Noah Gardenswartz: Sweatpants in Perpetuity.

Gorilla Specials: After Watching Noah Gardenswartz, You Too Will Seek To Wear ‘Sweatpants In Perpetuity’

Noah Gardenswartz is a great comic to watch if you want to learn the mechanics of stand-up. Not only is he thoughtful and silly, but he constructs jokes in a way that’s clear-cut and obvious while still being true to his own voice and style. Each joke has a clear premise that makes room for Gardenswartz to enjoy telling it, while having a payoff that isn’t obvious, but cleanly connects to the premise. IF you’re looking to get into stand-up, or simply marvel at how well it can be done, Sweatpants In Perpetuity is the hour for you. 

Noah Gardenswartz: Sweatpants in Perpetuity.
Noah Gardenswartz: Sweatpants in Perpetuity. Courtesy of Noah Gardenswartz.

Noah Gardenswartz gives a masterclass in joke construction.

Early on in the special, Gardenswartz has this joke:

“I don’t have a great diet, but I do combat not having a great diet by trying to stay active, and my activity of choice, the way I like to exercise, is I play basketball. I’ve been a lifelong basketball player, 39 years old, I still play basketball several nights a week. But, because I’m 39, my body doesn’t recover the way that it used to. Several months ago, I started experiencing a little bit of knee pain in my right knee, so I went to the doctor, found out that I already have a little bit of arthritis in my right knee. Yeah, the cartilage is already degenerating a little bit. My wife wants a nose job…we legitimately asked the doctor if it was possible to take the cartilage from her nose, and stick it in my knee. And it’s not, but I don’t understand why it’s not. Like, it feels like a fair one-to-one trade. She doesn’t want it, I need it, who's losing, you know? Apparently, the science isn’t there yet, but it makes sense to me. And if you think about it, it really is, like, the Jewish equivalent to a Brazilian butt lift. You know, just re-allocating the body’s resources. Everyone else, take a little bit of that tummy fat, stick it in their ass. Us Jews are like, ‘Yeah, I’ll take your nose, stick it in my knee. It’ll help me extend my playing career at the Valley Beth Shalom 35 and Up League for a few more years. Which is a real league that I do play in and dominate, by the way”

This is a perfectly constructed joke, with Gardenswartz doing a lot of things to help the audience and keep it moving. Not only does he repeat the premise of the joke, (39 with a bad knee), but he also repeats the punchline (wife wants a nose job and to put cartilage from nose into the bad knee), having one serve as a precursor to longer observation. He then has a tag for the joke that expands the punchline, kills in the room, and connects back to the idea of both the premise and punchline via basketball and Jewishness. Everything about the joke is so perfectly clear, and Gardenswartz manages to pull this off again and again throughout the special. 

Noah Gardenswartz truly understands how jokes can benefit from an economy of language.

Comedy benefits from using as few words as possible to shape the joke, whether you have an effusive approach to language, or try to keep in simple and clean. What that looks like from comic to comic can vary, but consider this joke from Gardenswartz:

“I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Vegas because I love to gamble. I’m actually a compulsive gambler, and I’m not ashamed to admit it, I come by it honestly. My mother was a compulsive gambler, to the point where, when I was 16 years old, she actually made me get a fake id, so that she could take me to Vegas and teach me to play craps. It’s true. Taught me to bet on myself. Great life advice, horrible craps advice. We lost so much money.”

Notice that each sentence builds on the one before it without anything that isn’t essential to the point of the joke. Even “I come by it honestly,” which might look like it can be cut, is needed as a prover for Gardenswartz’s mother’s addiction. We get one line of clarification that doubles as an anecdote before getting to a build-up and then the punchline. There are four short lines that end the joke, with words cut out that the audience doesn’t need (the word “She” in “Taught me to bet on myself.”) The final line, “We lost so much money,” comes after the laugh, but puts a button on the joke and adds another comic idea to laugh at.

In eight sentences, Gardenswartz covers a whole swath of his life that loses nothing for its brevity. It’s brilliant and sharp writing. 

Noah Gardenswartz knows how to write jokes that never feel cheap or lazy.

Toward the end of the special, Gardenswartz has a joke that involves inside jokes, sex, and exhaustion, sharing:

“My wife and I have reached new levels of exhaustion that we did not know existed. And I’ll give you an example of how tired we are now. Before we had children, my wife and I had an inside joke in our relationship where like, if I ever saw an attractive woman and pointed her out, my wife would be like ‘Well go and fuck her then. But if you do, I’m gonna fuck the guy at the gym. Or if she ever pointed out an attractive man, and pointed him out, I’d be like ‘Well go and fuck him then. But if you do, I’m gonna fuck the barrista at the coffee shop.’ You know, an inside joke, like couples have. Now that we have kids, a few weeks ago we’re sitting in traffic, car pulls up to us in the lane over, and my wife looks over at the car next to us, looks back at me and says ‘Oh, that’s a good looking guy.’ And I honestly said, ‘Well go and fuck him then, but if you do, get a babysitter so I can have a few hours to myself.’ And I meant that shit from the depths of my soul. I was like ‘Truly, we’re good. I love you. You love me. We’re fine. Go fuck him. Have a great time. I need to be left alone.’ Like, att this point in my life, I need a nap more than I need fidelity.”

The joke would have been perfectly fine if he left it on “I need to be left alone,” but Gardenswartz takes the time to share something interesting about his life as an almost forty-year-old parent and partner. The joke overall was already punching it’s weight by focusing on the idea of inside jokes instead of something like celebrities or something more base, but Gardenswartz is a consummate and impeccable joke writer, so he makes sure to put in the work.

A special like this, which focuses on craft, doesn’t come around that often. Sweatpants In Perpetuity is a brilliant example of joke-writing at its finest. 

Noah Gardenswartz's newest special, Sweatpants in Perpetuity, is streaming on YouTube. Don't forget to purchase a copy of the album from the special on 800 Pound Gorilla!

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