In this era of YouTube overload, social media "stories" that disappear into the ether after 24 hours, and the live-streaming of everything, sitting down to splice together found analog video footage might seem like an exercise in futility. Not for longtime friends Nic Maier and Dimitri Simakis-they've been at their Everything Is Terrible! video blogging adventure for more than a decade.
Their two biggest projects-a faithful reproduction of Alejandro Jodorowsky's 1973 surrealist saga The Holy Mountain, starring nothing but dogs, and a quest to build a pyramid with every VHS copy of insufferable 1996 rom-com Jerry Maguire-have transformed Everything Is Terrible! from lowbrow internet niche to new-media avant-gardists.
Their latest film, The Great Satan, is their most fully formed yet, crafting a cohesive narrative out of seconds-long snippets that both parody and preach on the dangers of the dark knight. Best of all, Maier and Simakis have taken The Great Satan on the road for a zany, jaw-dropping live show complete with costumes, commentary and induction into the enlightened cult of Everything Is Terrible!
Folio Weekly: Give us the low-down on how The Great Satan and its accompanying live performance compares to past EIT! projects.
Nic Maier: I feel like we really elevated our game to a new level. The movie has more source material that's more seamlessly crafted together with more after-effects to produce a more beautiful, fully structured narrative. The live show has also been heightened: Our costumes are better, and the show is funnier and crazier all around. I view Everything Is Terrible! as a cult or religion with members of varying ranks: Your light user watches a video on YouTube or Facebook, but the final tier of the cult is coming to the live show, when enlightenment is finally reached. Only those who do that can really, truly understand Everything Is Terrible! and themselves.
The portrayals of Satan are equally horrifying, hilarious, sad and disgusting. Is that a response to the cringe-worthy, can't-look-away world we live in?
We've been working on this movie for two years, but it really does feel like it fits our world in a weird, sad way. We like to operate in the gray areas, where most people want things to be black and white, good and evil. But we think that good can be bad and evil can be good and it's all stupid. We want to lampoon the whole concept of why we fear things and highlight the underlying horror that exists underneath things that are shiny and new. That's what The Great Satan is all about.
Did you learn anything new about actual Satanism while making the film?
Not really-it mostly just reaffirmed a lot of what I find so funny. It's so silly to us. People who are actual Satanists might not like the movie too much. Yes, we probably identify more with Satanists than we do with evangelical Christians, but how silly is Satan in this movie? He's never to be taken seriously. He's such a goofy idiot.
A lot of people ascribe "goofy" to Everything Is Terrible! but you two have really entered more of an auteur space.
It's weird to do anything for 10 years, and it's even weirder to do something so absurd for 10 years. We never expected any of this-we started with a blog to share our dumb videos with our friends. I kind of feel like we've been self-sabotaging along the way, too.
We think each Everything Is Terrible! project will be our last. I mean, we remade The Holy Mountain out of dog footage and dressed up like dogs to do a Chuck E. Cheese routine for two months, and we thought, 'This is the end. And it's a fine ending!' Then the whole Jerry Maguire thing ... I started out buying 100 copies of the VHS, and now we have 16,000 of them. I'm shocked and impressed people are still going along with us for this ride.
Surely there must be deeper moments, though, that go beyond just hilarity and absurdity.
Oh, yeah. We started as outsiders, and now I feel like Mariah Carey when kids come up to me and say, 'I was suicidal until I watched an Everything Is Terrible! video!' I'm, like, 'Stop it. No, that's ridiculous.' We live in Los Angeles and people in the industry (with a capital I) are constantly, like, 'What do you think we do, man? We watch Everything Is Terrible! and then make everything you see on television.' That makes me feel good, but I'm also, like, 'I wish I had some money over here.'
So you haven't ridden the insane wave of YouTube super-stardom?
That's one of the reasons we continue to exist: We're always so hard on ourselves. When it comes to technology, we're always, like, "That's catastrophic! What's next?" We had a million followers on Vine, and then Vine went away. We've had YouTube pages shut down over and over again because of copyright violations. There go another half-million followers.
It must be nice to get out from behind the computer screens and perform for fans on these tours.
Oh, my God-it's going to be so nice to see actual humans. After the film was done, I spent weeks building costumes, and I was so happy just to be in the physical world. We're having so much fun going to places that we love, eating sandwiches we love, and saying hi to the people we love.
You've got a lot of fans at Sun-Ray Cinema.
It's one of our favorite theaters in the country. We wouldn't be in Jacksonville if Sun-Ray wasn't there. I even put a clip in The Great Satan that's just for Jacksonville. Honestly, for us, Florida and Texas are our favorites. And I mean that with no irony. We're from Ohio, which I find to be more like the Jerry Maguire of VHS tapes. It's mediocre and fine. But Florida and Texas-you guys and your found footage constantly excite me.
THE GREAT SATAN screening and live performance, 7:30 p.m. March 14 at Sun-Ray Cinema, 1028 Park St., Five Points, 359-0049, $10.70, Sunraycinema.com.