#6. Hanukkah, Eggnog, and You
Do you feel latke? Well do ya?
Happy Hanukkah (more on that later)! It’s that weird time of year (late December, not Hanukkah specifically) when some people are burnt out but barreling frantically towards the end of December while others are completely inert. I’m trying to enjoy a mix of both by watching a lot of tv and movies at home (finally checking out Bored To Death and plowing through it, and I also found Atsuko Okatsuka’s new standup special to be really delightful) when I’m not on the road for shows. I also saw the play Ain’t No Mo’ yesterday, and the ensemble cast was truly spectacular!
Relevant to the themes of this newsletter, I got to write a little fan letter about what makes Boston Celtics point guard Marcus Smart so great for The Ringer’s The NBA, Ranked feature. Thanks to Seerat Sohi for bringing me on board for that!
Also, my standup special made a bunch of best-of-the-year lists which was really exciting! If you haven’t watched it, maybe give it a shot if you’ve got some down time coming up. It’s free for Prime members and for rent everywhere else. Vimeo is probably the best place to watch it internationally!
Now it’s peppin’ time!
PEP TALK FOR HANUKKAH
Recently, a stranger remarked to me that he had nothing against the Jewish people (which I believe, because when you have something against them/us, you don’t usually say “the Jewish people” in full like that), but he thinks there didn’t used to be so many Jewish holidays. Frankly, it was refreshing to hear an antisemitic conspiracy theory with such low stakes. Some people think the Jews control the media; this guy just thinks we want Hanukkah to be as long as Christmas.
But as far as I’m concerned, eight crazy nights don’t need to keep pace with twelve days! Hanukkah, now is your literal time to shine! Christmas may grab the headlines, but you’ve got a lot going for you: Open flames, signature potatoes, a reason to look forward to the sun setting at 4:45pm, just to name a few!
The Hanukkah x Christmas intersection this year doesn’t diminish your excellence. It highlights it. No one ever tries to give you a double-digit number of birds as a Hanukkah present, for one thing. And Hanukkah celebrators spend a few minutes each night observing the holiday, and everything else is optional. What’s better than that? You’re a durable, delicious, customizable celebration! It’s been a weird year for us Jews (virtually evergreen statement) and now is an occasion to go whatever the Jewish equivalent of HAM is.
Also, a tip for Jews: When someone wishes you a Merry Christmas, there is no rule against wishing them a Happy Hanukkah in return if you want!
PEP TALK FOR EGGNOG
Unlike peppermint stick ice cream, which should be available all year long (Wait! Stop carrying me out of here on your shoulders for my bravery! I have to finish my newsletter!), you, eggnog, are a perfect winter-only confection. Your heaviness is scientifically calibrated to trigger hibernation. Combining eggnog with bourbon or rum, as many people do, sounds like what a Civil War doctor might have used to medically induce a coma before performing surgery with an unsterilized bayonet. In fact, because neither of my parents drinks booze, but my dad still loves eggnog season, the concept of adding alcohol felt unimaginably decadent to me as a child. The idea that this ice cream water could also be an intoxicant felt like finding out the filling in stuffed-crust pizza was made from heroin.’
Thanks to globalization, we can purchase all kinds of produce outside of its natural local life cycle. The quality may suffer, but we can have as much as we want of whatever we desire. But not eggnog. Despite the relative ease of whipping up a batch (okay, I’ve never tried, but unless “nog” is some kind of herb that only sprouts during the late autumn weeks, it can’t be that hard to source the ingredients), we spend all year waiting for the brief flicker of eggnog in our lives. You are like a creamy McRib (ewww, but also, hmmm)! And if we don’t seize the opportunity to taste your thick sticky nectar before it’s too late, the time will pass, and we’ll be forced to wait another year.
Eggnog is not a perfect drink, but it is a perfect experience. You remind us what is is to yearn, to anticipate, to submit to an intense yet fleeting passion. Eggnog is an object lesson in the euphoria of temporary, dizzying indulgence, nestled safely within unbreachable boundaries. To love eggnog is to love that which cannot last. To hate eggnog is to deny yourself the powerful and unsustainable rush of Dionysian self-destruction.
When Robert Frost wrote that nothing gold can stay, he wasn’t talking about eggnog, but he also wasn’t not talking about it either.
PEP TALKS FOR READERS
(As usual, I may condense the messages I receive for clarity and brevity, which is pretty hypocritical because I personally tend to just ramble on and on.)
My daughter is moving to LA in two weeks. I am really upset about it but haven't shown that because I don't want to take away from her excitement. She's 33 years old and she can live her own life but why does she have to go so far away to do it? I'm torn between missing her - she's been my rock through a painful divorce - and worrying about and being happy for her. I guess I need a pep talk about not having an emotional breakdown about this!
- Michelle from Long Island
Michelle! Big changes like this are so stressful, and your nerves make a lot of sense! Here is the good news: Your daughter is still your daughter at any distance! She is almost definitely not going to cut ties with you, change her name to Darla Kapow and try to make it as a chorus girl. Even if she did change her name professionally, she would probably still keep her old email address and phone number so that people back home can stay in touch. (And I imagine there’s no reason she’d need to hide her career as a dancer from you! You’d be proud of her, it sounds like!)
This is the best time in history to have loved ones who live far away from us. You don’t have to trust a pigeon (no offense to pigeons, but their package tracking is spotty at best) if you want to send them a message. You don’t need to pack a trunk full of belongings, put on a big-ass hat, and get on a ship to see them. This situation will be new and different, and probably hard in many ways! But it will also be exciting to establish new routines and ways to stay connected. (A classic parent/adult child conduit is a FaceTime call where your camera is placed at a weird, low angle for some reason. Just something to think about.) Not to mention, Los Angeles is a great place to visit when the weather in the northeast gets unbearable. And having a daughter there makes it a Responsible Family Visit not a Frivolous Vacation. Yes, that sentence reveals a lot about my personal psychology, but THIS ISN’T ABOUT ME, MICHELLE!
I will say, additionally, that my relationship with my parents is a lot better now that I live 200 miles away from them than it was when I lived in their house for nine months when I was 24! Also, if you need to indulge in a teensy tiny emotional breakdown, treat yourself! It’s the holidays! You’ve earned it!
I’m really struggling right now. I want to do creative work, I want to take that step and not be embarrassed and let my voice be heard, but the fear feels kinda crippling and I just feel stuck!
K! I get SO MANY messages like yours! It can be so daunting to start doing the creative work you want to do. You might be bad at it for a while! People might be mean! We are already all so busy feeding and clothing ourselves (and sometimes others) and sitting in traffic and rewinding podcasts by fifteen seconds because we spaced out for a little bit.
But, you are so capable of doing creative things. You probably already sing in the shower or make up nicknames for pets or doodle in a notebook while you’re talking on the phone. And that is SO CLOSE to making a bigger, more intentional piece of art (or maybe you’ve done that already). And then that is so close to showing it to people you trust. And then THAT is so close to showing it to strangers. And that is literally one step away from getting paid by strangers for your creative work (if that’s even a long-term goal you have).
All of these steps are worthwhile and exciting, and they’re all victories on their own. They’re also all places to hang out for a while until you’re ready for the next one! It is not embarrassing to need a little extra practice or to take a little extra time or to have something turn out not quite the way you’d like at first!!!
A helpful thing to remember is, the chumps and the hacks are not waiting for permission or symbolism to start their careers. They are jumping straight in with the grotesque assertiveness of diarrhea. There is obviously so much unfairness in creative fields on top of the difficulty of making things that are good. But you deserve to give yourself at least as good a chance as the diarrhea people!!!! They can’t fake your voice, but you can certainly fake their confidence! Do the next thing! And then the next thing! And then eventually the thing after that!
Pick-Me-Up Song: Charly Bliss (feat. PUP) - “It’s Christmas and I Fucking Miss You”
In 2020, the very kind and talented folks in Charly Bliss (a band I love) put on a virtual holiday show and asked me to be a little part of it, which was a blast. At the end of the show they debuted this original Christmas song (featuring PUP, another band I love) that has been stuck in my head for all of every December since then. Even though this song is explicitly about feeling sad, it’s also an immediate new holiday season classic, and so I’m including is as this week’s pick-me-up song, just in case you want to get in the Christmas spirit and are sick of the customary musical offerings. I also recommend the Sufjan Stevens version of “O Holy Night” for this purpose. It’s more traditional, but also especially lovely! (Shout out to my friend Sarah Brin for putting me on to Sufjan’s Christmas album like 13 years ago.)
The Hanukkah song of 2022 remains, for the 27th consecutive year, “The Hanukkah Song.” Thank you as always for your service, Adam Sandler.
Upcoming Tour Dates
This Thursday and Friday I’ll be doing standup at Cap City in Austin, which is very exciting to me! Then next week I’ll be in Minneapolis, Chicago, and Milwaukee (also exciting)! My show in Chicago on 12/28 sold out, so the club added a late show. This tour has been so much fun, and I’m really grateful to get to perform for enthusiastic crowds who are there on purpose (kind of a new thing for me). Special thanks to everyone who came to the (sold out!) What’s New? show at Union Hall in Brooklyn last week!
12/22-12/23 - Cap City Comedy Club in Austin
12/27 - Parkway Theater in Minneapolis
12/29 - The Milwaukee Improv
1/12-1/14 - Comedy Bar Toronto (three shows)
1/20-1/20 - Wiseguys in West Jordan, Utah
More info and dates available at joshgondelman.com/schedule!
Okay! That’s all for now! Thanks for reading! And as always, if you enjoyed the newsletter, please subscribe and/or share it with a pal!