Monday, July 9, 2012

Michael J. Dolan's "Dress to Depress"



Michael J. Dolan is a bit disgruntled. 

He's easily agitated and there isn't much in this world that doesn't rub him the wrong way: Children, his live-in girlfriend, his cat... even his friends. He's fed up with pretty much all of it and he doesn't shy from using the word "hate." 

Grumpy. 

Angry. 

Upset. 

Pissed. 

They're all pretty accurate descriptors but if I had to choose only one word that encapsulates who Dolan is, that's easy. It'd be "hilarious" and I challenge anyone to listen to his album Dress to Depress and try to convince me otherwise.

This CD is excellent proof that contempt breeds laughter and misery loves company. Funny, funny company. The more miffed Dolan becomes, the more entertaining things get. If Karl Pilkington (who thrives in complaining about the mundane) was crossed with Lewis Black (whose furious rage is rooted in intelligentsia) then you might have an idea of where Dolan is coming from (comparing Dolan to others isn't completely fair, though, because he is very much his own unique voice).

Part of the reason I connected with Dolan so much is because I agree with him on each of his stances. I too have had it with militant vegetarians (When asked if he would still eat meat if he had to catch and kill the animal himself, Dolan answers, "No. And if I had to grow my own fuckin' veg I wouldn't eat that either"), soap operas ("What is the point of a story that never ends?"), and parents who refuse to spank their horrible, horrible children ("We've spent an entire generation now trying to raise kids without hitting them and it hasn't worked. At all"). Dolan doesn't want to be just another comic who complains about The Youth of Today ("It is still frowned upon in our society for a fully grown adult man to get into an actual fistfight with a 12-year-old boy and I think that's a shame") but to be honest, The Youth of Today sort of has it coming (thanks partly to the popularity of shows like Jersey Shore, 16 and Pregnant, and My Sweet Sixteen. Not to mention people who have "two different haircuts fighting for dominance on the same head").

Although it may be tempting to paint Dolan in broad strokes with words like "angry" or "mad" (I mean hey. I did it at the beginning of this review), there's actually much more to his comedy. His humor is rooted in a sincere desire to understand why people and things are the way they are, only to walk away with a frustrated confusion in failing to comprehend the mechanics of the world around us. He isn't a fan of vacationing ("You really think you're gonna hate yourself less if you're hotter") and it makes no sense that his prick of a friend who cheats on his girlfriend with a prostitute emerges blameless while Dolan is considered "bad boyfriend material" just because once - under duress - he admitted that if it's cooked right (and he trusted the chef) he'd eat a baby.

Dolan isn't pointing the finger at others while claiming to be perfect. He realizes he's just as bad as those who antagonize him. He isn't happy with himself and he's not proud that he has developed into a stereotypical chocolate-loving woman (Yea, you read that correctly). He's honest about his own shortcomings ("I don't know why people keep inviting me to things because I'm awful") and he is the first to confess he's not a model citizen (like the time a thief broke into his neighbor's flat and Dolan lied to the police regarding his alibi).

His honest openness about who he is - and the fact that he detests it - is refreshing in an era when superior greater-than-thou bravado seems to be a current trend with comedians. Dolan is a welcome change, his self-deprecation and self-loathing standing out nicely in a landscape filled with pompous Daniel Tosh wannabes. 

Still very much young at heart, Dolan finds himself living in an adult world desperately fighting against the expectation of being a grownup (he nearly wrecked his car in a fit of excitement when he thought he saw the Bat Signal). Even the slightest responsibilities thrust onto him, like having to take care of the cat, becomes fodder (his comparison of the feline in question to a homeless man is original and right on target).

To say I enjoyed this album is a vast understatement. There are so many moments that made me laugh out loud I couldn't keep up with them. While taking notes for this review, I had to give up on jotting down my favorite lines lest I end up transcribing everything he said.

The first track and the closing track both deal with "hate," a word Dolan uses pretty frequently. Hatred for his hometown, hatred for being called friendly, and hatred for bumping into acquaintances (AKA "energy burglars") while out and about.

And I loved every moment.

Prior to listening, I was unfamiliar with Dolan. Fast forward 45 minutes and I found myself his newest, biggest fan. I can't recommend this project enough and if he and his comedy are unknown to you I greatly encourage you to pick up a copy. One thing is certain: As much as I enjoyed Dolan and his humor and as much as he made me laugh, for the sake of his fans, I hope he doesn't cheer up any time soon.


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