SlackHOLY SMOKE, IT'S BOB
The SubGenius Church, Letting Mortal Sinners Have Some Slack.
The immediate problem with tonight's guest -- a wavy-haired evangelist from
Texas who goes by the name of Ivan Stang -- is that he looks too... too... well,
Just a bit on the strait-laced side for the smugly weird brand of late-night
television practiced on "The Jon Stewart show."
"You don't happen to have any wilder pants, do you?" asks a young producer,
herself clad in billowing bell-bottoms and tottering on "Brady Bunch"-era platform
"You need green pants. Neon green bell-bottoms would be fabulous!" Visuals, she
preaches, more visuals.
"What will be coming out of my mouth will be wild and crazy enough,"
promises the bluejeaned Rev. Stang, apostle of the Church of the SubGenius, sacred
scribe to J.R. "Bob" Dobbs, the pipe-smoking prophet of the alien Jehovah-1. To accuse
Stang of being even remotely normal is the most vile of blasphemies against "Bob."
Perhaps you do not yet know the Word of "Bob," an authentic cult figure
since 1980, not to be confused with the new Microsoft home computer program of the same
Is "Bob" a god? A cartoon? An elaborate piece of theater, or a simple act of
faith? As with any religion, mystery is part of the deal.
Even such avatars of the edge as Stewart haven't quite figured out "Bob."
Backstage, Stewart asks, "Is 'Bob' the guy who hangs with the normals?"
"Hell, no!" Stang fumes. "He _hangs_ normals. He strips away their skin and
makes nooses with it and hangs them what _that_!"
"this is larger than we are," says Stewart, awestruck, shaken. "This is greater
than we realize..." The host flees to the safety of his dressing room.
_It's through Satan's success
That Dobbs' word receives press._
--SubGenius nursery rhyme
July 5, 1998 -- remember that date, ye of little faith. It is X-Day, when
only the true, dues-paying ministers of the Church of the SubGenius (mail $30 to
P.O. Box 140306, Dallas, Tex. 75214) will experience the Rupture, and be spirited
away in saucers by sex-crazed, orifice-focused aliens, to experience infinite,
eternal Slack with "Bob."
[_Important note_: The name "Bob" must always appear in quotes, for the Bob
that can be named is not the true "Bob." Also, as a concept of bliss akin to Heaven,
Slack must always be capitalized. Slack is mainly achieved by avoiding work and
fornicating; it is the root of the now-overused term "slacker."]
We could fill page after page attempting to explain the SubGenius, the
Divine Yeti, the Pinks and Conspiracy -- but that's why Stang wrote "Revelation X: The 'Bob'
Apocryphon," his fourth and latest book. And we're not here to convert anyone,
although salvation is readily available in SubGenius Pamphlet No. 1 (still only $1),
which counsels: "Are You Abnormal? THEN YOU ARE PROBABLY _BETTER_ THAN MOST PEOPLE!"
The beginners -- the normals --always ask: So, it's a joke, right? A phone
religion, set up only to make money, a parody of those slimy
televangelists, ha-ha- ha. But behold: The rantings of the Rev. Stang and the
teachings of "Bob" are as invidious and enduring as those of "normal" cults.
At least 6,000 people are now card-carrying SubGenius "ministers"; tens
of thousands more have read the scripture or participated in the live "devivals"
staged by followers around the nation.
Major musical fringe figures such as Mojo Nixon ("Burn Down the Malls"), Mark
Mothersbaugh ("We Are Devo"), and Negativland ("Helter Stupid") ascribe to
SubGenius teachings. Last week college kids lined up around the block to hear the word of
J.R. "Bob" Dobbs preached on Jon Stewart's post-"Letterman" show, which also
featured some hip old guy named Tony Bennett.
And lo, on this very day the Sacred Head of Dobbs stares from the pages of a
nationally known newspaper.
Coincidence? "There are no coincidences -- not when there's money to be
made," said Dobbs, as recorded in the Gospel of Philo.
Epiphany of the Clip Art
We call upon the Rev. Stang, a rangy 41-year-od, in a Central Park hotel
room that boasts all the spaciousness and elegance of a veal-fattening pen. It also
reeks of the holy man's many Merit Ultra Lights. Immediately Stang locates the requisite
Gideon Bible, but instead of holding forth on the Word of the Lord, he uses
the Good Book to wedge open a window.
"I knew that thing would come in handy for something someday," the preacher
His accent is deep cowpoke, heavily salted with sarcasm. "The only reason I
became a preacher is that the other ones who were doing it were so embarrassing,"
Stang explains. "I preach in nightclubs and dives, not to the pew-packers and the
Religion has gotten a bad name over the years thanks to sex-mad money
grubbers, new age frauds, posturing politicians, suicidal fanatics, gun-toting fetus
protectors and bloodthirsty territorial hegemonists, to name but a few. Stang's church
-- a tax-paying, for-profit, noncharitable institution -- welcomes all who despise
everything insane that's done in the name of God.
"We're the only church that admits we're in it for the hate -- pure hate,"
Nestled on his bed are two latex heads, important totems. One is of "Bob"
Dobbs, the immortal super-salesman of the 1950s who communed with aliens. The
other is of a legendary golfer, gravely wounded by a blow from a 9-iron.
Why do they worship the Bleeding Head of Arnold Palmer?
"Because it makes the least sense, it's the most worthy of being
worshiped," Stang says.
So why not Jack Nicklaus?
"Nicklaus! he shrieks. "What do you mean, Nicklaus? If you're gonna talk a
bunch of Nicklaus crap you can back your cart right off of my green, buggy! And those
secular Trevinoists -- they're the ones that're bringing this country down!"
The veins in his forehead throb alarmingly, and it becomes obvious why he
occasionally used to be mistaken for David Koresh, Texas's best-known
bringer of Armageddon. ("Koresh used to buy weapons at my brother-in-law's gun shop,"
Stang relates. "They were real polite. They just happened to be stashing away hand
grenades and machine guns, like half the other religious nuts.")
"Bob" first appeared -- in the form of old clip art -- to Stang's friend Philo
Drummond, who was then selling Yellow Pages advertising. The future church
leaders were immediately drawn to this mesmerizing, comforting visage from the
public domain -- this ubiquitous '50s father figure with a pipeful of Borkum Riff and a
stupid grin -- little realizing that Dobbs was a most powerful Deceiver.
"Bob" actually is a harbinger of an alien OverLord who will "spray the
Earth for humans," according to Stang. "When all these 'cool' people with their 'Bob'
bumper stickers and their 'Bob' t-shirts find out what he's really about, they're
going to be washing themselves off like Lady MacBeth."
The son of middle-class Republicans (his mother was a Reagan '84 delegate),
Stang writes and speaks as if "I actually went to college." In fact, he was a gifted
teenage filmmaker who became "a has-been by the time I was 20" and dropped
out of the University of Texas. He's also made a living as a film editor and,
briefly, as a mime -- a particularly formative episode in his life.
He recounted it recently for readers of the Internet's "alt.slack"
newsgroup, which is peopled by pimply "Bob" techno-geeks, underground
comic book artists, a representative of "The Clan of the Recycled Head of Marcia Brady" and
others devoted to the SubGenius canon:
"I was 26, a new dad and jobless," Stang posted. "It got so bad that I
answered a want ad and ended up delivering balloons to sick and old people, in a
tuxedo I had to buy, in white-face, with '+' marks under my eyes, sweating horribly in
the 100- degree Texas weather. AND THEY SAID THAT NOT ONLY COULD I NOT TALK, I COULDN'T EVEN WEAR MY GLASSES, so I was both dumb and half-blind, practically feeling my way through old folks' homes with my balloons clutched in my hands, thinking all the while, THIS IS IT. This is as low as I can get -- I' a [expletive] MIME, rendered speechless and blind, for $5 a delivery...
"I had just written SubGenius Pamphlet No. 1 and spent my life savings of $60
printing it up, and sending it to every publisher in the world, and getting
rejections from all of them... But you know what? The whole time, driving
from rest home to hospital, I recorded some of my best rants on tapes. Those rants
ended up being woven into 'The Book of the SubGenius' and 'Revelation X' and a
zillion 'Hour of Slack' [radio] shows. And the moral of the story is, if you keep banging
your head against that brick wall long enough, a brick might come loose, and you
might end up making as much as $1,000 a year off your frustration."
Actually, 15 years after it all began, the money is a bit better than that.
Serving as the chief PR man for "Bob" is a full-time job for the reverend.
His "Hour of Slack" is heard on 15 radio stations, and he's frequently on the road,
wearing his 20-year-old denim jacket festooned with "Bob" buttons, toting his battered
trunkful of rubber heads, T-shirts and other gimcracks.
"I'm in Pittsburgh February 17 for a devival at the Eye of Horus
Bookstore," Stang says. "At the last devival, somebody representing 'Bob' had his
still-beating heart ripped out of his chest and his brain eaten by Dr. Legume.
"After that I'm doing a pagan convention in rural Ohio. Yes, some of my best
friends are techno-pagans. Then I'm going to Osaka, Japan, where some
American and Japanese SubGeniuses are going to put me up in a 12th-Century rice warehouse."
At times he grows weary of proselytizing and selling memberships, but, like
the late Koresh, he's got "many wives" and "hundreds" of children to fee, he says.
And, as "Bob" knew, sales come with the territory.
As Dobbs said: "You'd _pay_ to know what you _really_ think."
Apostates and Heretics
Like any church, this one has its bitter apostates and splinter groups.
"SubGenius, which started out as a parody of a cult, has turned into one," charged a
letter from a heretic named Bob Black, published a few years ago in Mondo 2000 magazine.
"SubGenius is now a lowing herd of consumers with an upper crust of yuppie
Another defector, Pastor Buck Naked of Dallas, now offers to help
"deprogram" church members. Over the phone, Naked, 41, spews quotes from an "open letter" to Stang:
"No one I know believes in Dobbs -- Dobbs is your paper puppet. Dobbs is
frozen in the amber of your insincerity."
In Bedford, England, in 1992, Dobbs made headlines as the leader of a
"Satanic sect" when followers began stenciling his head on sidewalks. In a warning to
parents, the newspaper Bedfordshire on Sunday ran a photo of Dobbs with the caption:
"'Bob is slack' -- not the innocent graffiti it originally seemed to be."
Such controversies, of course, delight the faithful. "it lends credence to the
church to be attacked," says Susie "The Floozie" Barrows of Atlanta, who was
ordained in 1981. A retired stripper ("I'm 38 -- same as my bust size"),
Barrows adds: "This has been the one basis of spirituality that I could take to and
use as a focus. using one's abnormality potential as a _good_ thing is not
something that most religions countenance."
Then SubGenius really has become a religion?
"Well, a thought occurred to me this morning in the bathtub and I dictated
in into the tape recorder that I use for my rants," the Floozie says. "Jesus
started out as a man and has become clip art. 'Bob' started out as clip art and has become
The Reverend Revealed
Before taping the Stewart show, the Rev. Stang stands on a grimy midtown street
corner smoking a butt. Instead of flicking the cigarette when he's done, he
carefully tamps out the ember and looks for a proper place to deposit the
litter. He does this often. He can't bring himself to soil the streets of New York.
Indeed, for a ranting blaspheming redneck hippie mutant UFO cultist, Stang is
awfully well behaved. Patient. Polite, even. In a used record store, he drifts
toward the classical music section, despite the availability of such
offbeat discs as "Elsa Lanchester -- 'The Bride of Frankenstein' -- Sings Bawdy Cockney
At one point, he lowers his guise long enough to lament how little he likes
"performing" as "Stang," and says that the writing is what really keeps him
going. And eventually his dirty little secret -- every holy man seems to have one
-- spills out.
Now let us rip the mask from this Pope of High Weirdness and see the real man
beneath, shall we?
Turns out this proponent of profligate sex has been "happily" married to
the same woman -- a schoolteacher -- for 21 years! He's got two well-adjusted
He doesn't pursue Slack -- he rises at 7 a.m. to cook the family's
breakfast! And he prepares dinner at night -- _low-fat_ dinners!
His name isn't even IVAN STANG! It's SMITH! Doug Smith!
This "reverend" is a hypocrite, fraud and faker. His "religion" is a
travesty of a mockery of a sham.
In his dressing room, the defrocked minister confesses all. He pulls out a
vial of pills. They're for his high blood pressure. He explains that he recently
had his brain examined for aneurysms -- doctors injected iodine into his
bloodstream and scanned his skull with nuclear rays or something.
"The sad thing is, I got a piece of paper that said my brain was normal,"
Stang/Smith says. "But don't print that in your newspaper, it will _ruin_ me."
But actually, he later decides, maybe it won't. "What good would a religion be
without its hypocrisy?" Stang booms in his best tent-revival twang.
"'Bob's' church was built on the shifting, sandy beach of hypocrisy -- and ten-dollar bills!"
And before we cast any stones, let us reflect upon the Eternal Word of J.R.
"Bob" Dobbs, who sayeth: "I don't practice what I preach, because I'm not the
kind of man I'm preaching to."
--Copyright _The Washington Post Company_, 1995
Copyright 1997 by Rev. Ivan Stang / 1st Orthodox Stangian
MegaFisTemple Lodge of People's Covenant Church of the
Wrath of Dobbs Yeti, Resurrected / The SubGenius Foundation,Inc.
PO Box 140306 Dallas TX 75214 / Fax 214-320-1561 / PRABOB
http://www.subgenius.com -- SubSITE of Slack