BY BRYAN BIERMAN For years, Jon Glaser held what is probably one of the most thankless jobs in Hollywood: Television comedy writer. They’re the people who create the jokes that make you laugh, but by and large remain completley unknown to the general public. Fortunately, Glaser got to show off his talents onscreen during his five-year tenure as writer for Late Night With Conan O’Brien, gaining a cult following for playing bit characters such as Ehud Henkleman, a non-Jewish shofar player who just likes “blowing on [his] jam stick,” and as a member of The Slipnutz, a terrible comedy group who are frequently confused with metal band Slipknot. These led to guest spots on shows such as Human Giant and Curb Your Enthusiasm, and, ultimately, writing and starring in his own show, Delocated, which just released the first two seasons on DVD, and returns for its third season February 2nd on Adult Swim. The live-action series follows “Jon,” a man entered into the Witness Protection Program for witnessing a murder by the Russian Mafia, who are constantly trying to rub him out. Unfortunately, “Jon” is a desperate fame-whore who stars in his own reality show, so to preserve his anonymity he wears a ski mask and uses a voice modulator to scramble his voice. Sound strange and confusing? Well, it is—but it’s also one of the funniest shows on TV. He’s also released his first book, My Dead Dad Was In ZZ Top, a hilarious collection of supposedly real documents that poke fun at the legends of rock ‘n’ roll, including handwritten letters revealing Glaser’s father to be a founding keyboard-playing member of ZZ Top, and a list of potential names for Ringo Starr’s planned Beatles cover band (e.g. “Doc Robert & The Come Together Blackbirds,” “Ding Dong Ringo & The Hand Holders”). We chatted with him about his favorite Coco sketches, what his still very much alive father thinks about all this, and Detroit Octane, his rock band, famous for “Barack Obama-sistible” (an intentionally shameless rip-off of Robert Palmer’s “Simply Irresistible”).
PHAWKER: Where did the idea for the book come from?
JON GLASER: It was a bit I had done live—the ZZ Top bit—I had always really liked that and it was something I performed around New York at various shows. And I always thought it would just be funny to see these letters in print. I thought about doing a website about the letters, and then, just decided to pitch it as a book. I came up with other ideas and thankfully, got a deal.
PHAWKER: You’ve done a lot of music humor all throughout your work, from The Slipnutz, on Late Night, to the Ska Mitzvah, on Delocated.
JON GLASER: Yeah, it’s nothing I’ve necessarily set out to do, as far as doing music stuff, but it just ends up in there by nature of liking bands, and getting to work with bands, things like that.
PHAWKER: Was your dad upset about you publishing a book that says he’s dead?
JON GLASER: (Laughs) No, it’s all fake; he was excited. I would imagine that he didn’t think it came from a real place. Although, I guess everything like that, there’s always an element of truth to it, so maybe deep down… (Laughs) I think he was able to separate the fake parts of our strained relationship from the real parts.
PHAWKER: Have you heard anything from any of the musicians in the book?
JON GLASER: No, there’s been nothing that’s been unsolicited, as far as me getting an e-mail out of the blue, or from the publisher, or my agent, or whatever. If I’ve heard anything, it’s from some of the musicians that I know.
PHAWKER: So “Ding Dong Ringo” didn’t call you up?
JON GLASER: Nope. (Laughs) Too bad.
PHAWKER: Thinking back to your days at Late Night, were there any pieces you wrote that stand out as favorites?
JON GLASER: You mentioned The Slipnutz, that certainly was a really fun one to do. I did the really dumb Michael McDonald thing where he was running a summer camp.
PHAWKER: You first got the idea for Delocated from a bit you did on Late Night?
JON GLASER: Yeah, it was actually something I had done before I got hired at the show. It’s slightly different, it’s not the same character—they’re both in the Witness Protection Program—but the thing at Late Night, was that he was an impressionist that wanted to keep performing, and so, he put on the mask and altered his voice, so as not to be recognized. And the stupid joke, was that all of his impressions sounded the same in that voice. But I always liked the archetype of the character—this guy in the Witness Protection Program that is really smug, and confident, and not funny. He really is full of himself enough that he’s got a desire to be famous, and that’s where the idea of the show came from.
PHAWKER: Going back to your dad, you’ve said Jon, the main character, was inspired by him somewhat?
JON GLASER: I think it’s one of those things, where over time, I’ve realized it has been probably more inspired and influenced by my dad than I realized, even though, it wasn’t like a specific thing. Certainly, the whole “FRRT” thing—that’s completely ripped off from my dad. (Laughs) That I directly took from him, and that to me was perfect, because it was a real “dad” thing to do. This past season while we were shooting in New York, my dad came to visit, and I realized that my character, and he, were dressed exactly the same. It was very, very weird.
PHAWKER: For those who’ve never seen the show, the “FRRT” noise is sort of Jon’s catchphrase. What context would your dad do that in?
JON GLASER: Pretty much what you’re seeing on the show, just punctuating a stupid joke with a “FRRT.” Just an all-purpose, go to—no offense to my dad—just a really stupid noise he does when he think he’s being funny. (Laughs) That’s pretty much what he does, and my character does.
PHAWKER: One last thing: Will Detroit Octane get back together this year to stump for Obama?
JON GLASER: (Laughs) I would doubt it, but it’s possible. We did it for this website that doesn’t exist anymore, so I’m not sure how that would work. I guess if somebody asks, and somebody wants us to do it, there’s always that possibility.
PHAWKER: He might need your help this year.
JON GLASER: Hey, if they want to fly us out for the DNC…
SEASON THREE OF DELOCATED STARTS FEB. 2ND ON ADULT SWIM; MY DEAD DAD WAS IN ZZ TOP IS AVAILABLE IN A BOOK STORE NEAR YOU