Glass decided to come out after hearing about gay teens committing suicide. He decided it was time for him to be honest with his audience.
Since coming out earlier this year, he hasn't changed his routine much, other than dropping references to his "girlfriend." But he had been doing that for some time before he went on Maron's show ("That's what I call it now, 'Before I Went on the Marc Maron Show,'?" he said, delineating his life as if it were the transition point between B.C. and A.D.). In a still-to-be aired Comedy Central special, Glass never mentions a girlfriend. He said it will take a bit of getting used to before he starts talking about his significant other with the correct pronoun.
One thing he's sure about, he doesn't want to sermonize about his sexuality. "Comedy should always be funnier than it is preachy," Glass said. "It'll just be stories from my life."
That philosophy makes sense for a comedian like Glass who isn't defined by yukking it up about the differences between men and women. He's a particularly hard comedian to characterize; even he has trouble defining his own niche in the comedy world.
"I'm not one of those guys who you can say what they are," Glass said. "I guess passionate. Someone once said to me: 'Well, you're passionate whether you're talking about social issues, politics or how to throw a party. There's a fever, an intensity.' I was like, 'I'll take that.'?"
"There's some neuroses about him that we find somewhat adorable," said Preston Elliot of WMMR's Preston and Steve Show, on which Glass is a frequent guest. Elliot recalled how during one of his first appearances, Glass' mom needed some lawn work done, so Glass offered to trade Springsteen tickets for manual labor. "It was just one of those endearing things about him," Elliot said.
"I know that my goal is to be exactly who I am onstage offstage and that's a constant work in progress," Glass said. He once asked comedian Louis C.K. when he would stop cringing while watching old tapes of himself perform. "Hopefully never," C.K. replied, and Glass has taken that to heart. "You don't want to look back at your work in '90 and think, 'Man, that's when I was at my best.' If you're cringing, it means you're growing. You just cringe less."
Glass grew up in Paoli and cut his teeth at Philadelphia's Comedy Works while he was still in high school. He credits Steve Young, the former owner of the Old City club, for exposing him to comedy greats such as Jerry Seinfeld and Garry Shandling.
"Here's the story on Todd: The first night we opened, the first person in line was this 16-year-old kid. When I go up onstage as the emcee that night, in the seat next to the stage was Todd. He laughed at everything. The second show, the 11 o'clock show, the person next to the stage was Todd Glass. Saturday next to the stage was Todd Glass. And the next one, Todd Glass," Young said. "You have to keep in mind as a comedian, you don't go up there and do new material for each show. But Todd laughed at everything at every show."
Glass, Young said, still has that enthusiasm.
Young went on to manage Glass in his early years, eventually booking him to open for Patti LaBelle on Broadway.
"It was his first really big gig, but he was not one for preparing. He walked up there and I remember him saying to the crowd, 'Do you have a Wawa here? I'm going to joke about Wawa.' And no one laughed," Young said. But Glass was so gung-ho about comedy, he insisted on jumping into the deep end. "Everything he did was before he should have done it."
Everything, that is, except for coming out. "I was ready to ; everyone needs to be ready to do it. I always wish that people who are gay would come out, but some people probably wished that about me at some point," Glass said.
Glass has gotten an overwhelmingly positive response to his announcement. He's received hundreds of supportive emails, and he responds to all of them. "I won't let them fall on deaf ears," Glass said. If he has a message, it's that people who accept gays should be more vocal about it so that the closeted know they are in a safe space. "That could change everything," Glass said. "I know when I was younger and I heard someone ironclad accept , it made my f------ day."
Glass' secret may not have been as well kept as he thought.
"Everybody knew Todd was gay," Young said. "Or, it wasn't that he was gay but he was seemingly not interested in anything but comedy. I would say he's a comedian-sexual. That's his first love."
Contact Molly Eichel at 215-854-5909 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @mollyeichel. Read her blog posts at www.philly.com/entertainment.