The True Slack is Back

A documentary about J.R. ‘Bob’ Dobbs, the Church of the SubGenius and the war against the “conspiracy of normalcy” drops next week.

Initially hatched in the playfully demented minds of two Dallas-area merry pranksters, Reverend Ivan Stang and Dr. Philo Drummond (née Douglass St. Clair Smith and Steve Wilcox, respectively), in the late Seventies, the Church was intended as a dogmatic antidote to a re-emergent mediocrity, embracing an aesthetic in confluence with evolving new wave sensibilities and tropes in music, film, and pop culture. It was an in-joke with a half-serious punchline.

The deftly executed documentary J.R. ‘Bob’ Dobbs and the Church of the Subgenius demonstrates great affection for Bob and his acolytes, many of whom enthusiastically relate the Church’s mythology, history and doctrine here with a nostalgic sentimentality usually reserved for reckless-youth silliness. Their monikers set the tone – Reverend Susie the Floosie, Nurses Vicki and Kelly, Papa Joe Mama, Dr. Howland Owll, and Reverend Dr. Onan Canobite, among others. Special mention must go to a delighted Arch Doctor Saint Margaret, the late and sorely missed Margaret Moser, Austin Chronicle music columnist and legendary Texas Blonde. These eager talking heads – including the aforementioned Messrs. Stang and Drummond—discuss the early anarchic gatherings of the SubGenius faithful at so-called “devivals”, attempt to explain the undefinable zen of “Slack” that all church members strive for, recount Bob’s infamous assassination onstage at San Francisco’s Victoria Theatre (catlike, he has many lives), and recall the prophecy of the Rupture, when (7 a.m., July 5, 1998, to be exact) Church members would rise up against the norms who’ve robbed them of Slack and ascend to pleasure saucers piloted by alien sex goddesses. (Like most patriarchal sects, the Church skewed towards a boy’s club mentality.) It all sounds fantastic. And it is, in every meaning of the word.

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