SNELSON: COMEDY IS DYING #1/ Script by PAUL CONSTANT/ Art by FRED HARPER/ Published by AHOY COMICS
Back in the 1990’s, stand-up comedian Melville Snelson was hip, with it and on the rise. He almost had a sitcom back before every comedian had a sitcom. He was still doing okay touring the circuit, until it came out he’d been dating a 17 year old girl when he was 25. Suddenly he was cancelled, along with his gigs, and spent a week being the most hated man on the Internet.
Now, Snelson is trying to make a comeback, joining a group of younger woke comedians on tour because he can’t get booked as a solo act. Will this lead to redemption and a new career? Or will Snelson find a new way to ruin his life?
Once upon a time, I contemplated becoming a stand up comedian. Fate wound up sending me down a different path and spared me becoming the poor man’s Patton Oswalt in my efforts to be the next Dana Carvey, but I still kept up with the craft enough to watch the artform evolve over the past few decades. Given that, I was looking forward to Snelson: Comedy Is Dying when I first heard the concept. Having read it, however, I can’t help but feel the same disappointment I felt when Jerry Seinfeld complained about college kids these days not thinking he was funny.
I’ve read through this first issue twice and I’m not sure if we’re meant to sympathize with Melville Snelson or pity him and that ambiguity hurts the story. Some horrible things happen to Snelson in this comic that could be played for laughs. Unfortunately, the pacing of Paul Constant’s script is such that the timing is not quite there. It doesn’t help matters that the rest of the cast aren’t developed beyond Snelson’s summation of them in the opening pages and there’s no apparent reason why they would be helping him out by working with him when he’s apparently so unpleasant.
The artwork is similarly erratic. Fred Harper’s sense of perspective is all over the place, with the above sequence in the car being a prime example of how disjointed the book appears. The woman in the middle of the backseat disappears between panels and Avigail (aka the Jewish Vegan) is drawn like a child in some panels but with more normal proportions elsewhere.
The biggest problem with Snelson: Comedy Is Dying is that it’s just not that funny. Granted, I don’t think Snelson’s tired gags about proctology and Google search histories are meant to be that funny, but when Snelson rants at the end of the book about how he can’t do a podcast like Marc Maron, he sounds less like George Carlin speaking truth to power and more like Dennis Miller killing time until the next commercial for Plexaderm. Ultimately, Snelson: Comedy Is Dying is a meandering mess with sloppy artwork and no apparent point. Of course that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.