Snelson Review: The Desperation of Old Comedians

Snelson takes a look at the life of a washed up comedian analysing white entitlement in comedy.

Comedy has been at the front of many modern political discourses. As society becomes more aware of the different lived experiences of different groups, comedy has transformed and grown. Within this backdrop enters the satirical Snelson, Ahoy Comics’ latest book written by Paul Constant, drawn by Fred Harper, colored by Lee Loughridge, and lettered by Rob Steen.

Melville Snelson was a big hit in the 90s with his raunchy, offensive style of humor. Twenty-five years later, the jokes aren’t cutting it, and the industry seems to have moved on without him. The comedian bounces around local comedy clubs when he hears about an old colleague of his making bank through offensive videos on YouTube.

In an act of desperation, Snelson falls into the anti-cancel culture, “free speech is dying” rhetoric, hoping to tap into that cash flow and regain relevance. The story takes readers through the man’s ups and downs at being a legitimate comic and being a proponent of the supposed culture war.

Image: Paul Constant, Fred Harper, Lee Loughridge, Rob Steen/Snelson

While much political satire tends to be too on the nose, bordering on parody, Snelson wraps its ideas in the blanket of a quality story. Snelson is a kind of tragic hero, with his journey serving as a character study of someone who can’t move forward with the times and vehemently clings to their comfort zone. In this regard, he may remind many readers of Bojack Horseman or Rick Sanchez.

What’s most stunning about this story is how it is carefully balanced. Snelson is a sympathetic character, but the story never justifies his entertainment of “anti-SJW” talking points. His friends constantly question his motives and ambivalence towards empowering bad actors.

This balancing act allows Snelson to be incredibly human, recognizing his faults and avoiding him becoming a caricature that’s so beloved in political satire.

Image: Paul Constant, Fred Harper, Lee Loughridge, Rob Steen/Snelson

In many ways, Snelson knows what he is doing is immoral, but he can’t let go of that fame that seems to always be just out of reach. It’s a fine line that the team gracefully treads, allowing for some wonderful nuances by the book’s conclusion. 

The story forces the reader to truly examine how it feels to be left behind in a high-speed world and what someone can do to navigate it. It’s easy to fall into bad crowds and the safety of the past, but the story suggests that one has to push through it even if the path is messy. Snelson’s sympathetic plight still doesn’t justify his actions.

This theme and character wouldn’t be nearly as solid or emotionally complex without its surrealist art. Many moments contain a creepy, cartoonish warping of reality and the faces of the characters, which depicts the mood excellently. Top it off with some creative coloring, which also chooses to depict tone over realism in multiple parts, and this story becomes peak comic book drama.

By Luke W. Henderson

Luke W. Henderson is a writer of prose and comics whose work has been published in The Comic Jam, Orlok Lives, Corrupting the Youth and the upcoming anthologies Project Big Hype: Vol. 3, The Dark Side of Purity Vol. 3 (Band of Bards) and Comics from the Kitchen (Foreign Press Comics). They are also a comics reviewer contributing to Comic Book Yeti, and GateCrashers.

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