Hack Attack

Jimmy Dunn talks about his new book.

Comedian Jimmy Dunn has traveled the world telling jokes on cruise ships. Now he's getting the last laugh with a tell-all tour de farce.

Cruisin' for abusing is the theme of Dunn's new book, "Boat Hack: A Stand-up Comic's Farewell to the Cruise Industry." The title gives away the main plot point, but there's devlish fun in the details of how Dunn, a seacoast native, spent in his words, "a dozen or so years telling jokes to fat, drunk tourists" for some of the world's most famous cruise lines (names omitted to keep the lawyers at bay).

I gather this is your first book. Is it the first book you ever wanted to write?
Actually, It's my third. My first was called "Funnyball – Observations from a Summer at the Ballpark." I wrote it in 2004 when I had a gig working on NESN interviewing Red Sox fans. Much like "Moneyball", it too had some revolutionary baseball ideas. My favorite was my plan to have "little people" play the position of catcher, so they wouldn't need to crouch. Never caught on. My second book was a children's book called "Your Kid's First Poker Book." It's never too early to learn how to recognize when you are holding the nuts.

Your first time entertaining on a cruise ship had to be fun. Any fond memories?
50-day gig in Tahiti. I surfed 43 out of the 50 days. It was amazing. That was one of the most incredible trips of my life. It was a ten-day itinerary and I did it 5 times in a row. By the second lap, I had kids waiting for me at the docks with small boats to take me out to private surf breaks. Breathtaking beaches. Perfect surf. Crystal-clear water. I surfed Bora-Bora! Not bad for kid from Hampton Beach.

The book is obviously a cautionary tale, but how could it be useful to someone who insists on taking a cruise just the same?
I'm not trying to tell folks not to cruise. It really is a great way to see the world. And when they go well, they can be great. European cruises are wonderful. Every morning you wake up in a completely different country and culture. Caribbean cruises are less exciting. Every morning you wake up in a new t-shirt shop. But they can go bad quickly. If you read this book, you'll have a better idea what to expect, and what not to expect. People are getting offers everyday for ridiculously low prices. Beware! When you check in, you'll find there's an up charge for everything except sunsets.

Seems like Boat Hack would make a great movie. Any thoughts on casting?
Way ahead of you! My agent is actually shopping a script right now! If it was up to me, Danny Devito would play the clueless captain, Will Farrell would be the cruise director, Russell Brand would play the comic, John C Reilly would play the poor dope who has to dress up in the dolphin costume everyday, and Amy Poehler would be my agent.

You've been to a lot of ports of call over the last decade. What's your favorite souvenir?
I bought a Japanese concert poster of Jack Johnson, G Love and Donovan Frankenreiter. It's framed in my office. And I bought a bunch of waffles in Belgium, but ate them all that day.

Your disclaimer at the front of the book assures the cruise industry legal teams that all your stories are fictional, but I really want to believe you ended your boat hack career by telling your audience the uber-filthy Aristocrats joke. True?
True. On formal night. They were horrified. And the security escort into the awaiting arms of Mexican Customs agents at 8am the next morning. All happened.

Was writing this book more about catharsis or was it really just to burn the bridge so you'd never be tempted to take another comedy cruise?
Ha! Well I knew I was going to write something about cruises someday. I would sit on the top deck every night and write. Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" is one of my favorite books and I had it in my head that I was going to do something similar – bite the hand that feeds me, as Elvis Costello would say. I think the goal was accomplished.

So, no more cruise ships, but if Virgin Galactic calls would you consider entertaining in outer space?
Have them call my agent, Amy Poehler.

Categories: Q&A