The Infectious, Child-Like Enthusiasm of the Annual Gathering of the Juggalos Infomercial
Now two entire decades in the game, the Gathering of the Juggalos, Insane Clown Posse’s annual Festival of Arts and Culture, is an American institution, like Superman, Fourth of July fireworks and apple pie.
Few aspects of this inveterately American phenomenon are as mocked and celebrated as its yearly infomercial, an extravagantly amateurish, proudly puerile production legendary and notorious for its ingratiating cheesiness and juvenile excess.
This year’s infomercial is no exception. It epitomizes the shamelessly exuberant “Let’s put on a show” spirit that makes the Gathering such a lovable, non-corporate, countercultural underdog endeavor, that sense of child-like play you find at the heart of just about everything Juggalo-related, even the filthy stuff.
There’s nothing remotely cool about the Infomercial or the Gathering. It’s not about hipness. Or polish. It’s about energy and enthusiasm, all-American hucksterism, hard sells delivered in the breathless cadences of monster truck commercials and broad humor that’s lower than the lowest lowbrow. That excess extends to its generous length. At 28 minutes, the Infomercial this year is wildly excessive but it has a WHOLE lot of performers and events to get through. In that respect, it’s like a crazy clown car of freshness, with one dope act after another popping out unexpectedly, whether that’s C+C Music Factory, who most people have not even thought of in a quarter century, or Gilbert Gottfried or GWAR, who could not be more in their element than at The Gathering.
The wonderfully silly framing device for this year’s infomercial finds Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope inhabiting the characters of Super Ninja and Captain Juggalo respectively, superheroes of freshness and flava who swoop into the stale-ass lives of struggling, unhappy Juggalos and Juggalettes in need of salvation and murder the corrupt authority figures keeping them from attending the Gathering with a single deadly super-punch.
As one impressed/horrified Juggalo observes, “Damn, Super Ninja, you punched him dead!” These Soopaheroes don’t need to punch these scowling bosses and security guards dead with a single knockout blow, but they choose to engage in this quite literal over-kill anyway. As Barry Goldwater famously said, “Extremism in defense of freshness is no vice.”
Where Fyre Festival held out the promise of a lucky, well-heeled few being able to party in the most beautiful place on earth with its most beautiful, pampered people, the Gathering infomercial promises the opposite. It’s saying, “Come to a weirdly sinister forest in the Midwest and party alongside a bunch of weird-looking poor people desperately in need of escape from their hardscrabble lives! There will be cheeseburgers, family, boobs, music, wrestling, extremely unsafe carnival rides and, quite possibly, a transcendent experience you will remember for the rest of your life. Also, boobs.”
In the infomercial, the Juggalos and Juggalettes Super Ninja and Captain Juggalo liberate from the soul-crushing tedium of life at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder in a sadistic capitalist society are, respectively, a landscaping crew bemoaning their shitty-ass jobs and asshole boss, prisoners and finally an odd-looking pair getting bullied for being poor weirdoes.
THESE are the kinds of people ICP is promising will be at the Gathering: outcasts, misfits, weird-looking working-class scrubs who desperately need the escape of ICP and the Gathering just to make it through this often miserable world.
The production values are public-access quality. Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope’s superhero costumes look like a cross between pajamas repurposed for low-budget comic book cos-play and the kind of superhero costumes you might find in the discount bin at a Halloween store that’s going out of business.
That is entirely by design. Goofball, child-like amateurism isn’t a flaw of the Gathering infomercial, or the Gathering itself, it’s a feature. It’s more than a feature; it’s a defining characteristic, a big part of what makes the Gathering so special.
The Infomercial makes explicit the promise of every Gathering: Whatever you have to do, make it to the Gathering and ICP and friends will make it worth your time. They always do.
Now the 20th Gathering may not, in fact be “The greatest show that ever was or will be” as the infomercial promises in a trademark bit of hyperbole, but it promises to be a hell of a good time all the same. I know I’ll be there. Will you?
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