Anyone who’s ever tried to find a unique way to say, “Happy holidays!” knows how excruciatingly one-note this time of year can be, but it’s unlikely any of us has put as much time exploring the nuances of season’s greetings as found-footage/comedy website Everything Is Terrible, currently touring with their irreverent holiday-themed live show and film, Everything Is Terrible! Holiday Special. To make it happen, one of the site’s founders, Commodore Gilgamesh, describes a Chinese-water-torture viewing process involving hundreds of VHS tapes, mining bargain bins everywhere for the gems that put a twinkle in Bad Santa’s eye and regularly make the group heroes of the Internet.
“There’s one sentiment to all of [the videos], which definitely makes you feel insane after you watch 100 of them,” Gilgamesh says.
But once they’re over the hump of video consumption, the editing process ignites a good-humored creativity that alleviates that cabin fever. What’s legitimately insane, for those who have not witnessed the spectacle of their live shows, is the intense craft that goes into their physical manifestations of these found clips – the costumes, puppetry and set-building they design to evoke the same horrific awe as the infomercials, after-school specials and other odd scenes they manage to edit into cohesive, uproarious narratives that underlie each movie they release.
“There’s a few of us who do more of the conceptualizing and building, but it’s been cool with the last three shows that we’ve come up with, and as the video is taking shape, we are building the live show around it at the same time,” Gilgamesh explains. “So we’re growing both at the same time, and we’re like, ‘Oh, wouldn’t that be cool if we built a 12-feet-tall Santa Claus god figure?’”
For those who caught them the last time they came through town – when they wore 10-foot-tall dog costumes and insisted that human currency be converted into bark bucks – it’s a clear sign that each Everything Is Terrible show strives to be bigger, better (and of course, awful-er) than the last. And it doesn’t get much worse than the horrible Christmas rap they use on one of the show’s teasers (which unfortunately isn’t in the film) with the lyrics, “Rap, rap, the Christmas rap, I wrap my gifts to the Christmas rap.”
“We were kind of obsessed with bad, fake rap at the time,” Gilgamesh says. “I’m actually kind of devastated that it isn’t in the movie, because I found it afterwards, which is kind of the curse of making these themed movies that we’ve been doing for a little while here, where you’re always looking for it, even after you’re done making the movie, so everything is a white whale that got away.”
Founded in 2000, Everything Is Terrible has spent 13 years playing Ahab for the benefit of eager viewers who loyally follow the site to catch every absurd clip, the most famous of which is from the instructional video, “So Your Cat Wants a Massage?” This is their third time visiting Will’s Pub, though, and perhaps the only ambition they have that supersedes their hunt for terrible videos is their drive to own every VHS copy of the Oscar-winning Jerry Maguire on the planet. So far, they have more than 6,000 copies of the tape that they encounter more than any other as they sift through thrift shops, and at each show, they demand the audience sacrifice their own copies. Each tour, they come home with somewhere between 500 and 700 additional copies for their collection.
“We know we have to save every copy of Jerry Maguire ever, and once we do that, something else will happen, and it’ll be perfect, whatever happens,” Gilgamesh says.
As for the rest of the live show, Gilgamesh explains it best: “What we’re doing on tour with the holiday special is making our version of a middle school or elementary school holiday pageant. So we took all of our skills in puppet building and set building to kind of fill what we’re pretending is our grade school auditorium with as much tacky, gross – as many Christmas lights as possible – stupid ornaments that we can fill it with.”
The loud night holds in store a special viewing of the film, a holiday pageant involving a 12-foot Santa-god hybrid and a ritual sacrifice of Jerry Maguire VHS. Their movie might not inspire the sort of Christmas cheer that we’re used to at this time of year, but it does dally in other cringe-worthy nostalgia apropos of the season. With its home-movie-style transitions and sidesplitting soundtrack, the holiday icon this approach to festivities likely aligns with most is the puffy-paint Christmas sweater your grandma wears while decking her halls.
“It’s a true sensory overload.”
P.S.: If you have bark bucks left over from the last tour, Everything Is Terrible will honor them at an improved conversion rate of two to one, meaning one bark buck is now equal to $2. Bark, bark!
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