DID YOU READ

“Shut Up Little Man!” reviewed

“Shut Up Little Man!” reviewed (photo)

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Everyone can relate to horror stories about bad neighbors. But in 1987, two kids from the Midwest with the punk rock nicknames Eddie Lee Sausage and Mitchell D. did something not everyone would do. Their next door neighbors in a San Francisco apartment complex with paper thin walls were two aging alcoholics named Peter J. Haskett and Raymond Huffman. Peter and Ray liked to stay up all night chugging vodka and beating the crap out of one another, both physically and verbally. After enduring weeks of fights, and trying in vain to beg the men to quiet down, Eddie and Mitchell decided to start recording Peter and Ray surreptitiously, with a microphone they hung on a ski pole and held out their window. Why? They were young, they were bored, and they were curious. Plus, they were compiling useful evidence in case one of these drunks tried to murder one of them or each other.

That never happened, thankfully, but Eddie and Mitchell were so enamored with Peter and Ray’s uniquely caustic banter that they began compiling it onto cassette tapes and passing them around to friends. The friends passed them to other friends, and soon “Shut Up Little Man!,” as Eddie and Mitchell named their series of “audio verite” recordings, were spreading virally through underground culture. The recordings, 10 hours in all, became a cult phenomenon in the days before the Internet for the same reason things become cult phenomenon today: they was authentic, voyeuristic, and accidentally hilarious.

But were they right? That’s the really interesting question that gets explored in documentary “Shut Up Little Man!” by director Matthew Bate. He asks it in a sneaky way, too. The opening third of the film introduces us to Eddie and Mitchell as middle aged men, recounting and even recreating the story of their journey to San Francisco and their wars with Peter and Ray. They are charming and witty guys. Then we hear excerpts of the “Shut Up Little Man!” recordings. They’re funny too. Then once we’re hooked on the story and the tapes just like the famous Peter and Ray fans interviewed in the movie (like musician Bob Mothersbaugh, director Mike Mitchell, and illustrators Daniel Clowes and Ivan Brunetti) Bate muddies the water.

There are a couple of issues here. From a legal standpoint, who owns this material? At first, Eddie and Mitchell passed their tapes freely. But then, sensing an opportunity to make some money, they copyrighted the recordings. Can you copyright something after you’ve not copyrighted it? Then there’s the moral issue: is it right to record someone without their permission and profit from it? What if you’re treating a destitute old man’s addiction as the source of comedy? These questions get down to the root of every viral video on YouTube. A YouTube clip has no context, has no larger implications. It’s deliberately disposable. But what if those clips are about people’s real lives? Are the lives disposable as well? Should we be allowed to laugh at the misfortune of others, whether they’re the “Star Wars” Kid or the Winnebago Man, if they had no interest in that sort of attention? To us, those clips are trivial because they take a matter of seconds to watch and laugh at. To the subjects who have their lives changed forever, they’re anything but.

All of these questions swirl around “Shut Up Little Man!” in a really interesting way. Eddie and Mitchell even return to San Francisco looking for Peter and Ray’s sole living acquaintance in the hope that he’ll provide further insight into Peter and Ray’s life and relationship and, perhaps, absolve them of some of the guilt they feel about what they’ve done. There are no definitive answers, but there are a lot of debates, and a lot of juicy arguments between the various parties who believe they own a piece of Peter and Ray. In some cases, people disagree completely about whether or not certain conversations even took place. Too bad no one was recording them.

Bate does a nice job of weighing all the various interests equally, and the documentary manages to ask some heavy questions while maintaining a light tone. The movie is food for your ears and food for thought. It’s so good it makes you curious about the original recordings. I’m sure a lot of viewers will go online and order copies of the “Shut up Little Man!” CD, which Eddie still sells. Which means Bate is now implicated in the business as well.

“Shut Up Little Man!” opens Friday in New York and Los Angeles. For a full list of playdates go to ShutUpLittleManFilm.com. If you see it, we want to hear what you think. Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.