Everything Is Terrible first established themselves through a DVD series, where bizarre and forgotten video clips are edited rhythmically to themes like “Holiday,” “Hip Hop,” and “Disneyland.” They’re intensely popular: Fans flock to their screenings around the country, and there’s even been six “movies” and their collaboration with Los Angeles's Cinefamily—the Everything Is Festival—is in its fifth year.
Dimitri Simakis and Nic Maier are the co-creators of Everything is Terrible and their long-running project, Maguirewatch, wants your VHS copies of Jerry Maguire. Their goal is to save billions of Jerry Maguire tapes “from their natural thrift store habitats.” There have been plenty of copycats, but the EIT folks have been at this since 2009. With their current collection of 7,489—I’d say they’ve been making some strides. We caught up with Simakis and Maier at Cinefamily, where they were unveiling a massive Jerry Maguire throne.
VICE: What’s important about chronicling Jerry Maguire VHS tapes versus other VHS tapes?
Dimitri Simakis: Absolutely nothing, and I think that’s the point. Jerry Maguire is a movie version of a piece of white paper, and yet every thrift shop, every flea market, and every fledgling video store has a disturbing amount of Jerry Maguire tapes. They’re like these perfectly ripe cherry tomatoes that you see from a mile away, and you can’t but notice a pattern. Like a jerk, I started placing them next to each other and taking photos, thinking, Oh, this’ll be cute! We’ll ask fans to post their own Jerry sightings and call it ‘Maguirewatch! But when we premiered our first movie at the Cinefamily, we really wanted to put on a show. We went to Amoeba, bought a hundred Jerrys and unveiled them onstage like "Eh? A hundred Jerry Maguire tapes looks pretty cool, right?" Cut to seven years later and our count is currently 7,489 Jerrys. At this point, I can’t fucking believe this is still happening. It’s gone from sort-of funny, to not as funny—to not even a little funny—to these tapes will be the death of us. That is, until we saw them all in one place at Everything Is Festival and we remembered why we started doing this in the first place—because a throne made of 7,489 Jerry Maguires looks fucking awesome.
Hell yeah, it does. I couldn’t help taking a photo with the cardboard bishop’s hat myself. On that note, why do you think so many Jerry Maguire tapes have been discarded over the years?
Nic Maier: There've been many theories tossed around over the years. They include the timing of the movie's release being the last huge hit before the DVD era; the false-flag popularity of it where every yokel with a VCR bought it because it won some award only to never pop that seal; the rise and fall of Cuba [Gooding Jr.]; the number of catchphrases per capita were higher than any other release ever; and so on. However, it is actually way bigger than all that. The fate of the Jerry is controlled by something far greater than the fickle hand of mere consumer godliness. The Jerrys exist on a cosmic level above all other consumer items. The creator made them, released them, and sent us to return them home—for what, we don't know. It is a very "Noah's yacht" type of scenario. Once we have them all, we'll be told what's next and possibly also why and whatnot. Until then, we're just going to keep mindlessly stacking and moving, moving and stacking...
It sounds oddly therapeutic, but still pretty maddening. How has the process been collecting them?
Maier: Unfortunately for us, it has been difficult and not fun. I guess it is fun as a whole, but no, not really fun nor easy. I guess it is easy because I find at least one every time I go to a thrift store. We get about 500 each two-week tour we do and about 20 to 50 are mailed to us each week. So yeah, it is not hard to get more. Every other moment of this project's existence is the hugest pain in the ass imaginable, but I couldn't think of doing anything else with my time and space!
If that’s what you’re feeling, that’s what you should be doing. How have the fans reacted since you started collecting and displaying?
Simakis: Honestly, the reaction from fans defies logic. On our tour for DoggieWoggiez! PoochieWoochiez! [a remake of Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain compiled only of dog-related movies], we started getting hundreds of tapes a night—sometimes from just one person. We still can’t believe that people we’d never met would spend hours scouring thrift stores, just to help the cause. Every time we return to a city for a show we get more and more and more Jerrys. They make us Jerry sculptures, they make us giant Jerrys, and in Nashville someone made a cake in the shape of Jerry Maguire. It’s all just from people being so nice.
Oh, man—a cake. So, specifically to the Everything is Terrible Fest this year, what were the highlights in unveiling the big collection there?
Maier: That was the first time that all of the Jerrys were in one place outside of boxes, since there were a mere 300 of them! It was amazing! Just seeing them all standing so proud while drunk people walked on them was nearly enough to draw tears. They are truly a thing of beauty! We're just excited to see people lose their fucking shit when they see it. Nobody can believe their eyes—and they shouldn't.
Have you gone so far as to write an artistic statement for the Jerrys?
Simakis: I’d like to say it’s about excess, mediocrity, and waste—don’t get me wrong, it totally is! But we have to face it that maybe it was such a dumb idea that we just have to see to the end (whatever that is). You do not look at 700 Jerrys and say, "That’s enough."
I’ll say. Do you believe the appeal of fans contributing Jerry Maguire tapes to your collection is through a nostalgia for the 90s?
Maier: What’s the opposite of nostalgia? That's what it is, that word.
Where do you see the future of this installation? What I mean is, would you like to build more upon it or are you considering starting a collection of other VHS tapes or other materials in “thrift store habitats”?
Simakis: We talk about this so much, it’s insane. The first idea was to rent an old Blockbuster and create a fully functional video store that only carries Jerry Maguire tapes. The clerks would wear Jerry red polos, every poster is for Jerry Maguire, and the electronic doorbell recites lines from the movie like, “The human head weighs eight pounds!” We’re also really excited about the possibility of building a church made entirely of Jerrys somewhere in the desert. We will give fans the coordinates, where they can take a pilgrimage and drop them into a giant pit. If anyone is reading this and can help, please let us know. Seriously! And of course, we dream of seeing this on display at a fancy museum, because why wouldn't we? One thing we know for sure is that we will never, ever do something like this again. Not to say we won’t continue on this path of doing really dumb stuff, but the buying and shipping of Jerrys has cost us thousands of dollars, and we want to give the project the grand finale it deserves.
To contribute your tape of Jerry Maguire to the Maguirewatch project, go to their site here.
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