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Documentary Explores The Texas-Born 'Church' That's Been A Running Joke For 40 Years

Doug Smith, aka Rev. Ivan Stang, with an image of J.R. "Bob" Dobbs in a still image from the documentary about the joke cult.
Photo Courtesy "J.R. 'Bob' Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius" film.
Doug Smith, aka Rev. Ivan Stang, with an image of J.R. "Bob" Dobbs in a still image from the documentary about the joke cult.

From Texas Standard:

It started as a joke. But when a couple of guys from Fort Worth started distributing literature for their new, fake religious group in the late 1970s, they were surprised when it caught on. Before long, there were factions of the group in New York, San Francisco, Arkansas and many other places.

Though the Church of the SubGenius was always meant to be a parody, its founders Doug Smith – who called himself Rev. Ivan Stang – and Steve Wilcox – aka Dr. Philo Drummond – have been concerned over the years that some people may have taken the joke too seriously. That's why Austinite Sandy K. Boone says Smith asked her to make the film that became " J.R. 'Bob' Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius."

"That's what really [made me] decide to do this documentary, was Doug saying, 'I'm 65, Sandy ... and I'm worried that if I die, that this thing is going to turn into a cult, – a real cult – and that people are going to believe it,'" Boone says.

Boone's documentary tells the truth behind the fiction that has captured the attention of big stars such as the band members of Devo and comedian Nick Offerman, among others – as well as non-famous folks who were far from "regular." Boone says the "church" has some curious terminology.

"So, 'normals' and 'pinks' were everyday people, and then, 'give me more slack': slack is supposed to be like, like meditation, like deep breathing, like finding joy and relaxation, and, basically, slack can be, you know, all these different things for different people," Boone says.

The documentary premiered at South by Southwestlast weekend, and Boone hopes to bring it to more festivals so more people can see it soon.

Written by Laura Rice.

Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.