I have just connected on the phone with Josh Gondelman, and he immediately wants to know how I’m doing.
It’s a fleeting exchange with the comedian and writer (Desus & Mero), but it’s very much the spirit that suffuses every moment of his new podcast, Make My Day, which launches today. Make My Day, which in its current form (more on that in a moment) features Gondelman in a playful one-on-one conversation with another comedian where the two play a made-up game like “Could Be Better,” is the podcast version of your most thoughtful, funniest friend calling to check in on you, where you two have a delightful 20-minute chat that doesn’t so much completely take your mind off the current world we’re living in but makes it significantly less awful.
“That vibe is something I wanted to pervade the whole [podcast] without being saccharine,” Gondelman says. “It’s valuable to maintain and cultivate optimism under these conditions and find a way to make that sharp and funny rather than glib or out of step with the feeling that people are having.”
Gondelman, who may have been the last comedic performer without a podcast until today, originally conceived of Make My Day as a comedy game show with three panelists answering topical politics and pop culture questions, which he planned to record in a studio each week. Once the shelter-at-home requirements of the coronavirus crisis made that impossible, Gondelman pivoted away from his initial idea, at least for now, not only because of the technical challenges but also the cultural ones. “Having three people compete to put a bright smile on the news itself felt really tone-deaf,” he says. “To dig into the Trump briefings is just such a bleak idea to me for a podcast. I wouldn’t want to listen to it, and didn’t want to make it.” The result is a pared-down project built on that one-on-one conversation that, as Gondelman says, “feels like how people are interacting at this time.”
Although Gondelman has released three comedy albums, written two books, and performed stand-up on both James Corden and Seth Meyers’ late-night shows, to some he’s the guy who pops up on Twitter, often at the end of the night, offering pep talks for a few minutes to anyone who wants one. Because of this not-so-random act of kindness, Gondelman has incorporated the pep-talk idea into Make My Day, as a kind of clever twist on a parting shot for both him and his guest. “We wanted to find a way to fit this into the [show] that feels totally on point and doesn’t break the comedy. Now, a very special message,” Gondelman intones jokingly. “We had a good time tonight, but we need to talk about world hunger.”
We don’t. Sometimes all we need is a quick joke and a kind word.