Don’t pretend you haven’t seen it. Last week, Psychotic Records released an online teaser video for the 11th annual Gathering of the Juggalos, sparking the biggest dash to YouTube since “Double Rainbow.” Clocking in at an epic, un-YouTube-like 18 minutes, and formatted like a really long movie trailer, the video depicts scenes of riotous abandon while touting the festival’s selling points: helicopter rides, midget wrestling, three days of “camaraderie, family, and love.” “You’ll meet people,” intones the announcer. “Make future best friends. You’ll probably get laid.” In addition to your hosts Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, this year’s lineup includes a rogues’ gallery of overused punch lines including Vanilla Ice, Tila Tequila, and Gallagher (yes, that Gallagher) — as well as Slick Rick and members of the Wu-Tang Clan.
Almost immediately, the blogs started weighing in. The Chicago Reader posted a recap; mtv.com live-blogged the experience of watching it for the first time. By now, Insane Clown Posse and their followers are a familiar object of ridicule for everyone from the Huffington Post (“If we’re being honest, we’re terrified of the Insane Clown Posse, and more so of their fans”) to the New York Times, which in April provided an oral history of how two rappers in clown makeup became internationally famous. Even Saturday Night Live, typically the last to any joke, parodied (lamely) both the penultimate "Gathering" infomercial and the video for ICP’s “Miracles.”
This outpouring of lefty derision stands in contrast to the culture wars of the ’80s and ’90s, when the conservative right would have been the ones jeering at the messed-up freaks. The gleeful abandon with which the left mocks ICP seems symptomatic of liberal elites’ ugly mistrust of the working classes. As if drug-taking and absurdist self-expression were the exclusive province of those with degrees. Why else would pundits scramble over each other to ridicule populist musical heroes from the rust belt?
No one will argue that the idea of Gallagher smashing watermelons in front of a group of ketamine-addled adults dressed as clowns is not hilarious. But why have hipster lefties presumed for so long that they’re the only ones in on the joke? And why are they so disappointed when they finally figure out that ICP are in on it? The Times: “This cycle of sincerity and satire has led the band’s critics to wonder if it really is in on the joke.” Videogum on the new trailer: “[ICP] definitely seem to be in on the joke at this point in a way that takes most of the fun out of it.” Juggalos are capable of irony, too — come on: we all know nobody really likes Vanilla Ice.