Stand-up comedian, game-show host, and actor Ben Gleib has just returned from Burning Man and is holed up for an extra night in his Reno hotel room, nursing something that sounds like a cold.
“It was amazing, very, very cool,” he says of his week on the playa. “Very introspective, very survivalist, and I’m so, so tired. Hopefully I can sleep, get this dust off of me, and wake up a new man, because I’ve got a special to record.”
That special will be shot here at the Lobero as part of Santa Barbara’s LOL Comedy Festival’s closing weekend. In between the Monday when we talked and tomorrow’s show, Mr. Gleib is set to fly to L.A. to record an episode of his podcast “Last Week on Earth,” then run through a practice of his set in Burbank and then do the same again in Irvine and then fly to Wisconsin to practice the set there on Thursday, then return to L.A. to practice again at Hollywood Improv today, and then, and only then, will he be ready for Saturday. For those who think a life in entertainment is easy, Mr. Gleib proves otherwise.
Growing up in Los Angeles, Mr. Gleib watched Johnny Carson religiously as a kid, which made him want to be a talk-show host and the stand-up comedian guest, and along with that an actor. So far, he’s achieved all three in varying degrees.
He became a regular roundtable guest on Chelsea Handler’s talk show “Chelsea Lately” and when Ms. Handler chose to quit this year, Mr. Gleib lucked into his own job as host on a comedy game show called Idiotest on the Game Show Network. And most recently he was the voice of the sloth Marshall in “Ice Age: Continental Drift.”
“You have to really want this as a career beyond the shininess of the dream,” he says. “The work has to make you happy because Lord knows it does not pay as well as you think it does. Getting on TV once does not make you famous.”
Mr. Gleib started on TV back in his UC San Diego days, where he went from a radio show to hosting a talk show screened through UCSD’s in-house network. This was pre-Internet, so he got the word out through posting flyers and judged his success “by how many girls who never used to look at me were now paying attention to me.” He even had a budget of sorts, most of which he spent on his final show to get Carmen Electra as a guest.
His show was successful enough to get noticed by National Lampoon and he thought he would be on his way to the big leagues. “But I’ve been humbled a thousand times over the last 14 years,” he says. He appeared on “The Late Late Show” and nothing happened. He was cast in “The Real Wedding Crashers” and that got him out there, but did not give him that break. Fourteen years of stand-up also toughened him up.
It was “Chelsea Lately” that really changed the game “and also upped the quality and frequency of girls who were into me.” (If you haven’t figured it out yet, Mr. Gleib is single.)
Saturday’s show will be Mr. Gleib’s first full-hour set shot as a special. Where it will end up has not been determined, but that’s the way things are going these days for comedians, after Louis C.K. did so well when he produced and sold his own special.
“You can do better off if you record it first and then get a bidding war going,” he says. “You’ve got to be a one-man corporation these days. You have to run every department with only you as staff. It’s very intense. I’ve been sexually harassing myself a lot and I currently have three lawsuits pending against myself. I’m hoping that they work out in my favor and not in my favor.”