Tamarack alumni and comedian Jon Glaser returns to camp for a night of fun and fundraising
The first time it happened, Jon Glaser was a camper in DeRoy Village at Camp Tamarack. He was going into the sixth grade and his bunk was slaughtering another bunk in an otherwise friendly game of baseball. To help make the competition more balanced, his counselor purposely dropped the ball and Glaser, who was playing first base, saw that as an opportunity to jokingly yell at his counselor for a lousy play. The counselor didn’t find it funny and sent this 12-year-old future comedian back to the bunk.
Glaser then wrote a letter to his mom, telling her how much he hated camp. He even circled his tear drops and labeled them. He signed the note, “Your crying son.”
The second time the scenario occurred, Glaser had recreated the scene for his new reality-show parody, Glaser Loves Gear. The program, which debuted this fall on TruTV, expands on his genuine love of gear in an outlandishly unexpected manner.
Glaser, 48, is best known for his work as a writer and performer on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, as well as his role as Councilman Jeremy Jamm on NBC’s Parks and Recreation. He created and starred in the Adult Swim series Delocated and has had writing or acting roles in a variety of television shows and films, including the 2015 film Sisters, starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. He also appeared in Amy Schumer’s film Trainwreck.
Glaser, who grew up in Oak Park and Southfield and graduated from Southfield Lathrup High School in 1986, now lives in New York with his wife and two kids. He says some of his best childhood memories stem from his days at Camp Tamarack where he was a camper for four summers, participant in an Eastern and Western Trip and worked for four years in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
“Being outside every day, playing sports and making new friends was a fun way to spend a summer,” Glaser says. “I could go on and on about how camp was such an important part of my life as a kid and young adult. I think anyone who goes to camp can relate to how fulfilling it is.”
Glaser’s love of camp made it a no-brainer to say yes when Tamarack board member Danny Klein approached him to return to his hometown for a camp fundraiser. Glaser will headline and perform with Go Comedy! Improv at this year’s Send a Kid to Tamarack fundraiser on Sunday, April 23, at the Berman Center for the Performing Arts.
Proceeds for the event will support Tamarack’s mission to give every child a Jewish camping experience, regardless of financial ability. This event is the kick-off to Tamarack’s annual campaign, which last year awarded more than $850,000 in scholarships. The fundraiser coincides with the camp’s Brighton reunion weekend, which is expected to draw alumni for a weekend of social events and a visit to the camp’s former Brighton location.
“We’re very excited to have Jon at our event,” says Danny Klein, who serves as vice president of Tamarack’s board of directors and worked with Glaser at Tamarack more than 25 years ago.
“Obviously, he has gone on to do some pretty remarkable things. I don’t think anyone who worked with Jon is surprised by his success. He was always animated, and he is the type of person you can’t help but laugh with when you’re around him,” Klein says.
In particular, Klein recalls a situation where his camp friend did a stand-up routine at a staff social, which he describes as just as funny as his professional monologues.
As a camper in Specialty, entering ninth grade, Glaser had an “a-ha” moment: “All through camp, I was always active in sports, but in Specialty I had a chance to work on and be in a camp skit,” Glaser has said. “My counselor saw something in me and said that I should consider doing drama.”
Glaser fondly recalls being a part of a number of camp skits after that, including a talent show where he and fellow campers wrote the song “When Jews Hike,” which he described as a terrible camp-song parody to the Prince song “When Doves Cry.” The chorus went: “This is what it sounds like … When Jews hike: Oy oy oy oy. Oy oy oy oy.”
While Glaser says he didn’t officially get into theater until midway through high school, those words of encouragement at Tamarack really stuck with him.
Once in high school, his mom, Gari Stein, took him to see the Second City Touring Company.
Following his 1991 graduation from the University of Michigan, Glaser moved to Chicago to pursue his acting career. There he was hired by the Second City Touring Company and subsequently joined the Mainstage cast of the iconic comedy club known for launching the careers of countless famous comedians, including Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, John Candy, Gilda Radner, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Bill Murray, Mike Myers and Joan Rivers.
As to what material Glaser will bring to the stage of the Berman Center, the celebrity Tamarack alumni says he is still working it out, but part of his message will include why an overnight camp experience is so valuable. “Hopefully whatever I say will be funny, too.”
Jennifer Lovy Contributing Writer
Jon Glaser headlines Go Comedy! Improv for the 2017 Send a Kid to Tamarack fundraiser 7 p.m. Sunday, April 23, at the Berman Center for the Performing Arts at the West Bloomfield JCC. $180; $115/young adult tickets; $36/2016 or 2017 summer staff; all include dessert and wine reception. For the event, visit tamarackcamps.com/sk2tevent. For more about the Brighton Alumni Reunion Weekend, visit tamarackcamps.com/brighton2017.