What do most of us think of when we hear the name Satan? A guy in a red suit and pitchfork might come to mind. However, Satan means different things to different people, especially the masterminds behind Everything is Terrible, a loose collective of producers known for making hilarious VHS video collages out of bizarre found footage. This month, rabid fans of the longstanding video blogging website can experience EIT stepping onto the stage for a live show version of their latest creation The Great Satan Feb. 7, at the Long Beach Art Theater.
“I kind of view our American culture as my idea of what Satan is,” says a producer of the show who goes by the mononym Nic. “I think that’s why the name The Great Satan is a dual meaning because they’re people that refer to the U.S as the Great Satan. I think to me our toxic culture is kind of like Satan.”
Before moving to LA, EIT’s small collective of producers was formed in 2000 by a group of friends from Ohio University. The core include Nic and Ghoul Skool, the main video directors, as well as Wong Man is in charge of the editing and the effects. There are also more behind the scenes people who comb through clips and organize them. Obviously, the group try not to use anyone’s real names. “We just think it’s funny and it adds to the mystery of it,” Nic says. “There is also a long history of found footage work of having pseudonyms and hiding your identity and stuff because of the supposed legal nature…When we started EIT, we wanted to continue that tradition.”
Culling footage from video titles like “Yogi Ogi Dogi”, “So Your Cat Wants a Massage?”, “The Pubic Hair Dying” to “The Yellow Dyno: Pedophile Hunter”; Everything is Terrible has mined crazy and absurd, yet loveable bits from VHS tapes and from the internet for nearly 10 years and garnered millions of views on YouTube. “It’s become so second nature,” Nic says. “In my bedroom I probably have 2,000 to 3,000 tapes. I buy 50 every month from a thrift store or from Amazon. We also rip stuff from YouTube. We are constantly absorbing footage.”
Since finishing The Great Satan (which you can also find on DVD and of, course, VHS), EIT are already exploring new project ideas which range from a self-improvement movie, a softcore porn movie, an action movie, a kids movie, and even a teen movie. Also In the near future, their long time goal of amassing the largest number of Jerry Maguire VHS tapes in the world to build into a pyramid is finally coming to fruition. “Get all of the Jerry’s, not just some, all of them,” says Nic sardonically. “Could you imagine if you were a Jerry and you didn’t make it to the Jerry pyramid…and you’re in a landfill?” Nic says with a hint of irony.
Satan as a symbol is very funny to EIT. Mainly because people take it seriously and we forget that people take it seriously. How seriously? They already had show cancelled in San Antonio. “The venue backed out on us because of the theme of the show. To some people, Satan is a very real problem and that’s a very different Satan that we are talking about when we say Satan is in charge of our world at this moment,” Nic says. The troupe were supposed to perform a free show at a San Antonio public library. Even though they were upfront about the theme. Last minute, someone changed their mind. “I think a boss got wind of it. I don’t know if somebody had complained or what happened, but they pulled the plug on it.”
Since the incident, Nic became more aware that the show might be perceived differently outside of LA. “I’m interested to drive through this huge weird country and see how people outside of my neighborhood outside of the Los Angeles bubble feel about our Great Satan movie and live show,” Nic says. “There are giant singing and rapping ghosts. Preachers with their faces melting. Sword battles with super heroes. Satan will even make an appearance,” says Nic about his twisted Jim Henson-eque production.
Nic admits that everyone in the group have a different perspective on what Satan means symbolically and feels that he’s probably the most extreme minded person from the group.
“I know some people aren’t as strong minded on repulsion to our culture,” he says. “I don’t think anyone in our group actually thinks Satan is the red thing that fell from the sky from heaven.”
To Nic, no one is immune to mockery in comical tragedy. “In the process though we are kind of pointing out that everybody is dumb. So the Satanist don’t look very good either,” he says. “I’m curious actually. Because I think some actual Satanists wouldn’t like it very much because everybody just looks stupid…There’s nobody that’s doing a good job.”
The show touches on the many issues of unfettered capitalism: racism, police violence, military violence, sexism, homophobia, classism — all which are built in into capitalism. “I think it definitely gets into all those things pretty strongly,” Nic says. “I can legitimately say that our shows are like nothing else that you’ll see. We come up with the dumbest, more surreal characters and people will just go along with it…The show is an escape and a constant reminder of what’s going on.