From Stand-Up Comedy to the Primary Ballot: Ben Gleib’s Story
If you Google Ben Gleib, you’ll recognize him first and foremost as an accomplished comedian. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he was constantly surrounded by the entertainment industry. In high school and college, Gleib was heavily involved with a radio show and two TV shows on campus, with one show particularly becoming extremely popular. Upon graduating at UC San Diego, Gleib got involved with a big-time Hollywood manager and came back out to LA where he started doing acting classes, improv classes, and stand-up. Since then, he’s travelled the world as a successful comedian and entertainer, hosted and executive produced the game show Idiotest on Netflix and Game Show Network, and was a featured regular on Chelsea Lately and the Today Show, all while hosting his very own podcast, Last Week on Earth with Ben Gleib. But Gleib’s involvement doesn’t stop at the entertainment industry. Although it ended on December 30, Gleib ran a campaign for president in 2019 and will remain on the Democratic ballot for the New Hampshire Primary Election. Gleib and I chatted about comedy, politics, activism, and how all three go hand-in-hand with each other.
One may wonder how a comedian became inspired to run for president, but Gleib has always been both comedic and political. Previously, “I’ll be creating a show which will most likely involve a large political element too. I also created the Telethon for America in 2018,” Gleib stated. Telethon for America was an event that aimed to get the biggest midterm voter turnout in United States’ history, a goal they helped achieve. Gleib hopes to create an even larger-scale Telethon for America in 2020 aimed at historic Presidential election turnout.
Gleib cited a notable moment in the 2016 Presidential Election that served as a wake-up call for him. “I saw Donald Trump win and it was clear as day to any thinking person how much of an existential threat he is to every norm and value and institution that we have as a civilized progressive society,” Gleib said. “And we need to do all we can to stop him. And I just didn’t see a wide enough array of candidates running. All I saw was career politicians and the ultra wealthy running and I know America is more diverse than that.” This was the moment that inspired Gleib to run as a Democratic Presidential candidate.
Charlie Smith, a member of Gleib’s campaign staff, explained why Gleib’s viewpoints resonated with them. “After meeting him and starting to work for his campaign, I saw, first hand, how much he wanted to understand what all Americans want, need, what they are struggling with and what the perfect candidate would be for each person he talked to,” Smith said. “Whether it was survivors of domestic abuse, people suffering from addiction because of the opioid crisis, Veterans, teachers, members of the LGBTQIA community – Ben wanted to be a voice for everyone and it makes me all the more motivated to be an advocate for change and a leader in my community.”
The comedian and activist stated the dire state of our planet, unaffordable health care, the housing crisis, stagnant wages, and the income/wealth gap for low and middle-income families among his most important issues. Gleib continued by citing many other issues in the United States. “Bring humanity back to our immigration policies, bring it back to our policing, bring humanity back to all of our citizens like in Puerto Rico,” Gleib stated. “Old white men deciding for the women in our country, deciding what they get to/don’t get to do with their own bodies. It’s such an insulting, paternalistic, anachronistic way to live and to legislate. And the reason we’re not tackling all of those things is because big money influences special interest. It’s completely hijacked our politics. And they write our bills, they decide how legislation, they control our politicians, and we need to have a sweeping anti-corruption bill that can get the money out of our politics, for once and for all.“
Gleib mentioned his mother, Ziva Gleiberman, as one of his most important figures in life. Gleiberman returned the favor by also speaking highly of her son. “A president should start out by being a very very very fine human being. The kind school children should try to emulate,” Gleiberman stated. “The kind their parents would be so very proud to stand behind. The kind history would quote, for future generations. Not the kind which is parodied on SNL. I know this kind, and his name is Ben.”
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Gleib explained to me why he ultimately decided to end his campaign. With mainstream media, The Democratic National Committee, and certain local media outlets paying little attention to his campaign, Gleib failed to achieve a breakthrough media moment. Eventually, the campaign wasn’t financially stable enough to continue and ended on December 30.
Despite his own campaign ending, Gleib still plans to remain heavily involved as an activist and intertwining activism with the media industry. This includes the Telethon for America in 2020, his his involvement on the advisory board of the Harold Robinson Foundation (a foundation that serves underprivileged youth of LA by sending them to camp for the first time), and his plans to make Last Week on Earth with Ben Gleib even more informative. Gleib plans to have guests which help him “find out what the real truth of the news is.” By making it funny and engaging, the podcast will make listeners who feel under-represented in the media feel included by listening to his voice. Essentially, Gleib wants to make these people feel a part of the conversation.
When asked about the future he would like to build, Gleib answered using his natural talent: comedy. “ I would love to build a world where the president can just run crazy with his power and decide what facts are, and decide who gets rights, and decide who gets rights taken away. I think that would be a wonderful place,” Gleib laughed. “Obviously I’m joking, that’s what Trump’s trying to create and he’s succeeding at doing so. So we need to create a world that just returns to goodness and fairness and facts. We need to have a common understanding of what is, before we can even fix the problems that are. And so, we need to return to common sense, rationality, and supporting each other and never supporting policies that seem designed to hurt people. We must embrace all of us as equals, and then you get to have a much more fun life.”
For closing remarks, Gleib noted the importance of using your voice. “I really hope that everybody that is reading this realizes that you’re very powerful. That America is built on the premise that one person’s voice can go as far as it demands to be heard. And nobody can tell you not to speak up.”