Comedian Jon Glaser gleefully skewers what others hold sacred. His Adult Swim show, Delocated, plays with the dreadfully serious topic of witness protection, wondering what would happen if the guy being protected were a real fame whore, starring in a reality-TV series where he and his family modulate their voices and wear balaclavas the whole time. And even with this already-outrageous premise, the show excels when it pushes its comedy to the silly breaking point.
In My Dead Dad Was In ZZ Top: 100% Real*, Never-Before-Seen Documents From The World Of Rock And Roll, Glaser finds a tailor-made vehicle for his comedy: poking fun at the things the biggest bands of all time take most seriously, from Bob Dylan’s image as an anti-establishment iconoclast to The Jesus & Mary Chain’s hardcore fan base. The book is a showcase for Glaser’s imaginative punchlines, and it works best when the setup is just as fun as the twist.
Glaser’s framing device seems like a recipe for repetition, which it sometimes is. He purports to have stumbled upon evidence that his father was, unbeknownst to the Glaser family, the fourth member of ZZ Top, who left the band over creative differences and started his own soul-fusion band, Soulfucius. This evidence, he says, inspired his quest to discover rock ‘n’ roll’s deepest secrets. And so he unearths more supposedly real documents and photos—a cruise-line brochure shows where The Sea And Cake got its name; a tour rider reveals the truth behind the rumor that Rod Stewart swigged a mug’s worth of semen. Glaser varies how he reveals his faux information: In order to explain the much-speculated-on relationship between Jack and Meg White, Glaser procures a series of telegrams.
Still, My Dead Dad too often returns to scraps of notebook paper, which wouldn’t be a problem, were the associated jokes not repeated. Glaser includes a “secret sellouts” section, where he’s penned alternate lyrics to Dylan, David Bowie, and Cream songs shilling for various fictional businesses. It’s tough to introduce surprise once he’s already established the parameters for a given bit.
But My Dead Dad doesn’t spend much time on any one band. Glaser has enough writing savvy to keep the punchlines flying fast. And the more sacred the target, the more he demonstrates his flair for distilling a joke: The list of possible names for Led Zeppelin, scrawled on a cocktail napkin, has only two entries.