Thursday, June 9, 2011

Josh Gondelman Records Debut CD for Rooftop This Weekend, On Big Sauce Tonight

Josh Gondelman records his debut
CD Friday and Saturday at Mottley's
Not many comedians can get away with telling an adorable story in a comedy club. Not without the audience getting a little queasy. But Josh Gondelman has a story in his act about one of his preschool kids wanting to be a wizard, and showing him a less than thrilling magic trick, that is just that.

Gondelman’s reputation as Boston’s “nice guy” comic is well deserved. He hosts an open mic every Monday at Sally O’Brien’s that feels welcoming, even if the audience often stares blankly at the comic like the Chuck E. Cheese Players in between “shows.” We will be losing him next month to New York City, where he will be trying to take the next step as a comic.

Before he leaves, he’s recording his debut CD for Rooftop Comedy Production at Mottley’s Friday and Saturday. Friday’s show is sold out. He’s also on the Big Sauce radio show tonight, on which he has been a frequent guest, for a "Pre-CD Release Party."

When do you officially leave for New York?

My lease is up at the end of July, so that's when I leave Boston. I'm going to be on the road half of August and staying with my girlfriend who already lives in New York for the other half of the month. The idea is to have my own place (own meaning shared with a zillion other guys to keep the rent at Bostonish levels) by September.

Was it important to you to get your CD recorded in Boston before you left?

I really wanted to get it done before I left. It's kid of my capstone independent study project. It's the end of roughly my first seven years in standup, and I think it's a nice, tidy way to move on to a different phase. I'm not planning to retire the material, but it'll be cool to have a document of what I did while I was here.

What are your release plans for it? Do you have a target date?

I'm hoping to have it all squared away and ready to go by September. I'll probably come up and do a CD release show in the fall. I'm going to try and get the art and editing done as well as possible but quickly too. I'm eager to see a finished product.

How did you come together with Rooftop?

I had done Rooftop's festival in Aspen last summer, and they were all super nice and great. The quality of the stuff they put out is awesome, and I opened for Kelly MacFarland when she recorded hers (for Rooftop, and I thought: "I want that! I want to do that!" My roommate/great friend Shawn Donovan had just done an album on his own, and so I was a little jealous, and I reached out to Rooftop, and they were really awesome and enthusiastic.

What are your thoughts on selling out Friday’s show?

I'm really psyched! Lots of people from different corners of my life have reached out and said that they're coming and bringing friends, which is really flattering. It's better than just having a uniform group of people all there from the same place. Because everyone will have their own sensibility, but ostensibly they're all there to see me.

Has appearing on Big Sauce helped you at all?

I really enjoyed going on Big Sauce. They were great about inviting me back to promote. I really respect and appreciate what they do for the community. We'll be giving away tickets to Saturday night's show. My nightmare is no one claims them. No one wanting free tickets to my recording is terrifying to me.

How do you feel about the “nice guy” tag? I’d imagine it’s flattering but problematic.

The "nice guy" thing is definitely flattering. It's not something I had ever intentionally cultivated, but it kept cropping up from various people describing me. It's funny because a lot of the time it's something a comic will say that about a guy he likes as a person if he thinks that guy has no act. Like: "Josh Gondelman...yeah, I've worked with him. Super nice guy."

But I think/hope I get it because I'm actually nice, and my act is nice too. I'm not vicious onstage, you know? It's just an extension of who I am normally, and I've got a pretty good nice guy pedigree. I bake. I teach preschool (until June 21st). It's only problematic in that I sometimes worry I'm not nice enough. I have a tough time dealing with hecklers sometimes, because if I get mean for a second, the rest of my personality seems like a sham.

Do you ever write something that’s at odds with the nice guy image and not use it because it would be out of character?

I've definitely written some meaner or dirtier stuff that doesn't exactly fit with my persona. But usually either a. It doesn't fit with what I want to put onstage anyway, or b. I can "aw, shucks" it up a little bit and get away with it. It's all about attitude. If something is more adult in tone but dealt with in an innocent way, people find it much easier to swallow. Plus, I can always tweet it. My twitter is less consistently pleasant than my live performances. It's fun to be a little grosser or edgier.

How are your students taking the fact that you’re leaving?

My students are sad. The parents are sad. I've got kids in my class who I had their older siblings my first year as a teacher, so I've known the family for four years. I'm sad to leave them. Everyone's really lovely and supportive, though. Some of the kids have made me big heart-shaped cards, and the parents are all wishing me the best. I love when the parents try to explain standup comedy to the children. That's my favorite. The kids are like: "He just goes and tells people jokes?"

What do you expect once you get to New York?

I'm expecting it to be hard. There are a zillion comics there. So many of the best working comedians in the world live there, so it's a tough proving ground. I'm going to have to start from the ground up again, which is half demoralizing/half exhilarating. I'm excited to see how the change in scenery impacts my writing and performing. I've got a lot of friends there, which is nice in that I get to show up without being another anonymous dweeb coming to the big city to "make it." I don't want to lean on anyone for favors, but it's good that there's going to be someone to say: "Oh yeah, I know him. He's a nice guy."