When the pandemic took hold last year, Nikki Glaser did what thousands of millennials did: She moved back in with her parents. "I lived with them for 10 months," she says via Zoom from St. Louis, where she was born in 1984. "I only moved out because I was getting embarrassed to admit I lived with them. And they were getting tired of having me there." The first thing she got was a karaoke machine, which she still uses almost daily.
"I was living in L.A. or New York for 17 years, since leaving college," she says. Once faced with circumstances beyond her control, she leaned into it, kinda like relaxing your body before a car crash. "I've finally been able to relax, and I'm at a point in my career where I can feel comfortable with what I've accomplished, as opposed to continually pursuing this thing that is endless."
Glaser used the forced hiatus as an opportunity to disengage from the nonstop competition of the bi-coastal comedy scene, and she found a new gear in the process. As a vegan with a decade of sobriety under her belt, Glaser was better prepared than most to exercise the mental discipline needed to thrive in this brutal new reality.
The pandemic has been a nightmare for almost everyone, everywhere, and comedians have suffered in their own unique way. Comedians make much of their income on the road, and the road was closed to them for most of last year. Less obvious, though, is the psychological aspect. Generally speaking, comedians are in a delicate place mentally, even on a good day, and there haven't been any good days in quite a while. The lack of camaraderie with their peers has left many comedians feeling isolated and vulnerable. And, unlike musicians, comedians can't just pivot to practice their craft in other ways, not really.
Glaser does her eponymous podcast almost every day, and she's a regular on TV, but nothing quite matches the experience of performing on stage. After starting her career in 2003, Glaser never went more than five days without performing until last year. Her last gig was at the Comedy Store in L.A. on March 13, 2020; she didn't take the stage again for months, and even then her work rate declined sharply as lockdowns brought the performing arts to a halt.
"At first, it was a relief," she says of the break, but the hiatus quickly wore out its welcome.
Glaser did no live shows at all from December 2020 until her tour began in July 2021. The Orlando show will be her seventh of the tour, and it marks a return to one of her favorite places, a city she's worked nearly a dozen times. Opening for Glaser will be Andrew Collin, her friend, roommate and co-host of "The Nikki Glaser Podcast," which has aired since March through iHeartRadio's Big Money Players (BMP) Network.
Glaser first caught the country's attention — and ours — as the co-host of Nikki & Sara Live (with fellow comedian Sara Schaefer), which ran for 24 episodes on MTV in 2013. She had only been in the business a couple of years at that point, but Glaser rose quickly on the strength of her unique style, which now seems slightly less unique, after years of others trying to do the exact same thing.
Many comedians lean on sex as part of their gimmick, but in most cases, it comes off as an act, more tongue-in-cheek than tongue-in- ... well, never mind. When Glaser does it, however, she makes it somehow as relatable as it is outrageous. It's less like someone doing an act and more like a friend dishing over brunch.
If there is one thing that comedians are absolutely NOT known for, it's healthy coping mechanisms. Glaser is a rare exception to that rule. "The pandemic made me realize what really makes me happy," she says.
Glaser's show at the Hard Rock on Friday will offer an interesting glimpse into the next stage of her evolution, and we're here for it.