cover image Nice Try: Stories of Best Intentions and Mixed Results

Nice Try: Stories of Best Intentions and Mixed Results

Josh Gondelman. Harper Perennial, $16.99 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-285275-5

Gondelman, a comedian and writer for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, debuts with a collection of funny and sweet personal essays. Gondelman self-deprecatingly describes himself as having a “wet paint personality, bright and shiny and vulnerable to the elements.” He used to be a nice kid, and now he’s a nice grown-up: “When you’re outwardly nice, people assume you’re a pushover, which in my case is fair because I am one.” The book moves entertainingly through the stages of his life. In “Screech,” he addresses his uncool high school years and the time he “tried to grow an Afro, which came off kind of like accessorizing an old, beat-up car by gluing a satellite dish to the roof.” He discusses failed relationships (“A Worthy Adversary”); his stint as a preschool teacher (“Weathering the Tantrums”); his struggles to become a stand-up comedian and TV writer (“Gap Years”); and his love for his wife (“Tickle Me Fancy”) and dog (“Bizzy”). Gondelman’s chops as a comedy writer are on full display throughout, and his observations are hilariously spot-on: toddlers are “tiny, inconsolable war widows,” and his pug is “a loaf of white bread with a face.” Gondelman’s fun, witty book is a marvel of emotional depth and cutting one-liners. (Sept.)