2018 was a big year for Joe Bob Briggs. His return with last year’s 24-Hour marathon on Shudder broke the internet, and eager horror fans have not been able to get enough Joe Bob. Two marathons and an incredible first season of The Last Drive-In series on Shudder later, Joe Bob is back to teach us a thing or two about something very near and dear to his heart: Rednecks.
Joe Bob will be making a very special appearance at the 2019 Fantasia Film Festival Sunday, July 21st with a “fast and furious” 2-hour discussion on the history of The Redneck, as presented through cinema. Full details and tickets can be found HERE. At Shudder Presents Joe Bob Briggs Live: How Rednecks Saved Hollywood, you will learn:
- The identity of the first redneck in history.
- The precise date the first redneck arrived in America.
- The most sacred redneck cinematic moments.
- How THUNDER ROAD, the Whiskey Rebellion, the tight cutoffs worn by Claudia Jennings in GATOR BAIT, illegal Coors beer, and the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash combined to inspire the greatest movie in the history of the world.
- Why the redneck is the scariest monster in all of film history, with visual evidence.
- The existential difference between FORREST GUMP and SLING BLADE.
- The reason God loves rednecks…and dozens of other historical facts that you didn’t realize you needed until Joe Bob deposited them in the rear lobe of your brain.
We recently sat down to talk with Mr. Briggs about why The Redneck is the most despised character in film history, the strangest exploitation subgenre to ever come out of Montreal, and watch he and the Shudder team have in store for the upcoming season of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs.
“Do not, under any circumstances, bring your children to this show”
Jonathan Dehaan for Nightmare on Film Street: Looking at the program for your event, I’m surprised to see that the Redneck doesn’t come from America.
Joe Bob Briggs: Well, no. There’s a whole 400 year journey of The Redneck, starting in the low-end border countries between Scotland and England, the southern counties of Scotland in the northern counties of England. That’s where the Redneck started and, stopped in Ulster on the way, and then came to America. I talk about that, but I tell it through film, and sort of trace the whole infiltration of “The Redneck Menace” all over North America.
NOFS: So, you’re using like 200 clips and photos for this. How, how long have you been working on the talk?
JBB: Actually, I started about 10 years ago, I was invited to speak on teh films of the South at Millsaps College, which is kind of an upscale liberal arts school in Jackson, Mississippi. They wanted me to talk about, you know, Southern film and so I chose all the wrong films. I did all the Gone With The Wind type, you know, Southern Plantation Films, Riverboat Films and when it was over I thought, “Why didn’t I just do the hillbillies and the swamp people?” its much more interesting, you know? And it is two different people. I mean, I was doing the slave owners, you know? I want to go back and do The Rednecks.
And so the next time I was invited to talk about The South and film, which was at the Chatanooga Film Festival I did a completely different set of films and that’s when I started talking about the history of The Redneck who, depending on on your point of view, is either the most despised guy in films or, you know, if you happen to love Forrest Gump, which I don’t [laughs], can be the idiot savant who saved the world. So, you know, Rednecks can be very good, or very bad, depending on how the movie treats them. But It was a much richer rain of material, The Hillbillies and The Swamp Girls and the Daisy Dukes, and the car chase movies, and all that stuff, was much more interesting than the Antebellum South.
NOFS: Definitely much more interesting and maybe a little more sympathetic, I would think.
JBB: Yeah- and so the more I did, I put stuff in, I take stuff out, it’s pretty much a set show now, I’ve done it all over the country but it goes in a lot of weird directions. I always tell people, “Do not, under any circumstances, bring your children to this show”. There’s about five really awful things in the show that you never want a child to see and it’s because these Redneck movies go places that other movies won’t go, and I have that all in the show.
NOFS: I think we all have an idea of what a “Redneck” is, but what’s your definition of a Redneck?
JBB: Basically, Rednecks come from the Scots-Irish, what they call the Scots-Irish. Now, if you ask a person in Scotland or Irish or Ireland, ‘what’s Scots-Irish?’ they have no idea what you’re talking about because it’s either Scotland or Ireland, right? There’s nothing Scots-Irish. But we have this thing in America called Scots-Irish, where the hillbillies had settled Appalachia and then they move down through the South, and it’s basically people who occupied the deep South and then sort of spread out through the rest of the country and infiltrated other cities. Those people have a certain way of speaking, and a certain way of looking at the world and, you know, the males tend to be trigger happy and the females tend to be oversexed- those are the stereotypes, of course- and they like fast cars and whiskey, and that results in a lot of good movies. A lot of outstanding movies.
NOFS: It’s really interesting to hear you talk about them because you use words like “Menace” and that they’re “Infiltrating” an area, which you would usually maybe use for something like rats or insects, which we should definitely see more of in the city. So, what’s the battle between the city versus country with this?
JBB: There was a period up until about 1970 where people in the country where the good [and] the noble people lived in the country, and the evil people in the city. That all changed with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Deliverance. These movies in the early 70s, the rural South became this place where anybody can die at any moment, and any redneck will kill you, you know? So those movies of the late 60s / early 70s, they exported fear of The Redneck all over the world. But there was a period before that, I call it redneck-lite, where you have things like Li’l Abner, the Li’l Abner musical, and the Li’l Abner movie, and you had The Beverly Hillbillies, and you had all these nice rednecks. All they wanted to do is make their whiskey and have a lot of sex and be left alone up in the mountains with a shotgun. So, there was a period where everybody was just loving these Rednecks. And then, as time went on, The Redneck becomes more and more evil until you get stuff like Sling Blade, or- I mean, are you familiar with the ‘Bring Out The Gimp’ sccene in Pulp Fiction?
NOFS: Oh yeah!
JBB: Why do those guys have Southern accents and why do they seem to be Rednecks? You don’t really have to explain where they’re from, do ya? You kind of know. SO yeah, a
“There’s no Redneck Character Defamation Committee complaining to the Movie Picture Academy, so they became a very convenient tool for Hollywood screenwriters.”
NOFS: With all the awful stuff we’re hearing about Rednecks, just talking to you now, what the hell happened in Hollywood that rednecks had to save them from?
JBB: Well, they ran out of villains. Everything became an international co-production so they couldn’t make fun of Germans anymore, they couldn’t make fun of Russians anymore. They couldn’t use Chinese as villains, they couldn’t use various ethnic groups as villains but nobody ever objected to using A Redneck. There’s no Redneck Character Defamation Committee complaining to the Movie Picture Academy, so they became a very convenient tool for Hollywood screenwriters. The other side of this, I am making brutal fun of it, but the other side of this is that the Ernest movies, for example- Hollywood was embarrassed by the Ernest movies, but Disney make nine of them. It was one of the most lucrative franchises in history. So there’s the good Redneck, sort of saving Hollywood movies. The Ma and Pa Kettle movies of the 50s, that’s a good Redneck saving Hollywood. How many redneck reality shows are there? 157? You know, they make these Redneck shows but they’re embarrassed by them. That’s the thing, they’re embarrassed by them. You know, they make a lot of money but they’re Rednecks.
There’s a film that won some awards in the early 80s called Tender Mercies. It’s written by Horton Foote, the same guy who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, and it stars Robert Duvall. It’s about an alcoholic, country western singer whose sort of saved by faith, saved by Redneck Religion. Well, nobody’s gonna watch that except, you know, Rednecks and so that’s not the movie that’s gonna make $400 million dollars. The Good Redneck movie is not going to make $400 million. Only the Bad Redneck movie is going to make $400 million. You know, the Redneck violating the law. Are you familiar with the Cannonball movies?
NOFS: Oh yeah!
JBB: The Cannonball race was a real race. It was rednecks racing cross country, racing from New York to LA and the 70s, a ridiculously dangerous and illegal thing to do. but that kind of thing, or the trucker movies, is the essence of the of the Redneck image. And those movies are very cinematic, you know? trucker convoys and cross country road racing. Yeah! yeah, everybody’s into that. Who wouldn’t watch that? So that’s where the Redneck really contributes to the- you know, Hollywood really loves a chase scene. And rednecks invinted a new one: The 18 Wheeler Chase.
NOFS: Bigger and better every time! I’ve got to assume there is a long history of Rednecks in stunt acting.
JBB: Stunts? Oh, yeah. Well, Hal Needham who directed Smokey and The Bandit was a stunt man, and the movie Hooper is based on Hal Needham’s career as a stunt man so yeah, absolutely. The same guys who came back from Vietnam with mangled bodies became stuntmen. So, yeah, a lot of Southerns in the stunt world.
NOFS: I’m just curious, given that you’re coming up to Fantasia for the first time, do you have a favorite Canadian Redneck?
JBB: Canadian Redneck? That’s an interesting concept. I’m not sure what that would be, other than that there are country people everywhere and a lot of people say anybody from the country is a Redneck. It’s not true, but the only thing I know about Montreal and, I’m a student of exploitation genres, okay, and Montreal invented one of the most short-lived but intriguing exploitation genres called “Maple Syrup Porn”, in the late 60s. It started out with a movie called Valerie, and the idea was, girls that grow up and convents and then they break out, they become wild and they become topless dancers, and they do a lot of drugs but then in the final scene of the movie, they become good Catholic housewives. So, you have 90 minutes of debauchery followed by the redeeming scene where they were they settle down with the guy who finally tames them and turns them back into the good Catholic housewives they should always be.
Well, I think these movies were originally a way to get around the Quebec censorship board because they had censorship there long after it was done away with in other parts of Canada, and so I think these were ways to do sexually themed movies, and still get them approved by the censorship board. Anyway, it created this really, really interesting genre that was so intriguing to people outside of Quebec that they would take these French movies and dub them, and put them in Grindhouse theaters all over Europe and the United States. As I say, it was very short life. I think it was three years. For three years they made those and then it was like nobody wanted to see those anymore.
NOFS: Old news at that point.
JBB: So, it was called Maple Syrup Porn but don’t google “Maple Syrup Porn” because you’ll see things you don’t want to see [laughs]
Kimberley Elizabeth: No longer a Canadian phenomena [laughs].
NOFS: We’re really excited to see the show on Sunday but I was just curious, what is the perfect drink to have before going into Shudder Presents Joe Bob Briggs Live: How Rednecks Saved Hollywood?
JBB: I would say a couple heavy shots of Wild Turkey would be the preferred whiskey. Something from Kentucky, and my favorite whiskey from Kentuky would be the Wild Turkey. I mean, probably Montreal, I don’t even know if they’re going to sell it anywhere close to the theater. So you might have to go for some craft bourbon or something [laughs]
“…we may have a couple of marathons actually, before we do another season [of The Last Drive-In]”
NOFS: Before we let you go, obviously everyone’s excited for the new season of The Last Drive-In. What can fans expect to see coming from the Shudder series?
JBB: Well, we’re pretty much just gonna do more of the same. We try to do 80s classics and then we try to do some- well, we try to do all time are classics and then people always want us to do a lot of cult stuff from the 80s, and then some, sort of, so-bad-that-it’s-good stuff, and then what they call the Forgotten Gems. I don’t like to all them Forgotten Gems because a lot of times it’s just movies that never got distributed. Movies that got ignored when they first came out. Then some more recent stuff and some more foreign stuff. Probably more foreign stuff than we did last year because I’m a big advocate for doing more, especially from Japan, Italy, and Korea. So we’ll definitely have more Italian, and more Asian films that we had last year and, you know, that’s about it. The fans go crazy about, “You gotta show this, you gotta show this,” and I’m always a little hesitant to show the movie that 40,000 people want us to show because they’ve already seen it. And, you know, they just want to see it again!
We kind of pride ourselves on going and finding the thing that people have heard about, but they’ve never taken the time to watch, and then we treat it in such a way that, you know, revives its reputation. I like to revive the reputation of movies that have been ignored. So we did, for example, in the original marathon that we did a year ago, we lead off this show with Tourist Trap. Tourist Trap had gone through a period of being like totally forgotten, and then we, you know, we brought it back a little bit. We did that at Thanksgiving too with a movie called Blood Rage.
NOFS & KE: Yeeeahhh!
JBB: You know, it’s so goofy that you can’t stop watching. It’s trying to be scary, but it’s more goofy than scary, but it’s a very watchable movie. And so, we sort of revived that one and now people quote lines from it. I think. Demon Wind- we did Demon Wind recently, A movie that no one would choose to watch but it had enough to talk about that it was worth reviewing how it happened and where it happened, and how it came to be. You know, those are the ones that I like. It’s very hard to talk about movies like Hellraiser. Its much easier to talk about The Oddity, but we do both. And if we do a solid gold classic like Evil Dead or Halloween or whatever, I think we try to say something new about it that you haven’t heard.
So if we do, do that- and we may have a couple of marathons actually, before we do another season- so if we do that we’ll probably be showing classics, So I have to come up with some new ways to look at movies everyone has seen or, everybody who watches Shudder has seen because, you know, it’s a tough audience. It’s serious horror fans that watch Shudder and so they’ve seen everything, so you really have to be on your toes. You make one little mistake and 9000 people are on your ass. Online, five minutes later, you got 9000 comments. “How could you be so stupid, Joe Bob?”
NOFS: We have two drive-ins near us that we try to go to as often as possible. Given how you approach curating The Last Drive-In, if you could take over a drive-in movie theatre, for a 2019 audience, what’s a dream double-feature?
JBB: It would be similar to the shows that we do. I mean, the only thing that makes the drive-in different is that you’re in a [chuckles] you’re in a semi-private enclosed space of your own. Therefore everything about the drive-in encourages perversion, in one way or another. You can do things you can’t do in a regular theater and of course, that’s not what the owners would like to advertise about their establishments. They always say it’s a “family entertainment center” but that’s one reason that sexually themed movies have always done so well at drive-ins because you can be with your significant other in a more intimate way then you can at the local multiplex. And so, I would say I would show a sexually-themed triple feature. You know, depending on the jurisdiction area. Some jurisdictions, you can’t really show hardcore, but you can show soft R’s, and there’s a whole lot of those from the 80s that are very entertaining.
One thing that has disappeared sort of is the high school sex comedy, the college sex comedy. I call them Sex Fares. Basically, it’s four guys on spring break trying to get laid, they don’t get laid, they never get laid. There’s a lot of girls in bikinis running around and I think in the final scene, usually, one guy does get laid and the misfit obnoxious kid gets laid with a hooker, and the lead male gets laid with the woman that he’s going to spend the rest of life with. Otherwise, they never get laid. That’s the joke, they can’t get laid. I don’t know why they don’t make those anymore because I always liked them, I always thought they were very entertaining about the stupid thing guys will do to get sex.
“…I feel the love every time we do a show. They’re just so happy to be there, and I think it’s because the religion of streaming is wrong. People are meant to watch these movies together.”
NOFS: Just one last question before we let you go; 2018 was a huge year for Joe Bob, obviously. The welcome back has been very wide and warm, and just thinking about how Rednecks saved Hollywood, why do you think it is that Joe Bob saved the internet?
JBB: Well listen, I’m as baffled by it as you are because we’re breaking all the rules. I mean, the first rule we broke was when they came to me, they said, “we want to do the same show that you did 20 years ago”. And I said, “you can’t do that, nobody does that on TV, you cannot do that”. And they said, “Nope, we want the exact same show”. And we did the exact same show, and people watched it! And then the second rule that we broke was- you know, streaming is all about one device at a time, one person at a time, downloading it whenever they want to watch it- and we said, it’s going to be on at a certain time, we want you to show up for it. We did appointment TV on a streaming service. You know, we went against the religion of streaming and that has stayed with us.
Everyone shows up at the time that we air it. And if they have to work then they watch it later, so they get the advantage of both- the appointment TV, and then the fact that it stays up on a streaming service. But the fact that people turn out on social media, I mean, I feel the love every time we do a show. They’re just so happy to be there, and I think it’s because the religion of streaming is wrong. People are meant to watch these movies together. That’s why when you watch a great movie on your iPad, when it’s over you feel lonely. You feel bad, because you haven’t shared it with anyone and you can’t share it with anyone. All you can do now is bore people with the plot. You can go tell all your friends the great movie that you saw and bore them to tears, and so there’s no communal experience.
I think one thing that we created by accident, totally by accident, I can’t take credit for it- we created this communal experience that everyone wanted. And so it’s not so much me, we sort of hit the culture at a time when people were looking for escapist entertainment that they can do together, and they liked the sort of retro format of it. I mean, we have a mail girl- there’s no mail. There’s no longer mail, but we have a mail girl. We’ve altered the duties of the mail girl so it’s different now but all the things we do are sort of like 1992 TV and we found there was a yearning for that. We interrupt the movie! Why do we interrupt the movie? We have commercial breaks. There’s no commercials. And [Shudder said] well because you interrupted the movie when you were on TNT. Well, when I was on TNT we had commercials. That’s why the breaks were there. “No, no, no. We’re going to interrupt the movie”. I said, “but that’s gonna piss people off,” and they were like “well, you know, they can watch it somewhere else on the same service without you on it,” and I said ‘Oh, okay, then we’ll do it”.
But all these things are counterintuitive. [It’s] counterintuitive that people would want to watch movies this way but apparently, they do and I’m as amazed as everyone else that we broke the internet and developed this community of devoted horror fans. And also, one thing I like about it is that we enlarge the number of horror fans because the significant others that used to be dragged along to this stuff, a lot of them converted. So, if the girlfriend had to drag the boyfriend, or the wife had to drag the husband, or the husband had to drag the wife, something about our show tends to unite families, Isn’t that wonderful? And so it’s like, “I wouldn’t normally watch this movie, but I’ll watch it on your show”. I hear that a lot. It’s great. We’ll have fewer divorces. We’ll have fewer horror divorces because of our show. I can’t give you any more reasons than that- that people are yearning for something better than watching a movie alone on their phone.
“…people are yearning for something better than watching a movie alone on their phone.”
Joe Bob brings unique insight into Hollywood History with Shudder Presents Joe Bob Briggs Live: How Redneks Saved Hollywood at the 2019 Fantasia Film Festival Sunday, July 21 – Full details and tickets and be purchased HERE.
The Fantasia Film Festival runs until August 1, 2019 in beautiful Montreal, Canada. Click HERE to check out all of our continued coverage of the festival, and be sure to follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to see silly photos, immediate film reactions, and the occasional photo of lunch.