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Josh Gondelman ’07 encourages students to follow their dreams through their work

By Aaron Hersh

Section: News

October 23, 2015

Your career should be something you love, said Josh Gondelman ’07 when he spoke at the Meet the Majors event for Film, Television and Interactive Media on Monday.

The Emmy-nominated writer for his work on John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” on HBO spoke to students about his job and the process he went through to get to where he is now.

Throughout his informal presentation at the event, where participants sat in a circle in Mandel Atrium, Gondelman expressed that students should make their interests part of what they do.

“You do what feels good to do, and you do what gives you the best feedback,” Gondelman said. No matter what students do for a living after college, they should feel that what they are doing is satisfying their dreams, he said

Gondelman developed his ideas about working toward your dreams through his own post-college experience. At Brandeis, he was passionate about comedy and writing. Beginning his sophomore year, he performed stand-up comedy off campus.

After graduating, Gondelman taught preschool full time but continued to perform stand-up in the Boston area. A couple years later, when he moved to New York and worked as a freelance writer, he still performed stand-up on the side.

Gondelman always tried to make his passion for comedy a part of his life, whether it was outside of his work or in his writing. In New York, Gondelman began to combine his interests in writing and comedy into a career in comedy writing.

“Whatever you do that’s fun, it will probably be closest to what you do as a creative job because it feels the least like toil,” Gondelman said of making career choices.

He soon started to submit writing to television shows. In addition, he operated a “Modern Seinfeld” parody Twitter page and co-wrote the book “You Blew It!” with his friend Joe Berkowitz.

He advised that finding the right career is all about “working on what interests you and learning to say no to the things that you don’t want to do.”

At the time Gondelman was submitting writing pieces to television shows, many of his friends were auditioning for acting roles in commercials. Gondelman was even invited to audition for some ads. However, he said no because it was not his forte. Instead, he kept writing and submitting.

He was hired to write episodes for TruTV’s “Billy On The Street” and eventually, in 2013, “Last Week Tonight.”

Despite keeping his stand-up comedy going after college, Gondelman stressed that having a full-time job is also important. He explained that while smaller jobs such as performing stand-up can be fun, you need a full-time job so that you can keep your life together.

“Keep your day job until you can’t afford to keep it,” he advised. He further suggested that a side job is sustainable as long as it fits your work schedule.

He also advised that the full-time work be something creative, based on one’s interests. Therefore, the work can be enjoyable and make you feel proud of yourself.

On the other hand, he said that “If you’re going to use your time and effort to go into something you don’t like, go into finance; write poems when you’re not at work, and you’ll feel great.” This was not the case for Gondelman, as he molded his passions and interests into his primary work.

At Brandeis, Gondelman was an English and creative writing major, with a minor in Spanish. During his time as a student, there was no film program at Brandeis. However, he serves as a good example of a Brandeis graduate who was successful in the television industry. According to film professor Alice Kelikian, Gondelman was invited to demonstrate this success for those who are interested in majoring in film and going into the industry.

When asked how important the English major was toward his career path, Gondelman replied, “The degree isn’t necessarily important, but the classes are important.” He explained how specifically the classes he took at Brandeis, in the English and Creative Writing programs helped him to succeed as a writer. Specifically, these classes taught him to develop useful literary skills, such as thinking critically, writing with arguments and writing with appropriate style.

When he took questions from students, Gondelman asked, “Before you ask [your question], what is your first name, what are you studying, and what is your dream job?”

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