I’ve recently been thinking about one of my heroes when it comes to pop culture commentary: Joe Bob Briggs.
I first saw him on the Movie Channel as a host of Joe Bob Briggs’ Drive-In Theater, which would show B-movies, often horror films, you would expect to see in, well, drive-ins.
He wasn’t your typical horror host, dressing up as a monster and making crass comments on the movies. No, instead, he dressed as a cowboy (I think he WAS a cowboy) and had an affable way about him. He was also not your typical movie critic, who treated their job like they were performing God’s work while boiling down the quality of a movie by utilizing such simple minded techniques as a star system or ‘thumbs up and thumbs down’. Briggs actually exhibited affection for these movies, no matter how bad, and the closest thing he came to giving the audience the idea of the movie’s quality was saying something like: “10 breasts, constant aardvarking, 5 explosions, a nail to the head, a sword in the chest, constant playing of ‘Riders on the Storm’. Joe Bob says, check it out.”
When his show was cancelled, he later appeared as the host of Monstervision on the TNT network, where he pretty much did the same thing.
I read his newsletter, which had reviews and insightful essays about anything that was in his brain at the time, as well as an ‘advice for the hopeless’ column. There was a ‘name that movie’ section where people would describe a scene of a movie that they could not remember the name of, and readers would write in the answer.
Briggs was in an episode of Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect (a show known to get incendiary with its views) where he said the funniest line of the night:
‘Can I give the redneck opinion on divorce? Now, we Texans would love the 50/50 law they have in California, because it would mean we would split a $20,000 credit card bill.’
Joe Bob’s alter ego was known to Daily Show viewers as John Bloom, a correspondent who did a segment called God Stuff, in which he commented on the crazy stuff televangelists did. He could have been vicious in his criticisms, Instead, he was gently irreverent, not mocking religion but rather the silliness of people in general. He went on to publish ‘The Door Magazine’, billed as “the world’s pretty much only religious satire magazine”.
What I appreciated most about Joe Bob Briggs was he realized the folly of criticism. He knew he wasn’t the final authority on anything and saw no point being nasty, especially since you were discussing the work of people who were doing the things you wished you were doing. I try very hard to be like Joe Bob Briggs, to the point I sometimes take on an irreverent persona to make a ridiculous point. Sometimes I fail because I get too passionate about the things I care about – but I do try. It’s too bad other critics, especially we amateur bloggers, do not strive to do the same.
Check out the video of Briggs in action and watch the smooth brilliance in action.