejorative, Glass is all over it.
Portland might not be the target audience for this book—he's definitely preaching to the choir—but it's refreshing to read an entertainment memoir that has a reason to exist. Glass is desperately trying to be helpful to readers who might be struggling with their sexuality—he even includes a sample letter a kid might write to their parents. These days, the idea of someone staying in the closet is almost weirder than the idea of someone coming out of it. Glass' first-hand account of coming to that conclusion himself is funny, insightful, and eye-opening.