Recapping everything (underscore EVERYTHING) that shakes down in the course of seven days on planet earth is not only a big job, but for Ben Gleib, it's an extremely funny job. Ben is the comedy brains behind the wildly popular "Last Week on Earth with Ben Gleib" weekly podcast. When he's not taking aim at news, politics, and pop culture for the cast, he's honing his stand-up at clubs and venues all over the country or appearing ringside as a regular guest on Chelsea Lately. In addition to Ben's live stand-up, you can catch him in a number of t.v. and film projects including Ice Age Continental Drift as the voice of Marshall the Sloth, E!'s "After Lately" scripted series, and in Jay and Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie. You might think that performing all over the world and meeting and working with comic luminaries are the best parts of Ben's job. While they rank pretty high, he admits that a very cool effect of his success and hard work has been sharing that with people who are most important to him like his family. He recently gave his mom and dad a new hot tub, a household addition that Ben describes with pride as one of the best gifts he's given and, let's face it, instantly ups the cool factor no matter your age.
All images by Robert Hayman
If you could describe yourself in one hashtag, what would it be?
Tell us about a girl in your life who rocks.
Can't choose one. Will give you a few...
My mom, first and foremost. A person of rare intelligence, charm, and wit, combined with an unreal amount of caring and love. It's a rare combo. Very charming people have a tendency to be more self-absorbed.
My friends Claire Schlissel and Jen Mozenter, who are the kick-ass DJ Duo "The Jane Doze." Their mixes are inspired and they create a visceral blast of a time if you see them live. You may expect musicians like that to also be self-absorbed or a bit untouchable, but they are actually two of the loveliest, warmest people. Not to mention they are trying to take on a huge boys club, and they are succeeding.
Chelsea Handler is a force of nature and a brilliant comedian. I've never seen someone be so consistently in the zone in her improv, and she has broken a glass ceiling becoming the first hugely successful female late night talk show host. And she doesn't make a big deal about it, she just does it. Her show is by far the most honest comedy talk show on television. Sometimes too honest. I have suffered the consequences of that brutal honesty only a few million times. While off-camera she is a generous, down-to-earth, and crazy fun friend. But always brutally honest.
My friend Sophia Bush is an amazing woman and an inspiration to me. I'm consistently impressed with how much she cares about the world around her. She takes on maybe too many causes, never shying away from a principle she believes in. She uses the fame that she gained through her talents and constantly uses it to help others. You might expect someone like that to be too busy to maintain close friendships, yet she strikes an impossible balance. She is somehow the epicenter of such fun, memorable experiences and interesting circles of people. She's always bringing her friends together and supporting them in so many different ways. A very loving human being.
My long time friend Brooke Powers is one of the nicest, funniest girls I've met, and has such a fun, carpe diem sense of life. She is always involved in a million activities, from cheerleading, to girl scouts, (both as an adult!) even trapeze! And when she was recently diagnosed with an advanced stage of Melanoma skin cancer, she took it with a smile on her face and such grace and charm and humor that it was truly inspiring. And it hasn't stopped her from any of her activities. In addition to now raising money for Melanoma research, she just went on a 100-mile bike ride for the cause.
Danielle Sepulveres is a very charming woman who is liked by everyone she meets. She is a stand-in and body double on the show "The Good Wife," but is not content doing that alone. She is a published author, having written the memoir Losing It, and is about to finish her second book. I'm always very impressed by writers. I can barely find the time to write these answers.
My dear friend Yael Cohen took the very personal adversity of her mom being diagnosed with cancer, and turned that into a global organization called "Fuck Cancer," working to change the paradigm of how we look at this horrible ubiquitous disease, striving to save countless lives in the process. And is also such a fun person to hang with, has such a sharp mind, is silly, very funny, and one of my favorite people to have a conversation with.
I could continue this list, but I just realized there are other questions.
It's almost absurd how many great women I have in my life. I'm very fortunate. The only problem is they set a stupidly high bar for anyone I consider dating. If I were surrounded by lower quality people, it would make things a lot easier on me.
What are your dreams/goals/ambitions?
I can't keep this answer short either, because it's kind of a large question. If you asked me what my favorite food is I could answer in one word. Sushi. My short term goals are to expand the quality and reach of my podcast "Last Week on Earth," as I strive to make it a laugh out loud way to take in and process all the crazy news events that happen in the world each week, while also creating interesting, thought-provoking conversations. I do it because I believe there is a middle ground in our politics and our discourse that we are struggling to find right now, and I think comedy and common sense is the way to get there. So I try to pack a lot of both into each episode in hopes that we start getting on the same page on some things. When you're laughing it's hard to be mad at anyone, so that's why I'm a comedian. Seeing the humor in things is an amazing diversion, but also can really bring people together. To that same end, I hope to be asked on CNN and NPR more often, because I think both avenues could benefit from more humor. Humor is honesty.
I also would like to get cast on a scripted show. Because I just love acting. It's an immersive challenge that I get lost in when I'm doing it right. There aren't a lot of things I can lose myself in, and the feeling is so relaxing to me, because it takes me out of my own head and into someone else's for a while. It's an escape that I don't get to indulge as much as I'd like to. There's nothing quite like being on a set. It's just a ton of fun, and a huge collaboration. So many of the things I do are very individual, so it's nice sometimes just to be a cog in a machine. As long as that machine is making a movie and not something boring, like another machine or something.
I'd like to be on Saturday Night Live as either a host or cast member. I want to perform standup on and be a guest on Letterman, and release a few standup specials and albums over the next bunch of years. There is no more pure way to deliver your comedy to the world. Standup is the Heisenberg blue meth of entertainment. And standing up in front of a crowd somewhere on the planet with nothing but a mic and your thoughts is an insane, incredibly enjoyable experience. So I'd like to do a lot more of it. But I need to get more efficient at creating new material. My work ethic doesn't always keep up with my ideas.
Long term my ambitions include having my own talk show. Not exactly sure what form it will take, but I've always been enamored with shows that serve as a place for the audience to digest and decompress from the crazy world we live in, and there's nothing I enjoy more than making people laugh. (If we're not counting sexual things that is. And playing basketball. That's always very enjoyable.)
Once I attain the level of success that I envision, and I have more resources at my fingertips, I would like to help people more directly. I would like to start a foundation of some kind. It may involve helping children with speech problems, as I overcame a severe one growing up, and I think I have some insights into how to get past it. Or it's focus may be elsewhere. I've got some time to figure it out.
Plus I'd like to host the Oscars one day, and get my Twitter, Vine, Pheed, and Instagram numbers up. I spend so much time on social media, I need more followers to not make it seem like the huge waste of time that it is.
What are you most proud of?
Having taken a far-fetched dream of making people laugh for a living, and making it my life. Pretty proud of that. (Also, I won an eating contest once.)
What do you find most sexy about a girl?
Her sense of life. Her sense of humor. Her sense of style. Her ability to have an intriguing conversation. Her confidence. Not being afraid to feel sexy, because that reads. Women are truly amazing, brilliant, impeccably detailed beings, so I like when a woman embraces it all.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully not still giving way too long of answers to this interview.
What is the number one item on your bucket list?
To go skydiving with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. That's not gonna happen though. I'm not really sure what a bucket list is. Is it meaningful things or fun things? If it's meaningful, it would be to have my own popular TV show. If fun, it would be to take at least one, very relaxing, unplugged vacation a year, off the grid somewhere. That's not really one thing though. I'm no good at bucket lists.
Who has been the biggest male influence in your life and why?
My late Grandfather Joseph. Because he was a real man who never considered letting adversity stop him. He just swam over obstacles to build his dream life. Most of his family was killed in the Holocaust. He was separated from my Grandma during World War Two and thrown in a labor camp in Siberia for many years. He simply found his way back to her. He then brought his family to America with literally nothing, and stopped at nothing until he became a huge success. He ended up living in Beverly Hills, raising a happy family, and traveling the world with his beautiful wife. He taught me that you can accomplish literally anything you set your mind to.
What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken and what did you learn from it?
Deciding to pursue a career in comedy and the arts. The chances of success are so low that it could be seen as an insane decision. I've learned that if you take a huge risk you have to have the wherewithal to see it to completion and be in the zone enough to stick the landings. You have to learn patience. Risks are called so because success in them is not handed out easily. And you have to be honest with yourself enough to know whether the risk is a smart one for your life. And if you decide it is, then you have to dive in head first and start swimming like crazy. Because there are always better swimmers than you, and ones who train harder. And sometimes both. And also I'm not sure why I used a swimming analogy here. I am a below average swimmer and only learned how to go underwater without holding my nose a few years ago.
What is one stereotype about men that isn’t really true?
That we're not emotional. We're very emotional, we just don't show it publicly that much. Because for some reason that's seen as weak. I think the opposite is true though. I think it's weak to not show emotion. Because that's fake an often comes off as a thin facade. It's stronger to present yourself as a full person.
That and that we don't like girlie drinks. We do. We love ‘em. We're just embarrassed to drink them because guys make fun of us and girls don't think it's manly. But how could we not like them? They are made of fruit and fruit is very tasty. That's just common sense. So I don't follow sterotypes like these. I drink whatever I feel like. Often that choice comes with an embarrassing umbrella in it. So be it.
I just gave you two stereotypes, and you only asked for one. I'm sorry. I'm just a little emotional right now.
*Interview conducted and compiled by Sheila Moeschen, IATG Senior Editor