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 THE JOE BOB BRIGGS INTERVIEW
BY ERIC BRADNER

You started as a newspaper writer young. Ever have a normal job?

Let's see, I guess the closest I ever came to a normal job was one year when I worked at the IRS, mailing out tax forms. Everything else, I would either get fired or I would quit.

You obviously have had a long love affair with low budget trash films. When did you realize you liked films some people thought were bad, inept or morally reprehensible? And what do you think they offer people?

I knew it as soon as I saw the first one. They offer a peculiar type of escape, the feeling that your mother wouldn't approve and that other people "don't get it." They're outlaw films. They have more in common with the experience of joining a biker gang than the experience of attending a
mainstream film festival.


You started writing Joe Bob as a lark, correct? Did people “get” it? Did your fellow writers look askance at you? Did anyone understand or care you were doing satire?

No one knew who was doing it. The only person who knew the true identity of Joe Bob Briggs was my editor, Ron Smith. We sneaked it into the paper. The top editors had no idea it was there. We ran it in the Friday tabloid entertainment section, way back in the back, among the greasy discount  furniture ads. We stayed under the radar until the column attracted enough of a following that it couldn't be killed. At that point most of the other writers at the paper thought it was silly.

Writing in character allows you to get away with things that would ordinarily be not tolerated. I remember reading the column in 80s in the Sunday Pink Section in the San Francisco Chronicle and thinking, “How does he get away with this?” Often you would ramble on about your town in Texas for like 80-90% of the four-five hundred words (I’m guessing depending how bad the movie was) of the article, then at the very end slip in “No breasts. No dead bodies. Gas Pump Fu. Midget Fu. No plot gettin’ in the way of the story. 2 stars. Joe Bob says check it out.” You know, your usual nonsense. It definitely seemed a subversive and surrealist thing to see in a major urban newspaper, which as a budding writer found greatly inspiring. Whose writing influenced you and who do you like to read now?

Actually my influences were from a hundred years before, and one of them had written for the San Francisco paper. That would be Ambrose Bierce, who was really really subversive. Also Mark Twain. I liked the "changeling authorship" that was characteristic of the American and British press throughout the 19th century. The surrealism was probably more influenced by Hunter S. Thompson, who became a correspondent after a while. We exchange many surrealist letters and notes--his were more surrealist than mine, though. He would frequently accompany his scribblings with a snapshot of
something he'd just blown up with explosives.

You were way ahead of the curve with the Michael Jackson bashing. "We Are The Weird" took on a life of its own…In fact, so did everything. You came up with a whole mythology for Joe Bob, with his lawyer Bobo Rodriguez, wife Wanda Shanks, and the whole dirt farmer back story.

Yep, and don't forget the Bossier City Jail.

You have had a long and varied career as a movie host. I remember watching you on Drive-In Theater on The Movie Channel in the 80s. You always had a smart and funny and affectionate comment on the films. You didn’t just trash the film, you celebrated it. If memory serves, it seems to me they later dumped you rather unceremoniously after all those years. They didn’t have nuthin’ else worth watchin’ at the time, besides your show, that’s for darn sure.

If you're talking about The Movie Channel, they changed format. I was on there for about ten years, though--that's an enormously long run by TV standards.

I liked your “God Stuff” segment on The Daily Show. Did that come from your association with religious nut website The Door? Please tell me you had something to do with that infamous videotape of televangelist Robert Tilton, the one with farts dubbed in whenever he would do his famous grimace?

I know the guys who did the fart tape, but I can't take credit for it. Yes, all the clips came originally from the Trinity Foundation, a televangelist watchdog organization that publishes The Door. I saw a sample take of their favorite stuff and decided to do the "God Stuff" pilot. I originally envisioned it as a show on its own.

You’ve had an odd acting career. It was great to see you (as John Bloom), pop up in serious roles in Casino and Face/Off. What was it like to work with pros like John Travolta and John Woo and Martin Scorsese? Any funny stories?

Oddly enough, the easiest work is on the movies directed by the most famous guys. Martin Scorsese loves actors and he gives them a lot of leeway. John Woo loves actors so much that he actually BOWS when you come on the set. Not just for Travolta and Cage, he does it for ALL his actors.

Do you have any rivalries with MST3K or Elvira, your main competitors on the hosted-video market?

Not really. Elvira has been a guest on my show. I don't regard them as competitors because we come at it from a different perspective. They make fun of the movie, I celebrate the movie (even if I'm snarky).

The ladies seem to like Joe Bob. What gives? What do you think of your fans? Ever have to get a restraining order? Anybody get your face tattooed on them? Get a lot of prison fan mail? You’re not really on Myspace, are you? And didn’t you get singled out by the National Organization for Women as glorifying violence towards women, and challenge them to a mud wrestling match?

Yes, a nude mud wrestling match, as a matter of fact. Yes, I get a lot of prison mail, and some of that comes from women's prisons. Never got a restraining order, but came close. And yes, I'm on MySpace, although I'm not a big fan of the place.

Do teenagers even know what a drive-in is? We are lucky enough to still have one drive-in in our town.What hopes do you have for the drive-in, and even theaters in general, when it seems everything’s geared toward home theater now?

Well, there's been a resurgence of drive-ins since 2000, so I think there are quite a few teenagers who have made good use of the facilities.

You’re a jack-of-all-trades, writer/actor/supermodel. You seem to stay pretty busy. I’ve seen you in reruns on The Daily Show (as John Bloom). And I see the Joe Bob Presents tapes advertised here and there. What else are you up to? Action figures? Shakespeare? Podcasts? I haven’t seen you doing voice-overs for kid’s cartoons; Hey, it’s one career option even you might have missed.

I'm trying to focus on a) writing, and b) DVD commentaries and extras. I'm trying to get the DVD distributors to realize that the extras should be more than just recycled E! Network promo stuff. Done properly, the DVD extra is an art form of its own.

You witnessed the 9/11 attacks and wrote about it and the aftermath quite well in an effective and insightful way. How do you translate the pain and suffering in a hopeful way? How do you take an overwhelming experience like that and break it down to reach readers?

Well, at the time, I just tried to describe it as accurately as possible, without sentimentality. I don't like people that strike a moral posture when they write about it. I was right in the thick of it, and yet I think I'm one of the few people who thinks the world did NOT change that day. I don't see any difference between 9/11 and the events of the previous 15 years, including the first World Trade bombing and the embassy bombings in Africa. I don't see why we couldn't have done with 9/11 what we did with the 1993 bombing--track the guys down, put them on trial, convict them, put them away
forever.

Have you read Ed Anger lately? It’s a disgrace! He’s not yelling at people anymore. He’s PC and tolerant. What a bore. And whatever happened to Rusty, The TNT mail girl?

Rusty vanished into the wilds of the LA modeling and acting world. Ed Anger I have no explanation for.

Trash films are looked down upon, yet I would make the argument they are more relevant to people’s everyday lives than than “class” projects like The English Patient. I think 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is equally as influential as that year’s Oscar favorites, The Godfather Part II and Chinatown, and certainly more remembered today than other nominees like Murder On The Orient Express, The Towering Inferno and Earthquake!

Hope you saw my review of The English Patient.

What films are you enjoying lately?

Hostel.

What do you think of the recent popularity of theatrically released documentaries? Does it signal that the mainstream media is not doing its traditional job of questioning authority and exposing hypocrisy and corruption? And why is this administration’s law enforcement’s priorities pot and indecency, not hard drugs, corruption and terrorism? Did you just get busted or something?

Investigative reporting has been going downhill for 30 years. Newspapers invest less in it, and networks don't invest in it at all. (If you'll notice what they do on their magazine shows, it's all stories that are "pre-reported" from other sources.) So it's not surprising that there would be alternative forms of expression showing up to deal with the anger and frustration that inevitably occurs when the media stops doing its job.

What is more rewarding and what is most fun for you-writing for TV, newspapers, books or monologues, or something I haven’t even thought of?

Writing books is the most satisfying, because you can do it all by yourself. Nobody messes with ya!

Believe it or not, Joe Bob’s style of writing has influenced a whole generation of writers (myself included). What do you have to say for yourself?

You should be ashamed of yourself.

You can visit Joe Bob's official site HERE!


 

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