On Creativity and Going Bald: An Interview with The Balding’s Jeff Gandell

Jeff Grandell in The Balding. Photo by Kiran Ambwani Jeff Grandell in The Balding. Photo by Kiran Ambwani

If the week ahead is looking lackluster, perhaps what you need is a shiny dose of Jeff Gandell’s glimmering, bald head. Join Gandell in remounting the much celebrated The Balding, a one-man Fringe comedy nominated for Just For Laugh’s Best English Comedy 2013, as he recounts his coming-of-age story with just the right amount of virginity, male-patterned baldness, and absolute terror.
Brigitte Naggar (BN): For those of us who haven’t been privy to the success of The Balding at the Montreal Fringe of 2013, what exactly is the play about?

Jeff Gandell (JG): It’s about a twenty-year-old virgin who’s losing his hair. He’s convinced he’s going bald because he’s a virgin. He goes on a desperate quest to lose his virginity. Hilarity ensues.

BN: What was the creative process for the show like?

JG: I spent six months from the time I came up with the idea for the show until opening night. That involved writing several drafts and rehearsing it. I was lucky enough to workshop several parts of it at various storytelling events around town before bringing the entire beast to the stage. But parts of it date back to earlier performances, earlier pieces of writing. The skeleton for what would ultimately become the show, a ten-minute piece called “The Testimony,” was written and performed a couple times about a year before the show.

BN: As a writer, do you ever struggle with self-doubt? If so, how have you learned to get beyond it?
JG: All the time! I don’t think, as a writer, you can ever get beyond self-doubt. With experience, I think you get better at living with self-doubt. You just have to accept the fact that not everything you try will work out the way you want. But if you keep trying, it’ll work out more often than not. You have to accept the fact that you’re an imperfect human who will produce imperfect things. But that’s not a reason to not try.


Jeff Grandell in The Balding. Photo Mélanie Boisvert.

Jeff Grandell in The Balding. Photo Mélanie Boisvert.

BN: What made you decide to remount the initial production? Have you made any changes to it since its first run?

JG: I love this show. Performing it for the first time was one of the best weeks of my life. I was pleasantly surprised with how much it resonated with audiences. I wanted the chance to show it to more people. I’ve also made it better since the first run. I feel I’m embodying the Jeff character a lot more. I’m somehow more in tune with my twenty-year-old self. Not sure if that’s a good thing or not, but it’ll be good for the show!



BN: What was it like to have Matt Goldberg direct the play? Was it difficult letting another vision help craft the production?

JG: Working with Matt has been great. He really latched onto what my vision was for the thing right from the beginning. His direction has been invaluable in bringing out the emotion and the dynamics of the script. His influence on the piece has been gentle, but profound. He’s also pretty in touch with my twenty-year-old self. We were all twenty, once.



BN: What has happened, or would have to happen in order for you to consider The Balding a success?

JG: I’m a big believer that just doing something is the most important form of success. So, the second I step on stage on opening night, I’ll have succeeded. Putting on the best performances I possibly can is certainly a big marker of success. And of course, selling out the entire run would be really nice.



BN:  Are there any upcoming projects we can look forward to in the near future?

JG: Sure are. For the Montreal Fringe this year, I’m putting on another one-man show called Danger Unit. It’s the story of a ten-year-old kid in the 80s who sees all these scary things on the news and thinks the world is ending. So he rounds up a group of vigilante crime fighting friends and attempts to save the world. It’s gonna be a hoot. I play multiple characters. It’s my homage to 1980s action TV shows like the A-Team and Dukes of Hazard.

The Balding plays at Mainline Theatre (3997 St-Laurent) on March 19-22, 8 p.m. and March 23 2 p.m., $10-12. Tickets can be purchased at the Mainline Theatre or by calling (514) 849-3378.