The Unlikely Origins of Jon Glaser’s Neon Joe: Werewolf Hunter

Comedy Features Neon Joe: Werewolf Hunter
The Unlikely Origins of Jon Glaser’s Neon Joe: Werewolf Hunter

As Neon Joe: Werewolf Hunter begins its second season, Jon Glaser’s eponymous hero is enjoying what many of us are pining for right now: a reset. Having completed in season one his life’s mission of hunting down his father—also a werewolf—Neon Joe departed the town of Garrity, Vermont for new horizons and fresh adventures. He is now no longer a werewolf hunter but a “regular duck hunter” and the drably dressed proprietor of a tropical-themed bar, Oahu Joe’s. It’s a new, quieter life for Joe, that of a small businessman in a community free of paranormal activity. Or so he’d like to believe.

“This season is going to be very different from season one,” Glaser told Paste in a recent interview. “It’s a whole new cast, a whole new town. There’s multiple towns and locations this season, as opposed to just staying in one town in season one. Cleve [Steve Little] is the only returning character, everyone else is new. We decided to just make a clean break.”

That clean break gets sullied early in the season premiere, which airs tonight on Adult Swim, when an unusual foe steps foot in Oahu Joe’s. “We’ll meet a rival werewolf hunter whose name is Plaid Jeff,” Glaser said, “who dresses in a really stylish tweed jacket.” Jeff and Joe have a dark history involving Joe’s long-lost love, a history that gets much darker by the premiere’s end. Only the first two episodes were made available to critics, but suffice it to say that Joe quickly ends up in prison, surrounded by Nazis and forced to fight for his life. Or, at least, to play the bass for his life, an act that is of course sufficient in the Neon Joe universe to win over a bunch of violent gangsters.

You needn’t have watched season one to pick up season two, whose five episodes air every night this week at midnight. Like many of its peers on Adult Swim, including Glaser’s own Delocated, Neon Joe is the sort of high-concept half-hour that doesn’t ask you to suspend your disbelief so much as it wills you into a state of suspension. The first season saw Joe—an eyepatched, folksy, vaguely Cajun-accented predator of a man—face up against werewolves, shrink-ray-equipped aliens and ultimately his own father, all with the same emotional sincerity and no-nonsense delivery. Season two promises new friends and enemies and a wider narrative scope, but the show’s peculiar sense of humor remains constant. There are plenty of emblematic moments in the first two episodes alone, but I think one in particular seems to epitomize the Neon Joe sensibility: When a jury foreman reads the verdict sending him to prison, Joe is so shocked that he drops the cucumber he’s been snacking on. The camera zooms in on the cucumber as it falls, in slow motion, smashing into the floor in a splash of vegetable guts. If you’re into courtroom cucumbers, then this just might be the show for you.

And if at times the show seems like someone threw together a bunch of silly words and decided to make a TV show based on them, well, that’s pretty much what happened. The first season originated in an appearance Glaser made on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon while he was promoting the series finale of Delocated. Clad in a neon hat and Coors Light sweatpants, he jokingly said he was looking forward to his next show, Neon Joe: Werewolf Hunter, hoping Adult Swim might see the interview and make it happen. Reader, they did. As Glaser explained to Paste, however, that Late Night quasi-pitch was itself derived from two characters he used to perform live.

“They were both guys named Joe,” he said. “The neon part was a guy named Neon Joe. There wasn’t an accent, he wasn’t a werewolf hunter, he was just a guy that dressed in neon, more of a performance artist… And the other one, with the Coors pants, was a guy named Beer Joe, who was a Weird Al type who did song parodies all about beer. And the premise of that was I come onstage wearing the Coors Light sweats and this tank top and some hat—I don’t remember, Budweiser or something—already drinking, already wasted… and the song I do as Beer Joe is ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,’ but it’s called ‘Bros Just Wanna Watch Sports.’”

As the bit progresses, naturally, it gets darker and darker. “So I just slur my words singing this terrible song, and then in the middle I start crying,” Glaser recalled. “Whoever’s hosting the show, I start asking them if I’m a good dad. I’m just having a drunken cry in the middle of the performance.” And from these two characters—and the random apparel that inspired them—emerged Neon Joe. “I had those two pieces of clothing sitting at home and I paired them together,” he said. “Coors Light pants, neon hoodie and knit hat on top, and just randomly made up Neon Joe. The Coors Light is obviously the silver bullet, that’s not an original joke by any means. But I wasn’t thinking of anything other than strictly amusing myself with a fake character.” And now here we are on the dawn of a second season.

Glaser had to take a break from writing season two when TruTV picked up his other clothing-inspired series, Jon Glaser Loves Gear. “We were writing the scripts for Neon Joe and then Gear got picked up,” he said. “It was all logistics.” He and his two co-writers, PFFR’s John Lee and Vernon Chatman, outlined the season’s five episodes and then outsourced the scripts to a pair of other writers while they finished Gear. Filming wrapped in early March and Glaser celebrated the season premiere with a screening at The Bell House in Gowanus, complete with complimentary neon apparel and an in-character rock concert. Asked during a Q+A if he bases all of his comedy bits “on outfits,” he answered without a moment’s hesitation. “Every single one.”

Neon Joe: Werewolf Hunter airs at midnight EST/PST tonight on Adult Swim.

Seth Simons is Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Follow him on Twitter.

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