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The Wit is Strong With This One

Dear Luke, We Need to Talk. Darth offers an amusing, fresh look at some pop culture classics that you only thought you had overanalyzed before.

Dear Luke, We Need to Talk. Darth.

Publisher: Three Rivers
Length: 292 pages
Author: John Moe
Price: $15.00
Format: Paperback
Publication date: 2014-06

Dear Luke, We Need to Talk. Darth: And Other Pop Culture Correspondences by John Moe is full of nonsense. Almost 300 pages of nonsense. And if you’re a pop culture nerd, you’ll wish there were more of it. Because it’s also brilliant.

If you’ve ever sat around wondering why the professor on Gilligan’s Island, who was otherwise a genius inventor, couldn’t patch a hole in a boat, or pondered what Jay-Z’s 99 problems might actually be, you’ll appreciate Moe’s clever perspective and the topics he addresses. In Dear Luke, We Need to Talk. Darth, Moe fills his book with completely imaginary backstories, confessions and conversations surrounding some prominent movies, TV shows, pop songs and video games.

Moe’s collection of fictional interview transcripts, memos, diary entries, letters and other fake documents explore, explain and parody some of our most treasured media icons. Much like watching The Simpsons, the more you know about pop culture by heart, the more you’ll be able to enjoy the book’s premise, countless references, and the astute details of Moe’s explorations.

Moe, the host of the nationally syndicated public radio show Wits, comes at the material with a distinctive, quirky cleverness. The author manages to consistently choose pop culture references that are familiar and yet hardly ever goes for the most clichéd joke.

The title’s namesake comes from the book’s inclusion of a series of unsent letters that Darth Vader might have written to an adolescent Luke Skywalker before discarding them in a wastebasket. Darth even warns Luke of a princess whose hairdo looks like it was “inspired by cinnamon rolls”, pleading with him not to kiss her. “DON’T GO THERE,” he says. “I’ll explain later.”

Further, Moe provides the answers pop culture questions you’ve never wondered about, but does so with boundless, likable imagination. What if the words to the 1966 Batman TV show theme song originally contained a complex storyline; what would the producer’s series of demanding suggestions to songwriter Neal Hefti look like until the lyrics simply were reduced to “Na na na na na na na na Batman“? What would a Yelp review of Moe’s Tavern of Cheers look like? What would a now grown-up (and deranged) Kevin McCallister (of Home Alone) say in a letter to his mother about the Christmas he spent as child abandoned by his family? What if the success of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was actually a piece of ingenious marketing devised and explained in a Teen Spirit brand deodorant company memo?

On the first page you find a detailed all-points police bulletin for Jon Bon Jovi that includes the words, “Bon Jovi is no regular cowboy. He rides a horse made of steel. A steel horse. I am not shitting you.” If you’re type of person that finds this take on the lyrics to Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” hilarious, then this book is for you. After all, Moe is right; Jon Bon Jovi does seem to be the most unlikely bandit/cowboy around. In contrast, if have to Google search the book’s references or don’t appreciate a playful tone, it’s unlikely to win you over.

Moe’s fictional ponderings cover a wide gamut of pop culture, from 1939’s The Wizard of Oz to the recent Breaking Bad. From the brilliant fake interview transcript of “An Oral History of the Pac-Man Ghosts” to files revealing the tragic fates of Agents 001 to 006, to a bewildered letter to Child Protective Services from Dora the Explorer’s mother, Moe seems to leave no major cornerstone of American entertainment unturned.

Admirably, the book isn’t tied to a certain decade, medium, or genre. His many original twists on pop culture come in bite-sized portions, often a just few hundred words in length, which suggests that the text isn't meant to be read in a single sitting, but enjoyed, perhaps most fittingly, during a commercial break while watching one of your favorite shows.

Like in any lengthy piece of comedy, Moe fails and falters sometimes. There are faux angry letters, like from Max the dog to the Grinch, Dorothy to Glinda the Good Witch, and a hound dog to Elvis, which are regrettably repetitive. There are also some times where Moe seems to grasp for material about some of television’s most beloved shows, which results in mostly unfunny bits, such as an assembly of Don Draper’s cocktail recipes, or letters from Bill Cosby’s sweaters, that are a little too oddball for their own good.

Also, “Rejected Super Bowl Halftime Proposals”, the only topic that appears and reappears throughout the book’s pages, falls flat, ironically like so many Super Bowl Halftime Shows you’ve seen. For example, for Super Bowl XXXVIII in 1994 Moe writes, “A proposal called for… combining two of the more popular films of the past year: Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List.” This recurring selection of over 40 years of Halftime Show suggestions are on occasion wildly surprising, but they’re Moe’s most humorless work in the book.

However, Moe delivers laughter more often than not, which is no easy task. He is seemingly at his best when writing about music. From his “Memo regarding changes to the Hotel California in light of Mr. Don Henley’s recent complaint” to Black Sabbath’s Toni Iommi’s letter to Ozzy Osbourne that points out the singer rhymes, “masses” with “masses” in the song “War Pigs”, it’s often Moe’s matter-of-fact observations that supply the strongest laughs.

He also provides some of his best bits when he drops a first-person narrative or his memo-speak, and gives a voice to a multitude of characters, as when Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Donald Duck, and Goofy discuss the enigma of Pluto and Goofy, in which Mickey says, “The dissonance is a little hard for me to bear… There’s a dog acting like a dog and ANOTHER dog wearing clothes and sitting in a chair and talking. And his name is GOOFY.”

All in all, amidst the nonsense, Moe digs deep into our appreciation and nostalgia for cartoons, sitcoms, movies, songs and other pop culture artifacts, and doesn’t just make us feel better about spending hours of our lives with Popeye cartoons, reruns of Gilligan’s Island or Guns N’ Roses lyrics, though he certainly does do that.

Dear Luke, We Need to Talk. Darth has a brand of hilarity that’s smart enough at times to provide worthwhile criticism of some of our most beloved forces in popular culture. For a collection of nonsense, as Darth might say when he’s not busy writing to Luke, the Force is strong with this one.


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