I’m endlessly fascinated by people who communicate in new or different ways. Josh Gondelman, a writer and comedian based in NYC, decided earlier this year to send a postcard to anyone who wanted one because he loves letter-writing. My friend Barry told me about it, and of course I eat these things up. I signed up and promptly forgot about it, and then got a wonderfully hilarious mystery postcard in the mail a few months later. It took me a whole night to figure out who Josh was, and that in and of itself was lots of fun. Then, I interviewed him.
Jen Bokoff: From whom and where was the first postcard you ever received?
Josh Gondelman: I don’t remember exactly the first postcard I ever got, but my grandmother, my dad’s mother, used to travel all around the world when I was younger, and so we’d get postcards from Russia and Greece and China. I don’t remember whether Antarctica has a post office for commercial use. Sometimes the mail took longer than my grandmother to get back to America, which was confusing to little me. I thought she was faking the cards and just sending them from her house, because I’d already seen her.
JB: Have you ever developed relationships beyond just a few interactions by sending random people postcards?
JG: I have! There are people I correspond with pretty regularly now that I’d first “met” through the project. Plus there are acquaintances that I’ve gotten to know a lot better because of their involvement. There’s one person who I see out a lot at standup shows (I am a standup comedian), and we’ve exchanged letters and met in person, but it’s a little awkward bridging the gap to casual, running-into-you friend. I’m trying to be more relaxed and natural about it. I always come off as, “Oh. It is so pleasant to see you in the world of buildings and bodies. What? Why did I say that?”
JB: You have nice handwriting. Do you think that’s becoming rarer as typing becomes more common?
JG: Oh gosh! Thanks! I do imagine probably people are less proficient at writing by hand now than they used to be. You must have received one of my early in the morning postcards. If I write a whole bunch in a day, by the end it’s just a lunatic scrawl. I try not to be a dinosaur and sob about how the decline of handwriting indicates a larger societal problem. On the other hand, it’s off-putting when someone writes down a takeout order, and it looks like something out of a serial killer’s diary.
JB: What’s the most memorable postcard you’ve ever sent?
JG: One guy requested that I write to him with my thoughts on medical marijuana, and I wrote back: “I think they should legalize pot but outlaw white guys with dreadlocks.” That was pretty succinct. I felt like I got it just right.
JB: Do you write other things besides letters and your tumblr?
JG: I do! I’m always writing for my standup act, and I write a lot of humor type pieces for Thought Catalog. Right now I’m actually working on a proposal for a memoirish book about this postcard project. So we’ll see if that becomes anything. It’s very exciting to think that anyone might want to read that! Ideally I’d love to get it so my job is some triangulation of standup, prose writing, and tv writing. We’ll see if I make it there!