Before reviewing Todd Glass’s “Act Happy” Netflix comedy special, I didn’t know anything about Todd Glass. I had never heard his name nor seen his face and I had no idea what type of comedy to expect. For all intents and purposes, Todd Glass might as well have been the company you inevitably have to call on Maine Day when your roommate thinks he’s Tom Brady and drunkenly nails your neighbor’s window with a football.
As it turns out, Todd Glass is a person and his “Act Happy” special is the most unique stand-up special I’ve ever seen. Glass has a band on stage with him, whose public domain songs like “Yankee Doodle” keep the audience at ease amid Glass’s passionate rants about everything from Whole Foods to House Hunters to the way his genitalia responded to his heart attack. The band also verbally engages with Glass throughout the show by poking fun at him, while sprinkling musical interjections amidst his jokes, similarly to the way a late-night host interacts with his or her band.
Glass also uses the band to perform made-up songs, such as singing randomly about how he didn’t have enough material to fill an hour so he has to sing randomly for a couple minutes to be able to reach the hour mark. Another musical bit included him singing about audience members and then slowly digressing into just singing whatever he’s thinking. While these premises are funny and the song about material is presumably very relatable for other comedians, the bit seemed to get lost on the audience and went on a bit too long. At the same time, Glass seems to acknowledge the silliness and ridiculousness of it, which keep the bits from being cringe-worthy.
Glass’s bits always begin as a thing that clearly bothers him and while at first he may seem angry, each premise builds into something funny. He knows he’s crazy, but he knows the audience probably is too, so it works. And the jokes that kind of falter or only get a smattering of laughter around the room are always enhanced by a quick one-liner, the ding of a triangle from the band, or angry berating from Glass that make the bit even funnier.
However, it’s not all fun and games. For the final seven minutes of the show, Glass gets every serious, and doesn’t include many jokes. It is as if he has been trying to “act happy” throughout the entire show but simply cannot anymore and he lets loose in a serious way about somewhat serious issues and societal norms. He talks about how for years before coming out as gay, he referred to his boyfriend as his girlfriend in his stand-up material and nobody saw through it. It is Glass’s way of taking a stand for gay rights and it is effective in its simplicity.
Todd Glass has a big personality, but he is not so outlandish or extraordinary that he is hard to relate to. The special is not filmed in a big auditorium, but rather a small, intimate room, and the setting counteracts his persona perfectly. Glass does not put himself above the audience and does not see his way of thinking as the only way. He is a ham for the audience one minute and a preacher the next, and he is not afraid to make his special his own.