Comedian Josh Gondelman's attitude is nice, even when his jokes aren't 

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Comedians generally arrive in a new city for one of two reasons: Either an agent books a show for them or they’re asked to come. The latter option is always the best, said funnyman Josh Gondelman.

“I’m excited,” Gondelman told Oklahoma Gazette during a recent telephone interview. “People reached out and said, ‘Come do a show here.’”

Gondelman performs 8 p.m. Dec. 15 at ACM@UCO Performance Lab, 329 E. Sheridan Ave.

When the 31-year-old stand-up comic heads somewhere, he said he’s never 100 percent sure anyone will know who he is or want to see his comedy.

“But when I’m asked to come, even if some of the people don’t know me, the people who do come will be into it,” Gondelman said.

Oklahoma City is a cool place to play, he said, specifically because it’s an unknown quantity.

“I get to see the lay of the land and eat barbecue. It’s so much fun,” he said. “I’m not on the road that much, so when I go out, I get to go to places I’m excited about.”

A city that has a reputation for being more cosmopolitan will have 100 things competing for attention, he said.

“There’s always some kind of Star Wars deep burlesque show in an abandoned steel mill in those cities,” he said. “I often find ... when you go to a place where you’re like ‘I don’t know about this,’ it has a cool underbelly of people who show up for the underground thing.”
He’s also ready to impress audience members who heard his album Physical Whisper, released in March.

“That’s amazing to me; I’m so excited that’s the crowd that would come out,” Gondelman said. “I get a little nervous that I have enough new stuff for people who heard the last album. I like that challenge. People are onboard, and I have to keep raising my game.”

Name it

Some Oklahomans might be fans of Gondelman’s work without knowing it.

Physical Whisper and TV appearances on Conan show off his comedic prowess. He has also lent his skills as a writer to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and popular Twitter account @SeinfeldToday, which imagines modern-day Seinfeld sitcom plots.

“As an audience member, when somebody puts a finger on that thing that has floated across your consciousness and puts a name to it, that’s really gratifying,” he said. “That was what Seinfeld did — a close talker, that’s a thing.”

He said he aspires to have the kind of impact where his humor clarifies something everyone has experienced but no one realizes is so common.

The idea for @SeinfeldToday, which he founded with comedian Jack Moore, came when friend and comic Dan Boulger pointed out that half of Seinfeld episodes would be moot if everyone in the series owned a cell phone.

His own comedy skews more toward Jerry Seinfeld than politically charged Last Week Tonight and focuses on writing about personal experiences.

“I really admire people who do different kinds of comedy, like political or social stuff,” he said. “I have little veins of both of those, but it’s a lot more ‘This thing happened to me’ or ‘I am afraid of this.’ A lot of humor comes from just trying to process information.”

The best jokes are often the ones that catch the ways in which people filter out what they experience, rather than inventing or analyzing things they don’t understand, he said.

“Most people who are comedians become one because they see the world a certain number of degrees off mainstream,” he said.

Being himself

Gondelman’s comedy is “pretty friendly.”

“It’s not clean, but it’s friendly,” he said. “People mistake it for clean because it’s nice. It’s for grown-ups, but it’s not aggressive. I’m friendly, and I want everybody to have a good time.”

No matter the size of the crowd, he’s most excited to perform comedy for people who know what to expect.

“It’s an exciting place to be in my career,” Gondelman said. “I use that as a freedom to be the most me I can be, rather than shape my act or bridge a ton of different sensibilities.”

Sometimes colleges might invite him to do an hour of “clean” comedy, which he can do, but it’s hard to find jokes that college students will enjoy that aren’t about sex.

“I can talk about how I’m excited to have in-laws. It’s not dirty, but does an 18-year-old care about that?” he said. “So it’s really wonderful to get to perform for people who expect me.”

Gondelman’s focus remains on giving the crowd a show it will enjoy.

“I think audiences really deserve the comedy that they want. I think there’s a real art to being able to be the person who shows up at any comedy club and burns it down,” he said. “It takes a little pressure off to play for people that are coming out and have a little more specific idea of what I do.”


Print headline: Pretty friendly, Comedian Josh Gondelman’s attitude is nice, even when his jokes aren’t.

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