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Talking With Comedian and Iconic Sweetie Josh Gondelman

We discuss 'Desus & Mero,' Twitter, and the future of hugs in our 'What Now' newsletter.

josh gondelman

Hi, friends. I hope this Monday is treating you well. I’m the captain of the What Now ship this week (toot toot), and I’m delighted to say that this boat is sailing free, not at all stuck in the Suez Canal, and contains a fantastic guest aboard: writer and comedian Josh Gondelman. You might know Josh from his work on Last Week Tonight and Desus & Mero, or his writing in places like The Cut and The Ringer, or from Twitter, where he is known for pep talks, positivity, and being generally very funny and very kind. The cutthroat journalist in me wishes I could use this space to drop a shocking exposé about how Josh’s public-facing niceness is a sham, but alas, the only scoop I have for you is this: he’s as much of a gent IRL as he is online. I talked to Josh last week a few days after news broke that The Kid Mero had contracted COVID (he has since appeared on the show and is tweeting through his recovery) and the day after Desus & Mero won best comedy/variety talk series at the 2021 Writers Guild Awards. We chatted about everything from working on the show to processing the news to preparing for rampant post-COVID horniness.

Here’s a sneak peek of the interview with Josh. Our Steward tier members are the only ones who get the full edition of What Now sent to them.

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What has it been like for you during the last year to do the show from home? Both pandemic-wise, but also news-wise.

News-wise it definitely got easier as we went along. Our first show from home last year was March 30th, but for like a month, all the news was like, “this celebrity has COVID,” or “these are the places where the spikes are the highest,” or “here is the death toll.” And it felt like every other thing was blotted out by how massive and terrifying that story was, and is. But as little cultural things came back and people figured out how to live a little more safely and figure out what was okay and what wasn’t okay, there was at least other stuff to talk about other than just, “Hey, remember to spray your groceries with Lysol, or actually, no, you don’t have to do that! What are we doing? Everything is chaos and terror!”

I wonder if this has been your experience, but I feel like for some reason, during the last couple of months, even as it seems like everyone is feeling a little bit better about the pandemic, Twitter has somehow gotten worse. It doesn’t make sense to me. 

I think people feel extra clawing-at-the-walls lately. We’re so close to the end. And so I think people are just waiting for that release and you can see it. I mean, personally, I think I was in my best groove—what a horrible thing to say—but I was in the most calm and healthful headspace of the whole year when I was like, “This is what it’s going to be like, and I have to adjust to that, and interact with the world as if this is reality until someone tells me it’s not.” And not that I felt it was hopeless, but I was like, it’s not time for hope yet. Now is the time for gritting your teeth and staying inside if possible, and being really careful and advocating for things that are helpful to others. And now the weather’s getting better in New York, and some people are vaccinated, and some people aren’t, and things are opening up a little. Everyone’s just vibrating with this intense sense of like, “We can see the end!” and “When will it be the end?” And personally, every time I see any good news about vaccines, or any good public health outcomes, or any good individual health outcomes, I am so happy and so relieved. And also, again, this is a gross thing to say, but because I don’t have underlying conditions, I’m not an older person, and I don’t work in a field where I definitionally interact with the public, I’m justifiably last in line for the vaccine. And so as big hearted and relieved as I feel for all the little pieces of good news, I do picture myself as like Bart Simpson with a cast on watching a pool party in the neighbor’s yard, which I know is I reference to Rear Window, but I have better access to the specifics of the Simpsons episode.

I’m in the exact same position and you’re right, it’s such a push and pull of being really happy for everyone and happy for the general trajectory we’re on, but also constantly being like, “but when will it be my turn?” 

Yeah. And I think for me, it’s much healthier to exhale that as personal stress and jealousy than it is to see a picture of two people eating at a restaurant without a mask, and then tweeting like, “You know, even if you’re vaccinated, you can still spread this to other people!” Like, what are you doing? That’s not a helpful impulse. But at the same time, I do feel like in addition to journalism and activism, the internet is still for witty complaints. That’s what I go there for a lot of the time. 

Read the full interview with Josh Gondelman in today’s What Now. Subscribe to our Steward tier to get it in your inbox.