Archive | September, 2010

An Unsolicited Testimonial From An Unqualified Source

30 Sep

So guys, karmically speaking, I think I’m back to zero.  I’m pretty sure I cashed in my chips this morning.  I mean, I won’t know for sure until this afternoon, but I think it’s all good.  Oh, you want the story?  You don’t?  Well, what the heck are you doing at my blog, then?  At the very top it says: “Stories of the words I’ve said and the pies I’ve eaten.”  So here’s a story.  Spoiler alert!  No pie.  (Usually, that’s enough to spoil something for me.)

Last night I went to bed too late.  I set an alarm on my phone to wake me up at 4:45 so I could catch a 6:25 flight to San Jose (by way of Phoenix).  I woke up this morning feeling about an hour better-rested than I assumed I would feel.  Turning to my phone, I realized that my alarm had indeed not gone off (not the first time this has happened; I think I’m using the app wrong, obviously).  It was 5:40.  Not good.  I called the cab company (Green Cab of Somerville, my first thanks!) who dispatched another guy right away.  My taxi driver drove like a genius and got me to Logan by 6.  I tipped generously.

I went into Terminal C to catch my United Airlines flight, but since it was operated by USAir, I had to run through the whole terminal and back across the parking lot carrying my bags.  I was too late to electronically check in, and the lady directing people gave me a stern look and said: “You have to go over there,” as she pointed to a different place where nobody else was. I assumed it was like airport detention.  “Over There,” I met Shelagh, who assured me that yes, I probably had missed my flight, but she was going to book me on the next one and still send me through security in the first-class line (what?  so fancy!) in case I could make the first one.

Security was a breeze, and I technically made it to my gate before my scheduled departure, but the doors were closed and locked.  A USAir employee named Alan assured me that there was no way I could get on the airplane.  For a moment, I contemplated the old: “The woman I love is on that plane!” defense.  But I am not a great liar, and I was worried that they’d be like: “What’s her name?” and I’d go: “Rosie from the Jetsons” and be busted right away.  But!  I had left my sweatshirt at security, and Alan agreed to watch my bags while I hustled back to the TSA checkpoint to get it.  Thanks, Alan.  Suck it, fear mongers!

Denise at the terminal assured me that I was indeed booked on the 10am flight, and that I should check back to make sure that I went to the right gate and that I shouldn’t be late to this one.  I told her I was probably going to be on time.  Then, hilariously, I asked if there was a bowling alley or movie theater around here (meaning inside the terminal).  Denise said no.  Which, in reality, only told me that she and I have different definitions of “hilariously.”

Now I’m sitting at Starbucks in the airport even though their new slogan “Take Comfort in Rituals” creeps me out because it sounds like something a cult leader would tell you.  I promised myself that if the USAir people made this okay, then I would rescind every previous bile-stuffed tirade I have ever made against airport staff.  So…here goes.  USAir (especially Shelagh), thanks for negating my dummy-headed screwup and making my day better instead of worse.

Now, when I get home, I’ve got to teach the shit out of some children to get a nice safe karma bubble back.

Stay positive,
Josh

PS. The upshot of this is that I’ll be at Rooster T. Feathers Comedy Club in Sunnyvale, CA all weekend with headliner Mark Pitta and host/friend Sean Keane.  Come by and see a show! (www.roostertfeathers.com)

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Yes! And?

26 Sep

Hey everyone!

I have this smug and self-serving theory about first dates that my super great friend Sarah Brin (http://dinosaurparty.tumblr.com/) helped me cultivate.  Here it is!

First dates are weird.  They’re like part job interview, part food tasting, part middle school slow dance.  (Maybe that last one is mostly on me.)  There are lots of questions to consider.  What is the level of dressedupness required?  How much do I talk?  What questions are out of bounds?  How much chocolate cake can I eat before it starts to look ridiculous?  It can be overwhelming.

As a comedian, I feel like there are two paradigms of first-date behavior.  One is the standup comedy model, and the other is the improv comedy model.  Now, as I type this, you have to know three things about me.  1. I am not good at dating. 2. I am a more proficient standup comedian and improvisor. 3. I’m going to get a lot of crap from standup friends about this, maybe.  But!  I submit that the improv comedy model of first dates is the ideal mindset for maximum fun and enjoyment.  Here’s why.

Standup comedy is a dialogue between the performer and the audience.  But, the dialogue generally only permits actual speech from one participant.  Everyone else is expected to listen attentively and react accordingly, but they are not welcome to vocalize their opinions or offer related ideas.  The standup comedy model of a first date casts one party as a performer doing his/her best to entertain or impress the other party.  Sure, this works if you’re really into “The Game” and your goal is to hook up with sluts (male or female) with low self-esteem.  But if you’re looking to build a more equitable relationship, maybe it’s not the best plan.

Improv is built on the foundational principle of collaboration.  Improv players acted based under the premise of supporting one another and respecting each others’ ideas.  “Yes, and..” a common improv mantra forces each person to listen to the other’s offers and push them forward rather than introducing themes of their own.  This attitude provides a structure of mutual support in an improv scene, and on a date, it creates an atmosphere of excitement and collaboration right of the bat.  The night becomes less about interviewing and showing off and more about creating a narrative for the night (or day) that includes both participants in equal measure.  Both people can invest equally in the present and future of what’s happening, since both share the responsibility of shaping the story.

Anyway, just a thought.  I’d also like to see my fantasy football team make a comeback today.  So…go Team Teamwork!  (That’s what it’s called.)

Cute Story, Kid

18 Sep

I have a childishly ambivalent relationship with September.  On one hand, it’s the beginning of fall, which means that I get to wear corduroy pants (nice!).  On the other hand, it means that since I live in New England, the weather could turn blisteringly, skin-freezingly cold without so much as a moment’s notice (gross!).  I get to go back to teaching (nice!).  But that means a temporary halt to my freewheeling, pie at all hours, comedy on the road lifestyle (gross!).  But, for real, teaching again has been really fun so far, and I thought I would share with you some of the stories that have happened so far.  Names of children have been changed to protect the tiny.

Girl, Age 4.5 (On my first day back, but at 2pm)
“Oh, hello, Josh.  It’s nice to see you today!”
Nice to see you too!  But did you just notice?

Girl, Age 3 (When told we were going to learn some Spanish words)
“But I already  know Spanish.  Uno, dos, tres, cuatro!  See?”
I think she’s got it locked down.

A three-year-old boy who is the class clown of the class younger than mine always likes when people tell him he’s funny.  I learned from another teacher that he actually asks his parents to rate his jokes for him.  Consequently, no matter what he’s doing, if someone tells him “That’s a zero.”  He will stop.  I’ve never met a smaller person who is afraid of bombing.  I want to teach him to say: “I don’t come down to where you work and smack the crayons out of your hand!”  Take that hecklers/other teachers.

Finally, a four-year-old boy came back from a summer vacation very excited to tell me the jokes he had written while he was away in South Dakota.  Here they are for you:

“What do a stop sign and a dog have in common?  Pause!  (Paws!)”

and

“What kind of leaf always feels good?  Re-leaf!”

So basically, this kid is a comedy genius.  His mom assured me that while she helped him with structure, he came up with the puns all on his own.  He also said this to me:

“Josh, here are two things we have in common.  We both love jokes, and we both hate tomatoes.”
Finally, someone who -gets- me!

It’s good to be back.

A Sincere Request

9 Sep

Hi Everyone,

As some of you may know, today marks the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, which is the beginning of the new year (5771, this time) according to the lunar calendar.  I am not an especially religious person in general, and my concept of God is nebulous at best, but Rosh Hashanah (and next week’s Yom Kippur, the day of atonement) provides an opportunity for both self-reflection and community building, which are my favorite aspects of organized religion anyway.

Specifically, the Jewish people are mandated to ask forgiveness from anyone they may have wronged in the previous year.  For me, wiping the slate clean like that is useful and desirable, and to have a once-a-year clearinghouse for apologies helps me curb my natural instinct to say I’m sorry for everything all the time.  So even though, as I mentioned, my connection to the Jewish faith is not as strong as it could be, September 9th is as good a day as any to mend fences.  So here goes:

If you are reading this, thank you for taking the time and energy to slog through my fumbling treatise on religion.  I concerned that I may have offended, hurt, insulted, or otherwise trespassed against you in the past year, and I want to apologize sincerely.  In the upcoming twelve months, I hope to put more goodness into the world and emit less selfishness and pettiness.  I am working towards using personal interactions (as well as professional opportunities in education and comedy) to put forth joy and warmth into the world, and I want to cut down on negativity and malice.

So, if you can find it within you to forgive me for any damage I may have done to you in the past year (or beyond that, if there are any older, unresolved issues), it would mean a great deal to me.  If there are any matters that you would like to talk about in greater depth, please feel free to e-mail me at joshgondelman [at] gmail [dot] com or get my phone number from me there, and we can talk things out in voices.  In any case, thank you once again for taking the time to read this and consider my request.  Do not feel compelled to respond.  Just the act of forgiveness is enough.

I hope to see you all soon!
Josh

Little Old Lady Got Mutilated Late Last Night…

7 Sep

It’s been a long time.  I shouldn’t have left you.  Without a dope blog to step to.  Step to…step to.  (Wikki wikki.)

Here is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately:
People are really scared of the supernatural.  Vampires, werewolves, magic, etc.  Sure, those things are terrifying, but there are so many more natural things to be afraid of.  Car accidents, serial killers, dying alone.  Other than the fact that these mythical entities probably do not exist, there are many reasons to be less afraid of them than their more natural counterparts.

Werewolves
Sure, it sounds terrifying to know a person who turns into a wolf at night during a full moon.  I imagine that must be very traumatic to learn about a friend of yours.  That he’s 1/56th wolf.  But here’s the thing, guys.  There are still regular wolves all over the world.  And they don’t take days off.  Werewolves are only dangerous one night a month, maybe two.  Wolf wolves are killing machines 24/7/365.  And they’ve never done anything good for anyone.  Oh, sure, they’ve raised a child or two.  But people do that by accident every day.  Has a regular teenage wolf ever helped his basketball team win the championship?  I think not.  But a werewolf has.  Case closed.

Much more benevolent than any actual wolf.

Vampires
There are lots of creepy things about vampires.  They can’t go out during the day.  They can’t see themselves in the mirror.  They suck human blood.  Those are all fairly aberrant behaviors.  But here’s the thing.  They are easily fended off by a. Daytime.  b. Garlic and c. Wooden Stakes.  That means, that with a combination of good sleep habits, Italian food, and gardening, you can keep yourself safe from the vampires.  That sounds pretty easy to me.  I wouldn’t sweat it.

Here’s what I’m more afraid of: The Twilight series of books.  They exist in the world, and they teach young people that women have to remain virginal until they find someone who is eerily fixated on them to the point of obsession and near-murder.  That the highest expression of love is not killing the object of your affection.  And the books are enormously popular.  So there’s a whole generation of people growing up thinking that love is a terrifying and supernatural attraction to a mythical creature.  Not a combination of attraction, affection, compromise, chemistry, and other alliterative word pairings.

Also, I’m more afraid of having my face eaten by a guy on a bus.  That happens!

They call it that, because it's a total eclipse of the brain.

Zombies
Okay, so zombies are pretty scary.  They bite your head and face, which sounds unpleasant.  You have to defend yourself from them with shotguns and stuff, and I don’t own any of that.  You are safest at a mall, which sounds pretty horrible, to have to hole up in a mall forever.  I was just at the Mall of America recently, which is the mall-iest of all malls, and it would be the worst kind of place to live.  Not regarding amenities, just regarding feeling like a human being.  And by worst, I mean the worst for people not living under a reign of poverty or oppression.

The point is, I can’t really think of a reason to not be afraid of zombies.  Except, it seems like in the present day, many people wouldn’t mind being zombies.   Like, for example, the idea of blindly shuffling through the world and waging an assault on those who are still able to think critically in an effort to further your own senseless agenda should be familiar to any of the disciples of Glen Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and Sarah Palin.  I know that the comparison is trite, but I am curious as to how zombie movies and books can remain so popular when such a huge chunk of our country doesn’t seems to fear zombification.  You’d think people would just cheer and say “Git ‘er done!” and stuff.  But I’m probably wrong about that.  What?  Politics?  Uh oh!  Sorry guys, I’ll shift gears.

What I’m saying is, you all can go ahead and stay afraid of fiction if you want.  But I’m going to continue to be terrified by the economy, genetically engineered soy, and drunk guys in Tapout t-shirts at my shows.

Josh