Comedian Liz Glazer and her wife experienced the trauma of their daughter, Leo Pearl, being stillborn at 33 weeks. Liz explains that, “Leo existed, but she never lived.” As a way to process this trauma, she did what she knows best and made a comedy album about the experience.
Join us as Liz shares a vulnerable and practical firsthand look at the experience and explains why she decided to make the album, how the process was healing for her, what pushback she received from the public, and the particular grief that attends a stillbirth.
On the one-year anniversary of her first daughter’s stillbirth, Liz Glazer recorded her debut album, “A Very Particular Experience.”
As a previous winner of the Boston Comedy Festival and Ladies of Laughter Competition and former tenured law professor, Liz’s style is fast-paced and gripping. This debut album about grief, stillbirth, and inherited trauma (Liz is also the granddaughter of 4 Holocaust survivors) is heartfelt, vulnerable, and hilarious all at once. “A Very Particular Experience is the testimony I offered to honor my wife’s and my first daughter Leo Pearl’s stillbirth so as to create something positive from the experience. And while that experience wasn’t and isn’t funny, the album is,” said Liz.
Liz’s comedy has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and she opens for Maria Bamford. Liz has also appeared as an actor on “The Blacklist” on NBC, “For Life” on ABC, and “BULL” on CBS. She headlines clubs, law schools, law firms, and synagogues, and performs at the Comedy Cellar in NYC. Liz also had a bunch of accomplishments in law, having been published in journals such as the Northwestern University Law Review and the Georgetown Law Journal, where one of her pieces became the subject of a symposium in the journal’s centennial volume. Liz is currently working on a comedy pilot about her life as a law professor turned comedian. Liz lives in New Jersey with her wife who is a rabbi and her cat Jack, who also is.
A Very Particular Experience is available wherever comedy albums are streamed or sold.
Our host, Gabe Howard, is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, “Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations,” available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author.
Gabe makes his home in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio. He lives with his supportive wife, Kendall, and a Miniature Schnauzer dog that he never wanted, but now can’t imagine life without.
To book Gabe for your next event or learn more about him, please visit gabehoward.com.
Producer’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Announcer: You’re listening to Inside Mental Health: A Psych Central Podcast where experts share experiences and the latest thinking on mental health and psychology. Here’s your host, Gabe Howard.
Gabe Howard: Welcome to the podcast, everyone. I’m your host, Gabe Howard, and calling in today we have Liz Glazer. Liz has appeared as an actor on The Blacklist, For Life and Bull and her work as a comedian has her headlining clubs, law schools, law firms and synagogues. She also performs regularly at the Comedy Cellar in New York City. Her recent comedy album, A Very Particular Experience, is out now. Liz, welcome to the podcast.
Liz Glazer: Thanks, Gabe. It’s nice to be here.
Gabe Howard: The Healthline media guest pitch meetings are a bit of a free for all to choose a topic. People are just discussing like who pitched the show, what topics we want to cover, what guests we want to go after. And often the topic all hinges on what I like to call a record scratch moment where someone yells out, for example, hey, this lady has a comedy special about grief and stillbirth. Now this
Liz Glazer: Mhm.
Gabe Howard: Is a true story, and we didn’t make up the description. Grief and stillbirth is the way that you describe your latest special.
Liz Glazer: Yes.
Gabe Howard: Do others react the way that we reacted to your description?
Liz Glazer: Probably. I don’t know that I’m always there for those reactions, but I think that that’s a pretty typical reaction. I can certainly understand it. And part of my describing the album that way, not shock for shock value, but it’s such an unlikely combination, comedy and either of those topics. The inciting incident of the album is the stillbirth that my wife and I experienced a year to the day prior to the recording. So, the recording was the anniversary, one year, of the stillbirth of my wife’s and my daughter of blessed memory, Leo Pearl. And we didn’t know until 33 weeks and six days when my wife was having contractions, we went to the hospital and she delivered a stillborn baby that that was going to happen. So that that was like the thing that set off and the motivation for making the album. You’re right, it’s not an uncommon record scratch thing that people ask a question or two about just about the existence of such an album, about these topics, but it’s not like I’m making fun of stillbirth or pregnancy loss or grief for that matter.
Liz Glazer: It’s very much, hey, this thing happened and I and my wife and family were worried and wondering whether we would ever be able to laugh again. Because I think that moments like that, if they cause a record scratch in a room about a comedy album, think of the record scratch moment that that causes in somebody’s actual life. That was why I wanted to make a comedy album about it. Again, not to make fun of the event or the fact that this kind of thing happens to people. But because one of the questions was not for me as a comedian, but just as a person really was worried and wondering if there would ever be joy and laughter in life in general ever again.
Gabe Howard: Gallows humor is a, is a well understood concept or black humor or dark humor. Now, I’m a someone who lives with bipolar disorder. I’m a I’m a huge subscriber to gallows humor because if I wasn’t laughing, I would be crying. And that’s not
Liz Glazer: Yep.
Gabe Howard: Something that I invented. It’s something I learned in a support group. But the
Liz Glazer: Mm.
Gabe Howard: Very specific question that I have for you is I’m not usually the one making the jokes, right? I’m listening to the jokes. I’m hearing the jokes. Maybe I’m exchanging some things that are provocative, but not publicly. Is it different for you? Because I really do relate to this idea of if I wasn’t laughing, I’d be crying. But it feels a little different. You know, you’re like on the stage, you’re in front of people. And it’s not just you and some intimate friends. It’s now you and the general public. How does that hit for you?
Liz Glazer: I mean, I just think like that comes down to this is something comedy and performing that I’ve been doing at this point for ten years. I was a law professor before I had done that for seven years. So, getting up and talking in front of people has been one of the most natural things for me to do. And so, I think that somewhere in there is part of the explanation of needing for me personally to process this way. I really also thought from a policy standpoint, I guess that it would be worthwhile to do this publicly and not just for family and friends and not record it or whatever, because it’s such a rampant issue and timely because as far as I understand, part of the reason that there are as many stillbirths in the United States per year, it’s about 24,000 every year in the United States is that anti-abortion activists prevent studying pregnancy loss and stillbirth. So, I thought that in light of the prevalence of the problem, which is extremely tragic and unfortunate, and also in light of the fact that there may be policy advocates on the other side preventing studying this problem to make it less prevalent, that if we hear a human story of somebody who experienced this and also it’s couched in a comedy album. So, it’s listenable even for people who may not, you know, find the matter inherently digestible, then there’s reason to do it. And also, a lot of people have experienced pregnancy loss in stillbirth because the numbers are so high and people don’t talk about it, let alone joke at all around it. So, for them to for those people who’ve experienced this in their lives and people who know those people.
Gabe Howard: There’s this common misconception that if you’re joking about something, it means you’re over it, that you’re not traumatized by it or it doesn’t hurt you in any way. My specific question to you, Liz, is obviously, you are joking about the stillbirth, but has it still traumatized you? Do you still feel those loss emotions?
Liz Glazer: Yeah, of course. You know, I think that the, the being over something is itself kind of a myth specifically about grief. I have footage of me doing these jokes three weeks after the stillbirth and the difference between that set and the set that resulted like a year minus three weeks later is really stark because time heals to a degree. But I think the idea of like, well, once I’ve put these in a box and I’m completely over something is the moment that I start joking about it is a myth I think that just makes people feel better.
Gabe Howard: When you were writing these jokes and preparing for this and reliving what you went through, was that a traumatic experience for you? Was it difficult? How did you process those emotions to get to the funny?
Liz Glazer: Yeah, I think the governing wisdom, as far as I understand it, is that when you retell a traumatic story, you’re reliving the trauma. And I believe that sure. But I also know that that same wisdom, at least some of it in therapy, suggests that the retelling, albeit traumatic, is part of the healing. The benefit of retelling over and over again which is necessary in order to do comedy and to do it well is to retell something so many times that you actually find the joke and you get the timing right and all that, that the retelling of that over and over again lessens the trauma to a degree, right? Which tracks in terms of not only getting better at the comedy of it, but also from a therapy standpoint. I don’t think that it was that painful and traumatic to relive it in that way, although maybe part of my, you know, inherent bias is that I just didn’t know how traumatic it was.
Liz Glazer: But I do think I found it ultimately healing. And I suppose somebody could answer, well, it was both, and that’s probably true. But what was hard was having sets where I didn’t talk about it, which happened because I I’m not going into every comedy club the year that I’m prepping this album and doing stillbirth jokes. One of the things that I explore is the particularity of the kind of grief that attends stillbirth. And in order to make that point, I offer jokes and stories about the grief that I experienced when we were mourning the loss of my cat, Mona, and also the loss of my dad and both of those figures in my life. Obviously close, cat and person to me. But part of the reason that I talk about their deaths respectively, is that when I was grieving, for example, my dad, who died at 73 of heart disease and that’s very tragic and sad is that when I was grieving and continued to be feeling the loss of my dad for sure, I have memories. I have things about my dad when he was alive that I’d say, oh, I missed that, or I wish he was here for that. And in that sense, stillbirth grief, at least for me and for me and my wife, is a particular kind of confusing because while our daughter, Leo Pearl existed, she never lived, but she did exist.
Liz Glazer: And it makes sense that we’re grieving her. But also, we didn’t know her. And so, it’s not like we say, oh, well, Leo would have done this or that. We just don’t know. And in some ways, I think that that may be why there’s like a lot of opinions that people have who’ve experienced stillbirth about and how they observe the grief of stillbirth. Like some people are like, okay, this never happened. Start again. Right? Because you don’t want to burden yourself and everybody around you with loss and grief. And I think that that’s a nice idea if it works, maybe. Because, number one, I just don’t think it does work. And number two, having someone’s existence be worth something even if they never lived, I’m okay with. I’m more than okay with that because this is a life that never was, but kind of was.
Gabe Howard: And we’re back discussing stillbirth and comedy with comedian Liz Glazer.
Liz Glazer: From the standpoint of the grieving parents, I think that there’s this like internal tumult that arises of like, how much am I allowed to be grieving this? And my answer is, as much as you want to or need to. Like when people talk about, oh, there’s some things you shouldn’t joke about, right? Either because it’s too soon or ever. And I think stillbirth falls into that camp.
Liz Glazer: It’s kind of like what a terribly harmful idea to have that sort of rule put out in the world because you’re depriving grieving people of an avenue for healing. And not only the person who’s making the art, but also the people who consume the art, who may have gone through this or know someone who’s gone through this, my general philosophy, I guess in life is talk about it. Whatever it is. And I think for me, that comes from, you know, I have four out of four grandparents who survived the Holocaust and they survived in one way or another by hiding. And so, because that was how they survived, I think part of the inherited trauma that I’ve had from when I was a kid was don’t tell people stuff, right, if you don’t have to, because that was literally how my grandparents saved their own lives. And I think about that a lot because I totally get it from a standpoint of, if you talk, you’re going to be killed on the spot right now. But I also think about it because I think in my parents’ generation, one removed from their grandparents who were survivors, it made sense that part of their inherited whatever was okay, so we keep a low profile. We don’t say anything. But as the next generation where I am, my thought is if I’m going to be quiet the whole time I’m here, what the hell was the point of their surviving?
Gabe Howard: I love that. I love that mentality of I’m here, I need to share, I need to share my opinions and let the chips fall where they may. It’s beautiful.
Liz Glazer: Yeah. So, and thank you for saying that, Gabe. Initially, before we had our stillbirth, my dad died in 2020, and I had those jokes about my dad’s, you know, the grief that resulted from my dad and stuff like that. And it was like hard for me to do those jokes at the time because I didn’t want to bum an audience out because I’m talking about my father who died. And let me tell you, there’s nothing like stillbirth to make your dead dad jokes suddenly your lighter material. And so, it was like hard for me to like workshop the dead dad stuff. And then when we had Leo, suddenly I felt, like, more able to talk about the dead dad stuff, which didn’t bum people out. I mean, I do a lot of synagogues and JCCs and that sort of thing. And I think that those jokes about my father dying and I have a joke about like, expired locks and I have another joke about my mother and I going to the cemetery to measure tombstones. And let me tell you, that really can like cause a synagogue, a sanctuary full of people to be laughing really hard because they relate.
Gabe Howard: I’m a really big believer in laughter is the best medicine. I love comedy.
Liz Glazer: Thanks.
Gabe Howard: I love comedians, I love laughter. And I, I love that you have been so open about your life. And while
Liz Glazer: Thanks.
Gabe Howard: Just everybody thinks that grief has to be sad. It can only be sad.
Liz Glazer: Yeah.
Gabe Howard: You can only be devastated. You have to cry and wail and, you know, raise your hands up.
Liz Glazer: Right.
Gabe Howard: But laughter was such an important part of it. And I’m glad that people, people like you, are on the front lines of modeling the way because it creates a safe space for others. Do you feel that that that’s part of your mission or is it just like, hey, I’m a comedian and I make jokes and whatever happens, happens?
Liz Glazer: I mean, kind of the latter. I’m very proud of this album. I love this album very much. But, I don’t like make the promise to anybody in particular that like I will always do comedy about sad stuff, but I will make the promise that I. If something happens in my life, I will be honest about it on stage and I will come from that place. For me, that was very much the thing that got me into comedy. I didn’t get into comedy because I wanted to be funny necessarily, or like get laughs. It was more I really could just talk about myself. And I don’t I don’t mean it from a narcissistic perspective, although I think that there is probably some of that in there, that it’s like, what if class could just be about me?
Gabe Howard: [Laughter]
Liz Glazer: But I think it was that I had no constraints in terms of what I needed to say. There wasn’t a task, there wasn’t a bar exam. It’s not like we have to cover this or that. But I just could say really what was honestly and earnestly arising in my life. And I say all of that in this moment because that’s the promise that I make as a comedian. When this happened, when the stillbirth happened, there was a part of me that was like, well, I can’t talk about this on stage. But then I thought back to how this all started for me, and I was like, no, this is exactly the reason that I got into this. In comedy, you talk about what happened to you. And then you write the punch lines that arise from the truth of what happened to you. So that’s the promise. And I sincerely hope that, I mean, I hope this for everybody, not just myself, that like the extent possible, we avoid tragedy because tragedy sucks. But. In the event that it arises for me and for everybody. What I wish for people is to process it, however, allows you to live your fullest life.
Gabe Howard: For those who haven’t listened, you dedicate the album to your wife. So, we, we know that she’s on board with your comedy. But behind the scenes, how is she doing? How is she recovering? How is she processing everything? Is she doing all right?
Liz Glazer: I think she is. Well, first of all, my wife is a rabbi and she did her Yom Kippur sermon about this experience as well. And so, I think that, like, you know, that’s separate from the question of how she’s doing. But I think that like both of us, you know, have this need to speak on topics that are happening in our lives. And we came together, I think, because we understand that about each other. So, she was totally, totally more than fine and on board with the process of getting to the jokes and with the jokes themselves. And then in terms of how she’s doing with loss, I mean, we went to bereavement groups, we went to therapy and like, we’ve really done a lot of work, which again, like, I don’t I don’t think the goal is ever like a now we’re better and now we’re over it because like there’s always this like kind of specter of loss. And in the backdrop, whenever grief has befallen a person, right, there’s always who’s not here at the Passover Seder. How old would have would Leo have been? Right. We just had a baby, Eloise, who is a baby that is alive, thank God. And knock on wood, of course. And I’m Jewish, but I hedge my bets.
Liz Glazer: But. You know, we think like, oh, Leo would have been her big sister and like, what a dynamic that would have been. So, I don’t think that there’s ever this idea of like, we’re okay and don’t think about it anymore. But I think that the process of grief is also the process of integrating loss into your life and into the joy of your life. And so, there were moments when we were experiencing the real joy of childbirth and right at that moment that it’s like, wow, this is so great that we have this baby who we love and adore and can’t wait to raise. And all of that can be true. And there was also this other person who we kind of knew, and she’s not here. And that’s sad. In the same way that it’s wouldn’t my dad have loved to have been alive for the birth of Eloise? And for that matter, wouldn’t it have been adorable to see Mona with Eloise? Yeah. And so, all of those things can be true. And it can be true, too, that we’re experiencing joy. And thankfully, my wife and I are very much on the same page in terms of thoughts like that, the kind of incorporation of all emotions rather than mythically having to be okay in certain moments.
Gabe Howard: Liz, thank you so much for being so vulnerable and for taking the time with me today. It’s been absolutely wonderful. Where can folks find you online?
Liz Glazer: Sure. So, the best way is my website, www.DearLizGlazer.com. D E A R L I Z G L A Z E R dot com. And I’m @LizGlazer on all socials. But if you go to my website you can link to my socials and also send me an email which I will never delete, which is a joke from the album.
Gabe Howard: And of course, the album is called A very Particular Experience and it is out now. Go check it out, everyone. Thank you once again for being here.
Liz Glazer: Thank you. This was really, really lovely. Thanks, Gabe.
Gabe Howard: Oh, you are very welcome, Liz. And I want to give a great big thank you to all of our listeners. My name is Gabe Howard and I’m an award-winning public speaker who could be available for your next event. I also wrote the book “Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations,” which you can get on Amazon. However, you can get a signed copy with free show swag or learn more about me just by heading over to my website gabehoward.com. Wherever you downloaded this episode, please follow or subscribe to the show. It’s absolutely free and you don’t want to miss a thing. And hey, can you do me a favor? Recommend the show, share it in a support group, share it on social media. Hell, send somebody a text because sharing the show is how we grow. I will see everybody next Thursday on Inside Mental Health.
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