May 31, 2012 Leave a comment
I was browsing around Netflix a few months ago when I found myself relentlessly tired and ineligible in creating a decent thought worth sharing with you fine readers. This actually happens quite a bit as I am fairly prone to laziness and alcoholism. No matter, I managed to stumble upon a documentary that struck me right from the title. The film was entitled Shut Up Little Man. Intriguing to say the least. And then I read the brief description and….holy shit. What I saw in this brief yet full of content film was absolutely breathtakingly hilarious and beautiful. It was something like nothing I had ever known before for so many reasons. One, it was a phenomenon that seemed so much more impressive to me since I can only vaguely remember audio cassettes and the obsession with home recording that I too once had as a child. Two, I could only imagine the film’s main characters on display as nothing less than Hemingway and Bukowski locked in a room to learn to love. And thirdly, it was freaking hilarious! If none of this makes sense to you thus far, good. Keep reading.
I know directly after viewing this wonderful film about a wonderful artistic endeavor that the now renowned Eddie Lee and Mitch had created that I had to speak to one of them. Soon. I needed to know more. I begged to know more about these two and what the hell they had been doing since. So, I managed to wrangle myself a few words with Eddie Lee Sausage to discuss the phenomenon at hand, the cult following it has received, the documentary that ensued, and how a phenomenon such as Shut Up Little Man has stood the test of cult and time. And if you are still lost and disillusioned, you should probably hate yourself just a little bit for not knowing about this by now. I personally feel that I wasted 27 years of life by not knowing about this amazing phenomenon sooner. Enjoy the read, and be sure to Google yourself right towards Shut Up Little Man as a project, and to the amazing documentary. Enjoy!
If you don’t mind, could you drop us a quick synopsis of Shut Up Little Man.
Shut Up Little Man is a collection of urban field recordings made by my roommate Mitchell and I in the late 1980s in a low-rent apartment building in the ghetto of San Francisco. The recordings feature the real-life comical rants, hateful harangues, and drunken fistfights of Peter and Raymond – the two alcoholic homicidal roommates that lived directly next door to us. The recordings quickly spread via the underground into a worldwide phenomenon that inspired numerous artists, playwrights, film-makers, and musicians to illustrate, incorporate, and sample the stark and darkly comic arguments of Peter and Raymond into their comics, theatrical works, films, and music.
Are you and Mitch still close?
We are close in a brotherly sort of way. We have known one another for 35 years now, and we have been through a lot together. As we live halfway across the continent from one another, we don’t get to see each other much, but in another way our relationship isn’t affected at all by the distance. Every week or two we will text a line or two from Shut Up Little Man to one another.
Do you think your life would have been far different if you hadn’t moved into the “Pepto Bismo Palace” twenty years ago? How?
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment since SULM first came to life?
The single best thing that has happened due to SULM has been the ability to build friendships with other creative people and to collaborate on projects based on the recordings. Artists and musicians who have inspired us — for example Dan Clowes, Kurt Cobain, Devo, and Mike Flinn — were in turn inspired by our recordings to the point where they felt compelled to create art and music based on Shut Up Little. We have grown some really great relationships out of SULM. This is ironic in a way, considering that these friendships grew out of the dynamic of two people who never really seemed to get along at all.
Have you recognized a growth in interest in Shut Up Little Man since the release of the critically acclaimed 2010 documentary?
The movie appears to have introduced Peter and Raymond to a broader audience.
Even in the era of YouTube, Tosh.O, and iTunes, it is still reasonable to believe that SULM would have been a viral hit. What do you believe it is about those old tapes that intrigues people so much?
I think the popularity of the recordings is easy to understand. Partly, their appeal is due to the authenticity of Peter and Raymond’s dialogue. There is a raw intensity to the recordings that is unusual and rare – they aren’t varnished or adorned or fake in any way. And, I think this quality makes them stand out in an over-processed culture where even ‘reality entertainment’ feels scripted and phony. Of course, at the center of their appeal is the bizarre and complex dynamic between Peter and Raymond. The stuff that comes out of their mouths is so hilarious, provocative, disturbing, and saddening – and often all of these things at once. It makes for memorable listening. I have been told by many people that after listening to Shut Up Little Man they felt immediately compelled to share it with other people. The recordings seem to be something that people don’t passively consume and then move on or forget. Also, I think Peter and Raymond seem to operate on some kind of Jungian archetypal level, because they seem to resonate deeply with such a broad range of people.
How do you think the entire Shut Up Little Man phenomenon is viewed in the younger generation?
I have no idea how younger people view Shut Up Little Man. I don’t think they would be impacted any different from an older person would be. It seems evident by the volume of emails and correspondence we have received over the years that interest in Shut Up Little Man transcends gender, race, ethnicity, and age. That gets back to the archetypal thing.
Sundance was a bit of a blur and sort of surreal, as you can imagine. There was so much to do with the screenings and press and parties and so forth. One of the first things that happened after I arrived was that it began to blizzard snow while at the same time the sun was shining brilliantly. I stepped out right into this weird weather after checking into the hotel and bumped into Pam Anderson and her entourage and the trailing paparazzi. Very surreal.
I was surprised at how well the first half of the film worked on a live audience. I have never been in a film audience that laughed that hard, that frequently, in such a sustained way throughout the first half of the film. As many critics have noted, the second half of the film is overwrought and morally jaundiced and outright boring – and the audience responded accordingly. The director’s goal, as he has noted in interviews, was less about telling the truth about what happened, and to quote him more about “spinning people’s moral compass” and making them uncomfortable about why they were laughing in the first half. He succeeded in doing that, but I thought we were working on a documentary.
Then, on the final day, we did like a 6-hour press junket in a room full of press. We were surrounded by famous actors – Kate Beckingdsale, Demi Moore, Greg Kinnear, and Ellen Barkin all stumping for their latest films. We had no business being in that room. It really brought out the punk in me. So, again, it was very surreal. At one point Demi Moore relayed to us that her dog was named “Little Man.”
If Shut Up Little Man were to be the highlight of your career, would that be acceptable to you?
Judging what is a ‘highlight’ is way outside my realm of control. But, if that was the judgment that comes down in the end, that would be fine. In many ways Shut Up Little Man is the perfect synthesis of stuff I have been working on with my creative projects all my life – trying to elevate everyday life to the level of art, creating an art that doesn’t have an artistic self behind it, celebrating those pockets of weirdness that invade normality, absurdum and the human condition, that kind of stuff.
What was the last thing that made you smile?
I was filming my 22-month old daughter in the woods a couple of days ago and she bent down and moved a snail off the path with a stick. I asked her why she was doing that, and she said: ‘so that nobody would be stepping on it.’ That made me smile. She makes me smile every day.
For more information, and ways to free yourself form stupidity, check out the Shut Up Little Man Official Website.