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Spit Take Saturday: Jimmy Dunn

Boat Hack Cover! To anything but the most persistent comedy geek, the term “boat hack” will mean nothing. Boston comic Jimmy Dunn defines it as a terrible slur, aimed at comedians who work cruise ships for a living. “It implies not only are you a shi**y, unoriginal entertainer,” he writes, “you are also so desperate for work and approval that you’ve sold out your soul and have gone to work for the nit-wits and moronic masses that vacation on the ‘Whatever of the Seas.’” Which is why the book opens with Dunn sabotaging his cruise ship career by telling “The Aristocrats” joke, the vulgar, improvisational routine that inspired the movie of the same name, to a cruise audience.

“Boat Hack: A Stand-Up Comic’s Farewell to The Cruise Industry” is Dunn’s gruff exposé of cruise-ship comedy, his farewell letter, and a bit of a travelogue. He offers a sarcastic disclaimer to start, claiming that, despite his 12 or so years telling jokes on boats, none of the stories are true. “So don’t bother calling your lawyers,” he writes, addressing some anonymous cruise-line employee. “Or mine. I made it all up.” The book doesn’t read as false, so take the disclaimer with a gain of salt the size of Lot’s wife.

“Boat Hack” isn’t an in-depth, journalistic look at the industry. The chapters are short, usually only a couple of pages, some no longer than a couple of paragraphs. Dunn is no Bill Bryson, and offers no analysis of his observations, no Sociology 101. He treats almost everything as if he were writing it for the stage: focus on the laughs and the sarcasm, hit the punchline and get out. As a result, some of the stories seem a little incomplete.

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