The self-proclaimed "psychedelic soldiers of the VHS realm" and all-around mad geniuses behind the found footage/puppeteering/live show extravaganza Everything Is Terrible! again is touring the country. While preaching the gospel of randomness, they're putting out two new film series -- one focusing on the dark and sometimes ridiculously closed-minded world of stand-up comedy, and the other focusing on the gentrification and commercialization of hip-hop.
While gearing up for their fourth Phoenix performance later this month, Jackalope Ranch chatted with Nic Maier, a.k.a Commodore Gilgamesh, about the upcoming show at FilmBar and just what exactly we can expect from that show. (SPOILER ALERT: The answer might be the unexpected.)
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Your videos and other media meant to explain what the group is all about can be pretty cryptic. What can attendees expect from an EIT show?
Honestly, we get bored so easily with everything that we can never give a straightforward explanation. As long as we keep our mission statement vague, we can evolve and keep people asking questions. I think that is one of the reasons Everything Is Terrible! fans keep coming back to shows -- every show is a totally different experience from the last. This time around, attendees can expect two absolutely insane movies jam-packed with the world's worst stand-up and fake hip-hop footage, which we somehow made pleasurable to watch. EIT!, as always, will be there with a new gang of homemade costumes, sets, and puppets to hold the audience members' sweaty hands throughout the whole experience! We aim to cram every darkened nook of your brain with an unprecedented amount of psychedelic hilarity.
When and how did EIT begin? Talk about a boring snore fest of a tale. Most of us met in college in Ohio. After college, we moved away from each other. We wanted to continue to share our VHS finds with one another, as well as work on our editing, so we started the website to do so. Once people besides our friends began looking at it, we began making the movies, live shows, and original content videos -- anything we could get away with basically. Now we're five years in and we're an unstoppable machine.
Costumes seem to be a big thing in your performances. What's your favorite costume you've used onstage thus far? The dog costumes from DoggieWoggiez! PoochieWoochiez!, which was our third movie, were probably the most fun to perform in! I tussled so many heads of hair in that dog suit! I think our Holiday Special stage set was by far the most complete, at least in its ability to fill every different space that we visited. But, in my opinion, the costume for Rusty Bouchet, the star of the Comic Relief Zero live show, is technically our most technically impressive costume.
What does the Comic Relief Zero portion of this year's video tour focus on? This project is very different from all of our past works. This is the only time that I've felt that there was a true agenda behind our decisions. After sifting through 30 years of stand-up comedy footage, we found that certain themes (hate speech) and tropes (saying "seriously") dominate the form. We found it pretty depressing because art can be pretty much whatever you want, and these guys (almost entirely middle class and up, heterosexual, caucasian men) choose to talk into a microphone in front of a boring wall about their boring ideas. We think the audience deserves more! So we took over a thousand different stand-up sets and mashed them into one mind-destroying special! Hosting the special will be the hottest insult comedian of our time, Rusty Bouchet! Honestly, all I want from this project is to convince just one person to not do stand-up comedy. Just one.
What about the EIT Does the Hip-Hop portion? EIT! Does The Hip-Hop! is meant to undo much of the damage done to the viewer during Comic Relief Zero! It is such a toe-tapping good time! While at the heart of the project there is a certainly an idea concerning cultural co-opting, but the end result is a party! Who knew that if you jam every fake rap song that is trying to get you to buy something from Pier One Imports or whatever into one hour-long music video, it would feel sooooo good! We hope that an audience member dances away from the EIT! hip-hop show and goes straight to somewhere to buy something! 'Cause seriously, what's cooler than a small-town realtor rapping? Nothing! BOOM!
What are some of your favorite clips used in this year's tour? Scott Wood's comedic genius is by far the winner of the sources for Comic Relief Zero. A close second would be A.J. Jamal and Mike Warnke. There's a special something that happens when a person refuses to say "dirty" words that either makes them into an enormous bigot or simply the dumbest/weirdest person ever! The resulting repression expression is kinda beautiful! From EIT! Does The Hip-Hop, the rappin' realtor and karate rap are both unbelievably marvelous! Oh what's that? You don't know what I'm talking about? Now you have to come to the show!
What sets EIT apart from other found footage film tours like Video Blender? We have a totally different goal than most other found footage entities. We use the footage we find in a transformative way. It isn't about archiving and saving things that could get lost to the past. For me, EIT! is about destroying cultural norms and tropes by knocking down stereotypes and boring ideas and turning all that garbage, that we are constantly assailed by, into something that people have never seen before. By the end product, we've breathed a creative and thoughtful life force into what was once totally mundane mediocre piece of media. It is a transformative process and, we hope, experience for the viewer.
What advantages or disadvantages do you think this film style, which is a pretty intense and random mish-mash of other films, has over the typical film format or even ones that are based around shorts like Spike & Mike? Everything Is Terrible! uses this style of editing and clip choice because that is how our brains work. We use what we have access to in any and all ways that we can. We have to keep constantly pushing our process and product to new places, simply just so we don't get bored. And found footage has a way of tapping into the memories of our viewers, which is such a powerful tool! One thing I think EIT! does well is to bring up emotions from one's past by sampling, then making that fond-ish memory into a psychedelic mountain of an experience that features the whole spectrum of emotions.
Why the name "Everything is Terrible"? Well, 99.999 percent of the media made in this country is complete garbage. We can all agree on that, right? Beyond that, I think the name speaks to the contradiction in our work, in comedy in general, and in Everything. Our motto "If Everything Is Terrible, then nothing is." points to this paradox. We have such a love hate for all of this culture that created us! It is such an apparently black and white statement, that upon further examination is not that at all!
What's next for EIT after this tour? We've always got about 101 projects going! Of course there will be more EIT! movies and tours with crazier footage and bigger and better live shows, but I think we have to keep a lid on the nature of those for now. We also have a lot of original content about to drop. There's a show, called Analog Mountain, that will air on MTV Other this fall. It is made entirely out of found footage from the MTV vaults. Channel 2020, about a dystopian future run by reptilian overlord puppets, and Sex City, about a city made entirely out of two men's childhood porno collection! We've got so much stuff happening!
How do you think the film project has changed since the first Everything is Terrible: The Movie? We've evolved so much since then. We've just become way better editors, performers, puppet/costume/set builders. We also have so much more footage from which to draw. On top of our personal VHS collections, we are also downloading more and more. All this footage means more options for editing. Now we're able to do themed movies where we pack 1 to 100 sources into a single second, while barely scraping the surface of all the insane footage that we have!
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Why are you (if you are, that is) excited to stop into Phoenix to show Comic Relief Zero and EIT Does Hip-Hop? Of course we are excited. We always have really fun, high-energy crowds. Everybody there knows what a party we want every EIT! show to be and they bring it! And Filmbar is such a great venue! Oh yeah, and don't forget to bring us all your copies of Jerry Maguire on VHS! We need them. Seriously.
Everything Is Terrible brings Comic Relief Zero and EIT Does Hip-Hop, along with their crazy live puppetry and a costume show, to FilmBar on Wednesday, September 18, at 8 p.m. and again at 10 p.m. Tickets ($10) and more information are available through FilmBar's website.