Jonathan Goldstein is an author, scribe and storyteller. With the accelerating growth in the podcast industry, he’s found a niche in writing and producing podcasts. Goldstein’s gravelly voice stands out on shows like CBC’s WireTap and This is America.
The Source caught up with Goldstein on the phone from Brooklyn, New York, to get a sneak peak of his upcoming performance at the Chutzpah! Festival in Vancouver and to learn about his next project scheduled to air this summer.
Goldstein’s raw and self-deprecating sense of humour is immediately noticeable and has a similar vibe to Woody Allen. Yet, Goldstein doesn’t consider himself a comedian, nor a humorist.
“Imagine someone sitting behind a desk onstage, reclining in a chair, maybe playing with their suspenders,” says Goldstein. “There isn’t an out loud ha ha. Maybe an occasional chortle, or a muffled hee hee. But nothing out loud, nothing too labourious: that’s a humorist.”
Goldstein will be in Vancouver on March 31 for the Chutzpah! Festival, a multi-disciplinary performing arts festival held at the The Norman & Annette Rothstein Theatre. He’s still mulling over what material to use for his performance, but he did hint at a story about his nephew’s circumcision.
“It’s kind of ‘Jewie.’ What isn’t funny about a newborn having the tip of his penis shorn off?” Goldstein says sarcastically. “It’s hilarious.”
Goldstein uses dark humour to awaken his audience’s consciousness to deeply rooted social norms and practices. He believes there is something comforting about dark comedy.
“You can take away some of the horror by turning it into comedy,” Goldstein explains.
“I might also tell the story of the birth of Jesus from the point of view of his neurotic mother’s boyfriend Joseph.”
What’s next for Goldstein?
Goldstein is currently working on a new podcast series for Gimlet Media. The theme of the show has a similar tempo to WireTap and This is America, but the similarities end there. Goldstein describes his latest project as “real world therapy,” describing how the show is about people who are trying to solve a problem.
The premise of the show is to demonstrate how human experiences transform peoples’ lives – in both good and bad ways. Goldstein will explore his own past and the pasts of other people to identify the transformative crossroads in each subject’s life.
“The show is predicated on the idea that everyone has moments in their past where they experience something that is traumatic, but also a transformative crossroads,” says Goldstein. “Through storytelling. I’m going to try to resolve some of the issues in the present by going back to the past.”
One of his first subjects will be his father who is now 81. Goldstein wants his father to reunite with his brother who lives in Florida. His father hasn’t spoken to his brother in many decades, and no one, including his father, can remember how the feud started. As his father gets older, Goldstein has a pressing need to find closure for his father. He uses a road trip as an opportunity to revisit his father’s childhood to figure out what went wrong.
“The road trip was funny and moving,” says Goldstein.
While Goldstein’s humour can be dark, he avoids going to dark places in his own life by not taking himself too seriously. Lately, he’s been enjoying British philosopher Alan Watts, an early importer of Eastern thought for Western audiences.
“[Watts] reminds me of some simple truths on how we’re all part of the same universe,” says Goldstein. “It’s a bit hippy-dippy, but somehow it has a way of lifting you out of a painful moment in your life to give you a crane shot of your life, a more objective view of the smallness of your problem and the unimportance of your ego.”
For more information on Goldstein’s upcoming performance, go to www.chutzpahfestival.com.