Between the clubs and the stage, TV and podcasts, streaming services and the internet in general, the world of standup comedy is overpopulated, like Times Square on New Year’s Eve (or Times Squares at any time). With the market having reached its saturation point years ago, it can be difficult, if not plain impossible, to cultivate a persona that stands out in the crowd. But that has proved to be no problem at all for Nikki Glaser, one of the funniest and most popular comedians working today.
Her four-show run at The Comedy Zone this weekend offers fans a chance to take a deep-dive into the mind of a deep-thinker. But her set is not for the faint of heart, because she can be downright ribald, if not indeed raunchy. Well, yeah, indeed–raunchy.
Nikki Glaser was born in Cincinnati in June 1984, matriculating as a Kansas Jayhawk before starting out in standup about 15 years ago. She made her bones on the club circuit for years, while turning up on various cult television shows like Red Eye, Adam Ruins Everything, Inside Amy Schumer and It’s On with Alexa Chung. She got to roast Rob Lowe and Bruce Willis, and she’s even been on The View, which you really need to see.
Glaser’s initial two forays into TV show hosting have been short-lived, but highly influential, in their own special way. The first was MTV’s Nikki & Sara Live, which she co-hosted with fellow comic Sara Schaefer in 2013. (The two also hosted the podcast You Had to Be There from 2011 to 2014.) That show was more about plumbing the depths of celebrity fandom, and just indulging in the joys of their own newfound fame. That indulgence included one legendary segment with their mutual crush, good ol’ Justin Timberlake. The ensuing hilarity cannot fully be described in a family publication like this.
The second show–the one that really put her on the map–was Not Safe with Nikki Glaser, which was truly groundbreaking during its all-too brief run on Comedy Central in 2016. On that show, Glaser’s gimmick became crystallized in the public mind: graphic, unflinching humor about sex and relationships, delivered in a casual, almost parenthetical style that made the punchlines pop. It featured a number of awkward, hilarious segments that are destined to live on forever on YouTube, like the time she hooked her own parents up to a polygraph machine and grilled them about their sex life, or the time(s) she hired porn stars to shoot a scene, just so she could feed them ridiculous dialogue through an earpiece, or the time she interrogated her friends about their attraction to her (which climaxed with her and a girlfriend making out on the table).
Not Safe was ahead of its time, and would have probably been better off somewhere like HBO or Netflix, where the limits of language and content are a little more lax–or nonexistent. But the success of the show during its brief run exposed her (literally) to mainstream audiences for the first time, and it’s been nothing but forward momentum ever since. She remains a regular attraction on the late-night talk-show circuit, notorious for her groan-inducing bon mots, and was a contestant on Season 27 of Dancing with the Stars.
Since Not Safe ended, Glaser has essentially been able to write her own ticket in the comedy world. She’s been hosting her own daily radio show, You Up? With Nikki Glaser, since February last year. She even appeared on American Ninja Warrior. As 2019 proceeds, Glaser continues to just plow through the business, leaving a distinct impression everywhere she goes. No one knows what the next step might be for her, but at this point, she’ll probably be able to do whatever she wants. Having established herself as a unique talent in all of entertainment, it remains to be seen what, if any limit, there may be to this beautiful blonde’s ambition.