Talking to Jon Glaser About ‘Parks and Rec,’ ‘Girls,’ and the ‘Delocated’ Finale
It’s probably going to be a while ’til we see another show like Delocated.
The Adult Swim live-action series comes to an end tonight after three seasons of somehow making accessible a show about a Russian mob target in the witness protection program who moves to New York City to become a reality star. Delocated seamlessly blends avant-garde with lowbrow – the perfect middle ground between a network sitcom and Tim and Eric.
At the center of the absurdity is “Jon,” a suburban tool who wears a ski mask at all times to protect his identity. Based on a character by series creator and star Jon Glaser, “Jon” put his and his family’s lives in danger just so he could move into a sweet penthouse. Everything that comes out of his mouth is hilarious, whether it’s intentional or not.
I recently had the opportunity to talk to Glaser about his favorite Delocated episodes, what we can expect from tonight’s finale, and what the future holds for “Jon.”
Is the final episode going to be a half-hour?
It’s a half-hour, correct.
Is there any hint you can give us?
We wanted it to be an hour, but flying the whole crew to Russia for a machine gun battle in Red Square was too much money.
Wow, so that’s what we can expect to see?
Maybe, maybe not. [Laughs.] No, that’s an extreme fantasy. We did talk about trying to fly to Russia, even just for a day, and it was just too much.
Did you ever shoot anything outside of New York?
Nothing was outside of the city. Well, that’s not true, actually, the camping episode, that was I think Staten Island, so I stand corrected. I mean, everything was in New York; we never flew anywhere or drove outside of the state except for maybe going into New Jersey a little bit, but that was always fairly close. The “Tap” episode, we did end up driving maybe two, two and a half hours outside of the city, and then just slowly made our way back and taped a few things for that tap montage. One thing we didn’t do, I remember (executive producer) John Lee and I — he lives in my neighborhood, and I’m so mad we didn’t do this — just during the winter while we were editing, we wanted to get a shot of me just tapping in the snow, and put it in that montage, which really would have been funny, but sadly, we didn’t do it.
That would’ve been a long tapping excursion if it went through winter.
[Laughs.] It would have been so funny, just one shot. And that winter, there was a ton of snow here. It would’ve been great.
So when did you get the news that you weren’t going to have a Season Four?
I found out over the summer. We wrapped at the end of March and the show went off the air in April, so it takes a while to find out, and I think for the network to figure out what’s going on. We found out in the summer, and at the same time, we got the opportunity to do the finale episode, so it was like, of course that would be totally awesome. It’s very cool to get to do that. I mean, it is sad that there’s no more show; it’s bittersweet and all that, but no complaints. It was such a good run, of course. Three seasons is pretty awesome to get to do. We did a lot of episodes, the shows were a half-hour, and then to get to do a finale episode is just really incredible. I think for me at least, there’s no doubt we would’ve come up with lots of season four story ideas. Every season was always, “How do we extend the premise?” Season Two we added Steve Cirbus (Sergei), and made the directive that they’re not gonna kill “Jon,” they’re gonna kill everyone around him. Season Three we added the Wang Chos. Season Four obviously we would’ve had to figure out — especially with that Season Three ending — “Now what?” What happens after he was kidnapped in the boat? And that probably would’ve been a big challenge, but we would’ve figured it out. So even though it’s a bummer not to get to do another season I think it’s also, for lack of a better word, a perfect place for the story to end. So it’s not entirely too bad.
Did you have anything written in terms of where you wanted to take the story for Season Four?
Not necessarily. There were lots of ideas.
Can you share any of them?
It’s hard to say, because some of those were incorporated into the finale episode. It’s hard to talk about the finale episode because I don’t want to tip anything. There’d be lots of really fun conversations after the fact, but it’s tough because I don’t want to even say anything that might give anything away. It’ll be fun for fans to just watch and experience it as things unfold. There are a lot of really great moments, and great surprises, and great scenes. The few people that I’ve shown the episode to — and I didn’t tell them anything and they didn’t know anything about it — it was really fun to watch them watch the episode, and just be like, “Oh my God! Holy shit!”
Do you bring back old characters? Can you say anything about that?
Yeah, they did some really funny kind of Sopranos parody teaser trailer where they flashed every character who’s in the finale. I mean I guess I could say, or should it be a surprise… If you’ve seen that trailer it’s no surprise. Jay the doorman, TB — the body guard, David, Susan from Network, Greg DiPietro the head of the FBI, and Yvgeny and Sergei, and I think that’s it as far as the main characters.
No Mishka, he’s gone! Alright…
We talked about it and thought about it, and decided we didn’t need it.
Right. Because for a second there, at the final episode of season three, I was wondering “Is this gonna be show about Mishka going forward?”
It could’ve been a big part of it, and it was discussed, because it was left so open-ended, but now we’ll never know.
Alright. Well thank you for giving us a little teaser.
I will say, and this is still being vague, I think this episode is really kind of amazing. I think fans will be very satisfied with this as the final episode of the series.
What do you think you’ll miss most about the show — performing, the writing, brainstorming new ideas?
Truly everything. As a creative experience, it will be very hard to top that, as far as stuff I’ll do in my career. If I’m lucky enough to have something that enjoyable I’ll be very fortunate and very happy. Doing the show, it’s a great time. All of it is fun. The writing — we’re coming up with these really ridiculous, dumb, funny, fun ideas, and then we get to do it. I mean, it’s a fun show to make. I know this sounds really vague and sort of generic, but it was a very good time. We were very lucky. Adult Swim is great to make a show for. Creatively they are very supportive, and they encourage you to be creative and weird and innovative. It’s kind of great that they exist and could give a home to the show… I don’t think this show could have existed anywhere else. Maybe Comedy Central? Probably, all due respect to Comedy Central, I don’t think it would’ve been as good. It’s just, with Adult Swim, you get to make these weird, crazy shows, and even though Delocated is a little more accessible than a lot of the weird, crazy animated shows they do, it’s still strange and interesting, and even can be dramatic when it wants or needs to be.
So from the writing, the shooting is such a good time; we had a really fantastic crew. When you’re doing a lot of these jobs, sometimes they’re not fun. Everyone really has fun doing Delocated because it is a ridiculous show to work on. We have a crew that is enthusiastic, never complains about anything, it’s just a great time overall. The editing is a really fun part of the process, just putting the shows together. From that sense, even as I’m talking about it, I’m getting all bummed out that it’s done. Because that’s the biggest reason — it’s just so much fun, and that’ll be the biggest thing that I’ll miss. But again, no complaints, because it was so satisfying and we got to do so much. Three seasons — it was a lot. I think it might be, with the finale, 30 episodes total, or maybe 31. And certainly you can argue that it was nice that it ended before — you never want a show to start feeling like “Alright, they’re really pushing it. They’re really stretching the premise pretty thin.” And I was never worried about that for Season Four, but clearly it was a big question mark and a challenge of “Now what? Where does the show go from here?” Seeing “Jon” go away on that boat — how would we get him back to New York, and then keep going? It felt like something had to give. I feel like it was kind of a good place to stop.
Can you pick a favorite episode?
It’s hard to say. I’ve wondered about that, and I felt like I’d probably be asked that question. I really felt pretty good about all of them; they were all enjoyable in their own ways. If I had to pick one, I think “Mole” — “Mole” is the Face-Off episode, “Tap” I thought was pretty great, too. Just really good scenes, just the scope of it, as far as the stuff we shot, looked great, the guy that played Lon was so funny, the drama was intense. I mean, Steve Cirbus’s performance in that was pretty incredible. “Tap” is pretty much up there. I think either “Tap,” or honestly, the finale.
Wow, can’t wait!
People haven’t seen it yet, but it’s certainly one of my favorite episodes.
Yeah, when I introduce the show to people, “Tap” is what I first show them.
It’s pretty good, pretty solid.
I’m also partial to “Good Guys.”
It’s another good one; there’s so much funny stuff in it — those jackets were awesome, that doo-wop stuff was great. Not to sound like a pretentious jerk about the show, but it’s just great that the show can be dramatic and have an emotional resonance to it. When “Jon” reunited with his son, we played it real, and of course, before it gets too serious and dramatic, you know, something stupid happens. I like that it’s allowed to be that, even when he’s looking for his son, and talking to the guy, it’s emotionally resonant. That’s one thing I love about the show.
Yeah, and like you said, there are a lot of aspects of the show that are filled with suspense. It holds you on the edge of your seat at some points.
I agree that the show was very dramatic. The first episode of the second season, where Sergei says — we didn’t even write this intentionally — “Show is not silly comedy, it’s a silly drama;” I’m paraphrasing, but I feel like that’s exactly what the show was. It became, in a good way, crediting Steve Cirbus’s performance — and I’m not discrediting anyone on the show, because we got very lucky with all of the actors we got to play all of the major roles on the show, from Jerry Minor in Season Two, Zoe Lister Jones, Mather Zickel, I don’t even want to start naming names, but everybody was great, and we got really lucky to get all of these people, many of whom I had never met before, they just walked up and did auditions — but Cirbus to me is just really almost the MVP of the show. He’s so good. And believable! He came so late to the casting process for that part, and it was one of those things where we had someone else in mind, but it was more, “Well, we haven’t seen anyone else better than this person, and we’re definitely settling,” and it would’ve been more of a, “He’s a Joe Pesci-type, where he’s not really physically menacing, but maybe you believe that he’s actually kind of psycho,” but when Cirbus came along, it was like, “Oh my God, thank God.” It was a huge sigh of relief. And not only was it just a sigh of relief, it was “AND, he’s amazing.”
What’s next for you? You’re doing a lot of acting these days.
It’ll be a combination of things. I’m doing more Parks and Recreation episodes; I was very fortunate to get cast as this role, and it became a season arc, so I’ll be doing a lot of episodes of that.
It seems like there’s a little bit of “Jon” in Councilman Jamm.
[Laugs.] Well, they’re certainly two phenomenally hyper-confident assholes. That’s certainly something those two characters share — both hyper-confident douchebags. That’s been so much fun. That’s been on-par with Delocated, not so much that just the characters are similar in that they’re dicks, but a very very fun experience. That show is great, and it’s nice to get an acting job on a show that I like. So that’s been cool. It’s not just, “Well I got this job on a show, and it’s okay, but it’s a fun role, and it’s money…” I was just in L.A. doing some more and that was really fun. That’s been going on, and then I’ll just be probably pitching some ideas, and we’ll see what happens. It’s a little weird. Obviously it was nice to do Delocated and not have to worry about being an actor and a writer looking for a job. So that’s strange but also exciting because I’m looking forward to what’s next, and hopefully there will be a lot of interest from Delocated and Parks and whatever else.
Have we seen the last of “Jon?” Is there a chance he could pop up perhaps in another project, or are you gonna put him on hold for awhile?
I don’t know! I would imagine not. It certainly would be more of the network’s call, if they wanted to do something. It’s such a fun character to do, I mean, we’ve done some live shows, and maybe we’ll do some more of those. There’s no real plan for anything right now, but it’s hard to say. I think if we had the right idea for something and we all wanted to do it, we’d probably do it. So we’ll see. I did Jimmy Fallon last week to promote the show, and we did this really funny joke of “Jon” joining the cast of Elementary on CBS, and they photoshopped me from the new billboards onto this cast photo of the two leads on Elementary, and it’s really funny and so stupid. But I like that; that should be something — people should just photoshop “Jon” into new shows.
Certainly, it makes them instantly better. I know you live in New York. Are you pretty well entrenched there? Do you ever see yourself going to L.A. to do more TV stuff?
L.A. has always felt to me like the inevitability that I’ve been trying to put off, and lucky for me I got to do Delocated and stay here. I’d like to stay here if I could. I like New York a lot, and I’ve been here a long time, but I would never rule out moving there to Los Angeles. It’s always a possibility. Going out to do all these Parks episodes I felt kind of like maybe I should move there, so… it’s being discussed. [Laughs.] I have a cousin that lives there and they have four kids, and when I was out there shooting these Parks episodes, my family came out, and my son who’s almost seven had a very good time hanging out with his cousins, and so now I wouldn’t feel as bad about uprooting our family to move here. He even said something like, “I wanna move here for life!” [Laughs.] And it was only because he was getting to play with his cousins every day and not go to school. It’s hard to explain to an almost-seven-year-old, “Well, you know, this is not what every day is like, even though every day has been like this because you’ve been visiting.” It was almost like this false vacation, just going to our cousin’s every day, going to Disneyland one day. It was pretty hilarious.
That’s pretty hilarious. “I wanna live here for life!”
Yeah, the way he phrased that, it was so funny. My wife and I, we took our daughter to the — we live in Brooklyn, and our pediatrician is in Manhattan. We took the subway in, and it was kind of a shitty, rainy day here, and, you know, schlepping the stroller in the subway — and even this sounds so petty to even complain about this — but schlepping the stroller in the subway — and it’s actually very easy — but it made us feel sort of like, “Fuck this, let’s move to L.A.” If we had the car, we could just get in the car and drive there, even though it’s not that hard to take a stroller in the city in the rain. It’s just, “Uuugh! What a terrible life!” Such a petty complaint.
Yeah, but it’s one that everybody can relate to. Sometimes you want to just be able to get away from it all.
Even being in L.A., I had many moments where I felt like, “I like driving,” and sitting in traffic sucks, but I think I’d rather be by myself in my car listening to music during rush hour than sitting on a packed subway train, going over the Manhattan Bridge, thinking, “Alright, is this the day a fucking terrorist explodes the bridge?” [Laughs.] That’s my daily thought every day riding the subway in the city — “Alright, is this it? This is the day the Manhattan Bridge explodes, here we go! Ah, we made it. Awesome.” Even in L.A., I’m driving on an overpass or underneath going, “Alright, here’s an earthquake. This happens and my car gets fucking smashed by the cement.” So, pros and cons, guys.
You’ve got a little bit of a death complex, huh?
I think so.
The other thing I wanted ask you about — Is there any chance of you reappearing on Girls?
I think as of now, one-time deal. The thing that was kind of fun about it was, when I got the role, I’m like, “Oh, downstairs neighbor. That sounds like it could come back.” Hopefully, that would be pretty fun. Again, that was another fortunate, awesome experience. Really fun role on a really good show with a very cool group of people. As of now, it’s just the one episode, but it would be really fun to come back.
Yeah, downstairs neighbor’s not going anywhere.
We’ll see. Hopefully he’s not moving.
I know there was some humor to that role, but it was a little more serious for you, compared to your other roles. Was that much of an adjustment?
I would say no. That’s something where I just like doing that; I like dramatic parts. I prefer doing comedy, but something like that role to me was extremely enjoyable, because it was dramatic at times, and it was serious, and it was playing something real. That is something I would certainly love to do more of, especially something that combines comedy and drama. So hopefully there’s more of that to come. We’ll see.
The Delocated series finale airs tonight at 12:30 EST on Adult Swim.
Phil Davidson writes about, performs and produces comedy.