My introduction to Joe Bob Briggs was more than 20 years ago. I was changing channels one Saturday evening and stumbled across Troll, the 1986 cult classic about child-abducting dwarf monsters that turn Sonny Bono into a kumquat gift basket, on TNT. Unbeknownst to me, however, this wasn’t just any old screening of Troll, it was the Monstervision airing, which — of course — meant it was coupled with commentary from Mr. Briggs all night long.
As soon as Joe Bob rolled those drive-in totals (in which he boiled down the film to its core essence — number of onscreen deaths, exposed breasts, monster transformation sequences, etc.) I was hooked. Here was a guy who was the anti Leonard Maltin, an of-the-soil humorist who truly appreciated cinematic trash as the unrefined, unsung art it truly was. So amused by his wit and the scope of his useless movie trivia knowledge (remember, this was well before IMDb ruled the world) that I decided to stick around for the second movie on the double bill — the no-budget ‘80s sci-fi cheapie Trancers — even though I had no real interest in that particular movie itself. The way Joe Bob deconstructed and dissected and disassembled movies was so appealing that Monstervision was worth checking out solely to hear him go off on rants and tangents and asides about everything from French philosophy to Civil War literature to expressionistic art.
For the next three years, my entire week basically revolved around Saturday night. It didn’t matter if Monstervision was showing a legitimately great genre movie like Return of the Living Dead or an unsung gem like Parents or even utter dreck like Superbeast, getting to hear Joe Bob yammer and rave until early Sunday morning made each and every episode a must-see. To this day, the infamous 1998 dusk-to-dawn Friday the 13th mega-movie-marathon remains one of the highlights of my middle school years.
But Joe Bob Briggs and Monstervision just didn’t cement my genre fandom, it made me a connoisseur of cinema as a whole. Hearing Joe Bob simply talk about all the movies he couldn’t show on a Turner network inspired me to seek out stuff I otherwise never would’ve heard of — not just exploitation classics like The Last House on the Left and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but the works of Bergman and Antonioni to boot.
Yes … a guy named “Joe Bob” was what got me into classic Italian cinema. Go figure.
Ever since Monstervision was cancelled in 2000 I dreamed of the day that some network came along and resurrected the program. Well, earlier this year — and after an 18-year-hiatus — Joe Bob Briggs made his triumphant return to the airwaves … well, sorta … when the online streaming service Shudder aired a “live” 24-hour movie marathon hosted by the Old Milwaukee-chuggin’ one himself. The feedback from the aptly titled The Last Drive-In was overwhelming — literally, since so many long-deprived Joe Bob fans logged onto the network that the Shudder servers crashed.
This summer’s movie marathon proved so popular that Shudder’s bringing Joe Bob Briggs back for not just one but TWO holiday specials — the Thanksgiving-themed “Dinners of Death” on Nov. 22 and “A Very Joe Bob Christmas,” slated for Dec. 21. But that’s not all — in our exclusive interview with Joe Bob, the drive-in legend divulges some details on plans for a regular weekly Shudder program set to air next year!
All I can say is that it was both a hoot and an honor to get to spend an hour shooting the breeze with one of my long-time pop culture idols, and it was certainly entertaining and enlightening to hear his thoughts on modern horror, fandom demographics, media distribution platforms, censorship and his own long-term business plans (aspiring filmmakers, you’ll definitely want to take note here.)
Of course, considering a man of Joe Bob’s distinction, I think it’s for the best if we let him speak for himself, don’t you? So kick back, plug in your headphones and pop open that tall boy — it’s time to hear the living legend tell it like it is …