Interview with Everything is Terrible!
Everything Is Terrible! is the video collective known for discovering some of the most campy, wild, and just plain weird VHS footage. They upload these found footage clips, sometimes edited for comedic effect, to the internet every weekday and have produced several viral hits like “DUANE!!!” and “So Your Cat Wants A Massage?” They are also known for extravagant live shows and for their ongoing effort to construct a giant pyramid out of VHS copies of the movie Jerry Maguire. They were recently in Pittsburgh touring their show “The Great Satan” for the second time. I got the chance to catch up with one of the members of the collective, Commodore Gilgamesh.
Brooke Ley: How has the tour been going so far?
Commodore Gilgamesh: We’re just starting it, but we have done this show before. We did a tour with it and it was great which is why it is back by popular demand.
BL: Nice! Yeah, I actually went to see you guys whenever you were in Pittsburgh before. Now you’re at a different location. Instead of at the Carnegie Stage you’re at Row House Cinema in Lawrenceville.
CG: Yeah, which is why we’re really happy to come back because we kind of felt like a lot of people didn’t want to go out to the ‘burbs to the community theater out there, so I think a lot of people are happy that we’re coming to the city proper.
BL: Definitely. So, did you decide to revive the show because of demand or were you looking to, I guess, do more stuff? Is there anything we can expect to be different this time around?
CG: Yeah, it is slightly different. It is always evolving, but it is basically the same show which we just brought back because we sold out so many shows. People were just begging us to bring it back, so we caved. Pittsburgh is one of those place where we were turning people away.
BL: Why do you guys decide to tour this movie? Instead of it being just this film it’s this sort of live performance, I suppose, that goes along with it. What was the inspiration for that?
CG: We’ve been doing this for, you know, the actual shows 8 or 9 years now. In the very beginning, we were asked to do film festivals to screen our movies, and they would fly you out to talk, and we always thought that that was pretty boring. We always laughed whenever film makers started to talk. We just pretty much decided to start building universes around the features that we made and create a much more robust experience for our viewers. It has just grown from there, and now, I mean, if we didn’t come people would be pissed. They’d be confused and pissed, so we have no choice but to keep making it crazier and bigger as we go.
CG: We love it. I mean, we love building stuff, we love performing, so it’s just like each thing feeds into the other thing.
BL: Yeah! The shows are great. They’re big and crazy, and one of my favorite parts is the costumes of it and the characters behind it. What were some of the inspirations for the costumes and is that something that people within Everything Is Terrible! work to design or is that something that you have another artist help you guys out to do.
CG: No, we do everything. It’s all us. I designed and built those costumes with a few others of the collective. It’s so fun. It’s basically stuff that we’ve just experiment with and taught ourselves how to do. Most of us don’t really have any, like, formal training on like editing video and we don’t have any formal performance or costuming or anything else so we just have sort of made everything up as we’ve gone. It's just been a fun universe that we can experiment within. Whenever we just come up with some dumb new thing that we want to try to do we just push it into the world that we’re making, and people accept it which is insane! We’re always expecting people to be like “that’s too much you guys need to stop,” but our fans are always down which is amazing.
BL: Yeah, speaking of wild projects that might not have stuck but your fans have got into, you guys have the “*Jerry Maguire*” pyramid going up and are working to collect all of the Jerry Maguire VHS tapes. How’s that project going?
CG: I mean, that is our life’s work. It is a for-real thing. We are going to build a pyramid. We’re still collecting Jerrys. Still collecting bricks for it. The last “The Great Satan” tour that we did, we received almost 7,000 Jerrys. In this two weeks, we’re expecting to get at least 2,000. You know, there’s a lot of legwork we’re expecting everyone to do, to go out there and get them and bring them to us. That is just an ongoing project that we demand that our followers provide us with building materials. As far as like the boring bones of the project, we’re still looking for land in Arizona to find the right site to purchase and then to move forward with the construction. We’re really keeping it very open and being like this pyramid will rise in the next decade.
BL: It’s funny that there’s a part of this project that you consider to be “boring bones” considering that it’s this Jerry Maguire pyramid. What’s that interaction like? Whenever you call and you’re talking about purchasing land do you have to explain what it is?
CG: Yeah, absolutely. And it is a big roadblock and that’s why it’s taking us a long time to find the right site. I mean you can assume any time somebody builds like another god-forsaken CVS or whatever else on any corner, it take a lot of crap to do that and to do a three-story pyramid covered in Jerry Maguires in the middle of nowhere is even harder. There is a lot of pretty dumb red tape we need to sort through. We want it to live forever. We hope that we’re all rotting in the ground for generations while the pyramid is still growing.
BL: Something that I was introduced to your group through - and correct me if I’m wrong but I believe this is sort of your first thing - are doing these short clips from old, wild VHS tapes and other sources and posting them on Youtube. These produced some really good viral content like Duane and the Milwaukee cops vs knives. My first question is if there’s an underrated favorite that you have, one that might’ve not gone viral but you find yourself kind of in love with.
CG: Yeah, it’s so interesting. We’ve done that part of the project for almost 11 years now and that’s obviously the roots of the whole thing and where we’ve gotten all of our inspiration and groundwork for the entire universe that we’ve built. It’s really weird to have posted a video onto the internet every single day for that long. Just to try to organize it in your brain and make sense of it is overwhelming. I have favorites like every month that will not do well at all and I’ll just be so confused, and then there’s ones I won’t think are going to do well at all and they’ll just blow up. The internet is a weird, fickle place like the real world, and nothing makes sense and everything is just truly terrible at the same moment. But yeah, there’s so many ones that I love, like going way, way back to some of the hits I have made that I love is like there’s a public dyeing video that teaches you about a place that dyes pubic hair in various ways. It’s like really insane. I’m a big fan of all the kids’ stuff. I always find that stuff particularly insane. Just anytime someone thinks they’ve made something for a child and they’re just failing epically and in every way.
BL: Gerbert is a particular favorite of mine.
CG: Yeah, Gerbert is a huge part of our world. I mean, we’ve actually build our own Gerbert puppet that we use for live shows and stuff. Someone actually asked us one time after a show how we got Gerbert. We’re like “You know we just built that right? Gerbert’s not real. He’s not a real boy.”
BL: With that being the origin, what inspired you to start posting these weird VHS tapes? Were you finding them and decided this is content we need to show people or did you just sort of happen upon it?
CG: It was a lot more personal. We were fans of a lot of found footage work and a lot of video collage stuff and had been in that world for a little while as just viewers and had also just been kids who grew up with VHS tapes. I mean I had two VCRs and a converter when I was really young and I was copying every single tape I rented from the video store. I would copy pornographic films and sell them to the younger kids. I’ve been up to the same thing since forever so it only made sense to end up here. We’re also the perfect age where torrenting and all of that kind of happened right when we were in like late high school and college so we just kind of came into the adulthood of media thinking that we could gather everything and use it however we wanted which is a more extreme interpretation of fair-use than I think a lot of people have. I think that being our condition combined with being the right age to start on Blogger and Youtube when those things blew up, or as like the more wild-west of the internet blew up, it just kind of gave us a real upper-hand in reaching people 10 years ago. As far as the project goes, it was personal. We wanted to make a feature edit. We lived across country from each other we were just sending each other clips on Youtube and people started catching on.
BL: So you guys currently have a lot of projects going on. You have videos going up on Youtube. That’s daily correct?
CG: Yeah, that is daily. It’s Monday through Friday.
BL: Making thousands of videos. You have the tour up and coming again. You have Jerry Maguire always. Are there any new projects coming out that you guys are working on or any new areas you’re looking to explore?
CG: Absolutely! Memory Hole, which I’m not sure you’re familiar with, it’s all home video based human horror. We’re working on a new feature with that and collaborating with some pretty awesome people. So, I think that’s going to be pretty terrifying and great. We’re doing a handful of physical installations the next coming while. We’ve been working with Meow Wolf in Santa Fe quite a bit. They’re opening a new permanent installation in Denver we’re going to have a room in. It’s going to be pretty insane. And other stuff too that I can’t talk about.
BL: Sounds great. I’m looking forward to it!
CG: Yeah. Busy, busy, busy.
BL: Any final comments?
CG: Yeah, be sure to tell everybody to bring out their Jerrys to the shows.