Originally published in the Brandeis University Justice
Nov. 8, 2011
Brandeis is a pretty funny campus. It seems as though at least one of our five improv-comedy groups (Bad Grammer, False Advertising, Crowd Control, To Be Announced and Brandeis’ Premiere Improv Comedy Club) or two sketch-comedy groups (Boris’ Kitchen and Little Hands) always has a performance coming up, and the Blowfish and Gravity Magazine publish regularly. For a small school, we seem to have more than our fair share of people willing to make fools of themselves for a laugh. So it should come as no surprise that a Brandeis alumnus is making waves as a professional comedian.
Josh Gondelman ’07 started performing stand-up at comedy clubs in Boston while he was still a Brandeis undergrad. Now he has released his first album, titled Everything’s the Best.
Everything’s the Best‘s 20 tracks showcase Gondelman’s skill as a humorist and an entertainer as he describes his life as a former preschool teacher, a Jew and an all-around nerd.
In an interview with justArts, the comedian described where he gets his material. “I try to reflect the things that are happening in my life on stage. I talk about the kids that I taught, I talk about relationships that I’m in. I talk about stuff that I like, like minor league baseball and Encyclopedia Brown.” Gondelman elaborated on his love for the boy detective, a bit that he also performs on the CD. “Encyclopedia Brown could have turned out in one of two ways: He either could have become a tights-wearing vigilante weirdo with a name like The Librarian and a catchphrase like ‘Justice is Overdue!’ … Or, worst-case scenario, which I think is far more likely, Encyclopedia Brown grows up to be Dexter,” referring to the serial-killer Showtime show. He adds that this is a “high-brow” joke because not everyone in his audience could afford the premium cable channel.
Bits about nerd culture pop up throughout Everything’s the Best. After all, Gondelman honed his routine while he attended Brandeis. He performed at bars and comedy clubs off-campus, he was a member of TBA for four years, and he also formed a sketch-comedy group, Friends Like These, with several roommates his junior year. They weren’t an official university club, but rather a self-contained group that performed original sketches weekly. Gondelman recalled one eventful evening on campus: “Once [mashup DJ] Girl Talk played at Brandeis, and our show was scheduled to go on after his. So, we thereafter claimed that Girl Talk opened for us, even though the two shows were completely separate events.”
Since graduating, Gondelman has seen his career grow. He has performed throughout New England and recently moved to New York to pursue his career. He has also appeared on G4’s Attack of the Show. Everything’s the Best came about when, after performing at the Aspen Comedy Festival, representatives from Rooftop Comedy Productions approached him about recording a CD of his routine. Gondelman considers it his “capstone project” to “capture the material [he] had performed in Boston.”
Gondelman has also written for McSweeneys and for several comedy websites, including slacktory.com and thoughtcatologue.com, and hopes to continue to write satirical pieces. “I am in a pretty fortunate position. I am looking to be on the road a lot in the coming year,” he said. “I would like to get a steady job writing books or for a TV show. I love stand-up, but unless you’re in the top one percent of stand-up comedians, you can’t really sustain yourself or have a retirement plan or anything. There’s no one watching your back. Stand-up is fun and rewarding, but the constant touring is tough on your body and brain, and I don’t think I could do it in 30 years.”
For now, however, Gondelman is continuing to tour and perform at bars and comedy clubs throughout the Northeast. And of course, you can follow him on Twitter at @JoshGondelman. But despite his success, Gondelman still has a soft-spot for his alma mater.
“Brandeis is an oddball place, in a really genuine way,” he said. “In [Friends Like These], there were people pursuing all sorts of different degrees, but they were all totally respected. When you’re in Brandeis, things like Liquid Latex seem normal when they’re totally not. Shaving your body and painting yourself like a Ninja Turtle and dancing to Vanilla Ice is not normal, but at Brandeis people are just accepting. At other schools, everyone streamlines into a ‘partier’ or a ‘studier.’ At Brandeis, everyone got to be a complete person.”