Josh Gondelman, a.k.a. “The Nicest Guy in Comedy,” joins us this week to talk about what being nice really is, when it’s a quality that is not helpful, and the difference between “nice-ness” and “goodness”. Josh is a Peabody- and Emmy-winning comedy writer who has worked on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and is currently the senior staff writer and producer for the Showtime series Desus & Mero. He also has a stand up album out called “Dancing on a Weeknight” and new book called “Nice Try: Stories of Best Intentions and Mixed Results”.
Highlights from this week’s episode
From the Josh Gondelman interview
On being known as “the Nicest Guy in Comedy”:
Part of it is naturally, people don’t buy it when I’m mean onstage. Like, it feels off-tone for the presentation and my personal bearing ... I think there have been various times or I’ve like tried little things of like, “Oh, I’ve seen other people try things like this, or do things like this,” but I just can’t sell it or it is just inauthentic to what I want to communicate. Like, it doesn’t feel like it comes from the same point of view because like a lot of the time it wouldn’t...There was never like a full phase where I put on a leather jacket and like smoked on stage and told dirty nursery rhymes or whatever.
On differentiating between “nice” and “helpful”:
I think a lot about the difference between like niceness and goodness. And so I think nice is pleasant, polite, agreeable. You can be around someone without, you know, without undue conflict. And I think those are, in many instances, valuable qualities. But also I think so much about goodness in terms of like being willing to do uncomfortable things that are beneficial and whether it’s like generous or righteous. And so a lot of the time they’re the same. Right, niceness and goodness like giving someone you love a present that they appreciate for their birthday is nice and good. But like someone asking you advice on something and you not telling them it’s a bad idea when it’s a bad idea, you being like, “Oh, I think it’s great. You’re great. This is great,” is technically probably nice, but it’s not good.