A lot of great TV came out in 2017, but few were as funny and memorable as GLOW. The Netflix period comedy, based on the real-life women’s pro wrestling league, is in the running for “Best Comedy” by Critics’ Choice, “Best New Series” by the Writers Guild, and star Alison Brie nominated for “Best Actress (Television Series Musical or Comedy)” at next month’s Golden Globes.
But among the colorful, courageous women who took to the ring, there was Melrose, a rowdy music video starlet who didn’t have to work hard to craft a crazy alter ego. But it was a different story for stand-up comic Jackie Tohn, who stars as Melrose in the series.
“Have you ever confidently walked into a wrestling ring?” Tohn asks Inverse in a rhetroical. “It’s a thing. You’ve got to manipulate the ropes in a certain way and not trip over. Once you get in, you have to circle up, you have to get into the lock up, all these things. When you’re a stand-up comic, you’re just like, ‘Wait, how do I even get into, what is it called? A ring?’”
A former American Idol contestant from New York, Tohn describes Melrose as “a character who, much like her good friend Jackie Tohn, likes to deflect any sort of depth or emotion by trying to be funny and trying to be loud.” She adds, deadpan: That was something I relate to.”
In an interview with Inverse, Tohn kicked back to talk about her wrestling training and bizarre auditions just as her G.L.O.W. predecessors did.
Talk to me about training. What was it like getting used to the wrestling ring?
In the first four weeks before we started [filming], we all trained with Chavo and we all learned the same things: How to jump off the ropes into a back bump, lock ups, headlocks. Then when we were shooting and people had — like when Arthie has to do that cannon ball, that flip off the ropes, she had to learn that. The rest of us didn’t, it. They taught us what we needed to know as we needed to know it. But, the initial four weeks, [we’re] all learning things that seem as simple as getting in the ring and not looking like an idiot.
You say you’re like Melrose. Are there any ways you guys are different?
I’m a lot more comfortable with connectivity and vulnerability than Melrose. She’s been to rehab a bunch of times, she’s trying G.L.O.W. because it’s the next best thing to a rock star’s video. But because of her insecurities, she beats herself up. She’s like, “I don’t even have to be here right now, I could be on a music video set.” Like she’s doing you a favor by being there.
But I think, and I’m hoping, she doesn’t come off as a bitch, that she just comes off as insecure and overcompensating. I also think that she’s really lovable and I think she’s funny. She definitely crosses the line. But I think if she feels like she was fucked with, she’s going to fuck back.
Hence that moment with the ketchup squirter in the ring?
Yeah. She may, just may go a little overboard.
Oh yes, I watched [the documentary] many times. YouTube holes, multiple times. The documentary was unbelievable. The doc was kind of telling a story, the YouTube hole was just kind of showing you all the things. Like those ridiculous sketches they used to do, we haven’t gotten to them yet, I don’t know if we will. But, yeah, we really all schooled ourselves.
I’ve noticed similarities between your personality as a comedian and Melrose. You both have a lot of bravado and share similar stage presence. Would you say that’s fair?
I would say that’s fair indeed. Some people’s onstage persona is nothing like them as a person. But when I meet comics on and off stage, their persona is an elevated, heightened version of who they are. I don’t think there’s too much room for vulnerability as a stand-up comic because the second anyone sees a crack, it’s like, “What are you doing up there you fucking loser?” You have to handle that space and take up all that space as a comic. I think Melrose does the same thing. Though, something tells me that if she did stand up and someone heckled her, she would cry.
What would you do with a heckler now?
At this point, I won’t cry, but I would at least be able to handle myself.
One of the funny things about GLOW is how unexpected the wrestling part comes in during the audition. Did you have any strange auditions?
I’ve been on 700 auditions that were almost as weird as GLOW. That also feels very ‘80s, where you show up and you have no idea what you’re even doing. Then they’re like, “This is a wrestling show,” and you’re like, “What? I thought this was a children’s music show.”
I’ve never gone to an audition where I had no idea where I was going. I have, however, been on the weirdest one. I showed up and somehow I got the note that it was business casual. So I’m in a blazer. I walk in and every girl is in a bathing suit. I’m like, okay, looks like I’m getting into my bra and underwear, because you want the job, you need the money, so a couple of directors saw my ass cheeks. What else is new? It happens all the time, with commercials mostly.
Do you think a show like the original G.L.O.W. could work today? Would you want to be a part of it?
I think we would update the sketches because comedy changes. It’s the same reason it’s so hard to make live studio half-hour comedies anymore. Because of The Office, Parks and Rec, and Arrested Development, our tastes have really changed. But as far as ladies getting in the ring, being bad bitches, having a little sketch comedy, I think there can be a women’s wrestling show. Throw in some comedy, a little reality, and it can be close to the original G.L.O.W. But keep the camp.
GLOW is streaming now on Netflix.