How Jon Glaser Became Neon Joe: Werewolf Hunter

neonjoeJon Glaser has written for and consulted on some of the most acclaimed comedies in recent memory, including Late Night with Conan O’Brien and Inside Amy Schumer, so when Glaser comes up with a new character, no matter how dumb, people pay attention.

That is essentially the origin story of Glaser’s latest project, Neon Joe: Werewolf Hunter, which premieres tonight on Adult Swim.

Set in the pretend “B&B Capital of the World” Garrity, VT, “Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter” stars Glaser as a neon-clad man with a mysterious past and a highly specialized skill set: hunting werewolves. When a sudden plague of inexplicable werewolf fatalities strikes — the first victim is Paul Rudd — the Garrity sheriff’s department reluctantly has no one else to turn to but Neon Joe.

The five-part miniseries reunites Glaser with PFFR, the avant-garde production team behind his wonderfully absurd Delocated, as well as Wonder Showzen and other cult classics.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Glaser about Neon Joe and its origins, as well as his time working on Inside Amy Schumer.

Congrats on Neon Joe. It really began as just a character you came up with on the spot on Fallon and were somehow able to spin it into a show?

It wasn’t so much that I came up with it on the spot, but there was no show. I was on Fallon to promote the series finale of Delocated. I wanted to do something stupid to amuse myself and not just do a straight interview, which just seemed like it would be boring. So I took those two articles of clothing that I owned, the neon hat and the Coors Light pants, that I used for separate comedy pieces and made up the character. So there was no show. There was never any intention to have Coors Light be a part of the show because there was no show. To me it seemed obvious that it was a joke. I guess some people could have been unsure. [Laughs.] I knew Adult Swim would know it wasn’t real but I had a feeling they might watch and say “I don’t know, that sounds funny, could it be something?” And that’s kid of what happened. It just turned into “write a script and see where it goes” and when I sat down to start working on it there was nothing. [Laughs] There was nothing except the stupid name Neon Joe.

Where do you even start for something like that? What was the first idea you had for shaping Neon Joe?

I feel it was a few things. One was coming up with the voice and accent that I’m doing. I thought talking in a regular voice would be boring. I wanted to do a character that would be interesting to me and dynamic and enigmatic or what have you. It wasn’t specifically a southern, Cajun, vague, whatever that voice is, it just came out that way. One day when we were on lunch break during shooting one of the extras came up to me, a sweet lady probably in her 70’s, and said, “I love your accent. It’s so spot on, whatever it is.” [Laughs] Which to me sums it all up.

And then putting it New England, in Vermont, I think stems from the fact that I live in New York and I did Delocated which was based in the city, and I did not want to do another show that was placed in the city. It just seemed like if we shot a little outside the city we could make it look like the country. We shot the whole thing in New York though. It was several exits up the Palisades Parkway, about a 45-minute drive. For some reason since it takes place in New England, bed & breakfasts came to mind and that seemed like a funny place to have the setting be. It just all snowballed from there to have it set in this B&B town. The characters of Scott Adsit and Stephanie March came later to add one extra dynamic of weirdness, which at very first was just like “I don’t know this seems kind of cool. Let’s put it in the script and figure it out later.” [Laughs] This whole thing did not have a ton of thought behind it.

[Laughs]

When you have something that comes from an arbitrary joke and it all goes from there there’s a lot to figure out. To the network’s credit, they just encouraged it the whole way. It started to feel like Jaws a little bit. There are a lot of Jaws parallels. You know, this creature shows up and wreaks havoc on this small New England town. Even the whole town hall scene. If you know Jaws you know we’re parodying the whole Quint scene. “Y’all know me?” Even though there was no specific idea, I did know what I didn’t want. I didn’t want it to be a campy show with shitty special effects. I wanted it to really look good and take itself very seriously and dramatically and have all the comedy and stupidity built from the drama, which I think it does really well. I’m really happy with how it turned out. The locations are beautiful, it looks great, the cast is quite exceptional.

You’re back with PFFR, who you also did Delocated with. What makes them ideal collaborators? What is it about that aesthetic that you like?

It’s just a shared sensibility. I’ve known Vernon [Chatman] for a very long time, same with John Lee and Alyson Levy. We find the same things funny. The shows they do are obviously a lot weirder and stranger. To be clear both this and Delocated were my shows. They were my ideas that I pitched and then brought PFFR to help facilitate. So it is more my sensibility which may be not as weird as or aggressively strange as a PFFR show, even though I love all of their stuff, but that’s really how it works. We all work really well together. Those guys are extremely funny, smart, talented writers. John Lee actually directed the pilot for Neon Joe, but wasn’t available to direct the show. It works because they know my sensibility and how it differs from theirs and make it work. For me there’s no reason to go with anyone else.

I liked the homage to Delocated with the Paul Rudd scene in the first episode.

One of the first ideas I had when I was writing the show was the Paul Rudd thing. I just thought it would be really funny to do that again like we did in Delocated. Luckily he was into it and available. That was also a launching point for the show.

How did you decide on a miniseries?

That was a network choice. We were thinking it could be a series and then just by way of how it unfolded it was decided to be a miniseries, which I actually like. It makes it an event and a cool thing. I think it works for the show too.

Moving on to your other roles, based on seeing you in Trainwreck, and your previous role as Councilman Jamm on Parks and Rec, it seems like you’ve carved out a niche for yourself as the dick.

[Laughs]

How did you become the dick guy?

I don’t know man, I guess I just got it in me. I got that ability to be an asshole. I just like characters like that and for whatever reason I guess I’m just good at it. Even with Delocated it was the same kind of character. I remember when I was working at Conan we discovered early on that we both liked the confident jerk. Someone who has no reason being that confident but they are. It’s fun to play because you get to be smug and say a lot of really obnoxious fun lines that you’d never think of saying in real life. I don’t know what it is. Everyone has their thing they’re good at and I guess I’m good at playing a dick.

[Laughs]

Congrats on the Emmy for Inside Amy Schumer. Are you going to write for them next season?

Yes. I’m writing a little bit. I didn’t have as much time to write full time this season, but they were kind enough to let me write part-time with my schedule. Hopefully I’ll get some stuff on. Writing on the show last year was great. I’ve known her for a long time and it was really great of them to offer me that job. It was really fun. I think the show is great.

You’ve worked in a lot of writer’s rooms. Anything different about the Inside Amy Schumer writer’s room?

It’s no different than all the other good writer’s rooms I’ve been in. Everyone’s smart, everyone’s funny, everyone’s confident. There are really no insecure people working on the show. When you get that involved that can be really a difference maker and make it a lot less fun. But when you have smart, funny people who don’t give a shit it makes for good shows. You present your stuff if it doesn’t get picked whatever you move on. You don’t have time to think “why didn’t they pick mine?”

Any live performances coming up?

No live performances at the moment. I made a pilot called Jon Glaser Loves Gear, which is a half-reality/half-scripted show. It’s about my genuine love of gear. Not tech-stuff, which I also love, but more like all the accessories. If you’re a runner you got your shorts, you got your shoes, tights, base layers, hats, all the different shit that people like to nerd out about. I’ve been working on that over the past couple of months.

Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter premieres tonight on Adult Swim at Midnight E/P and will air over five consecutive nights.

Phil Davidson writes about, performs and produces comedy.

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