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Watch the Tunes: Insane Clown Posse Shockumentary

On September 2, 2016

There is an absurdly vast selection of music movies and documentaries available on Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, and on and on and on. But it’s hard to tell which ones are actually worth your 100 minutes. Watch the Tunes will help you pick what music doc is worth your Netflix and Chill time every weekend. This week’s edition covers Insane Clown Posse: Shockumentary, which is streaming over on Amazon.

I really and truly love recommending documentaries to people here for Vinyl Me, Please, but I’m gonna level with you for a second admit that even the best ones I’ve examined here so far have been neither as entertaining nor as downright fascinating as Insane Clown Posse: Shockumentary. I do my best to avoid hyperbole in these columns, so please believe me when I say plop yourself down in front of some sort of screen as soon as possible and watch this truly one-of-a-kind musical oddity. LIke, if someone hadn’t seen the Marley doc I’d say “Oh man, that was a good one! You should check that out!” but the Shockumentary mix of 90s time capsule and batshit surreality, is the kind of thing that warrants a “Wait, WHAT?” and then you make them watch it with you because it’s that good. Check the trailer if you don’t believe me:

For those unaware, the Insane Clown Posse are a duo of white rappers from Detroit named Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J, who have been active for nearly three decades, and are best known for their iconic clown makeup. They have a carnival-based mythology called “The Dark Carnival” that runs through a series of concept albums known as Joker Cards which they put out on their own label, Psychopathic Records. They beefed with Eminem. They’ve made two feature films, Big Money Hustlas and Big Money Rustlas. They run their own wrestling federation, Juggalo Championship Wrestling. If you know anything about them, it’s probably related to the annual festival known as the Gathering Of The Juggalos that’s been running for 17 years now and draws thousands of their fans to the middle of nowhere for a few days of drug-fueled insanity. That song “Miracles” that went viral a couple of years back? That was them. To say their portfolio is diverse is a massive understatement.

It’s worth tossing all this out there because as much as you might know about the past decade or so of ICP,  Shockumentary goes all the way back to 1997 when they still hadn’t quite broken nationwide. It turns out that, maybe unsurprisingly, ICP hasn”t changed at all in the two decades since the film came out. Some artists pride themselves on adapting to the times if not outright trying to dictate new directions, but ICP figured their shit out early and have been churning out the exact same product ever since. They leapt fully formed out of some glue-huffing carnie’s busted skull like Athena did from Zeus.

The thing about ICP is that their total lack of fucks they want you to think they give is matched only by the amount of time and energy that they have spent being incredibly savvy about marketing themselves. The Shockumentary functions in part as a model for any aspiring Juggalos on how to be into the band. You considering getting a cool tattoo of the band’s logo? Here’s a whole sequence of folks showing off their tattoos so you know you won’t be alone out there rocking a Hatchetman. Think the shirts are cool? Here are some kids who own dozens of their awesome shirts and aren’t they cool!

At one point, the filmmakers call up a Faygo rep and get a quote about how the soda company doesn’t want to be associated with the group. Somehow ICP manages to make drinking sugar water something not far from a revolutionary act that bonds you to fellow fans. The Shockumentary is as much about the fans as it is the band, and Violent J and Shaggy speak to this point pretty directly by saying, however clumsily, that they’re as big a fan of their fans as their fans are of them. More than any other music doc, this one most directly examines the ways that bands and fans interact, though the group might be downplaying their profit margin a smidge. You can’t have multiple platinum and gold certified albums, sell out shows nationwide, and then charge $150 for a hockey jersey at the merch table (1997 money, and cash only at that, we’re informed by their dead-eyed road manager) and then try and convince me you’re barely breaking even. But try and convince you they do, not halfway through this thing, and the shocking thing is how well the actually shine that turd of a statement. These guys might fall way short of WWF as wrestlers, but they sure as shit know to not break kayfabe.

I’ve been intrigued by ICP, from an armchair anthropology standpoint, for a while now, and the docs I’ve seen so far generally look at the annual Gathering Of The Juggalos fest, which is fine enough, but falls short from showing off the group and their fans from the earlier years. The Shockumentary on the other hand, pulls some sort of weird reverse magic trick from its hat in the way it blatantly showcases the way the band built their brand, transubstantiating their fans hard earned money into t-shirts and posters, while acting like there’s no prestidigitation happening there in the first place.

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Chris Lay

Chris Lay is a freelance writer, archivist, and record store clerk living in Madison, WI. The very first CD he bought for himself was the Dumb & Dumber soundtrack when he was twelve and things only got better from there.

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