The following is an excerpt From The Todd Glass Situation:
I'm standing backstage at Largo at the Coronet where, once every few months, Sarah Silverman invites a group of comedians to put on a show. Tonight’s lineup includes Sarah, Jeff Ross, and Chelsea Peretti. I’m the closing act. I can’t wait to get out there.
I’ve been a stand-up comedian for almost thirty years and I can honestly tell you, without exaggeration, that it is my favorite thing to do. Every time I’m about to take the stage I feel like a kid twenty feet from the entrance to Disneyland. Performing gives me an adrenaline rush like no other. Some nights I’m so amped I’ll sprint from backstage right into the middle of the crowd, doing some silly bit as I run up and down the aisles.
Tonight is one of those nights. Sarah introduces me and I go straight for the crowd, overenthusiastically greeting each and every member of the audience, an exaggerated take on a comic who’s way too eager to please.
Five minutes later, when I finally make my way to the stage, I feel light-headed. My heart is pounding too fast and I can’t catch my breath. So I turn it into a joke:
“Hey, what if I was having a heart attack and you guys didn’t believe me?”
A few laughs.
“No, really ... I’m having a heart attack!” A few more laughs.
That’s all I’m going to be able to milk out of this one. I look down at my notes and move on.
Thirty-five minutes later, the set comes to an end. The second I leave the stage, so does the adrenaline. All of my energy just evaporates and I can’t seem to catch my breath. I feel like I have a massive hangover. I think I have to throw up. I step out- side for air.
I still can’t catch my breath, so I stumble back inside, put my hands on my knees, and stare at the carpet. It is absolutely the filthiest carpet I’ve ever seen.
The carpet suddenly looks like the most comfortable resting place in the world, so I sink down into it, face-first.
Sarah kneels next to me. I can tell by the way she’s looking at me that she thinks I’m just stoned. The truth is I smoked about a half a joint before I went onstage. It’s not something I usually do—a couple of years ago I did the same thing before a show in Seattle and had a panic attack. Now that I think about it, the symptoms were almost exactly the same.
Now Jeff Ross is standing next to her. “Let me take your shoes off for you,” he says. He slips the shoes off my feet and then pinches his nose in fake disgust. “Let me put your shoes back on for you.”
There’s something clearly wrong with me. But I know that it’s not a heart attack. I’d be puking all over myself. Or unconscious. Trust me, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about heart attacks. Heart troubles run on both sides of my family. My dad was forty-five when he died. Which is kind of funny when you think about it: I just turned forty-five a couple of months ago.
“Todd, I think we should call an ambulance,” Sarah says.
I’m probably just having another panic attack. In a few minutes I’m going to feel like an idiot for scaring the crap out of everybody. “No ambulance!” I say, worrying less about my health than my insurance plan’s $5,000 deductible.
Sarah leans down and whispers in my ear: “Oh, honey, don’t worry, we’ll pay for it! But it will have to be your birthday and Christmas present, is that okay?”
I give her the best laugh I can, which at this point isn’t much. I hear Jeff Ross telling Flanagan, the owner of the club, that an ambulance is on the way. Jeff is going to look pretty fucking silly when this thing passes and I’m back onto my feet.
Minutes later, an EMT is kneeling down next to me. “Why don’t we get you into the ambulance and check your vitals, maybe save a trip to the emergency room,” he says. I’m not exactly in any position to argue. A small crowd has gathered around the exit, watching as I get wheeled out on a stretcher.
“Sir, I don’t want to alarm you,” the EMT says, “but you’re having a heart attack.”
Okay, maybe not tonight. I don’t want to alarm you? If he didn’t want to alarm me he should have told me I was fine. Telling someone they’re having a heart attack is very goddamn alarming. “We’re going to take you to Cedars,” he continues. “Is there anyone we should call?”
Right. If I’m dying—which is suddenly starting to feel like a real possibility—I should probably tell the person I’ve been sharing a life with for the last fourteen years. I look through the faces around me until I find Sarah’s. “Call Andrea for me,” I say, trying to wink. At this point it looks more like an involuntary facial tic.
Sarah winks back. “Don’t worry, I’ll call … Andrea.”
We both know that “Andrea” is actually Chris, my boyfriend. But there’s no way in hell I’m going to say his name in front of everyone.
I mean, that might make people think that I was gay or something.
Here I am, forty-five years old, possibly at death’s door, surrounded by friends—and I still can’t be honest about who I am.
How the fuck did I get here?
From THE TODD GLASS SITUATION by Todd Glass with Jonathan Grotenstein. Copyright © 2014 by Todd Glass Inc. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster Inc. All rights reserved.