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“I felt like kind of a jerk doing it.”
When Glen says this, he’s talking about his stand-up album, not this interview.
When I talk to Glen Tickle on the phone, it’s not our first conversation, just our first in many years. It’s also our longest and most interesting conversation by far. We talk about his debut album Yes, Really and its early success, his new record label and its origins in – what else – a joke, and his comedic style.
Glen began doing stand-up sometime in 2009. I first met him roughly around the same time. He substituted for my homeroom teacher a few times during my senior year of high school. I didn’t find his name unusual or amusing, but that was because I knew his brother Keith. I did find him funny, sitting with his sneakered feet up on the teacher’s desk, telling us to stay out of trouble so he could stay out of trouble.
The album features material than spans the entire seven years of Tickle’s career in comedy. The title [Yes, Really.] comes from its initial bit – the comedian’s longstanding opener – and derive from the experience of substitute teaching for classes of various ages with a last name like Tickle.
“I wanted a joke that would make sense. The other thing is that it’s in that joke, but it’s also part of my life. I tell people my name and they don’t believe me,” Glen tells me about the choice of title.
To his credit, he still seems vaguely amused by the idea – not to call it a burden, for there are worse surnames by far – even after dealing with it for over thirty years.
“I had a club booker who was late to pay me once, because he was going to cut me a check and he was like, ‘I can’t fill out a check for a stage name – I need your real name’[…]and it makes me hate – there are comedians that use stage names for various reasons – but whenever I meet a comedian that uses a silly stage name, I instantly hate them, because if they didn’t do that, people wouldn’t think that is what I’m doing.”
In relating this anecdote – as in the rest of our conversation – Glen is calm, his delivery relaxed. He’s like this on stage, too. Measured is a good way to put it. When I bring it up, he explains, “I have to ramp it up a little bit on stage. On the album, that’s about as excited as I get”.
It also probably helps that he’s excited. At the time of our conversation, Yes, Really has been out for a week and has debuted at lucky #13 on the Billboard Comedy Albums Chart.
“I probably never thought about the Billboard Comedy Albums Chart before in my life, until they emailed me and said I was on it, and now it’s the single greatest chart in the world.” he said.
“I got this e-mail at 12:21 a.m., and they sent it through the contact info on my Bandcamp page. Like, they didn’t even email me directly. So the e-mail showed up and I look at it like, ‘who sends important emails in the middle of the night on Saturday?’ It was a guy – from Billboard – who said the album made the chart for Monday and he needed to verify some information, and then he signed it with a regular, you know, email signature with his name and email address, job title, all that stuff. So, I looked it up, and he was a real guy, but I’m like, anybody could’ve just sent anything in that form. So, uh, I have a nemesis, I basically asked my friend if he would be my nemesis, and we would just try to destroy each other. So because it came in the middle of the night I kind of thought it was him – but I was like, this is a level of detail, that’s next level. I would’ve been disappointed if I hadn’t actually made the list, but also like – that’s some good trolling.”
Yes, Really is a relatively family friendly comedy album. Tickle’s style is generally non-confrontational, and certainly non-aggressive. The swears are few and far between. Some jokes straddle the precipice of racy, but the fun is mainly lighthearted. Much of the material is generated by – as Glen himself explains on the record, and again to me during our interview – hanging out with his daughter until she does something funny, and then turning that story in to his material. When I ask about his aesthetic, and “clean comedy” in general, as if on cue his daughter interrupts, needing his help with an iPad game.
When he’s ready to resume, he explains: “Most of my jokes are about my daughter, so it’s hard to be really dirty. Not that there aren’t – like Louis C.K. talks about his kids and swears all the time, so it’s not that it can’t be done or I disagree with it or anything. I don’t know – I feel weird telling a story about my kid and having it be filthy. Plus, in general, it’s just the kind of comedy I like.”
“I don’t really like stuff that’s particularly dirty. I don’t mind if people swear or whatever, but it makes me uncomfortable.”
The tracks on Yes, Really are short, and the punchlines generally expedient. Jokes are sometimes centered around a pop culture reference, though more often Glen starts with a kind of simple linguistic observation – the entirely non-musical reason Waka Flocka Flame is his favorite rapper, for example, or the subtle distinction between hay and straw. Or how his daughter used to call crackers “crack,” which is apparently an unfortunate thing to have your child ask you for in public.
Weeks after our initial conversation, I follow up with Glen by text. He’s coming off a string of college shows that also doubled as a road trip with his brother Keith, spending some time at home before heading out on another run.
He informs me that the record’s run on the Billboard Charts amounted to only the single week it spent sitting at #13. It’s disappointing, sure, but it’s also a triumph for any comedian or artist who chooses to go the DIY route.
When we first spoke, Circus Trapeze Records was just a funny thing to say – it wasn’t even a serious idea, only a byproduct of self-distributing Yes, Really. The LP only had a catalogue number – “001”, of course – because the very real employee of the Billboard Charts asked for one. Glen initially demurred when I asked if he saw himself turning the label in to something more than just a name, but seemed intrigued by the idea.
Now, there’s a logo, and t-shirt with the logo on it. Buy the t-shirt, according to booster.com, and the proceeds will go toward the funding of the next Circus Trapeze Records release.
Glen Tickle is a stand-up comedian and all around nice fella from the savage borderlands of Western Jersey/Eastern PA. Glen is an author for laughingsquid.com, the newly minted owner-operator of Circus Trapeze Records and artist behind the Billboard Comedy Albums Charting debut Yes, Really, and writer/director of Several Ways to Die Trying. Find him on Facebook, buy the album and the movie on Amazon, and help CTR get off the ground by buying a t-shirt at https://www.booster.com/circus-trapeze-records