Instructional cat massage videos. Pubic hair dye. A pyramid constructed out of 26,000 Jerry Maguire tapes. These items might sound like the prized possessions of a wildly eclectic hoarder, but if you're one of the members of the Everything Is Terrible! collective, these are the tools with which you ply your trade.
Since 2007, Everything Is Terrible! has made a name for themselves by tracking down oddball clips from the VHS era and stitching the content together to create modern-day comedic gold. What began as a lark between friends at Ohio University has now spawned thousands of shorts, seven feature films and a live performance featuring puppets and costumes that's coming to Portland on Monday, Aug. 12, as part of a West Coast tour.
"One of the great things about Everything Is Terrible! is, it's pretty hard to explain and is better experienced by seeing it for yourself online or at a show," says member Commodore Gilgamesh (not, if you can believe it, their real name). "We like people to be full of joy and scared and laughing—all at the same time if possible."
The crew's last film and tour, a mind-melting hodgepodge of footage from the Satanic Panic of the '80s called The Great Satan, handily achieved just that and was called a masterpiece by the Chicago Reader. The stunning film plays out like a hilarious psychedelic nightmare a priest on LSD might have (but, you know, a fun one), and its accompanying live show only intensified the wonderfully strange amalgamation of horror and comedy.
"The amount of sources we use for the films gets pretty crazy. A film that's an hour will have thousands of sources in it. The Great Satan took countless hours to build over the course of two years, and even with that intense process, we had a lot of stuff that didn't make the movie that we loved, so that's part of what we're taking on the road," Gilgamesh says. "We create totally different shows, costumes and characters for each tour and that's challenging, but it keeps things fresh. What we do is super-weird, but it's become our lives now, so it's normal to us."
Strange though it may seem, Everything Is Terrible! has inspired some serious fandom. Consider the Jerry Maguire pyramid. Over the course of seven weeks during their last tour, the group received more than 2,500 copies of the 1996 Tom Cruise hit. One man even drove straight from Texas to an Everything Is Terrible! semi-fake store in Los Angeles to hand-deliver 500 Jerry Maguire tapes. Gilgamesh says they've been scouting locations in the Arizona desert to begin building the pyramid and consulted an architect and engineers.
"The more time passes, the more ridiculous and serious it becomes," says Gilgamesh. "We've had a lot of contact with Cameron Crowe, or 'The Creator,' as we like to call him, and he's been really cool about it. At first he didn't know what to think—a lot of people don't—and, because of our name, thought we were mocking the film, but he gets it now. He actually mailed us 15 unopened virgin Jerrys, which was amazing. Jonathan William Lipnicki came to our recent L.A. pop-up. I guess the only thing left to do is get Jerry Maguire himself involved. The pyramid will probably just arise in the desert on its own after that."
The wonderful campiness of the videos combined with the stage show provides an experience that's not unlike going to a midnight movie—except, at an Everything Is Terrible! show, the movie interacts with you. When seen through that lens, the collective's unlikely success makes sense.
"We keep thinking someone is going to make us stop. Every big project we think, 'OK, this is the one,' but it hasn't happened yet and we absolutely love sharing this stuff with people," Gilgamesh says. "People just want something bigger than themselves to believe in, and obviously it's the most important thing you can do with your life: building a pyramid out of Jerry Maguire tapes."
SEE IT: Everything Is Terrible! is at Revolution Hall, 1300 SE Stark St., revolutionhall.com, on Monday, Aug. 12. 8 pm. $20 advance, $25 at the door.