Photo courtesy of Josh Gondelman @joshgondelman
You may not even know it, but you’re probably already familiar with the wit and humor of Stoneham-born stand up comedian Josh Gondelman. If not from his stand up, which he’s been doing since 2004 after his freshman year at Brandeis University in Waltham, then by his non-stand up comedy efforts.
He’s currently a web producer and submitter of jokes for HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and a co-creator and co-author of the massively popular Modern Seinfeld twitter handle which no devotee of the show should ignore (one of his tweets for it was even recently a clue on Jeopardy!). Between that, his bits for Fuse TV’s Billy on the Street, McSweeny’s, Esquire Magazine, and even contributing cheeky men’s perspective stuff for women’s magazines called Manthropologie (read: the different ways he’s been bad at being a boyriend over time), you’d have to be internet agnostic (or just really old) to not have crossed paths with his humor at this point.
But should you have never come across his comedy in any form, you can easily change that as he’ll be performing at Great Scott on November 28 as part of a “home for the holidays” performance featuring comedy from locals coming home to the Hub for the holidays, as well as shows at th Paradise and the Sinclair after, finishing with him opening for John Oliver himself when he performs at The Wilbur at the end of December.
I caught up with him from his place in Brooklyn.
You’ve been writing for spots like Elle and Cosmopolitan magazines. What do you do for them?
It’s different. When women magazines have a limited pool of men, they reach out to me to do stuff like what I’ve done for Elle Magazine, where
I’ve been doing a series wearing whatever [the editors] are seeing guys wear in [men’s] magazines. So they go “Josh, wear a bunch of vests and write about it.” I’ve done them for v-necks, short shorts, and vests. For Cosmopolitan I have a “manthropolgie” thing, just writing from guys perspectives.
Like why guys are such babies when they get sick. One was about the different ways I’ve been bad at being a boyfriend over time. I’ve been “never makes time for her” guy, “only wants to focus on career” guy, and “only one who hates your friends”, “sex drive is way lower than hers”, etc.
Love the candor.
I think about [that] a lot. In your story, you’re the hero, right? But to all those other [ex’s], you were just some shit delaying their journey to success in love.
Last show you killed at?
Last two were in Boston and Philly, doing long sets for a nice crowd with an intent to see comedy. A few people were even there to see me, which is exciting and new, and they weren’t just people I [personally] knew. Having people know what you’re about before even going on can turn the room in your favor. My best show recently was performing on Sweet, the regular show hosted by Seth Herzog who does warm-up for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
A year and a half ago I did a set for 15 year-old Jewish boys in someone’s basement. I drove out to Forest Hills Queens, did a half hour as a dweeby, almost 30 year-old guy who showed up to a party with kids eating pizza saying “This guy isn’t Kevin Hart!” The rabbi who organized it asked if I would take less money for being so bad, and then asked for change. If he wasn’t a rabbi I feel like i would have cursed him out. I was alone and felt bad and then a rabbi tried to give me less money.
Biggest difference between NYC and Boston crowds?
I feel like you get a lot more out-of-country crowds of tourists in NYC, who don’t know what they’re in for. Just promised some kind of entertainment. So there’s a lot more crowd work there. You have no idea if they’re not laughing because English is a third language and don’t understand you, or they just don’t like you. But the major difference is in NYC the audience wants you to impress them. You kind of have to come out super apathetic to them, sort of exist in spite of them, or just bring it hard right up front. They’re like “now YOU make me laugh … we liked the other guys, but we don’t trust you yet.”
In Boston they want you to be good, but in a very specific way. Crowds in Boston, especially the clubs, the’re a little rowdy and they tend to come from the same background more. Less transplants and tourists. They just want you to be in charge of their good time. The show is a ship and they want you to be the Captain. And if that doesn’t happen, they’ll take control of that ship. I say this with the most affection, especially at a place like Nick’s Comedy Stop. I remember it being the first place where it wasn’t about me, it was about riding this room for as long as I had on stage, corralling this group of loud drunk people in a room that had a mind of its own. They’re not there to see art, they’re there to laugh.
The John Oliver gig. Go.
Last year I had been doing a lot of writing about and for the internet, and have a good presence on twitter. So on paper it seems like I’m someone that understands not computers, but the internet and went into the interview was ‘the idea of my job is to extend the voice and comedy of the show digitally so there’s something to engage with 7 days a week instead of one night”. It’s a wonderful place to work, the best. Everyone is amazing. I’ve pitched stuff for the show and ideas I’ve had have been shaped by staff writers which made it to air. Very collaborative. My job is to take what’s not on the show and make something out of it, or take what’s on and extend it online. I feel like a comedy writer that writes for the internet.
We had a silly bit on the show about getting the gekkos from that Russian space program to mate, and they lost contact with the gekkos in the Russian space program. We had a ridiculous hashtag campaign to #gogetthosegekkos, it was a thing we did on the show, then had a life digitally, and when the gekkos were recovered/redeemed by connecting with them, did a hashtag that was #wegotthosegekkos. That became a three-part saga about utter nonsense. There’s no reason anyone should be interested, it was just decided from within the show that that would be a fun thing to do a bit on, and we were able to keep it alive online. It had this mournful, tragic conclusion coming back full circle. Even though those parts didn’t get on the show the week they had to get the gekkos back, [the writers] decided it was show worthy to have a man dress as a gekko drinking a 40 on stage.
JOSH GONDELMAN. CATCH HIM NOV 28 AT GREAT SCOTT, DEC 4-5 AT THE SINCLAIR, AND OPENING FOR JOHN OLIVER AT THE WILBUR DEC 31.