Some comedy writers prefer the shadows, keeping well backstage to write jokes delivered by famous faces. But not Josh Gondelman. The former writer for “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” and now supervising producer and writer on the Showtime series “Desus & Mero” likes to tell his own jokes to a live audience — and revel in their laughter.
“As a comic, I love the idea of writing things that other people say, but I also enjoy attention,” Gondelman said matter-of-factly. “It’s nice to stomp around on stage and have people hear [jokes] straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were.”
Gondelman, a native of Boston, has lived in New York for the better part of a decade, where he has honed his comedic voice both as a standup and in television writers rooms. He has performed comedy sets on “Conan” and “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” and will bring his standup act to AMP by Strathmore in North Bethesda on the evening of Saturday, Aug. 10.
“I have a very friendly affect on stage,” Gondelman said, the smile in his voice somehow visible even through a phone connection. “I don’t do an hour that is four 15-minute stories, nor is it 120 one-liners. But the tone is pretty consistent from beginning to end.”
Gondelman, 34, cites as his comedy heroes Boston legends like Gary Gulman and Mike Birbiglia. He read David Sedaris voraciously and, just like his hero, Gondelman has had several essays of his own published in The New Yorker.” When it came to developing his voice as a joke-writer, he credits “Saturday Night Live” and “The Daily Show” of the turn of the millennium with inspiring his humorous bent.
“There are a lot of styles of comedy that I like, but I do like to vary things up between short jokes and longer stories,” he said of his standup. “It’s not squeaky clean, but I don’t get too filthy. When I was starting out, I would try to test the waters with ooh, how dirty can I be? And I found out not that dirty.”
Gondelman wrote for John Oliver’s Sunday-night HBO news satire for two years. He described crafting the weekly program as necessitating “intricate scripting,” often nearly right up until showtime, with jokes tried, added or dropped as needed.
His new job as supervising producer on “Desus & Mero” allows for a bit more freedom. The talk show is hosted by Desus Nice and The Kid Mero, two comedians known for their improvisational skills. While the show follows the typical format of other late-night programs with jokes, sketches, man-on-the-street pieces and celebrity interviews, rather than being live-to-tape, “Desus & Mero” is edited in post-production down to a half-hour.
“Much of it is clearing room for the improv to come into play, which is really fun,” Gondelman said of the program. “This is a lot more [about] creating situations, figuring out what is going to be a fun way to engage the hosts and then writing sketches.
“As a producer, because the tapings are long and improvised, I [then] sit in on the edit and help cull from however long the taping goes to create a 28-minute TV show.”
When he isn’t brainstorming with the other scribes in the “Desus & Mero” writers room, Gondelman keeps his standup skills sharp on New York City’s comedy club circuit. He constantly revises his set, both with an eye on the news as well as trimming the material that maybe isn’t quite working out.
“I feel like I would get sick of myself if I weren’t writing new jokes all the time, so I’m always writing,” he said, adding that staying fresh motivates him to keep himself from getting too comfortable. “The thing I like best is solving these little puzzles of [having] an idea and these opinions, [so] how can I share that in a way that makes people laugh.
“It’s not that my act is super topical, it [just] keeps me interested in myself to always be revising.”
Whereas the options for comedians to get their work seen used to be extremely limited, content-sharing sites like YouTube allow young creatives to get their work before a large audience, enabling them to build up a brand and a following. Gondelman said that even though this allows for ease of access, it puts the onus on content creators to put their best foot forward.
“If you don’t make stuff you like, then what are you doing?” he said. “Nobody needs you to be making extra comedy. And then, if you’re not sharing it with people, there’s no way to build. That means putting on live shows, doing standup, writing humor pieces and submitting them to publications.”
In addition to his TV work and writing essays for the New Yorker, Gondelman co-wrote the book “You Blew It!: An Awkward Look at the Many Ways in Which You’ve Already Ruined Your Life” with Joe Berkowitz in 2015. His next book, “Nice Try: Stories of Best Intentions & Mixed Results,” comes out in September.
With the rest of the “Last Week Tonight” writing staff, Gondelman took home a 2016 Emmy in the category “Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series.” He also won Atlanta’s inaugural Laughing Skull Comedy Festival in 2010.
He likely won’t have time to do much exploring in Montgomery County surrounding his tour date at AMP by Strathmore, but the comedian said he’s fond of seeking out an art museum and a bookstore whenever he plays a new city.
“I’m a real pretentious dweeb,” he said in his good-humored fashion of seeking out road discoveries. “I find those to be familiar and easy to access, but also there’s novelty: ‘Oh, I’ve broadened my horizons.’”
The comedian said he finds capital region audiences to be erudite and have a thicker skin for material that might be considered “a little more cheeky” in other zip codes.
“I’m [at AMP By Strathmore] to do a show that is hopefully generous to an audience [that] is sharp and ready to go,” Gondelman said. “I’m in writers rooms all the time, but I’m always working my standup. [So] they’re not going to see someone who is doing his first standup set in three months because he’s been cooped up in a room.”
AMP and Comedy Zone present “AMP Comedy: Josh Gondelman” at 8 p.m. Saturday Aug. 10 at AMP by Strathmore, 11810 Grand Park Ave., North Bethesda. Comedian Jared Stern will open. For tickets — $14 to $24 — visit www.ampbystrathmore.com or call 301-581-5100.