Movies & TV / Columns

Rob Kutner and Jonathan Kesselman Discuss Their New Tubi show Gander

October 7, 2020 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Gander Tubi

The 411 Interview: Rob Kutner and Jonathan Kesselman



Rob Kutner is a writer and producer who has been working in comedy since at least the year 2000, when he worked on the HBO show Dennis Miller Live. Kutner has also written for the Oscars, The Daily Show, The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, and Conan. Jonathan Kesselman is a writer, director, and producer who has been working in show business since at least 2002. Kesselman has directed such movies as The Hebrew Hammer, Jimmy Vestvood: Amerikan Hero, and multiple short films like Tom Cruise On: Tom Cruise, Jew, Sexy Daddy, and Realistic Black Mirror. Kutner and Kesselman recently teamed up for Gander, a new short form informational comedy series streaming exclusively on Tubi. In this interview, both Kutner and Kesselman talk with this writer about making Gander, working together, working in a short form format, putting together a cast with many comedy stars, and more.



Bryan Kristopowitz: How did you get involved with Gander?

Rob Kutner: After almost 20 years writing for late night, I left Conan in 2018.
But then my buddy and frequent collaborator Jon pitched me this idea that he and Kieran Lucid were cooking up and asked me if I wanted to co-create my own late-night style fact-based show. You know what they say about “As soon as you think you’re out…?”

BK: How did you decide on the title Gander, and how did you decide on the duck?

Jonathan Kesselman: Kieran Lucid, a tech millionaire here in Dublin, had the idea to do the show, the title, and the goose. Having a ‘Gander’ is slang for taking a closer look.

BK: What was the inspiration for the show?

KS: Kieran Lucid is a massive fan of fact-based comedies a la The Daily Show, and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and The Colbert Report and he wanted to make a show that took on and highlighted things that were broken, using comedy to make it more accessible. We also wanted to end with a call to action. The topics Kieran wanted us to focus on were wealth equality issues when possible.

BK: How did you settle on the format of the show? Was it always intended to a fifteen minute-per-episode show?

RK: It was intended to be a shorter bite than the typical 22 minute comedy, because we intended it from the beginning for digital. As for the format, we wanted to make it a deliberate departure from the rash of other shows in this vein like John Oliverand Samantha Bee. We chose a rotating cast of comic hosts over one “person at a desk.”

BK: Describe your working relationship with director Jonathan Kesselman.

RK: Nonstop, transatlantic sexual tension.


BK: How did you assemble the cast? Was it difficult to get so many comedians and performers together to do the show?

RK: Jon put together an amazing repertory of Irish actors who kill it in every scene. Then between the two of us we plumbed our comedy networks and reached out to reps with an eye towards gathering the most diverse but also “on-the-radar” funny folks we could find. We shot in Dublin, London, New York, and LA, so most of the main host talent was in the latter two cities, and we just arranged shoots around clustering them together.

BK: How did you decide on the topics of each episode?

RK: Kieran had a number of issues he was passionate about, and we hired researchers to delve into what was “there” for each, then had a bunch of intense discussions until all three of us loved a topic and a take.

BK: How long did it take to make all six episodes, from completing the scripts for each episode to finishing post-production?

JK: About 9 months. I started May of last year, and we finished post right after the Corona virus pandemic.

BK: What was the hardest part of making Gander?

JK: Producing a lower budget show with actors, comics, and academics all interacting with one another, but which was shot in Los Angeles, NYC, the UK, and Dublin

BK: What are the advantages of working in a short format? What are the disadvantages?

RK: I’m a big fan of “pack it with your best stuff, then get out” rather than drag it out. I also think shorter is better in terms of convincing people to check out a new show, when there’s so much else to watch. Disadvantages are just that you always have to cut something. But, truthfully, we were able to put most of what we loved on the screen and the lost pieces will not be missed too much.


BK: How has comedy changed since you got started?
JK: The current climate of extreme political correctness combined with social media has made it extremely hard to do what we do. Projects of mine have been sunk by people’s fears of how jokes or ideas will be received by the internet.

BK: Who are your comedy heroes?

RK: Armano Iannucci, Christopher Guest, and Billy Wilder

JK: Mel Brooks and Zucker/Abrams/Zucker were the two biggest influences on me.

BK: Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

RK: I’m currently developing some animated series, but if I tell you about them, a googly-eyed cat with a giant mallet will smash your head, causing an orbit of stars an exclamation points.

JK: I have three projects I’m actively trying to get made. One is an American road comedy set here in Ireland, and the second is the Hebrew Hammer sequel with Adam Goldberg and Judy Greer, and the third is a comedy set in the Soviet Union in 1960 starring Justin Long.

BK: What do you hope audiences get out of Gander?

RK: Unlike the Olivers, Bees, and Minhajes, whose audiences are usually well-informed and seeking a deeper dive, we made a conscious choice to make the comedy more outrageous in order to grab the attention of those who really aren’t tuning in to real-world stuff.

BK: Will there be a second season of Gander?

RK: Depends. Do you have financing? And yes, we do take Russian drug money – or Venmo!

JK: That all depends on how it does on Tubi and ultimately on Kieran.

BK: Do you have a favorite episode?

JK: I think “Symbols Gone Wild” is probably my favorite. However, the most fun for me to make was “Planned Obsolescence.” I got to do a fake bad action movie sequence set in Dublin.



A very special thanks to both Rob Kutner and Jonathan Kesselman for agreeing to participate in this interview.

Check out all six episodes of Gander on the Tubi website here!

Check out my review of Gander here!

Check out Rob Kutner’s official website here!

Check out Jonathan Kesselman’s official website here!

Rob Kutner profile image courtesy of Rob Kutner. Jonathan Kesselman image courtesy of Jonathan Kesselman. Gander images courtesy of Tubi.