Joe Bob Briggs Discusses Horror, Wrestling, & Books
In March 2019 I met Joe Bob Briggs, the wildly popular authority on drive-in movies who currently hosts horror movie marathons on Shudder, as well as The Last Drive-In: a weekly double-movie marathon featuring Joe Bob’s hilarious and insightful musings, Darcy “The Mail Girl,” and special guests. Speaking of which, Season 2 of The Last Drive-In airs this Friday at 9 p.m. ET and it features guest co-host Chris Jericho. Read on for my interview with the legendary Joe Bob Briggs, where we discuss horror movies, wrestling, books, and more.
Nearly all of your books are out of print. For fans who would love to read them – including myself – but don’t want to pay the exorbitant prices people are charging, what is your plan for re-releasing them in digital, physical, and audiobook formats?
Well, I’m planning to do that. The original book – Joe Bob Goes To The Drive-In – was the first three years, I think, of me writing about drive-in movies but it wasn’t complete. Some of them were left out, or jumped around in time, or they were poorly edited. So, a guy put them back together. But if we put that book out today, with all of them in there, the way it’s supposed to be, it’s too big for a book (laughs). I don’t think people want 15 books. If I put everything I’ve written about movies into books, there’d be 15 books (laughs). One thing we’re trying to figure out is what do we want to excerpt for a book today? Do I want to do it through my regular publisher, which is Grove Atlantic? They publish European novels, so it’s not really right for this. Or do I want to find some independent publisher? I’m trying to make all these decisions. It’s a big mess because I wrote for so many different publications and that stuff is scattered all over the place. It’s a big mess (laughs).
You should definitely do audiobooks, once you sort this out, because your voice is unmistakable and people would love it if you narrated your own audiobooks.
That’s a great idea. Audiobooks are different than when they first came out. I could do that. I think I should republish the regular book, then the audiobook, and then the e-book. I’ve got to get started on it. Too many people ask about it. People are charging $100 for a book that two years ago was – and it’s a crummy paperback too; it’s not even a real book – you could have gotten for 54 cents (laughs).
You said during a Shudder special that you were broke not too long ago. What was that experience like for you?
When everything crashed in 2008…If you’re a freelancer – which I’ve been my whole entire adult life – everything crashes all at once. You go through your savings pretty fast. There was a perfect storm of the magazine and book industries collapsing. Of course, the newspaper industry had long since collapsed. All the places I normally write for had gone away. I’d get hired for something and then the job would just disappear. It was the breaks of being a freelancer. Today, we live in a freelancer culture. A lot more people are dealing with it. It wasn’t any one thing. It was a combination of lost that job, lost that job, lost that job – through no fault of my own.
I can always get book jobs but it takes two years to write a book (laughs). So, what do you do in the meantime? That’s another thing that changed about the industry. You used to get a substantial advance on a book. That doesn’t tend to happen anymore. You just get a little bit. Not very much. The book contract doesn’t help you very much. Now you have to write the book and you’re not going to get any money until you turn it in. It’s a combination of things like that.
How do you think the coronavirus crisis will or won’t affect the way we enjoy movies going forward? Will this result in a rebirth of drive-in movie theaters?
Well, I think that’s already happening. When they released the box office last week, the total box office for the country was, like, $1,700 and it was all from this one drive-in located in Florida (laughs). The only movie theaters open right now are drive-ins. But, no, I don’t think it will have a long-term impact on how we enjoy movies. Movie theater attendance has been declining for years. The only places where it thrives are the independent or speciality theaters. The ones that host cult movie events. Those places will come back like gangbusters when this is all over. People live there and they live for those events. They go every week. While independent theaters are struggling the most right now, I think they will come back the strongest when we get through this. I think it’s the multiplexes that have to worry.
People were already getting sequel-itis and franchise-itis from all of the blockbuster franchises from Marvel, Disney, and all the other companies. They were already starting to turn against those movies that you have to see in a theater, so it couldn’t have come at a worse time for the big chain theater owners. We’ll see what they do. I hope they turn back to a more diverse menu.
You recently acquired the entire catalog of Drive-In Theater and MonsterVision tapes. What was that experience like, and what are your plans for releasing that content?
Well, they were in three different places and I rounded them up. They’re all in different formats. They need to be digitized. Some are in this Sony one-inch tape that was the standard for TV in the 1980s. All of them are on tape. None of them are digital. They have to be organized. People always ask me when I’m going to release those. I’m amazed that people want to see them released because I don’t own the movies.
The technical term for that content is interstitial. It’s interstitial programming. And interstitial programming only works if you have the stitial (laughs). So, we don’t have the stitial. We can put timecodes in there so people know when the break in the movie is. You could potentially sync it up so you know when to watch the movie, stop the movie, watch the interstitial, and then resume the movie. But I don’t know how many people are willing to do that. It’s a real pain in the ass. RiffTrax does that, so there are ways to do it. But I think RiffTrax makes it easier than I’d be able to make it because I’m not going to get access to any of these movies (laughs).
The answer is I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I will make them available. I want people to see them. People watch the old ones on YouTube. Some of them have a throughline, like a Friday The 13th marathon or The Warriors, where I’m talking about the route that the warriors took and I’m showing it on a subway map. But most of them are more random than that. It’s a little bit more dicey and makes me wonder if someone would want to watch that without the movie. On Shudder in the UK, they didn’t have the rights to the Christmas movies so we just put up the interstitials anyway. Apparently, that was OK with some of the UK audience (laughs). So, I guess it’s possible to release them at some point. We’ll see.
Pro wrestlers have said that the best characters are those that are a reflection of an individual’s personality turned up to 11.
(Laughs) I totally agree with that sentiment. That’s pretty much the definition of pro wrestling. Wouldn’t you say?
Absolutely! Does that approach apply to your Joe Bob character as well?
I used to turn it up to 11. I’m older now, so I think I can only get it up to 10-and-a-half now (laughs).
When fans approach you, they think of you as Joe Bob Briggs, the character, not John Bloom. Since you’ve been playing Joe Bob for such a long time, do you ever have an identity crisis?
No. Anything I say or do in public, or on stage, or on TV is, like you said, turning it up to 11. It’s an exaggerated version of what I’d say or do anyway. When people meet you at a horror con or film festival or one of my live shows, they don’t expect you to entertain them. They mostly want to establish some sort of a personal connection. A lot of people I meet have stories. These stories are usually about my show and how they experienced it with another person, such as a family member or a loved one. They want to tell me the story and what happens when they watch a particular movie. I find that stuff fascinating. It’s always startling to me that a show from years ago – one that sometimes I don’t even remember – had a profound impact on someone. Here they are 20 years later relishing it for whatever reason. I enjoy meeting the fans because it’s like a delayed connection with an audience. They were there 20 years ago but I didn’t meet them until just now.Speaking of stories, I met you last March at NJ Horror Con in New Jersey. Chris Jericho was at that show too, and I know him because we have mutual friends who run a podcast called Pod of Thunder. Oddly enough, I ran into Chris at NJ Horror Con in the bathroom (laughs). I was walking out and he was walking in. I said, “Hey, Chris. It’s Michael Cavacini from Pod of Thunder!” He replied, “Hey, man! How’s it going?” I said, “Great! We need to get a photo so I can text it to the guys.” He said, “Sure, after I take a piss.” (Laughs) We took a couple photos, chatted, and had a good laugh. Since both you and Chris were at the show, is that how you two hooked up in the first place?
Yeah. He sent word that he was going to come to that show if I was definitely going to be there because he wanted to interview me for his podcast. He’s a big horror fan. He booked the show so we could do the podcast, and we’ve stayed in touch all this time. It turns out that when he was in high school in Winnipeg, Manitoba, he had this cheap-ass movie club where they’d go to the local video store and try to out-gross the other guys in the group. So, he became fascinated with this movie called Blood Sucking Freaks. They never topped it. It was the best bad movie they ever watched, so Chris became an authority on Blood Sucking Freaks. I wanted to have him on the show for obvious reasons.
There’s always been a crossover audience between horror movies and wrestling, and he has this tie to Blood Sucking Freaks. So, I said, “Come co-host with me on Blood Sucking Freaks.” He agreed! Chris Jericho right now is one of the biggest names in wrestling. He has a song that charted on Billboard, “Judas,” with Fozzy. He’s firing on all cylinders right now. It’s a great time to have Jericho on and try to merge some of the horror and wrestling audience.
Years ago, I had Roddy Piper on my show because he did They Live for John Carpenter and Hell Comes to Frog Town, which is a very underrated action film with horror elements in it. He was a great guest, and I’ve always had this connection to wrestling.
If you go back to the Dallas promotions in the 1980s, I used to hang out with The Freebirds (laughs).
Really?! You were hanging out with Michael “P.S.” Hayes?
(Laughs) Yeah, Michael Hayes. They were alcoholics and they were wild. You didn’t want to hang out with them too often because they were just as wild in person as they were in the ring. If you remember, Bam Bam would headbutt people.
Yeah! Bam Bam Bigelow.
I’d have to pay off the bars so they wouldn’t call the police on these guys. It was just wild!
I’ve always had this connection to the wrestling world, so it’s just a thrill to have Jericho on. First off, he’s one of the best pure performers in wrestling. I rank them in terms of who can talk the talk. Nobody can talk the talk like Jericho can. He’s got this natural acting talent, and it’s a thrill to have him on.
I’ve always said that Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is my favorite movie of all time, and I was singing its praises long before it was cool to do so. What movie have you always told people is worth watching that eventually became the public consensus?
The original Texas Chain Saw Massacre was despised for 25 years. It was considered pornography and depraved. I was always a champion of it and never understand why that particular movie attracted so much hatred. So, that’s one.
It’s hard to say because I’m right in the middle of it, so I’m not always aware of films’ cult followings. There was a film called The New Kids that got ignored when it first came out. Years later it developed a cult following. That’s a great horror film.
A lot of the Italian films were not watched at all by horror fans when they first came out. House by the Cemetery. Nobody watched that when it was first released. Years later it was.
I know one! I Spit on Your Grave. Somebody sent me a book – a whole book – written on this movie (laughs). It was chased off the screens in America. I think the original Silent Night, Deadly Night is like that too. Certainly, Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 is like that because it’s 60 minutes of Silent Night, Deadly Night 1 and then some weird framing footage.The first time I saw Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 was on your Shudder special. That “Garbage day!” scene was hilarious!
(Laughs) I know! And it became a cult thing. Who does that? Apparently, a lot of people. Many movies at that time shot 20 minutes of new footage and tack it on to footage from the original movie. Often times they’d rearrange the footage of the original to change the story (laughs).
Reputations of movies come and go, especially when it comes to the slasher and cult films of the 1970s and 1980s. People always ask me, “Would you change any reviews you’ve done?” I always say, “No, I wouldn’t.” I’ve never had a situation where I felt the need to have a major re-appreciation of a film. The first movie we’re showing on Friday is a bad film. I don’t want to say it’s a bad film. It’s a shallow film that’s become a monster cult hit. I liked it when it came out, but I didn’t love it. It just doesn’t have enough going on to love it. It’s so goofy that everyone remembers it, and we have the star of it as my guest.