Allow us, for a moment, a breath of blasphemy:
Garrison Keillor is not Minnesota’s finest folk humorist. (Not by a long shot, to be totally honest, but we’ll save our Keillor contrarianism for another blog post.) The title actually belongs to a young woman who is not even from this state, who grew up in tiny Webster, Wisconsin, and who spends part of her year living and performing in Los Angeles.
Her name is Mary Mack. She is slight, rail thin, pretty in a wholesome, non-threatening way, and she speaks in the precious, stupefyingly innocent chirpings of an Ely Sunday school teacher. She also plays the mandolin. And the clarinet. In fact, a good deal of her comedy act is folksy and musical, and if you catch her at Acme Comedy Company this weekend, where she concludes a five-night residency, you will most certainly hear her hit, “I Want to Be a Plus-Sized Model,” a good clean spoof song she performs, she has said, “so girls don’t get anorexic.”
Sound cloying? Gratingly adorable? Twee, even? Ya, you betcha. But that’s an important point.
Mack is annoyingly Midwestern. And not in a schtick-y way. A quick listen to her recent interview on Marc Maron’s influential WTF podcast proves her hot dish/meat raffle bonafides—rural upbringing, bait shop employment, etc.
But whereas other folk humorist types (ahem) might lean on gee-whiz idiosyncrasy, aiming their comic sensibilities backwards, ducking their heads beneath an anodyne, steaming hot towel of small-town nostalgia, Mack totally lives in the 21st century. She’s the small-town girl in the big city. A feminist. An academic. She’s got multiple masters degrees in music (clarinet performance, conducting). Yet she can’t escape the cloying, sweet disposition of her Midwest upbringing. Her comedy wants to be cynical but can’t.
The plus-sized model song? Mack’s jealously isn’t ironic; it’s heartfelt. It uncomfortably echoes the dreamy, escapist fantasies of anyone who knew they needed to get the heck out of their hometown, but had no grasp on how to actually do so. (Try to tell me you can’t relate.)
It also ends with her calling the big gals “sluts.”