Nikki Glaser Doesn’t Want to Be Called ‘Edgy’

“Edgy” is not a word that Nikki Glaser relates to when it comes to her comedy. That may be surprising considering that her latest special, “Someday You’ll Die” for HBO (streaming now on Max), covers everything from offering to pay for her friends’ abortions to her darkest porn habits.

“‘She’s so wrong. She’s so offensive.’ These are not things that I like to be called. ‘Edgy. She’s pushing the envelope,'” Glaser told TheWrap of what she hears said about her. “If you personally knew me, all I want is to be liked. All I want is to be loved and be normal. I would give anything to give up my sick sense of humor and my ability to twist the shameful into the mentionable. … It’s never going to happen for me.”

When asked what inspired her dark sense of humor, Glaser pointed to her “toxic shame.”

“It’s really become a chronic issue for me, and I think it always has been,” Glaser said. “I’ve always just felt there’s something wrong with me.”

It’s that shame that led to Glaser’s distinctive comedic voice, which often feels like hearing the most vulgar and depraved thoughts of your sweetest friend. Glaser traces this feeling back to third or fourth grade — when she was still wetting the bed and realized other kids around her weren’t.

“I always felt weird and off. I think being able to say that and be honest about stuff has really released some of that shame, or it’s resonated with other people, and I felt less alone with it,” Glaser said. “It doesn’t mean that I am purged of it. I still carry it with me.”

So instead, Glaser said “f–k it” and learned to lean the other way. With this new special, she dares her fans to “put your money where your mouth is.”

“You want to know how dark it gets? I dare you to love me after this,” Glaser said.

It’s hard to tell if Glaser’s success has come because of or in spite of this insecurity. Either way, the comedian has been resonating with people. Recently, Glaser stole the spotlight on Netflix’s widely viewed “The Roast of Tom Brady” — a difficult feat considering she was roasting alongside huge names including Kevin Hart and Kim Kardashian.

Nikki Glaser
Nikki Glaser at G.R.O.A.T. The Greatest Roast Of All Time: Tom Brady (Photo Credit: Adam Rose/Netflix © 2024)

She also serves as the host of the CW’s dating reality show “Lovers and Liars” and hosted its previous iteration, HBO’s “FBoy Island” — two series that ask hot singles to determine who’s on this dating show for love and who’s there to cash out. Glaser’s honest approach to the shameful also fueled her short-lived and underrated Comedy Central show looking at sex through a comedic lens, “Not Safe with Nikki Glaser.”

TheWrap spoke with the comedian about how she found her specific style of comedy, her favorite comedians and her thoughts on “cancel culture.”

“Someday You’ll Die” is such an intentionally dark special. How do you find the humor in things like wanting your friends to have an abortion?

I just mine for what’s true. I don’t want my friends to have kids, and it affects my bottom line. It’s a really selfish and sad part of who I am, but I can’t help that’s how I feel. I feel threatened by children. Of course, I don’t want my friends to get abortions, but that’s the funniest way to go about saying I don’t want my friends to have kids.

[Creating these dark jokes] is not easy at all. It starts out with a really shameful feeling of, “I can never tell anyone that I felt this way. How could I ever admit to anyone that my friends, who want babies more than anything in the world, that I am selfishly hoping that they can’t conceive?” And that’s funny to me that someone would be so selfish that they would hope their friend doesn’t have a baby. That’s a funny character. That version of that character that literally says those things out loud is clearly not who I am.

I wish more people would be as honest with the way they think as I am, just so I wouldn’t feel so alone with this. But I know for sure I’m not alone with these thoughts. There’s just no way I am.

There’s a lot of talk about cancel culture and comedians getting canceled. Do you see that as a real threat?

It’s a threat when people are just tired of you, when people are looking to get rid of you. We get tired of seeing a face too much, and then you have to go away for a bit, and then you come back. We love a comeback story. But I think you’re threatened for being “cancelled” when you get too big. That’s why I love exactly the place that I’m at. Enough people know me that it feels great, but it’s not too much that people are like, “We’re sick of seeing her.”

I don’t want it to happen to me, and it definitely could. I’ve said really bad things on stage because it was a different time. I’m not a bad person. I would never say something on stage intentionally to alienate a group or make them feel bad about themselves, or make anyone in the audience hate themselves. I don’t have hate in my heart.

But I’m safe knowing that, so I can always just apologize. I am someone that would literally forgive anything. I know most people aren’t that, but if I got cancelled, good. I’ve been in this business 21 years. That’s long enough. That’s a great, really long relationship. … I don’t rely on being famous as the answer to my happiness.

Do I want to keep doing it forever? Yes. But here’s the tricky thing about apologizing: If you apologize for saying something offensive, everyone always says, “She just wants her job back. She just wants her career back. She’s sorry she got caught.” It’s like, can’t it be both? Can’t someone want their career back and also be like, “Oh, I can’t believe I said that”? I would hope that people would believe me, and I hope that I wouldn’t apologize for something that I wasn’t actually sorry for.

You’ve had an impressive career, from hosting your own show to being on “The Masked Singer.” What’s been a career high for you so far?

“The Masked Singer” has been a career high for me. I always have loved singing. That was a cool show because I wasn’t me. When I sang, if people thought it sucked, they didn’t associate it with my face. Ultimately, I would be revealed, but I wouldn’t have to sing as myself.

You would have to go back and listen and look at my face to really make it make sense. So I felt really free to be the artist that I’ve always wanted to be. I’ve always felt uncomfortable with my singing voice. I’ve always wanted to be a singer and was just never good enough at it, so that’s why I became a comedian.

Another career highlight for me is the people I’ve been able to know. I get to meet and be friends with David Spade, Bob Saget and Conan O’Brien. That’s the coolest part about my career, without question, just to sit in the same room as these people sometimes, to be on the same flight as them. … But I think the biggest highlight is yet to come and will have something to do with Taylor Swift. But it hasn’t happened yet.

What has been the most influential bit of comedy in your life?

Conan [O’Brien] was the first time I ever saw something comedically that was so different and weird and a sense of humor that I had not seen before. It opened up a world to me that I didn’t know existed in terms of, “This is so weird and goofy and silly and smart, always smart.” Because I always felt smart, but there was something else in me. I wasn’t smart enough just to be smart, and I felt like that combined it.

Then Sarah Silverman. I wouldn’t be who I am without having seen her. When I first was told you should be a stand-up comedian, I didn’t even know what that looked like for a woman. I Googled it — this was 2002 or 2003 — and she was the first one that came up. I wasn’t really familiar with stand-up comedy, just sitcoms.

I saw that she’s still a cute, really likable girl. Obviously, that was something that I wanted, to be seen as likable. And nice! She seems nice. She’s someone you want to be friends with, but she’s also saying really f–ked up things. I always had those dark feelings, and I never had a place to put them before I saw her. Seeing her was a life-changing moment.

Who in comedy has been impressing you lately?

There’s so many young women coming up that really irritate me because they’re so g–damn talented, and I see them in my rearview. My first instinct, if I’m going to be completely honest, is to be like, “Go away, please.” … But I’ve got to go the other way and shout them out.

Katherine Blanford is an amazing stand-up comedian who I have found that if I watch her too much, I start to sound like her, and she’s like a decade younger than me. It’s incredible that she’s having that kind of influence.

Caroline Baniewicz on Instagram. She’s so funny. She cannot lose. There’s a girl named Katie Hughes.

There’s Taylor Tomlinson, who we all know crushing it and is someone who I think is about to pop off real big and has been one of my favorite comics forever. She is seriously the funniest person I know.

And my favorite comedian is Rachel Feinstein. I can’t wait until she becomes a household name. If it doesn’t happen, there’s something wrong with the world, because she’s legitimately the funniest person going.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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