That Time That Todd Glass and Tommy Chong Went Camping Together to Record a Podcast
Pod-Canon is an ongoing tribute to the greatest individual comedy-related podcast episodes of all time.
Doug Benson and Todd Glass are marijuana’s best ambassadors in the podcasting world, and outside of it as well. Benson’s homegrown multi-media empire suggests that, contrary to conventional wisdom, smoking an insane amount of pot on a daily basis makes you focused, ambitious, funny, and quick-witted, rather than the lethargic, slow-witted, sloth-like stoner caricature of the popular imagination. Benson accomplishes infinitely more while stoned than 95 percent of his peers do while sober. Benson’s not a cautionary warning of the dangers of smoking marijuana; he’s a goddamn poster boy for the stoner lifestyle. Benson makes constant pot consumption seem like a base component of a happy and functional life and career.
Benson has busted out of the ghetto stoner comedians generally find themselves in. He’s defied the stereotype that stoners comedians only appeal to stoned audiences and are useless when the subject isn’t explicitly marijuana.
Pot is nowhere near as central to Glass’ career as it is to Benson’s. It doesn’t define him any more than his sexuality does, and though Glass may be best known to a sizable portion of the population for coming out as gay on WTF, Glass is less a gay comedian than a comedian who happens to be gay. Glass similarly is less a stoner comedian than a comedian who happens to smoke pot.
Glass’ sexuality has seldom been discussed on The Todd Glass Show, and when it is, it tends to be dealt with in an ironic and tongue-in-cheek way. Pot, however, comes up an awful lot, even if Glass takes pains to clarify that his pot use is on the moderate side, and that he’s not one of those guys who needs to be high all the time to function so much as a guy who really enjoys being high. In that respect, he’s a little like drunk people at parties who insist to anyone who will listen, that they’re not really drunk, and if anything, you’re the drunk one. But with Glass, it comes off as charming rather than obnoxious.
Tommy Chong is similarly a man who really enjoys being high (and if he doesn’t, then his entire career has been nothing but a goddamn poisonous lie), but, if anything, he seems like the kind of guy who would exaggerate how much pot he smokes rather than play it down. Chong is a hell of an interesting guy (he started off as a musician in Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers, a group whose lead singer and frontman mentored a young Michael Jackson, and were signed to Gordy Records, a division of Motown) and a martyr to our country’s insane and vindictive drug laws when he spent hard time in prison for selling drug paraphernalia, but he is above all else a stoner, and the godfather of stoner comedians.
So when Glass and his podcast entourage went camping with Chong for a very special episode of The Todd Glass Show, there was the sense that Glass was sitting at the feet of a distinguished pot elder and soaking in his baked wisdom.
On The Todd Glass Show, Glass and his entourage of like-minded aficionados of all things silly function as something of an alternate universe Rat Pack, with Todd Glass as their Frank Sinatra-like leader. Alternately, they suggest Peter Pan and his Lost Boys, with the ingratiatingly child-like Glass as Pan. Glass’ body may age, but psychologically, he remains stuck somewhere around the 12-year-old state of development, and he somehow manages to make being a twinkly-eyed man-child work for him.
This episode of The Todd Glass Show taps into the child-like sense of joy and wonder at the core of Glass’ persona by taking the gang camping to celebrate the podcast’s anniversary. The gang isn’t exactly roughing it, however, as they’re still on Glass’ property, but the sound of a fire crackling in the distance adds to the sense that we’re sitting right next to Glass and his posse, as they cook s’mores over a camp fire and smoke alongside Glass and one of the undisputed kings of pot comedy.
There’s a wonderfully inclusive quality to The Todd Glass Show and this episode in particular plays to the sense that anyone who listens to the show is part of the gang, and is with these delightful funny people in spirit, if not in practice.
The podcast is divided into segments, the most compelling of which, not surprisingly, involves Chong drawing on something like a half century of too-strange-for-fiction anecdotes involving his unlikely career as a musician, comedian, movie star, and activist. Chong is a man who knows Bob Dylan as a fan and a timeless legend, but also, surprisingly, as a “good jock” he played hoops with when they lived in the same neighborhood.
In his memoirs, Chong can come off as arrogant, but sitting around the campfire, he dispenses fascinating stories about some of the brightest lights in music and history with casual matter-of-factness. People like Dylan or Redd Foxx may be legends and icons to the rest of the world, and they certainly are that to Chong as well, but they’re also people he knew (or knows), and also people who for the most part, are also fans of his (so he’s not entirely modest here).
Chong is similarly not averse to name-dropping. Then again, if you can say something like, “The day (Elvis Presley) died I was walking over to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s house to get some weed”, as Chong does here, why keep that kind of story to yourself? It goes beyond that: Lisa Marie Presley was a childhood friend of Chong’s daughter Precious, so the day after Elvis’ death his daughter was at Chong’s house, where she, remarkably, was completely nonplussed by the images of her father that played on the television, as if on a loop, in the awful days that followed by his death.
Chong was diagnosed with prostate cancer around the time he taped the podcast, which lends the podcast a bit of a melancholy air. Chong is doing great for a man his age who has, rumor has it, engaged in the deplorable act of smoking marijuana on multiple occasions, but he’s also a man looking back on a too-strange-for-fiction life and career somewhere near its end.
The Todd Glass Show, in sharp contrast, was in its relative infancy when the camping episode aired, but this typically charming episode beautifully illustrates why it has endured and remains one of the funniest, nicest, and most disarmingly sweet and human podcasts around.
Photo by Mindy Tucker.
Nathan Rabin is the former head writer of The A.V. Club and the author of four books, including Weird Al: The Book (with “Weird Al” Yankovic) and, most recently, You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me.