J.R. “Bob” Dobbs and The Church of the SubGenius Image

As time passes, the joke of the church becomes a “reality.” The church has gatherings at local bars/diners. They get their own “religious” radio show, “The Hour of Slack” on KPFA. They are soon invited to put on their first public event at San Francisco’s Victoria Theater. This little “church” starts to get local news coverage and attracts the likes of Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh and Pee Wee Herman. You can see the image of “Bob” in the background of Pee Wee’s Playhouse. Director Boone interviews Nick Offerman, Richard Linklater, and Penn Jillette about the influence of the Church of the SubGenius in their lives.

Over the years, the church has found itself in a bit of controversy. As the movement grew, everyone knew this church was a joke from the start…well, not everyone. Things got scary when some people showed up to events believing all this was real. A mother’s daughter was taken away from her because she was a member of this church. After 9/11, The Church of the SubGenius was classified as a dangerous cult in the eyes of the “pinks” and legal authorities. The final moments of the doc examine its satirical look at religious and politics against today’s climate, and you wonder if this fake church could compete with the fake world we live in today.

“…created solely for those people, who don’t feel normal…questions why we have to do things/live life a certain way.”

Sandy K. Boone has a fascinating documentary on her hands. She’s essentially following a 35-year prank, and throughout you get a true sense of the attraction and popularity of this church from its members. The Church of the SubGenius was created solely for those people, who don’t feel normal. This large sub-section of humanity that questions why we have to do things/live life a certain way. A place where we’re free to be different. As a child, we’re handed a yellow crayon to draw the sun…why? I think back that if I knew about this church, I may have become a member because it’s against my nature to take life too seriously, which was frowned upon during my early Christian days.

J.R. “Bob” Dobbs and The Church of the SubGenius is a wonderfully produced documentary. It captures the no-rules spirit of the church. The film’s narrative is intercut with clips of B-movie sci-fi and industrial films. Also, founders, Stang and Drummond, kept extensive archives of every pamphlet, radio program, and film footage of all their public events. By the end, you feel great sympathy for the doc’s editing team led by Lauren Sanders and an obvious example of why editing is the most important role in a documentary. I think I’d go crazy if I had to go over all this material in one sitting.

J.R. “Bob” Dobbs and The Church of the SubGenius (2020)

Directed and Written: Sandy K. Boone

Starring: Ivan Stang, Steve Wilcox, Nick Offerman, Richard Linklater, Penn Jillette, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

J.R. “Bob” Dobbs and The Church of the SubGenius Image

"…captures the no-rules spirit of the church."

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  1. Bishop Joey says:

    We here at the First Church of the Last Laugh (FCLL), world’s fastest growing snack religion, one holy day a year, and today ain’t it…offer vague congratulations to this upstart church and its cinematic revelation. Buttt..and it’s a big butt..do you have a parade? No?! Well then, come to the 41rd annual Saint Stupid ‘s Day Parade in San Francisco, April 1th, noonish, Embarcadero Plaza.

  2. carolynccornell says:

    Looking forward to seeing this….. will comment afterwards.

  3. Alexa Kleinbard says:

    Fabulous work of art and very timely

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