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Inside With: Josh Gondelman

By: Brian Perry

Boston standup Josh Gondelman is a really nice guy.  This perception does not exist without ample justification.  Hosts a weekly open mic?  Check.  Improvises with the cast of ImprovBoston’s grandma-friendly Family Show?  Check.  Teaches pre-school as his day job?  Check.  The sooner you can accept the fact that Josh is nicer than you, the sooner we can move on to what’s important – Josh is a seriously funny guy.  I caught up with him prior to his hosting duties at Sally O'Brien's in Somerville in anticipation of a summer that finds him leaving the pre-schoolers behind for a few months on the road.

Tell me about the open mic we're at -- how'd you start hosting this?
This show is a real nice hangout for comics of all levels.  Everyone from people just starting out, to people who have been doing it for a long time and are working comics who are just trying out new stuff.  We get like 30 comics coming through a week who do a couple minutes each.  It's great - I try to cultivate a community vibe.  I inherited this show two years ago from Myq Kaplan after he went to New York.  And Myq took it over from Dan Hirshon who a year before that had moved.

You mentioned earlier to me that you're going to be on the road a this summer.  What do you have going on?  
It's crazy.  I was just at the Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival and now I'm off to Norfolk Nebraska for the Great American Comedy Festival.  I’m also doing Laugh Your Asheville Off, which is a silly name but an awesome festival.  In August I’m doing a bunch of clubs – I’ll be in the Twin Cities area, The Laughing Skull in Atlanta, and Cap City in Austin.
Is this much time on the road new for you?
This is new.  I did The Laughing Skull Comedy Festival in March and ended up winning the whole thing, which was very exciting.  So this road comic career has been of born out of that.

So every time I hear somebody talk about you, everybody goes way out of their way to mention that you're a nice, level headed guy.  Ever feel like that pigeonholes you at all?
No, I'm really flattered by it.  It's so nice of people to note that.  I teach preschool - that's my day job.  So I’m pretty calm and try to be kindhearted.  The funny thing about it is generally when a comic is talking about another comic and they say he's a nice guy that's the kiss of death.  
The thing I find wild about it is that people are almost taken aback by your positive demeanor – more like ‘He actually is a nice guy’.
I don't know.  It's not like I contrast how I am on stage.  I've been trying to be as much me on stage as possible.  I try to talk the same and have the same sensibility.  I think there is that stereotype of comics as the pissed off subversive guy.  I love to see that in other comics, but it’s just not how my brain operates.  I'm not an aggressive person and I'm not a cynical person so I think it would be very disingenuous if I came on stage saying [adopts gruff voice that still sounds kind of nice] 'F-this! F-that!'
How does your preschool day job reconcile with doing standup?
I get a ton of material, so that's a pro.  And my bosses have been so amazing the last few months.  They are giving me the summer off even though the program is year round.  As long as the gigs I take keep getting better and cooler I can keep impressing them.  As long as I don't backtrack too much, I think I'm going to be ok.
It makes a huge difference to have an understanding work environment.
It's so nice.  And I like being at my job, that's the thing.  As much as I'd rather be doing a little more comedy a little less preschool, it's a nice way to spend my day if I have to be working.  I'm not somewhere clock watching.  I had a parent teacher conference today and the mother told me that her daughter said she wanted to get a recording device so she could record all of the songs that are in her heart.  That's just the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. How do you walk away from that day feeling upset?

Anything you've been inspired by lately - anything you're really into?
I listen to a ton of comedy albums. Local guys like Shane Mauss and Myq Kaplan have put out really killer albums this year.  Kyle Kinane's album Death of the Party is so good.  And it's so unlike what I do onstage which is really inspiring.

Any other projects in the pipeline?
Dan Bulger and I just recently started a podcast called the Two Man Canoe.  It's really fun and I'm excited to do more of them.

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