Joe Bob Briggs is charging into Cinepocalypse on June 18th to present his one-man show, “How Rednecks Saved Hollywood” for his Chicago debut.
We interviewed the beloved icon about rednecks, The Last Drive-In, and much more.
Joe Bob Briggs is set to break new ground at the Cinepocalypse Genre Film Festival in Chicago, Illinois on June 18th at the Music Box Theater. His one-man show, titled: How Rednecks Saved Hollywood is set to be a gut-busting affair of epic proportions that anyone and everyone is bound to enjoy. Most importantly, fans of his body of work will surely not be disappointed, as this event highlights the Joe Bob we all have grown to know and love over the years.
Briggs has a long, storied career that has seen him wearing many hats – not just his iconic cowboy hat – including work as a published author, a journalist, actor, comedian, and most notably for horror and movie buffs, the host of programs like TNT’s MonsterVision and his current run on Shudder’s The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs.
It is Briggs’ ability to share in movie goers’ love of film itself that unites so many of us.
It’s what makes us eager to join him over and over to watch him dissect the movies he showcases and critique them in unique, humorous ways.
The Last Drive-In debuted on AMC’s horror streaming platform, Shudder, in 2018, resurrecting fans’ beloved MonsterVision. It also kept up the same formatting from before, featuring commentary and stories by Briggs sprinkled throughout each featured film, along with his iconic ‘drive-in totals’ and surprise guests – usually familiar faces from the movies in his line-up.
The debut episode ran over 24 hours in length, and its instant popularity won him a permanent home with Shudder. The show was so popular, in fact, that Shudder’s servers infamously crashed during the live stream.
I had the honor to speak to Briggs about his experience hosting The Last Drive-In and about his currently touring live show.
Briggs stressed how much he loves the diversity of The Last Drive-In audience and the social media groups that have formed to bring together this diverse group, uniting them in a love of genre films and the man himself. He explains:
“It’s a place where everybody comes together and no one’s fighting all the time. That’s one thing I love about the Shudder show is that it has this feel good. I don’t know how long we can sustain it… we’re Americans, we love to fight. Right now, everybody’s peace love togetherness. We’re all Americans, we’re not going to label each other. That’s one of the great things about THE LAST DRIVE-IN audience is it’s so diverse, and yet they all get along.”
Fans of Briggs’ who are more familiar with his work on MonsterVision and The Last Drive-In may wonder about coming out to see their favorite host talk about rednecks for two hours. But Briggs assured me that there really isn’t much difference between this live show and the television shows we’ve come to know and love.
According to Briggs, this show goes deeper than his other programming.
He’s accessed a broader database of researchable knowledge from the World Wide Web along with his own, personal data bank forged from decades of experience. Briggs explained how, back in the days of MonsterVision, he was the authority on genre films. Now, as Briggs said:
“At the same time, the audience has become 100 times smarter. They know when I make mistakes, and they love it when I make mistakes. Boy. do they love to tell me when I’ve made a mistake!”
To avoid this, Briggs has spent a long time researching to ensure all his facts are up to date and ready for audience consumption. The director of his show is a long-time fan of MonsterVision who wanted to give the fans what they want, but on a more specific topic than the usual fare. His reasoning behind selecting rednecks and redneck cinema as a singular topic is likely due to Briggs’ own history, his background as a Texan and his love of the obscure.
The redneck trope is rampant throughout cinema, and not just horror cinema. As for Briggs, he said his personal favorite is the “if you go into the South, the rednecks will kill you” sub genre.
“It’s [the show] comedy, it’s film history, it’s redneck history, it’s cultural history, it’s mayhem… I show about 200 clips in about two hours, so that’s how fast the stuff goes,” said Briggs.
And it sounds like a hell of a good time.
But this isn’t Briggs’ first rodeo with this show, or this topic in general.
In fact, he got the idea for this show about ten years ago when he was invited to speak about Southern film at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi.
“And so they wanted me to talk about Southern film. So I went and I did this whole talk on Southern film, and I realized after I did the talk I’d picked all the wrong films. I’d picked the Gone with the Wind films, you know the Bette Davis films, Jezebel and stuff like that. And the riverboat films, and the big Southern musicals and stuff like that. And I realized, you know, the more interesting films are the redneck films. You know? The hillbilly films, the swamp films, and all that. The car chase films, the NASCAR films, all that stuff.”
Joe Bob went on to explain that Southerners – not all of whom are rednecks, of course – came from two places: England and Scotland.
“…the people from England were the planters and the slave owners and all that. The people from Scotland were cool. That was the rednecks,” said Briggs. Furthermore, after speaking at Millsaps College, Briggs decided that “the next time somebody asks me to talk about Southern films, I’m just gonna talk about rednecks.”
He got his chance when he was invited to speak about Southern film again, but this time, at the Chattanooga Film Festival in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This time, Joe Bob kept to his initial impulse to change the topic from Southern film in general to the history of the redneck and their place in cinema.
This show has traveled with Briggs all over the country. But initially, he only chose to perform it in Southern states.
“I thought it was a pure, Southern show in cities that love their Confederate monuments,” said Briggs.
Again, his plans were altered when he was contacted about doing his show about redneck history at the Coolidge Corner Theater, an arthouse theater in Boston, Massachusetts. His response?
“Man, you wanna get me killed. I don’t think I can do it there. And they were like no, come on, it’ll be great. And so, I said okay. Well, I want you to get every redneck in Boston at that show ‘cause otherwise it’s gonna end badly. You know, and so I put a trigger warning on the front of the show… I talked about safe spaces. So nobody killed me… they gave me the standing ‘o’ at the end. And so I thought okay, well, I guess I can do this in Northern cities. So here I am, years later, I’m actually gonna do it in Chicago.”
Every time he spoke to fans and contacts in Chicago, there was one place that seemed to pop up over and over as a suggestion for somewhere else he could perform his show: The Music Box.
When talking about The Music Box, Briggs said, “This is the cult movie temple where we worship in Chicago.”
I learned that this will actually be Briggs’ first performance in the Windy City. However, he’s no stranger to an audience – television viewing audience or live – and seems excited for the opportunity. When asked about what he likes to see from an audience, Briggs said simply: “I like a rowdy audience.”
On his tour of Northern states, Briggs did a show in Minneapolis, where he was forewarned about Minnesotans’ gentle, kindly nature. Briggs noted, “I can’t deal with this excessively polite shit.” But, as it turned out, the audience had a rip-roaring good time, and got rowdy with him, just the way he likes it. We can only hope for a similar outcome in Chicago.
“I like ‘em [the audience] to get involved, and there’s some very politically incorrect clips I show, and I can always tell when I show the clips whether this audience is into it or not. Sometimes, there’s a little bit of a shock that runs through the crowd like ‘I can’t believe I’m watching this’ and other times, it’s like ‘YEAH!’ Only Joe Bob would show this! You never know exactly what you’re gonna get,” said Briggs.
His work is certainly cut out for him, however, as, according to Briggs, The Music Box Theater boasts close to 800 seats.
He knows from experience that the more people you pack into a space, the bigger the laughs, which given his jovial nature and constant laugher during our interview, seems to be exactly the type of energy he’s after.
“Cinepocalypse is kind of a high brow thing. It’s like, the movie right before me is a subtitled, Polish art film. So, I’m still kind of the odd man out at Cinepocalypse… I’m doing my best to fill up their 800 seats… that’s huge! I don’t know if I can fill up 800 seats. Whoever shows up, we’ll have fun,” said Briggs.
The Windy City has its own culture, a varied scene of art and music and film, and it can certainly seem exclusive to people who are watching from the inside out.
Briggs agreed with this assessment, stating:
“You guys have your own history, your own way of talking to each other. If you’re from out of town and watch the local news in Chicago, you don’t know what’s happening. You have your own Chicago stuff no one else can understand, so I’m very happy to be going… it’s like a foreign country to me.”
Even so, Joe Bob seems more than willing to rise to the challenge and give us one hell of a show.
“By the end of it, what I hope for is sort of like I’ve twisted your brain into a new direction when you think about rednecks,” said Briggs.
Tickets to How Rednecks Saved Hollywood can be purchased on The Music Box’s website (www.musicboxtheatre.com).