Josh Gondelman’s comedy album Everything’s the Best! is a pleasant and personal jaunt, with surprisingly twisted turns into self-deprecation.
The first thing I noticed about Gondelman was his demeanor. It was non-aggressive almost to the point of being the cliched “typical white guy” voice overdone by comics for the last twenty years, but without the hackneyed, overly vanilla obsequious downside that the cliche engenders. I found this persona refreshing, allowing me listen less skeptically to his material and I engaged his comedy that much more quickly.
One example of the synergy of his persona making his comedy more approachable was his arm’s-length relationship with his gym, which he insists on calling “James,” because “Gym” just felt too informal. Word play like this might not have withstood a more cynical presentation, but Gondelman’s credulity gives it a fantastic balance.
Another example is a bit Josh has that swirls in race and Asian stereotypes. Any take on race has an inherent propensity to veer into meanness, but his self-deprecating style is utterly devoid of malice, and left me free to take the joke on its own clever terms.
Did I say clever? Josh Gondelman is that. Whether cracking on his Jewish background or relationships, he plucked witty surprises from his personal experiences that impressed me. His take on having “the talk” with his imaginary lesbian daughter was brief, but had a lot of pop to it because of the sly thought packed into it.
One of the best things about comedy as an art form is how a good comic can take a specific, even obscure topic, and make it relatable and funny. Gondelman did this and did it well when he brought up minor league baseball. I admired the way he contrasted the idea of professional ball with the hand-to-mouth existence of many of its athletes, and he had great lines about how affordable the games are to attend.
One of my favorite bits of his involved a one-night-stand. Gondelman wrung this premise out thoroughly, extracting laughs from a number of unexpected places. While his self deprecating approach to his own physique didn’t hold any surprises for me, they were serviceable gags. What did hit me where I live were his takes on unsafe sex and the morning after pill. If his partner’s dry sense of humor is a true element in his hilarious chunk about their night of self-conscious passion, he may have found his soul mate; or at the very least, mine. That he was able to chart an effectively personal and charming path through this anecdote was an achievement.
His most fertile ground for comedy though, has to be his day job working with small children. The dangers in finding the funny among cherubic little pants-poopers would seem to be stumbling into the trite bubble gum of cute-kid comedy, but Josh manages to gouge out fresh material that avoids land mines of saccharine goop.
From children’s games that keep them on the same social strata like “Duck, Duck, Duck,” and “Cops and White People,” to kids who speak of themselves in the third person sounding like sports figures, his premises and their payoffs were strong throughout.
Gondelman’s Everything’s the Best! is an enjoyable and clever piece of work. It’s not edgy and it’s not mean, but it proves that it doesn’t need to be. It also proves that in the comedy world, nice guys don’t have to finish last.