How a lawyer became a stand-up comedian

How a lawyer became a stand-up comedian

Liz Glazer talks about her unlikely but logical path as she releases a new album

Liz Glazer holds her new baby, Eloise Frances Glazer.
Liz Glazer holds her new baby, Eloise Frances Glazer.

Comedian Liz Glazer is at the other end of the computer connection, and the subject is supposed to be her new comedy album, “A Very Particular Experience.” The album’s been described as “classic Borscht Belt-style comedy — if the Catskills had had lesbians.”

We were also supposed to talk about her odd career choices, from lawyer to tenured law professor to full-time comic.

So you’d think she’d want to dive right in, but first she had another topic on her mind: the Jewish Standard.

“Of all the press this album has brought to me, I was the most excited by this,” she said. “Growing up in Bergen County we got a minimum of, I think, three Jewish Standards every week.

“I don’t know how that happened, but we got a lot of them. If I wanted my parents to know something and didn’t wanna tell them myself, I would’ve found a way to put it in the Jewish Standard. So this is a real honor, and I’m extremely excited.

“We stopped getting some of the other papers, like the Bergen Record, and at times we subscribe to the New York Times, but they apparently pale in comparison to yours, because we never stopped getting the Jewish Standard.”

By this time, I’d developed repetitive stress syndrome from patting myself on the back, so I suggested moving on.

The album is a taping of a live show performed in front of family friends “and a lot of past temple presidents.”

Liz is married to Karen Glazer Perolman, senior associate rabbi at Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills. About a year ago, Rabbi Perolman’s pregnancy ended with a stillbirth at around seven months. That event is at the center of “A Very Particular Experience,” or as Liz puts it, “a comedy show meets a shiva.”

It is an odd subject for yuks, but Ms. Glazer says:

“I think that my reason for doing comedy always has been I just want to be honest out loud. Yes, it’s very important to land punchlines. But if I’m not coming from a place of this really happened to me, I’m not interested in talking about it.”

Ms. Glazer was born in Fort Lee but grew up in Closter. The family moved from the Fort Lee Jewish Center to Temple Emanu-El of Closter, where her mother, Toby, is very active — and could I please mention her name?

Toby Glazer.

The joyous new family — from right, Eloise Glazer, Rabbi Karen Glazer Perolman, and Liz Glazer.

Her father, Leon Glazer, who was born in Riga, Latvia, died in 2020. Her parents were not Orthodox, but “I’m descendent from Holocaust survivors, not to brag,” she said. And it was her grandparents who wanted to be certain that their grandchildren knew their roots.

“So my brother and I attended Moriah in Englewood,” Ms. Glazer said. “We were the only kids in the school who weren’t observant. I grew up as an insider/outsider. I knew we shouldn’t eat non-kosher. Meanwhile, we were going to Rudy’s pizza on Friday night and having pepperoni and bringing it home.

“My theory is that part of the reason why mother embraced being kosher-ish is that she wanted more dishes. She was like a huge fan of china.”

The family’s cupboards apparently included fleshig and michic dishes for the family, for Passover, for seder nights. “We even had traif dishes for when we would bring home takeout.”

Ms. Glazer remembers a conversation she had with her best friend, Shira:

“She asked me, what did you do this weekend? So I told her we went to the museum, the movies and ice-skating and apple picking. And she said you did that all on Sunday? I said yes. Here I was, 6 years old — I said yes.”

That dichotomy, the insider/outsider-ness, while troubling at the time, helped her deal with the realities of her sexual orientation. “I think there was an advantage to this conflict because I became aware early on that not everything lines up 100% all of the time.”

Ms. Glazer said she realized she was gay early on. It was at the height of the AIDS epidemic, and as she remembers it, “there were commercials on television saying, ‘If you are gay, you have AIDS. And you should tell someone.’ I was like 12 years old and didn’t have AIDS, but I didn’t know that I didn’t have AIDS.”

She ultimately confided in a friend’s mother, a science teacher, “a wonderful woman of blessed memory, who I think knew what I was asking and put on her science hat and explained it to me.”

Ms. Glazer didn’t officially come out until she was in law school. Until then, “I had long hair. I even went to get highlights, so I looked like a Jersey girl on her way to the mall.”

Now, she concedes, “I look really gay.” On her album she says people tell her she can stop coming out now. They know.

After graduating and passing the bar, Ms. Glazer worked for a law firm for several years before landing a tenure track teaching position at Hofstra Law School. But apparently she didn’t forget the timing skills she learned at an improv class she’d taken some years earlier.

“During my first year of teaching, one of my colleagues, a senior faculty member, comes over to me after class,” she said. “He said, ‘Liz what are you doing in there? It sounds like a comedy club.’ And I was horrified, because I’m like they’re gonna fire me. They’re not gonna give me tenure. They’re not going to take me seriously. Of course, now looking back, I’m saying: What was I doing  taping those lectures?”

By day, she taught property law. At night, she worked area clubs. Then, in 2014, she got lucky. Hofstra ran into some financial difficulties and offered tenured professors a buyout. Ms. Glazer bought into the buyout, and a fulltime comedy career was born.

Life was good. And then, on the romantic front, six years ago, a mutual friend introduced her to Rabbi Perolman, who, between our interview and the publication of this story, gave birth to Eloise Frances Glazer.

The career is going well. “I do a lot of law schools, law firms, synagogues, and Jewish organizations,” Ms. Glazer said.

Still, she’s kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop. “I’m a Jew,” she said. “I am always going to be nervous about literally everything. I think that’s like in our constitution. I mean, even as a kid, I was like I gotta make sure I know the way out of my house just in case.”

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