Everything is Terrible's Commodore Gilgamesh on the group's psychedelic Christmas explosion
The work of Everything is Terrible! is hard to describe.The easy way out is to note that it's video collage, but that doesn't begin to convey what this crew does with video. The videos themselves are dense, context-busting pastiches of pop culture and pure insanity. But as if that weren't enough, their creators add live, interactive elements to the mix to further delight and disorient the audience. On Sunday, the folks behind EIT! will bring their latest show, the Holiday Special 2012 Cataclysmic Transformation, to the Sie FilmCenter. Their biggest, most excessive project yet offers up the ghost of Christmas Past via untold hours of video schmaltz condensed into one continuous psychic onslaught of found footage, surrounded by an elaborate stage show full of puppets, fake snow, candy and glitter that will transform the Sie FilmCenter into the winter wonderland from your wildest dreams -- or your darkest nightmares.
We recently spoke with EIT's Commodore Gilgamesh about the show, the dark side of Christmas and the psychedelic effects of too much pop culture.
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Westword: The last time you were here it was to show Doggie Woggiez! Poochie Woochiez!, which was a remake of Alejandro Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain made entirely of dog footage, right? This is a little less high-concept than that, isn't it?
Commodore Gilgamesh: Yeah. For sure. I think we took it easier on this one, compared to Doggie Woggiez. We tried to make it a little more fun and less intense for the audience. It's a lot goofier, I feel like. I think we just needed a breather. We worked on that for two years and it nearly killed us all, so it was nice to come off of that into very-easy-to-repurpose holiday footage that's just dumb and silly and covered in glitter. We were just able to easily find the dumb chunks that we love or hate and get them out without killing ourselves. We made something a little more fun and goofy.
Speaking of the time that goes into these projects, how much raw footage do you have to watch to produce, say, ten minutes of finished video insanity?
It varies a lot. This is way less sources than Doggie Woggiez, but [we've] also accumulated most of this over the last four or five years. I think my count was a little over a thousand sources for the movie as a whole, for a 55-minute piece. Every ten minutes can have hundreds of sources jammed into it sometimes, just depending on the pace and whether it's a faster, more psychedelic part -- it can have hundreds in a matter of seconds -- or a slower more talky part, [where] you can see there's less in there. It varies greatly.
When you put this special together, did you sit down with a plan in mind, where you search for specific scenes or themes, or did you just watch a lot of Christmas stuff looking for scenes that make you go, "Holy shit, this is too insane, let's include it"?
Well, we know that the "holy shits" are there, just because everything has that and we know we're going to find it. We always do. We don't really work around that. We typically just know the structure of these [Christmas] movies, because they're all the same movie, so we just have that in our head going into it. Then we build around that. There are specific moments we build around, like we need all of the times where Santa looks in a mirror and is surprised that he's Santa. Or every time that's somebody is riding in the sleigh and they're looking down. Stupid little lists like that. Basically we make a hundred supercuts and hook them together based around the plot of all these movies.
This one was a little different, because we made the movie as a stand-alone piece, but we also, while we were doing it, thought about how to make it fully interactive with the live show. Before we've always presented the movie before and after, but this time it's back and forth. It's like a dialog between the video and the live stuff. We kind of had to restructure the video slightly to make it correspond with the live action on stage.
How does one do a live show that interacts with video? What can we expect from this experience?
This one's really different than our other ones, where we built giant furry mascot costumes and such. This one, we built an entire set that's going to cover the whole of every venue. It's huge, man. It's so big and dumb. [We] made a tacky, disgusting winter wonderland with nine-foot tall Christmas trees, and the Christmas trees are puppets as well. So we have puppets on stage interacting with a small boy puppet who's kind of the protagonist. Then there's a yeti that emcees the show. There's a lot that goes on at once -- a lot of gross, shiny, flashing lights and crap. It's much like the movie. It's fun and silly.
Is it psychically jarring like the movie too? I found the movie riveting in a kind of brain-searing way. The images are still rattling around in my head.
I think the live stuff is less jarring, especially this time. We're not trying to mess with the audience this time as much as we have in the past. It's more of a break from that. It's us digesting the stuff that we've seen, and just dealing with it, because it is jarring. It's upsetting, so it's kind of like us going, "Okay, we're all still here. We're in this room together. We're in puppet face but we're still here with you." We're going to hold your hand through this ridiculous video.
I think that's important because we could just show these movies but it's a lot more fun to be there with people and be like "It is okay." Does that make sense?
It does. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you guys are doing something unique, right? You've invented a new art form of interactive video collage puppetry...
That's what we think. I always feel weird saying "I don't think anybody else is doing this," but I really don't. All of the other found footage acts that we know either just up there with their faces and hands talking over the clips, or are just showing their video. As far as I know, it's the only thing like it, which is exciting for me. And I think we just keep pushing it. We get bored really easily, as you tell probably by our editing style.