Comedians joking about sex is as old as both stand-up comedy and, well, sex. From open-mic nights to hourlong television specials, comics have made careers out of their ability to tell bawdy jokes.
In that context, though, comedian Nikki Glaser is a change of pace. As the host of Comedy Central’s sex-centric “Not Safe,” Glaser approaches sex less from a point-and-laugh aesthetic and more as a guide, one who has no desire to shame or belittle those with whom she comes in contact. Her show explores fetishes in a way similar to a comedic take on HBO’s “Real Sex,” and controversies like campus rape in a style that both makes a point and delivers a punchline, like a below-the-belt John Oliver.
amNewYork caught up with the “Not Safe” host in advance of her stint at Carolines, starting on Aug. 18.
So much of comedy’s approach to sex has traditionally been rooted in shame, but your material seems so much more open.
The judging and the mocking’s been done. Because I’m so open about sex, I encounter a lot of people shaming me about it, or trying to make me feel guilty about the way I speak, and it just makes me even more adamant that we need to destigmatize sex. These people are like, “Ugh, I can’t believe it.” You did it last night! Or in the past week! And yet you’re acting like it’s the first you’ve heard of it? Everyone always acts about sex the way they did when they first heard about it as a kid, like, “Nuh-uh! Gross!” When are we all going to get over that?
You explore a lot of different fetishes on “Not Safe.” Were there any experiences on the show that made you see a certain kink differently?
When I learned about the foot fetish — it was the first piece we ever did — and I thought it would just be me going in and accepting these people for their fetishes, but I didn’t realize that I would meet so many people who would have stories about their friends or their family ostracizing them for their fetish. That to me was eye-opening …They lost friends, they lost family members, just because they came out as people who like sucking on feet. That really surprised me.And then I went to a cuddling party and I loved it. … I left feeling more loved. So I got the reason that people do it and it gave me a different perspective on why these people are all cuddling strangers. But I’ve been surprised with nearly everything I do. I go in with an open mind and no judgments — even the weirdest circumstances, I try to be very giving and interested. That’s how I would obviously want to be treated about the things I’m into.
What was the strongest reaction you’ve received from the show?
The first strong reaction I got was when I showed my foot on TV, which has bunions and was not pedicured and just looked disgusting. People were horrified by it — they still tweet at me, “You’re a butterfoot.” And I loved that. To me, no makeup is not brave, but my foot is so mangled that it felt like I was doing something out of the ordinary here. That was a good reaction.
Your segment on rape on college campuses was much more powerful than one might think possible on a comedy show.
When something tragic happens to me or to someone I know, my first instinct is to tell a joke, to make light of it. It’s my way of dealing with it. Dealing with a gang rape case and being able to do something with it — we offered a new mascot to colleges that report zero rapes, because if they’re reporting zero rapes, it means you don’t have a good reporting system or you’re sweeping them under the rug. So we gave them a new mascot: an ostrich with its head in the sand. It was a way to tackle that subject with humor. I’ve just found that, in comedy, the more honest you are, the more people respond to it.
A lot of comics have to deal with fans that don’t have the best sense of boundaries. Because of your material, do you get a lot of that as well?
The only bad reactions I get when I reveal things about myself are after the show when people think they can talk to me the way I just talked on stage. I like to say I’m a freak on the stage and a lady in the streets.
If you go
Nikki Glaser performs Aug. 18-21 at Carolines on Broadway, 1626 Broadway, 212-757-4100, $35.