-- The Greatest Joke (?) Ever Told
by Rev. Ivan Stang
Sacred Scribe #273
Sacred Scribe #273
Yes and no. It depends entirely on the individual SubGenius in question. Some take it quite seriously. It is their religion. The fact that it is an insane welter of jumbled doctrines ripped off from a million sources makes no difference -- in fact, that makes it all the more effective for them. They pray to "Bob Dobbs," and mean it.
Others wouldn't be caught dead, at least not by "BOB," taking "Bob" Dobbs too seriously -- even though they might proselytize like misguided Jehovah's Witnesses on acid, never stepping out of character. With over 3,000 dues-paying members and perhaps ten times as many nonsubscribers, many of them performing minor vandalisms (or "initiating miracles," as they might prefer), it certainly goes well beyond 'spoof.' It IS a satire, but it is also a very real and, fortunately, very disorganized army. Pranks are part of it; but when hundreds or even thousands of creative billboard defacings are carried out all over the world for almost 10 years, all fitting into one unified theme, can these any longer be called "pranks?" "Crimes against normality" might be more fitting, because of the common motif: "Bob's" endless battle against the Conspiracy in defense of our Slack. The fact that every SubGenius is urged to define 'the Conspiracy' and 'Slack' for themselves is what makes it both fun, and potentially dangerous.
There IS a "Bob," and the Church is dead serious; but because "Bob's" goal is to lure in SINNERS, it's also 'funny.'
To some people. Others aren't so sure.
Evangelicals and fundamentalist Christians in places like Little Rock, Arkansas have gone to the trouble of denouncing the Church in their sermons; they see it as being just like Scientology, yoga, etc. ... they never suspect that "Bob's" words perhaps shouldn't be taken at face value. We encounter this phenomenon most frequently on radio talk shows. I do a weekly HOUR OF SLACK show on KNON in Dallas which sounds, at times, like any Southern gospel show, only choppier (a la Pee Wee's Playhouse or Max Headroom, though we developed the cutting style years ago on our own). Every week I get a call or two from some terribly upset Christian who, lacking any sense of humor(or perhaps any sense, period), has worked himself into an anti-demonic froth. I have spoken to many who were CRYING uncontrollably, and praying for our souls. There are similar shows in New York and Boston (the first SubGenius radio show, on KPFA in Berkeley, is different in that Puzzling Evidence, Hal Robins, Gary G'Broagfran and Bob Nelson don't mimic evangelical styles). When I've guested on more normal talk shows, talking about the Church, this effect is even more pronounced. It's as if they WANT to believe it's real... no matter how extreme and patently absurd my statements may be, the possibility that it might be a put-on never crosses their minds. I suppose these are the people who fall prey to aluminum siding salemen, etc. I am very proud, however, that I have never backed down and said, "Aw, come on, this is a JOKE!", although it would've saved me a lot of trouble at times. Any SubGenius who commits that mortal sin faces eternal damnation in the Christian Heaven.
There are many worthy put-on groups (i.e., Couch Potatoes, Ladies Against Women, etc.), but in my "humble" opinion, "Bob's" people have the best record for consistently bam-boozling large numbers of people at a time. The Secret Service took us seriously enough to pay us a terrifying visit; they hadn't actually seen our magazines or book, but had received numerous calls from good citizens who were concerned about this scourge.
Even the people with enough savvy to catch some satirical aspects of SubGenius are taken in by other claims we make, such as that we are incredibly rich and well-connected. Many talk-show callers have let us know that they aren't fooled -- they know we're making fabulous money off this scam. They see posters of Dobbs all over local college campuses, and "Bobbies" hawking crude bootlegs of our pamphlets in airports, and conclude that even though THEY aren't fooled, untold thousands must be. People are always ready to believe the worst.
In some towns -- Dallas included -- one sees very few Dobbsheads on the street. In other cities, though, it has reached epidemic proportions. In 1985 the Cleveland Transit Authority threatened to sue us if we didn't "make our people stop" defacing the ads on the city buses. I pointed out that this was like telling a spray paint manufacturer to stop all graffiti. We never told anyone to plaster "Bob" faces and Church ads over private property... indeed, we have gone to great lengths to tell our readers in great detail just exactly how NOT to make a "Bob" stencil, how they MUSTN'T use our crack-and-peel ads on public monuments, etc. Nevertheless, these ads for the Church -- which ALL urge one to send $1 to the Sacred PO Box in Dallas -- crop up in the most unlikely places. Friends have reported seeing them in such out-of-the-way places as the Forbidden City in Beijing, and Nairobi, Kenya. I've seen 6-foot-high Dobbs posters all over downtown Philadelphia, "Bobs" on water towers in Baltimore, Church buzz-words like "SLACK!" repeated on mile after mile of highway overpasses...
The Church's unique ability to pass as EITHER a joke or the real thing comes in handy. For instance, there are many high schools where Christian students are not allowed to have a Jesus Club because of laws against church activities in public schools, whereas the SubGenius students DO have a SubGenius Club. I've lost count of the number of "Campus Crusades for Dobbs"... one frequently sees SubGenius booths right alongside the Christians and Krishnoids on college campuses. The sanctimonious 'dignity' of New Age festivals is frequently marred by SubGenius stands manned by raucous revelers. Indeed, we get far more flack from humorless, vindictive New Agers than we do from the most ignorant Southern Baptists -- probably because the New Agers have enough sense to know we're making savage fun of them, whereas the Christians don't. It has led to fistfights.
If we get in trouble for something, we call it 'art.' Some kids in Santa Barbara were hauled in to the city jail after being caught red-handed spraying "Bobs" through a stencil all over an underpass. Unbeknownst to either the cops or the kids, the assistant D.A. who was supposed to prosecute them was a closet SubGenius, and told the police to let the kids go. They reportedly left the station laughing hysterically and praising the power of "Bob."
The Arkansas SubGenius 'clenches' initiated the technique of inserting SubGenius propaganda into elementary school library books, Bibles, hymnals, etc. Even Christian bookstores have unwittingly aided in this task. Several years ago, myself and the LIES Foundation put together a brochure for a fake organization called "STAMP OUT BOB," in which a 'deprogrammed victim' of this insidious cult described the atrocities being commited in Dobbstown, the Church's jungle settlement in Malaysia. Concerned citizens were urged to send $1 to a Dallas PO Box (ours, of course) for more information on this subversive Dobbs character. SubGeniuses here and there would then infiltrate local Christian bookstores and talk the owners into xeroxing these flyers and handing them free to customers. To this day, we still get those dollars addressed to STAMP OUT BOB." We send a SubGenius recruitment pamphlet in return.
The press and TV media usually bend over backwards in NOT collaborating with us. They don't recognize the value of a straight face. In stories about the Church they always describe it as a 'joke' -- with one most notable exception, the infamous Dog Corpse Art Escapade of Saint tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE (aka Tim Ore, Monte Cantsin and Michael Tolson) of Baltimore. During the 1983 World SubGenius Convention, he invited 40 Subs to a no-tresspassing underground tunnel connected to the city train system, where they witnessed perhaps the worst smelling performance art piece in history: clothed ONLY in white greasepaint, tENTATIVELY performed a ritual using two decapitated, rotting dog corpses as props. This was an homage to the Church-approved characters of Poop Dog and Pee Dog of underground comix fame... but the cops who arrived in 6 squad cars and dragged tENT off to jail didn't see it that way. Neither did the wire services. The story went far and wide -- we have clippings from Peru -- and describes tENT as the 'leader' of a perverted sex cult. The sensational aspect of the story was amplified because the papers implied that tENT had killed the two dogs for his art piece, whereas he had actually found them in the tunnel already decapitated by the train. He merely immortalized them. This was the first time most people ever heard of the Church of the SubGenius.
SubGeniuses generally show some restraint in these poetic vandalisms. If they're defacing buildings, they use abandoned buildings. If they deface billboards, they use billboards that are still unfinished. If they string up dead dogs, they use dogs that were already dead.
I have seen Dobbsheads etched into human skin. In Baltimore, X-Richard created a "Bob" made of hickies on a girl's back. (At first glance I thought the purple welts were cigaret burns, and almost threw up.) Tatoo parlors offers Dobbs designs. One SubGenius was startled to discover a "Bob" tatooed on a hooker's butt in Anchorage, Alaska. There is a bar in Tucson named after "Bob" Dobbs. It already had that name when the current owners bought it; they were told that Dobbs was a war hero and as far as I know are still under that impression. They sell "Bob" Burgers.
Then there is the question of Dobbs' existence. IS THERE A "BOB?" is a frequently asked question. If there is no Dobbs, then how was he assassinated in full view of 500 people at the Victoria Theater in San Francisco in 1984? This infamous 'Night of Slack' revival (directed by Paul Mavrides and Puzzling Evidence) made the news not only because of the shooting, but also because dozens of SFPD men had earlier converged on the theater to arrest a man carrying a very realistic replica machine gun. (Upon entering the clubs where these devivals are held, audiences are often startled upon being frisked for handguns by nurses with metal-detectors... and are even more horrified when they see the box full of guns that have allegedly already been taken from potential assassins.)
Then there are the psychopaths; the Church attracts them. One man flew from Hawaii to Dallas to inform us -- he never located "Bob" himself -- that he was Jesus come again and that Dobbs was to be His spokesman. Most don't go to that much trouble; they just write 50-page letters detailing their proof of God-hood. Just as these people never doubt that they themselves are Messiahs, they likewise never doubt the existence of "Bob." Nor do the born-again Christian preachers who rail against us. Nor do Telegraph Avenue street bums. A friend once heard several of them discussing the "Bob" posters in the neighborhood... the sneering consensus was that "Bob" was "a millionnaire in Southern California that sells his religion for money."
How could there not be a "Bob"? Dozens of legal marriages have been performed in his name. If there is no "Bob," then these marriages are fraudulent and the couples are living in sin!
A prominent member of the band DRS. 4 "BOB" used to stand on the steps of the Capital building in Washington, D.C., tearing up dollar bills and throwing the pieces at tourists while screaming, "KILL ME!!! KILL ME!!! WHY HAVEN'T YOU KILLED ME YET??" He would, of course, have to move on after a few minutes. (This was before he joined the Church -- now he gets paid to do the same thing, and worse, in nightclubs and theaters as part of SubG Devivals.)
There's a huge anti-abortion billboard by Central Express-way in Dallas which depicts a dead foetus. It's very close to the building owned by its sponsors, a Christian hate-group whose people picket abortion clinics and frighten young girls going inside. A famous Dallas SubGenius preacher and numerous cohorts managed to 'doctor' the billboard so that it said, "BREAKDANCING FETUS" and added motion-lines and a Mohawk to the fetus to indicate that it was dancing. This cost the Christian hate-mongers a lot of money to fix.
One thing for which you can give the SubGenii credit -- they don't plant bombs. As terrorists, they can't hold a candle to the fundamentalist Christians.
The Church is probably most effective on a simple, con-versational level. For instance, a SubGenius attends a party and meets an unsuspecting 'normal' or 'norm-worm.' At first they just chat... small talk. But then, religious-fanatic style, the SubGenius starts offhandedly referring to "Bob's" opinions on this or that. The normal is intrigued and asks who "Bob" is. The SubGenius then becomes progressively more fanatical until he is weaving an elaborate tale of how Dobbs has seen the End of the World happening on July 5, 1998, when the Men from Planet X will come to save the SubGenius Chosen while all the 'Pink Boys' fry in a nuclear oven. The normal becomes terribly embarrassed and henceforth tries to avoid the SubGenius... but the next day, at work, the normal tells his friends... and news of this crazy cult spreads further and further...
It works. We have never bought advertising, ANY-WHERE, and yet the check-and-cash-bearing mail continues to snowball. We mortal Subs aren't rich yet, but "Bob" is, and we believe His promise that our Day of Infinite Slack is not far off.
Yes, "Bob" is always coming, again and again... and millions more will swallow it. Won't you? Send $1 for more information to SUBGENIUS, PO Box 140306, Dallas, TX 75214... or seek out THE BOOK OF THE SUBGENIUS (Simon & Schuster) at better bookstores everywhere. PRAISE "BOB!"