Comedian Nikki Glaser is mostly known for her irreverent, delightfully dirty take on sex, but when she comes to Philadelphia this week for a series of shows at the Punch Line, something more wholesome and cuddly will be part of the conversation: dogs.
A longtime animal lover, Glaser plans to donate ticket proceeds from the first show in her Philadelphia run, starting Thursday, to the local rescue organizations PAWS and ACCT Philly. The two groups work to help homeless, abused, and abandoned animals get healthy and find new homes — a goal that Glaser, who recently adopted two dogs, can get behind.
We talked with Glaser about her new cause, her heartbreak after Comedy Central canceled Not Safe with Nikki Glaser, and what Philly fans can expect from her stand-up set.
Where did the idea for the charitable element of your Philly show come from?
Whenever I go back home to my hometown of St. Louis, it's always hard for me to do shows there. I feel like I see a lot of people from high school, and old friends, and there's always that aspect of my parents' friends wanting to go. Or my dentist wants to go.
Then they're like, "Oh, but you talk about sex and stuff." And I just get tired of people feeling like they're obligated to go or something. So I decided that the easiest way for me to be able to perform in my hometown is to do it [without getting paid], because if you didn't like my show, no one could complain.
You've also included charity shows in other cities on your tour. Does it hurt you, financially speaking?
It's nice to be able to raise a little bit of money by giving up my pay for the night, because I like doing comedy anyway. In Los Angeles and New York, as a comedian, you work for free a ton just to get better. There's not a lot of money to be had — I make $7 for a set at the Hollywood Improv every week.
We're not in it for the money most of the time, so why not do one show out of a weekend where I am in it for the money and do a show for fun? It usually takes the pressure off the show, and it's usually really fun. That's pretty much what I do now: If I go in for five shows, I do the first or last night of shows for dogs.
You have your own rescue dogs. When did you get them?
I have two. They both started as foster dogs, and I ended up keeping them. I've had my first dog for a year and a half, and I've had my second dog for about six months. It's fairly new. I kind of threw myself into it.
I always had dogs in my life, but until I had my own dogs and got connected with rescue foundations, I didn't realize how much help they need. It's teaching me to be a more selfless person, which I think we all need. It's good for my ego, as well — it's nice to be like, "I'm a hero." I truly am a hero, saving animals with d- jokes.
Between the release of your special, Nikki Glaser: Perfect, and the cancellation of your series, Not Safe, it's been a busy period for you recently. What can Philadelphia fans expect from your coming sets here?
It's an honest account of what I'm living right now. It's fairly feminist, and I'm as brash and honest as I've ever been. But I'm also going through a breakup right now. I recently quit antidepressants, so I feel like I am a different person. I'm working my way through all these life changes.
I'm still talking about sex a lot, but I'm finding different ways to approach the subject, because I've hit it from every angle. No pun intended. … It's been fun, and I love being on stage recently, which isn't always the case. It's a job.
With Donald Trump in office, do you find your material becoming more political?
It's in the air, but it's not something I explicitly call out. I know that I go to comedy to forget about all this bull-. People on their night out don't want to feel weird. …
In some ways, it's all political, though, because I'm a woman up there talking about my body and my experiences. It's bound to be political just by the nature of what I'm doing.
After Comedy Central's cancellation of Not Safe last year, the network seems to be missing strong female voices. What do you make of that cancellation?
It wasn't a great ending, to be honest, but it was just business — politics more than anything — that led to the end of it. It wasn't that the show wasn't doing well, or that it wasn't good. It kind of just got lost in the shuffle, which was a hard pill to swallow.
When you get broken up with by a network, you sort of go, "I don't want to watch anything on it, or see them around town, or anything." So I kind of avoided watching Comedy Central for a while.
Any chance we could see you back on Comedy Central sometime soon?
You never say never. I definitely don't think they were malicious in canceling my show, or that we have any bad blood.
I think it was a dumb decision, and we all make dumb decisions, so I would gladly work with them again. I think they would admit it was a dumb decision, too. … I think my voice would have been a good one to have had on their network over the last year.
But it has also freed me up to do more stand-up, and create other things that I'm excited about that are in the works, with or without Comedy Central.
In the end, it's all going to shake out fine, but it was a bummer. I'd love to still be doing that show.
Performances 8 p.m. Thursday, 8 & 10:15 p.m. Friday, and 7:30 & 9:45 p.m. Saturday at Punch Line Philly, 33 E. Laurel St.