Friday, March 9, 2012

Dobie Maxwell's "Hard Luck Jollies"



Dobie Maxwell is a human, grown-up Charlie Brown, a sad sack of a man with a rain cloud following above him every step of his day. On his album Hard Luck Jollies he seems to take an odd pride in the fact that bad things happen to him and his life is full of terrible things. Talking about how bad one's life is is an interesting way to begin a comedy album, as it inadvertently brings a rain cloud to his act, too, and it seems to loom throughout the rest of his set.

Maxwell is a fine storyteller, but as soon as we begin to enjoy ourselves and that dark cloud shows signs of dissipating, he brings it back upon us with an "Of course, guess what happens to me....Mr. Lucky" and you can almost hear the waw-waw of  a trombone behind him. The mood comes back down and the dark cloud regains its strength.

The act feels tailor-made for a merch table. Between his ironic "Mr. Lucky" nickname and his constant reference to himself (and the rest of us) as "dented cans," I can already see the T-shirts displayed on the table in the back. Of course, that's just conjecture on my part. I actually don't know if he has "I'm a dented can!" shirts for sale, but each time he uses the catchphrase, it just feels...for lack of a better word...slogan-y.

As I mentioned before, I enjoy Maxwell's stories as long as it feels like we're given permission to enjoy ourselves. His childhood tales of lunch room cafeteria shenanigans and "Who's 'It'" pre-game chants are relatable and capture the essence of being a carefree youth, but it's almost like Maxwell is afraid of letting himself -- or us -- enjoy a moment long before the mood dips again. "Well, you know me, Mr. Lucky" and we're reminded again of why he's actually not Mr. Lucky.

Womp, womp.

It's a little like comedy done through the eyes of Ziggy or Eeyore or any other cartoon character who is often depicted with a black squiggly line scribbled above their head. Sure, a lot of comedy is found in misfortune, but at least give us the opportunity to enjoy it.

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