Josh Gondelman has been one of my favorite comedians for a while now. I often fall asleep to comedy albums and specials. His second album, Physical Whisper, is frequently in the bedtime rotation and his more recent album, Dancing on a Weeknight, also makes its way in from time to time. He is one of my favorite Twitter people (@joshgondelman). I was so excited when my library hold on his memoir, Nice Try: Stories of Best Intentions and Mixed Results, finally became available.
Gondelman begins by establishing that he has a reputation for being nice but that he does not always strive to be nice and that nice isn’t always the best way to be. Having spent my entire life in the land of Minnesota Nice, I can confirm that being surrounded by nice is not always a positive experience. Just because you’re not nice does not mean you are mean. It is better to go beyond nice to generous or kind. He calls himself a former nice boy on a journey to being a good guy. At their wedding, where they accidentally hired a Michael Jackson impersonator to perform, his wife Maris Kreizman, proclaims that he is not nice in a speech and it brings tears to his eyes because of how happy it makes him that that is how she sees him.
This collection of essays discusses his time in high school, college, the start of his standup career, his few years as a preschool teacher, and his move to New York which led to growth of his career, including several years as a writer on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and meeting his now wife. It’s the memoir of a good guy who is very funny.
On how being nice isn’t hard and doesn’t denote a good person: “Even the Zodiac killer was nice enough to leave a note after a murder.”
On reading: “Reading, I learned early on, served dual purposes. It is fun to do and it lets you feel superior to other people.”
On how you change once you’re an adult: “Not eating all of the French fries if I am not hungry for all of the French fries.”
On the real theme of any school dance: “Dry humping your crush in the same place you ate tater tots six hours earlier.”
On the band Sublime: “They’re like a skateboard that you listen to.”
On realizing that his now wife was the person he wanted to spend the rest of his life with as she supported him after the death of his grandmother: “I loved her very much. And I still do.”