Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday spotlight on Author and Comedian Josh Gondelman. He used to write for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and now he’s a writer/producer for Desus & Mero on Showtime. His debut essay collection Nice Try: Stories of Best Intentions and Mixed Results is out now!
Question number 1: Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester –though they should totally check here first!)
You can find my stuff at www.joshgondelman.com where you can order my book or listen to my standup albums, and you can see some things I’ve helped to write and produce by watching Desus & Mero on Showtime!
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
I try to update the website pretty frequently, but for the most up-to-the-minute Josh Gondelman news, follow me @joshgondelman on Twitter and Instagram.
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from Nice Try?
Honestly, I usually describe my sensibility as “friendly,” which I do think sums up a lot of what I do, but doesn’t give a lot of detail beyond the general vibe. I write all sorts of different comedy things from tv (Last Week Tonight, Desus & Mero) to short humor pieces for The New Yorker, to standup for myself. Nice Try is my first essay collection, and it’s full of personal stories told in a way that I hope people will find funny and pleasant. I really wanted to write a book that would be a delightful and comforting (and funny) reading experience. I mean there are ideas and themes, but my #1 goal was for people to read the book and come away thinking: “What a lovely time that was!”
What is your favorite part of being a writer? Of the whole writing and publishing process?
The best best part of being a writer is getting to meet people I admire and learn from them up close and hear the kind of little secrets and preferences and works in progress that you get to experience when you’re in a room with someone and not reading their beautifully composed work or seeing their public-facing interview answers to questions. (I’m sorry that’s what these are!) The other best part is when people read something I’ve written and say “I’d never thought of it that way!” or “Ahh! Yes! I agree with you, but I’ve never been able to put words to that idea!” That is very gratifying too!
What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?
Oh wow that is big! I don’t know that I would tell other writers how to do their jobs, but one thing I always appreciate in writers is when they are fans of writing! Being a reader is so important, just to develop, but I think being a fan is part of being a good community member. Like, sure you could read in a cave and never tell anyone the great things you’ve learned. But it’s so generous and helpful to champion the work of other people. It’s so refreshing when people are enthusiastic about others’ work and don’t try to be cool. (This isn’t a rare quality, but it is one that is a bummer when people don’t have it.) In that spirit: I’m really enjoying Danny Lavery’s upcoming book as well as Super Pumped, the book Mike Isaac wrote about Uber. And I can’t wait to read Samantha Irby’s new essay collection!
How important has the New England setting been to your writing?
SO IMPORTANT! Not that everything I write takes place in New England, but growing up in Massachusetts was so formative for me in ways I’m still realizing. Growing up in this nexus of academic culture and sports culture felt like my brain was always on the edge of a warm front and a cold front colliding, and I think it helped me develop a diverse set of interests and vocabulary. And for better or worse I have a very New England work ethic, where when I see people on Instagram vacationing my brain instinctively goes why are they not at work??? Plus, I’m very loyal to Dunkin’ Donuts.
What is/are your passions when you’re not writing? How do you make time for your non-writing hobbies/things you love?
I wish I had more fascinating and esoteric pursuits, but my favorite things to do are to see live music and watch basketball. Seeing a band play is the best way I know to take myself out of my working/writing brain and just enjoy something for an hour or so. I’ve gotten much better at just grabbing tickets to a concert when I see them on sale instead of going back and forth about whether I might be busy that night, or worrying about who might come with me. If I don’t schedule fun stuff on my calendar, I’ll just fill all my time with work stuff, which is not healthy, so I make sure to really intentionally clear space in advance to see a band or a play or have a nice dinner date with my wife! (Also, outside of writing, I have accumulated a collection of sneakers that is bordering on problematically large.)
Writers very often have furry or feathered or otherwise non-human companions to “help” them through their work. Do you? What do you have? How do they “help” (or, “not-help”) with your writing?
Yes! My wife and I adopted a senior pug a few years ago, and she is very helpful with the writing process. She’s a great listener and never offers cruel judgements on my ideas. But also just having a dog gets me out of bed to walk her and gets me out into the world when I’d otherwise sit and stew and procrastinate all afternoon sometimes. It’s great to have a schedule imposed on my by a furry little tyrant who doesn’t know how to use a toilet. (There’s a long essay about her in the book, too!)
Thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions, Josh!