dr Rick doesn’t want you to become your parents

It almost goes without saying that you will inevitably say something that sounds exactly like one (or both) of your parents.

dr Rick is here to help.

He’s the world-famous mustache-wearing, sweater-vest “parent life coach” who stars in those clever progressive insurance ads, delivering hard-hitting love wisdom to his clients, who can’t help but imitate their moms and dads – whether it be gossiping at the end of a movie (“Nobody who made the movie is here”), telling anyone who will listen about their morning (“You woke up early – nobody cares”), themselves refraining from commenting on someone’s blue hair (“We all see it. We all see it.”) or correcting pillow placement on the couch (“If you don’t have room to sit, you have too many”).

“I call it a kind of generational triple dip,” said Bill Glass, 51, the amiable Chicago native who gave Dr. Rick has been playing since the commercials aired two years ago. “It’s kids looking at their parents and thinking, ‘Oh boy,’ and a parent looking at their parents and saying, ‘Oh boy.’

“There are some people that you see or hear saying, ‘You’re kidding,’ but no malice is intended here,” he said. “It’s something we’re all going to do no matter what — and whether you want to admit it or not, everyone will pick up a phrase or habit from their parents, whether they like it or not.”

There’s even a book, “Dr. Rick Will See You Now: A Guide to Un-Becoming Your Parents,” whose cover features Glass (as a good doctor).

Actor Bill Glass as "dr rick" in the progressive insurance ads.  He is wearing a sweater vest and is sitting at a desk.
Actor Bill Glass as “Dr. Rick” in the Progressive Insurance ads.
Progressive Accident Insurance

Glass has been in commercials for 25 years and has a background in improv (Chicago’s Second City and ImprovOlympic Troupes), as do the actors who appear with him in the progressive spots. “I’ve done a few other things, but nothing has gotten as much of a response as this one, so it’s kind of neat and a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s fun and challenging to make people laugh in a 30-second window.”

The ensemble cast is led by Martin Granger and is based in LA where they shoot the commercials on location (including a movie theater in Simi Valley and an apartment building in Pasadena).

“Two 30-second commercials will be two 12- to 14-hour days,” Glass said. “The writers have a lot of vignettes and want a lot of options, so we spin the setup and move, spin the setup and move… it’s fun to work with, but it’s a long day’s work. As much fun as it is, we work – make no mistake about it.”

The actors that Dr. Rick’s customers have remained pretty much the same since the beginning of the campaign, with a few new faces appearing every now and then.

“The authors of the advertising agency [Arnold Worldwide] and the director are really great,” he said. “They hire a lot of improv actors; I wish you could see the full cast here because it’s a great comedy cast and the campaign’s success is due to all the actors who bring it to life.”

Photo of Bill Glass as he appears in real life, without a mustache.  He wears a bow tie in red and back and his lips are slightly pursed.
Bill Glass, who hails from the Chicago area, has a deep background in improvisation.

Glass said that the actors improvise, just a little, and give Granger some free reign while shooting the commercials. “We’re taking on the script, but Martin … hired all these people with improv backgrounds to let us play a little bit … we mix in a little bit of improvisation and then they cut it and spit out what you see on TV.

“I find [the ads] are like the comedy appetizer tray—and now we’ve got the shrimp wrapped in bacon.”

Glass has blended his commercial work with acting in films and television shows, including a bit role as a lawyer on Rutherford Falls (season 2 airs June 16 on Peacock, starring Ed Helms and Janna Schmieding). “That [‘Rutherford Falls’] Casting Director Allison Jones, enjoys the [Progressive] campaign, so she called me in,” he said. “It gives me great pleasure to play a small role on the show.”

The fame that comes with starring in a successful ad campaign has its limits, especially for job actors like Glass.

“I’m a lunch pail actor, and to have a nice bit in the midst of the grind…hopefully I’ll keep this gig for a while and maybe I’ll be a 30-year ‘overnight hit,'” he said with a chuckle. “I’ve come to a point in my career where it’s going to be what it’s going to be, and that’s it [the ads] show that I can do comedy when the camera is pointed at me. Hopefully other sitcom casting directors will be like, “Hey, this guy’s pretty good, we can use him for something.”

“It’s only part of the journey.”

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