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Nice Try: Stories of Best Intentions and Mixed Results

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Emmy-Award winning writer and comedian Josh Gondelman’s collection of personal stories of best intentions and mixed results. Josh Gondelman knows a thing or two about trying—and failing. The Emmy Award-winning stand-up comic—dubbed a “pathological sweetheart” by the New York Observer—is known throughout the industry as one of comedy’s true “nice guys.” Not surprisingly, he’ Emmy-Award winning writer and comedian Josh Gondelman’s collection of personal stories of best intentions and mixed results. Josh Gondelman knows a thing or two about trying—and failing. The Emmy Award-winning stand-up comic—dubbed a “pathological sweetheart” by the New York Observer—is known throughout the industry as one of comedy’s true “nice guys.” Not surprisingly, he’s endured his share of last-place finishes. But he keeps on bouncing back. In this collection of hilarious and poignant essays (including his acclaimed New York Times piece “What if I Bombed at My Own Wedding?”), Josh celebrates a life of good intentions—and mixed results. His true tales of romantic calamities, professional misfortunes, and eventual triumphs reinforce the notion: we get out of the world what we put into it. Whether he’s adopting a dog from a suspicious stranger, mitigating a disastrous road trip, or trying MDMA for the first (and only) time, Josh only wants the best for everyone—even as his attempts to do the right thing occasionally implode. Full of the warm and relatable humor that’s made him a favorite on the comedy club circuit, Nice Try solidifies Josh Gondelman’s reputation as not just a good guy, but a skilled observer of the human condition.


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Emmy-Award winning writer and comedian Josh Gondelman’s collection of personal stories of best intentions and mixed results. Josh Gondelman knows a thing or two about trying—and failing. The Emmy Award-winning stand-up comic—dubbed a “pathological sweetheart” by the New York Observer—is known throughout the industry as one of comedy’s true “nice guys.” Not surprisingly, he’ Emmy-Award winning writer and comedian Josh Gondelman’s collection of personal stories of best intentions and mixed results. Josh Gondelman knows a thing or two about trying—and failing. The Emmy Award-winning stand-up comic—dubbed a “pathological sweetheart” by the New York Observer—is known throughout the industry as one of comedy’s true “nice guys.” Not surprisingly, he’s endured his share of last-place finishes. But he keeps on bouncing back. In this collection of hilarious and poignant essays (including his acclaimed New York Times piece “What if I Bombed at My Own Wedding?”), Josh celebrates a life of good intentions—and mixed results. His true tales of romantic calamities, professional misfortunes, and eventual triumphs reinforce the notion: we get out of the world what we put into it. Whether he’s adopting a dog from a suspicious stranger, mitigating a disastrous road trip, or trying MDMA for the first (and only) time, Josh only wants the best for everyone—even as his attempts to do the right thing occasionally implode. Full of the warm and relatable humor that’s made him a favorite on the comedy club circuit, Nice Try solidifies Josh Gondelman’s reputation as not just a good guy, but a skilled observer of the human condition.

30 review for Nice Try: Stories of Best Intentions and Mixed Results

  1. 4 out of 5

    Maris

    I'm biased. But I think it is perfect.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kevidently

    Okay so, full disclosure: I know Josh Gondelman. This isn’t a humblebrag or starfuckery or a way to inflate my own stature in the world because I happen to know an Emmy-winning comedian/writer. I say it because most of this book exudes niceness, a quality too many of us conflate with being wishy-washy or bland. I told a friend of mine he was nice once and he took it as an insult. I don’t think Josh would take it as an insult. He actually addresses his niceness right up front, setting the stage Okay so, full disclosure: I know Josh Gondelman. This isn’t a humblebrag or starfuckery or a way to inflate my own stature in the world because I happen to know an Emmy-winning comedian/writer. I say it because most of this book exudes niceness, a quality too many of us conflate with being wishy-washy or bland. I told a friend of mine he was nice once and he took it as an insult. I don’t think Josh would take it as an insult. He actually addresses his niceness right up front, setting the stage for a whirlwind collection of personal essays that are at once exciting, fun, touching, and kind. He talks about why being nice is both important and sometimes a liability. Why “Nice Guy” can actually be code for a bro dude doing the bare minimum of performative good. And how balancing nice without losing yourself is difficult and worthwhile. I read a lot of books of essays by funny people, and some of them are acerbic and some are cutting, and there’s definitely a place for those. I like those qualities in other books. I’m just glad they aren’t part of this book. The essays are all compelling: he talks about the three origin stories of his relationship with his wife, and who gets to know which version. There’s one on the mysterious past of their adopted dog, Bizzy. Or the time he may or may not have tried MDMA. Gondelman, unlike one of my favorite essayists, Chuck Klosterman, made me care about sports in a moving, elegiacal tribute to his grandmother. And, unlike most every other book of essays by New Yorkers I’ve read in the past few years, there isn’t one on 9/11, which might be a bit of a relief. I listened to the audiobook version of this collection; Josh himself reads it, and it’s comforting to hear it all in his voice and inflection. It reminds me of his standup and storytelling from when he was laying his comedic foundations in the Boston comedy scene. One of the best things about the book is that you come away happy, because whether Josh is making you think or cry or laugh, it’s a joy to get insight into his life and his way of thinking. The only thing more satisfying than knowing Josh Gondelman, it turns out, is knowing him better.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Josh Gondelman's book was a very pleasant read. I stress-bought it after getting lost on the way to a new gynecologist's office, and because I was bored while reading White Fragility. I'm not sure what that says about me. I'm often perplexed when someone talks about a humor book making them laugh out loud. Because...are they lying? I find it extremely rare that any funny book can make me literally LOL. Josh's book was funny and nice, and he seems like a good person, and he and Maris are the Josh Gondelman's book was a very pleasant read. I stress-bought it after getting lost on the way to a new gynecologist's office, and because I was bored while reading White Fragility. I'm not sure what that says about me. I'm often perplexed when someone talks about a humor book making them laugh out loud. Because...are they lying? I find it extremely rare that any funny book can make me literally LOL. Josh's book was funny and nice, and he seems like a good person, and he and Maris are the cutest. There was one part where I was actually smiling and chuckling, and that was when he described his wedding DJ impersonating Michael Jackson at the reception. It was ridiculous. I did appreciate that Josh was reflective as well as funny in this book. He's not trying too hard to be a woke white guy, but he is trying to move consciously from being passively nice to actively good and kind, a force for the positive. All in all, a fun and light read that I'd recommend picking up in between heavier books.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Shelley Gibbs

    Thoughtful, charming, wise, observant, full of heart & laugh out loud hilarious.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kaloyana

    Nice try, yeah, but the results are not mixed, they are mediocre and also dull. No, seriously tell me who needs one more personal story of a guy, some comedian this time, telling you about his boring school life, his moving to New York, his bachelors apartment, and then - how he fell in love with his wife, how much he loves her still, how cool was is grandmother, because they shared love for sports, how he adopted an old dog - very Nobel gesture and surprise, surprise - he hates Trump, thinks he Nice try, yeah, but the results are not mixed, they are mediocre and also dull. No, seriously tell me who needs one more personal story of a guy, some comedian this time, telling you about his boring school life, his moving to New York, his bachelors apartment, and then - how he fell in love with his wife, how much he loves her still, how cool was is grandmother, because they shared love for sports, how he adopted an old dog - very Nobel gesture and surprise, surprise - he hates Trump, thinks he is stupid and also he was engaged and made himself useful (bringing coffee and all that little kind gestures, blah) in the campaign to support democrats. And to e bigger surprise he is against racism and supports human rights. Are you shocked and/or stunned? I am too. Why on Earth do we need another American book like that? There are plenty. Personal story, OK, who cares about your not so interesting personal story, to put it mildly? Tell me something I don't know or tat I haven't read many times since Trump is your piece of sh7t president, or tell my something smart. And also the mixed results are about his attempts to be funny and original, which he is not unless you are a middle aged person, or better - long time housewife, and your sense of humor is simple and easy like Sunday morning. The book is not bad, it is completely unnecessary. Blah.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    A sweet and funny book of personal essays (and lists) about being the type of person who worries a lot and tends to give everyone the benefit of the doubt (even sketchy dudes giving you a dog and the Patriots bc your grandma was a fan). Standout pieces include “You Don’t Know, Now You Know” (becoming a rap fan), “The Thanksgiving Dragon”, “The Three True Stories of How We Met” (awwww ), and “Bizzy” (y’all, if you don’t follow @bizzythepug on IG well, your life has less snorty, pizza-begging pugs A sweet and funny book of personal essays (and lists) about being the type of person who worries a lot and tends to give everyone the benefit of the doubt (even sketchy dudes giving you a dog and the Patriots bc your grandma was a fan). Standout pieces include “You Don’t Know, Now You Know” (becoming a rap fan), “The Thanksgiving Dragon”, “The Three True Stories of How We Met” (awwww 💖), and “Bizzy” (y’all, if you don’t follow @bizzythepug on IG well, your life has less snorty, pizza-begging pugs in it). The book ends with “Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down” which is a call to just try and do your best and put a little back into the world when it feels like everything is going to burn down around you. Out in September.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Atiya

    I really enjoyed this book despite my (self-destructive?) kink being reading self absorbed memoirs by white people. Josh is well aware of his privilege as a straight white male and he wants to make the world a better place though even I draw the line at essays on football and sneakers, I am more of a flip-flop kinda gal. With metaphors that are David Sedaris perfect and some stories that didnt turn out to be the way I expected, this was a good book from Mr Maris Karizman (author of my favorite I really enjoyed this book despite my (self-destructive?) kink being reading self absorbed memoirs by white people. Josh is well aware of his privilege as a straight white male and he wants to make the world a better place though even I draw the line at essays on football and sneakers, I am more of a flip-flop kinda gal. With metaphors that are David Sedaris perfect and some stories that didnt turn out to be the way I expected, this was a good book from Mr Maris Karizman (author of my favorite Slaughterhouse 901210 and to whom he dedicates a significant portion of the book).

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl Klein

    Gondelman is more of a hip-hop guy, but he would probably agree with the witch in Into the Woods when she says "Nice is different than good." He dissects the difference in his quest to become the latter, noting "Niceness is only enough under the best possible conditions. It relies on having adults in your life looking out for you, and on not facing prejudice." His humorous essays are smart and funny, the kind of light read that nevertheless makes you think.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Megan Sanks

    This was honestly probably the funniest book I read all year. Each essay had at least one line I immediately wanted to tell Miranda, but mostly I just want everyone to read this so we can laugh about it all together. I related to a lot of what Josh talked about! Samantha Irby was spot on when she said, "Josh Gondelman is a human cardigan and this book is like a warm, consensual hug."

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Daniels

    I love Josh! I am a frequent requester of his Twitter pep talks and I loved reading about how he came up with the idea. He is funny and self-deprecating and also really really awesome. I grew up so cynical and for a long time snarky bad attitudes seemed to be the "it" thing, but it's actually really nice to be nice. It feels good to give and to receive niceties. Snarky sarcasm is exhausting, but sincere kindness gives me life. I so appreciate reading about Josh's kindness, the part he comes by I love Josh! I am a frequent requester of his Twitter pep talks and I loved reading about how he came up with the idea. He is funny and self-deprecating and also really really awesome. I grew up so cynical and for a long time snarky bad attitudes seemed to be the "it" thing, but it's actually really nice to be nice. It feels good to give and to receive niceties. Snarky sarcasm is exhausting, but sincere kindness gives me life. I so appreciate reading about Josh's kindness, the part he comes by organically and the habits he cultivates. This book is hilarious AND inspirational!

  11. 4 out of 5

    ak

    I found this to be relatable and funny. I laughed and cried and actually finished a book for the first time in what feels like months (maybe only three weeks but that’s a long time for me)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Lagdameo

    I love this book and I now to be a better person This was such a nice read. I literally laughed out loud so many times and also felt warmth and sincere happiness in most parts. This book has inspired me to be a better person and to believe that things will always get better.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ken Heard

    I am culturally deprived, so I didn't know who Josh Gondelman was. But after reading Nice Try, I have become a fan. The essays in his book center around being the Nice Guy and the troubles that ensue with it. Women, other people, success, job, strangers on the street, parents, etc., are all part of Josh's world and his way of being nice and respectful. A lot of times, comedians' books are just written to set up jokes. However, Gondleman is an excellent writer and the prose is as enjoyable as the I am culturally deprived, so I didn't know who Josh Gondelman was. But after reading Nice Try, I have become a fan. The essays in his book center around being the Nice Guy and the troubles that ensue with it. Women, other people, success, job, strangers on the street, parents, etc., are all part of Josh's world and his way of being nice and respectful. A lot of times, comedians' books are just written to set up jokes. However, Gondleman is an excellent writer and the prose is as enjoyable as the set up to the jokes. There are also very thoughtful, serious, moving pieces in Nice Try. The essay on his grandmother's funeral and her love for the New England Patriots is a fantastic piece. And, to be Nice, he adds a few jokes in the essay that, had they not been there, the essay would still be fantastic. I think this book will resonate with any reader. We readers tend to be more intelligent, more analytical, more thoughtful, more (dare I say it) nerdy. These are all the characteristics Gondleman has and displays in his work. This is definitely a must read for anyone. It should also be on Goodreads Best Of Books list.

  14. 4 out of 5

    David

    never heard of him before, but now I'll keep an eye out for his stand-up or other writings. Extremely funny set of essays/stories about his growing up, his life after moving from outside Boston to New York, his times on the road as a comic, how he met his wife, etc. On the face of it, nothing really amazing or even sounding terribly promising [e.g., i'm not a dog person and would not have anticipated that the tale of how he and his wife got their dog would be a page turner for me]. Don't feel never heard of him before, but now I'll keep an eye out for his stand-up or other writings. Extremely funny set of essays/stories about his growing up, his life after moving from outside Boston to New York, his times on the road as a comic, how he met his wife, etc. On the face of it, nothing really amazing or even sounding terribly promising [e.g., i'm not a dog person and would not have anticipated that the tale of how he and his wife got their dog would be a page turner for me]. Don't feel today like trying to get all analytic about why it's funny to me, so maybe just one example of his writing -- describing the sense of feeling put out or annoyed by various travel hassles and how he's learned that it makes him feel better to try to do something nice for others [he gives "Twitter pep talks" on request from fans/readers]: (p. 206) ...."Maybe I'm in a hotel room with sheets that feel like butcher paper and an air conditioner that fires up with a sound like a Transformer turning from bus to fightin' robot every 45 minutes........At times like those it is nice to be able to offer something to other people, no matter how paltry it seems."

  15. 4 out of 5

    Malia

    Josh Gondelman has the distinction of being the sole exception to my moratorium on going to straight white guys' shows at my local comedy club (a decision that looks better and better by the day). I've seen his standup twice and I love it. This book pulls a lot from his comedy, which is great, though of course it's not as dense with jokes. He's earnest and sweet but not saccharine or boring, and his book comes across as a very honest expression of his personality, which seems like a lot of fun to Josh Gondelman has the distinction of being the sole exception to my moratorium on going to straight white guys' shows at my local comedy club (a decision that looks better and better by the day). I've seen his standup twice and I love it. This book pulls a lot from his comedy, which is great, though of course it's not as dense with jokes. He's earnest and sweet but not saccharine or boring, and his book comes across as a very honest expression of his personality, which seems like a lot of fun to be around. I don't think you'll read this book and expect to come away with, like, a fresh outlook on life, or mind-blowing ideas, but I think it does what it does really well. I appreciate that for an emmy-winning comedy writer who has no doubt rubbed elbows with a lot of famous and powerful people, that he spares us from name dropping or self-aggrandizing, and it makes me even happier that he has all the success he does.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Erik

    I knew nothing about the author going into this, but his audiobook was very entertaining. He didn't talk as much about comedy as much as he did everything else in his life that wasn't comedy, and I found his stories interesting and insightful. His tales about being a pre-school teacher were actually helpful in understanding a friend's job a little better (I think Josh is a bit better in his descriptions). He also had some advice re: sex and drugs and alcohol that I'd like my kids to have had but I knew nothing about the author going into this, but his audiobook was very entertaining. He didn't talk as much about comedy as much as he did everything else in his life that wasn't comedy, and I found his stories interesting and insightful. His tales about being a pre-school teacher were actually helpful in understanding a friend's job a little better (I think Josh is a bit better in his descriptions). He also had some advice re: sex and drugs and alcohol that I'd like my kids to have had but not to have. That is, I still want them to live an Amish existence as possible, and then all of a sudden to have had wild, life-affirming experiences that I know nothing about and that they make it through safely. Anyways, this was much better than I thought it would be when I pressed play!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    It seems like everyone who's ever met Josh Gondelman thinks he's the sweetest guy on the face of the earth. This book will do nothing to change their opinions. He's hilarious as well as cheerful and optimistic and seems to genuinely enjoy making people happy. (He literally used to be a preschool teacher!) So I really enjoyed this collection of autobiographical essays. Like me, he had a fairly mundane childhood in the Boston suburbs, so a lot of what he wrote about growing up was familiar to me. It seems like everyone who's ever met Josh Gondelman thinks he's the sweetest guy on the face of the earth. This book will do nothing to change their opinions. He's hilarious as well as cheerful and optimistic and seems to genuinely enjoy making people happy. (He literally used to be a preschool teacher!) So I really enjoyed this collection of autobiographical essays. Like me, he had a fairly mundane childhood in the Boston suburbs, so a lot of what he wrote about growing up was familiar to me. There are a handful of essays that don't add much to the book, but for the most part this was great.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    I want familiar with the authors work until I read this book and now I want to. I saw him at a signing at a library conference and they were serving red wine in line. I’m in! Josh was nice and I saw him kindly talking to fans before it even got started (when I was walking by, not committing to getting this book). The book is really fun to read! The first chapters are about Josh’ nice guy reputation. It made sense! He gives you his opinions in stories but not in a way trying to convince you to I want familiar with the authors work until I read this book and now I want to. I saw him at a signing at a library conference and they were serving red wine in line. I’m in! Josh was nice and I saw him kindly talking to fans before it even got started (when I was walking by, not committing to getting this book). The book is really fun to read! The first chapters are about Josh’ nice guy reputation. It made sense! He gives you his opinions in stories but not in a way trying to convince you to believe or do the same. It was a quick read and it still left me hopeful about our current world.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Evan Barden

    I loved this book so much. Josh's essays all have heart, humility, and of course, the third and most important H: humor. As a fellow Boston-area suburban it born in the 80's, I found all of his stories to be wonderfully relatable and familiar. But Josh also does a great (and funny) job of giving everyone the context they need for each of these tales, even if they didn't grow up with a Dunks at every major intersection.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Craig Dickson

    This was good, a collection of funny and kind essays by the comedian Josh Gondelman. I like him and think he's funny, so I was happy to find that I liked his book and found it funny too. A pretty light read in general, although not without depth, it's ultimately a humour book. I enjoyed it a lot though, and did at a couple of points get some looks on the S Bahn for unsuccessfully stifling my real-life LOLZ. So it was good!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Young

    Mixed his life story with current politics. I am ashamed at your claim to be better than most people yet wish to punch people in the face and protest by flipping off those in Authority. That is not how Dr. king, Harriet Tubbman nor Rosa Parks handled things. Perhaps a page out of their lives stories would do you some good.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Josh and I have a striking number of similarities including, but not limited to: being the exact same age, growing up in small town Massachusetts, being anxious, wearing JNCOs in high school because they were cool, and, hopefully, being generally nice people. I loved this book mostly because I felt like Josh and I would probably have been friends growing up, and I like that.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jaime F.

    Ugh, what a waist of my time this book was. Was it a memoir intended to be funny? Because it wasn't. While I was reading this book I even had to look on YouTube about Josh Gondelman's stand up, and even that was very mild for my taste. Sorry, I just couldn't get into his ramblings and anecdotes. It might work for YOU!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Delia Turner

    A book by a comedian who, unlike so many others of his profession, does not seem bitter, depressed, or mean. In fact, he does seem genuinely nice. And that (and his gentle funny stories) makes this book thoroughly original. I read it in one sitting and recommend it to anyone who wants to be reminded that sometimes people find success without being utter jerks.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marc Kaplanes

    Mildly entertaining I don’t know who the author is outside of his credits but thought it was worth a read. It’s moderately entertaining. Funny, but not side splitting. I realize I prefer the books where I know the person from tv and movies (eg tina fey, Steve Martin)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    I picked this up because it had the best book dedication ever composed, and it didn't disappoint. I laughed my tuchus off and also found new sources of inspiration for my own writing. I checked this out of the library, but plan to buy a copy of my own, it was THAT good.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Darcy armstrong

    Easy to read collection of essays about writing, sneakers, being a human and more. Charming. One whole essay is about a dog named Bizzy, whom I one time ran into at a bookstore, which means I cannot possibly rate lower than five stars.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Gina Boyd

    Dear Josh Gondelman, You are, indeed, a nice man (and dude, and guy). I’m glad you wrote these essays, and I’m glad to know you a little bit. I’m even glad that you managed to make this Pittsburgher shed tears over a Patriots jersey. Please write more. Thanks, Gina

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Sharply funny, yet also vulnerable and lovely as it makes an argument for gentleness and active goodness. In full disclosure, Josh is a friend, but I stand by my review and highly recommend this excellent book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Georgette

    Quick and fun read. By the way, Gondelman is a nice guy.

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