For those familiar with Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Animation Festival, I present a little film festival. Just ignore my jabbering and click on the videos, which I carefully curated from my years of attending Spike and Mike’s showings. For the uninitiated, read on!
When I was a teenager, Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Animation Festival was basically the best thing on earth. It was a traveling program of extremely disgusting and sophomoric cartoons, which was perfect for someone who was still a high school freshman when he first saw it. In Boston, it showed at the Coolidge Corner theater in Brookline. The shows were “midnight movies” (in spirit, if not in letter: this being Boston the last show was at 11:30pm so people could catch the last subway home at 1 o’clock), with the majority of the crowd being stoned college students. You wouldn’t smell weed being smoked in the theater (usually), as this wasn’t the 70’s after all, but the collective aroma of everyone’s pre-theater toke-up filled the room. They would sometimes have big stupid balloons that people would bat around before the screenings started, this being a practice Bostonians take naturally to for some odd reason, as anyone who has ever sat in the bleachers at Fenway Park can attest to.
In retrospect, all of this hippie hangover vibe is totally understandable given the origins of Spike and Mike’s Animation Festival in La Jolla, CA in 1977. Despite their stereotype as being mellow surfing paradises during the 70’s, Southern California beach towns birthed the aggressive Dog Town skateboarders, America’s premier hardcore band Black Flag, and Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Animation Festival. One might wonder how the hippie ethos somehow got transferred into so much antisocial expression in these bucolic beach-front communities.
Before the show started, an MC got on stage and gave the same speech every year, something along the lines of the following: “If you came here for the normal, nice animation show and are expecting normal, nice cartoons and, ahem, might be offended by sex (pause), violence (long pause), drug use (longer pause)… THEN GET THE FUCK OUT RIGHT NOW.” This was greeted by whoops and howls by the majority of the patrons.
The first year I went the main attraction was Beavis and Butthead, who were just starting on MTV at the time, so I guess this would be 1992 or 1993. I didn’t have a cable so the fact that some of these features had been shown on Liquid Television late night on MTV went over my head.
The Billy and Bobby cartoons were probably my favorite. They only appeared in the program the first year I saw it, and then disappeared forever (as opposed to some films which appeared year after year). Thanks of course to that magic of that forever machine we call the Internet, I can watch them again. They aren’t as funny as I remember. Naturally, I can not overstate the fact that nothing is going to be as funny to you sitting at your desk, all grown up and stone cold sober, at 3:30 in the afternoon on a Tuesday as it was when you were 15 and surrounded by a horde of wasted college students at midnight. So, score one for the positive influence of group dynamics on a socially alienated adolescent.
Many of the films seemed to have been made with the prototypical stoner in mind. “No Neck Joe” is the exact sort of one-note physical comedy that is beloved by both weed smokers and 6 year olds.
Sadly, for sheer brain-dead hilarity, nothing will ever eclipse the first No Neck Joe cartoon, which is not online. It’s 45 seconds long and consists of the two other characters taking turns tapping No Neck Joe on the shoulder and waiting for him to turn around and it makes me sad to have to type that out.
“Home Honey I’m High”is puerile pandering to a pot smoking audience, right down to the hackneyed Jafakeian patois. For some reason, the cocaine punchline at the end somehow makes the entire thing funnier, either by making it more ridiculous or at least by moving outside the comfort zone of the weed humor of the previous three minutes.
Since I watched these films at the precocious age when you have the intellect of an adult and the social conscience of Charles Manson, the more nasty and depraved a movie was, the more it appealed to me.
I wonder how much humor and how much shock value these cartoons have today? To 14 year olds who look at decapitation photos on Rotten.com, these cartoons are literally kid’s stuff. To a generation weened on the comedy of the Farrelly brothers and their Hollywood lowbrow offspring, is there any cringe factor left in gross-out humor? Nowadays, the one thing that makes these cartoons fascinating is their very cute and precious homemade production values. Someone should take these hand-crafted cartoons and sell them on Etsy. Some kid’s 8th grade science project done with Flash looks more professional than the majority of these movies. Compared to the endless batches of dull and impersonal CGI animation that has been shoved down all of our throats by Pixar et all, these films are truly charming because you can see actual human input in every second. You can picture the exact sort of juvenile art school student who would spend three months drawing frame by frame the hundreds of drawings needed to depict a dog taking a big shit on someone’s lawn.
Some of these antisocial misfits ended up being very successful, chief among them Mike Judge who parlayed “Frog Baseball” into an MTV series for Beavis and Butthead. My Little Pony caretaker Lauren Faust animated some of “Home Honey, I’m High.” The simple fact is that in the pre-internet era, there were no other outlets for left-of-center animation. Besides the obvious gross-out fart and doody joke cartoons, Spike and Mike also presented vaguely psychedelic ones (the Grateful Dead influenced “Infrared Roses Revisited”), hangovers from the Heavy Metal era. The open mindedness to present all of these strange personal visions, regardless of the lack of polish, is one of the true charms of Spike and Mike.
Spike and Mike still show their cartoons, and sometimes at the Coolidge Corner theater. I’d be almost afraid to see it now, afraid that computer animated features had pushed out the hand drawn entries, or that there would be lots of stupid jokes about Facebook or Honey Boo Boo. I’m also enough of an old curmudgeon that being surrounded by stoned college students now sounds like the 5th circle of Hell. But, now that bands from the 80’s and 90’s go on tour playing their old albums song by song for the benefit of jaded grown-up scenesters, perhaps Spike and Mike could organize something of the same: a reshowing of the 1993 animation festival for middle aged kooks looking to recapture the belly laughs of their adolescence. I’d be first in line (if I could only find my old Rick the Dick t-shirt)…