Parking the Moose by Dave Hill (Review)

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Parking the Moose

By Hill, Dave

Humorous Essays

Hardcover, $29.95 (CAN) $24.00 (USD)

Doubleday Canada

Published September 2019

Most of us have given some thought to our ancestry, and we think of how differently we’d be living if something hadn’t changed direction before our births.  Personally, I wonder how I would be conducting my life if my maternal grandmother hadn’t left Utah when she was young and stopped practicing the local religion.

Actually, I wouldn’t even be here if my maternal grandmother had stayed in Utah.  She married a gentile she met in San Francisco, so with genes being what they are my mother and I wouldn’t have been born if Grandma hadn’t moved to the West Coast.

Yes, many Latter Day Saints call non church members gentiles.  Maybe some of them mean it in the nicest possible way, but I can’t attest to that.

Dave Hill has published his third collection of essays, with the current book addressing his ancestral connection to Canada.  He ponders hockey, poutine and those crappy maple leaf sandwich cookies we can find cheaply at CVS.  He addresses other stuff as well.

Dave Hill is an absurdist, and his humor is on a high level.  Some, but not all, of it will cause you to bust a gut laughing.  The more subtle aspects are made up of existential observations on human nature that Albert Camus would respect.  Well, that’s what I say.  I never had a chance to discuss this with Al, given that he and I aren’t contemporaries.

Just between us, the gut busting humor is the stuff that’s easy to grasp on every level.  Dave Hill is a master of the sight gag.  Think of a Not-Suitable-For-Work Charlie Chaplin.

I saw Dave at SF Sketchfest last January 18, and noted how at ease he was with commenting on the unexpected seating arrangement he saw when he walked onto the stage.  We didn’t have assigned numbered seating, and since I had bought a premium ticket I was able to grab a seat in the center of the front row.  This was in San Francisco, so no one else sat in the front row because I was there.  We all kept a distance, which enabled me to hog the best seat in the house.

Dave walked onto the stage, looked directly at me and got a momentary shocked expression on his face.  Then he went into a short, brilliant monologue about his sudden observation on the way San Franciscans avoid strangers.

Dave is as sharp in print as he is on stage.  He’ll make astute observations, knowing exactly when to liven things up with a rude schoolyard gag to wake up anyone who can’t keep up with him.  Be alert with the rude schoolyard stuff, though.  Sometimes there’s sophistication in that, too.

Dave Hill’s previous books are Tasteful Nudes (2012) and Dave Hill Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (2016).  He also has an unpublished work from his days as a graphic arts student, titled Down on the Farm: Barnyard Animals of Note (Year Unknown).

Dave has an eclectic career.  He’s an actor, writer, comedian, musician, graphic artist, unskilled equestrian (See the YouTube video titled The Sheriff of Prospect Park) and servant to a regal dog named Luci.  He does it all.

Absurdist humor is one of the most difficult forms of comedy to master.  It isn’t just telling any joke that will get a laugh.  The artist must have a delicate sense of what’s going on with people, and be capable of finding — and conveying — humor in situations that aren’t necessarily funny.  We witnessed a lot of that in the profound 1975-1982 television series Barney Miller, but we don’t see it in many other places.

Absurdist humor might be dark, and cause you to react by thinking, I shouldn’t be laughing at this.  It might also be something a little less awkward, that makes you think, Why am I laughing?  This is just everyday stuff.

I won’t go any further in describing my favorite type of humor.  If humor is pondered too much, it loses its impact.  Comedy is similar to music that way.  Don’t overanalyze.

Just read Parking the Moose, okay?  And think twice before having unwieldy items shipped to your home.

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