"Hey everybody, have you heard the news, Joe Bob is back in town."
So goes the opening title song to the Shudder original series, "The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs." Now that name might sound familiar to you; if you grew up in the late '90s, you might recall a late night show called "MonsterVision" on the TNT channel, where a redneck -- living in a trailer in the middle of nowhere Texas -- would introduce cheesy horror movies. And if you grew up in the late '80s and had access to The Movie Channel, you might remember the bolo tie wearing Texan hosting the same cheesy horror movies and exploitation flicks on his show "Joe Bob's Drive-in Theater."
And if you were around the Central Arkansas area in the late '60s, you might recall a wide eyed teenage sports reporter for the Arkansas Democrat by the name of John Irving Bloom, which is Briggs' given name. Now Briggs is back, once again hosting a barrage of horror flicks for a fifth season on the horror streaming service. I was able to give Joe Bob a call this past week, and we chatted about his time in the Natural State.
AT: Should I call you, Mr. Briggs or Mr. Bloom?
JBB: Call me Joe Bob.
AT: Ever since your show came back on the air, it seems like you're mostly Joe Bob these days. Does John Bloom still exist?
JBB: Very rarely. Very rarely do I see him anymore.
AT: So before you became this fictional Texan, you were actually a resident of the great state of Arkansas. Could you tell us a bit about your time here?
JBB: My family were schoolteachers, so we moved to various Texas towns, and then Texarkana. And then we moved to Little Rock when I was in like third grade. Calvin Trillin once said 'you're from wherever you went to high school,' so I'm from Little Rock.
Briggs speaks with that Texas twang in his voice -- a little bit loud, a little bit boisterous -- but with an infectious jovialness. Before becoming a television host, Briggs spent most of his early career as a reporter, writing for various publications and even receiving a Pulitzer nomination for his eyewitness coverage of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centers on 9/11.
AT: I understand that you even worked for this paper.
JBB: When I worked for the Democrat, I was 13 years old. I was an apprentice copy boy. Little did I know that apprentice copy boys were expected to write articles everyday. I think, at the time, the Democrat violated every child labor law that was possible to violate. I was way too young to be working at a newspaper. They called us copy boys, but that's not what we did. I was in the sports department. I would go in everyday and literally write 10 articles.
AT: That's incredible, I'm not sure if I can print that.
JBB: In those days, you had the Democrat and you had the Gazette, and the Gazette had a lot more money and a lot more readers than us. So there would always be articles in the Gazette that we had failed to cover. So part of my job was to pretend that we had covered it and copy all the information out of the Gazette without making it look like we copied it. So that was my training, that's how I learned to write, working on those really, really tough deadlines before I went to school.
AT: What was your relationship to movies when you were growing up in Little Rock?
JBB: My family went to the Razorback Twin Drive-In all the time. Me and my sisters would sit in the backseat, and our parents would take us to the double feature. And we'd always try to stay up till the second movie, because that was the 'naughty' movie. And we never made it. We were always fast asleep.
AT: I discovered your show MonsterVision, back when I was like 10 or 11. I don't think my mom liked me staying up late on the weekends to watch all the blood and guts you were showing. But my ears would always perk up whenever you'd mention The Natural State. Most people don't know that we have quite of bit of horror history here.
JBB: I don't know of any Little Rock exploitation filmmakers, but we had Charles Pierce in Texarkana. He made at least four or five films and two of them are considered, you know, classics: "The Legend of Boggy Creek" and "The Town That Dreaded Sundown."
AT: I'm very familiar with those two. You even screened "Boggy Creek" on "The Last Drive-In."
JBB: There have been movies, here and there over the years, from Arkansas, including one of the greatest Southern movies ever made, "Sling Blade." But it's strange that the center of independent film in Arkansas was in Texarkana. And I say that as having lived in Texarkana.
AT: When you lived there, were you on the Arkansas side or the Texas side?
JBB: I was on the Arkansas side. You know, the annual football game between Arkansas High School and Texas High School, that game was for blood.
We shared a hearty Arkansas laugh as his publicist told me to wrap up the interview.
JBB: I've also been to the, they call it the Monster Mart.
AT: Yeah, down in Fouke.
JBB: It's a little ... I hesitate to call it a museum. It's really a convenience store where they made a little room into a makeshift museum, where they have some very questionable artifacts about the Boggy Creek monster. But, hey, it put Fouke on the map.
AT: I think they're telling us to wrap it up. So, one final controversial question. What's your go to theater snack?
JBB: Popcorn is the thing I've bought most often. But I also buy the Junior Mints. I've never seen Junior Mints sold anywhere except at a movie theater. I'm sure you can buy them somewhere. But I'm sure there's some kind of assembly line that goes straight from the Junior Mint factory to all the theaters all over the world.
Just as the cockroaches survived the destruction of the dinosaurs, Joe Bob has somehow managed to survive the ever-changing landscape of television. He has done it by keeping the exact same format for the past 35 years. Every episode opens up with him going on an extended rant -- sometimes political, sometimes a commentary on society. His diatribes have ranged from the complete history of the nacho, to belaboring the different varieties -- and convenience -- of restroom hand dryers. These rants are then followed up by the "Drive-In Totals," when Joe Bob lists the number of dead bodies, amount of cleavage, and what type of violence (i.e. kung fu, shotgun fu, heads roll, eyes roll) to expect in the film he's showcasing.
Season 5 of "The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs" is currently running on the Shudder streaming service, new double features run at 8 p.m. every Friday.