You needn’t love gear to love Jon Glaser Loves Gear, truTV’s new comedy docu-series. No, Glaser’s own passion for the stuff is enough to imbue the skeptical viewer with an appreciation for the accoutrements, equipment, paraphernalia, and other knick-knacks that he features on each episode. It helps that gear comes with such pleasing (and sometimes mildly absurd) names: Bowtech Carbon Icon Compound Bow, Helinox Swivel Chair, Keen Tanghee II Mid Hiking Boots, Audubon Cast Zinc Wood Bird Call, Coghlans Tent Stake Mallets, Propper TAC.U Combat Shirt. The language of gear is deliciously laden with consonants, colors, and jargon that in Glaser’s voice becomes music. There’s nothing quite like listening to someone talk about what they love, even if in this case, he is somewhat openly mocking his own passion.
For Glaser, a long-time Late Night with Conan O’Brien writer who is most recognizable as Parks and Rec’s villainous councilman Jeremy Jamm, or Adam’s brother-in-law Laird in Girls, gear has been a lifelong passion. “It comes from an earnest place,” he tells Inverse. “Even when I was a kid, you know, I couldn’t use my soccer cleats for baseball. The cleat pattern is different, it’s an entirely different shape, so I had to have my metal spikes — I would have those conversations with my mom, just convincing her why.”
At the end of a winding anecdote about cycling gear, he cautions, as his fictional counterpart does in the series, that this is not an addiction: “I don’t need to put on all that stuff to bike to the bar. I just like the stuff. I’ve just always been into accessories.”
So while Jon Glaser Loves Gear seems at times to parody conventional notions of masculinity — specifically, gear culture — this is largely coincidental. Glaser is a man in a show that makes fun of himself; he is both subject and object, victim of an addiction that estranges his family and his friends. The satirical elements of the show were a result of hammering the concept into shape.
“It’s not necessarily a parody, but it’s become more of that,” he says. “Going from pitch to pilot, and then even from pilot to series, it just got more and more scripted and took on this tone. Clearly there’s a lot of macho dickhead music, and it’s being played earnestly and ironically. Which is weird, but it works for me. I just think it’s funny. So in that sense, I don’t think it’s making fun — it toes that line, but for me, I’m not making fun of that person. I am that person.”
Jon Glaser Loves Gear’s hybrid docu-series format means that some bits are scripted and others aren’t. The latter category includes scenes in which Jon purchases gear from real-life merchants, as well as long improvised beats that are often genuinely the show’s funniest moments.
Watching Glaser in the editing room on a recent afternoon, it becomes quickly apparent that he is indeed the person on-screen. As his editor cobbles footage around a brief moment of dialogue — Glaser wants to be sure the audience will have sufficient space to digest both the spoken words and a chyron — he picks up a wooden baseball bat and practiced his form. His publicist asks if a bicycle in the room was his. It isn’t; he didn’t bike to work today, an aberration.
Later, he pointed to the knit cap he was wearing. “This hat — I just love it,” he says. “I’ve purchased so many of these over the years because I just keep losing them.” As funny as he wants the show to be, the truth behind that comedy is just as important to him. “A lot of it is coming from real stuff,” he says. “It’s not played for comedy, which is important to me. But there are moments where it’s just, ‘Oh, this is cool, and it’s not a joke, it’s just a real moment that happened.’”
He is aware of the silliness of some of the things he loves, which means that even if it’s earnest, Jon Glaser Loves Gear still manages to poke fun at the maleness of gear. Early in the pilot, Jon gets into a fight with his wife, who doesn’t want to be on camera. He reminds her that he “indulges the annoying things” she likes to talk about, such as her shoes and bags. “My shoes and bags?” she asks. “Like … my gear?” In a long silent beat, Jon fails to process the point. “Not the same thing at all,” he rejoins. “Not even close.”
Moments like these are a necessary outcome of scripting: a plot demands conflict, stories need arcs. Perhaps because Glaser did not set out to make a satire — because they feel accidental rather than designed, textural rather than overtly preachy — the show’s satirical elements turn into one tool in a larger, varied toolbox. And yet even in his own origin story, Glaser recognizes the gender coded into his passion. He recalls biking to a comedy show several years ago. “I was just riding from my bike to the bar, he says. “It was just this little bar in the East Village, but I had to have my clear lens bike goggles, I had to put my cold weather bike cap under my helmet. I showed up with my cool bike and my cool lock, and [actor/comedian] Heather Lawless was waiting outside, and she was like: ‘You boys with your gear.’”