Josh Gondelman opens his new CD Everything’s The Best! by declaring he’s going to do his best to try to be fun. I assume this is just some sort of ruse, because after listening to this hour-long project I don’t think it’d be possible for him not to be. He is such a pleasure to be around, it’s no surprise to find out he can keep any crowd of people entertained, whether it’s a comedy club full of adults or a brightly colored room of kids (he reveals he is a pre-school teacher who’s just put in his two weeks notice).
Sure, the fact that this guy who works with kids moonlights as a stand-up comic (or, more accurately, vice versa) initially comes across as a Can You Believe It premise but the truth is I can believe it. I’d trust this guy with my kids* and would feel safe knowing that they’ll be in good hands. Sure, they may come back with a brand new mash-up of children’s songs in their heads or learn the ins and outs of the legality of gay marriage but I can rest assured knowing they won’t be taught the lyrics to any Def Leppard songs (that’s the other guy at the pre-school).
The youthful energy of Gondelman carries over nicely to his comedy. His ruminations about child detectives (Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys) and why we don’t hear from them as adults are paired together with his theory of why Han Solo isn’t nearly as cool as everyone seems to think he is.
The vast majority of his material is either culled from his own childhood experiences (opting to play the trombone in band class, how reading “The Catcher in the Rye” landed him in the principal’s office, why comic book readers are considered the jocks of the nerd community) or lifted straight from his encounters with the pre-schoolers (the recreation of a magic trick he learned from a student, the little Mexican boy who wants to be Batman, and how he was outsmarted by Jake, the little guy who has never seen a purple cow).
That being said, Gondelman is just as funny when he steps up his material to topics people face in their adult life. He is just as consistently funny whether he’s unveiling Boston’s racist tendencies (“”I’m not racist, but…” is actually secret code for “I am racist, and…””), explaining why he hopes his future daughter is a lesbian, or bringing to light the reason minor league baseball is the way to go.
The project draws to a close with the tale of how a one night stand blossomed into a full-fledged adventure in the pharmacy in search of a Plan B pill. Although the subject matter may not strike someone as the easiest, most-obvious, least-controversial choice for a series of light-hearted anecdotes, Gondelman navigates it with ease, never once crossing the line into Too Much or Too Dark. He manages to keep the tone light and humorous. Because of that, the laughs erupt just as easily and frequently as they did on the previous 19 tracks.
Another thing I really admire about Gondelman’s craft is his ability to seamlessly transition from one topic to the next without coming across as stilted or jumpy. There’s no whiplash here. His material flows really nicely and only when you look back at the track listing do you realize exactly how much territory was covered.
The title of this project really reflects not only Gondelman’s approach to comedy, but also his outlook on life. He never gets over-the-top angry and he doesn’t wallow in self-pity when he finds himself in a situation that may not be ideal. Instead, he looks at life through the eyes of an eternal comedic optimist. Instead of seeing the glass as half-empty or half-full, he opts to go for the laugh and pours the glass’s contents over his head. Then he’ll stand up, back away from the table with his arms stretched out to either side and declare, “Nothing in my hands!”
He’s right. Everything really is the best. And when you get to the point where you can look at life and believe that it’s true, well….if that’s not a great magic trick, I don’t know what is.
*For the sake of this review, let’s pretend I have kids.