The Joe Bob Briggs episode of the WTF Happened to This Horror Celebrity? video series (formerly known as Where in the Horror Are They Now) was Written and Narrated by Jessica Dwyer and Edited by Victoria Verduzco. It was Produced by John Fallon and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.
There’s a gold standard that horror hosts are held to. The icons become as popular as the movies that they show. Zacherley, Elvira, and Vampira are some of the names that come to mind, all of them inherently macabre in their own way. Most horror hosts have something ooky and spooky about them. And then there’s the one and only Joe Bob Briggs. Joe Bob is his own sort of creature, a Drive In Cowboy who loves blood, breasts, and beasts… and going on long, amazing rants about all the things he has a problem with in the world. He loves the wild and the weird and the wicked. And most of all he loves his Drive In Mutants. He doesn’t take himself seriously and is a walking encyclopedia of movie knowledge, historical knowledge, and just… a lot of knowledge.
On this episode of What In The Horror Happened to we’re heading to the drive in, the last drive in actually, to find out What In The Horror Happened to Joe Bob Briggs.
John Bloom, AKA Joe Bob Briggs was born in 1953 in Dallas, TX. Bloom grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. Little Joe Bob you could say was smart as a whip and talented when it came to the written word. He would become a sportswriter for the Arkansas Democrat at the age of 13 and would go on to Vanderbilt University as an English major. Those of us who have witnessed the epic and verbally acrobatic rants of Joe Bob Briggs can rest assured we have been assaulted with the grace and perfection of a true artist and connoisseur of the power of words.
Bloom started off as a sportswriter but branched out to news pieces, editorials, and essays in magazines and newspapers across the country. Eventually John Bloom would start working in an area he would truly come to rule, movie reviews. Donning the persona of Joe Bob Briggs, Bloom would start reviewing the films that the more snooty sort of film reviewers wouldn’t deem worthy of their time, and he’d do it with panache and a critical eye along with a healthy dose of humor.
His first entry of Joe Bob Goes To The Drive In would be seen in 1982 and it would be for the film Anthropophagous a notorious 1980s Italian cannibal flick that Joe Bob saw at the Gemini Drive In. Since no one (well most people at least) wouldn’t know what Anthropophagous meant, the distributors in the states renamed the film The Grim Reaper. By the way, Anthropophagous means to feast on human flesh… so the original title is basically Cannibal: The Movie…not to be confused with the movie Cannibal: The Musical!
This love and adoration of the “b-movies” would continue as Bloom in his Joe Bob persona would sing the praises of the 42nd street area of New York that would house the grindhouse theaters and unapologetic seedy side of New York City along with the Drive-In movie culture he would celebrate along with his fellow “Drive In Mutants.”
While Joe Bob would take on the blood, breasts, and beasts of the film world, John Bloom would continue writing award winning pieces within magazines and print icons like Rolling Stone and Playboy. Joe Bob would also be writing away, with his movie review series and Joe Bob’s America, a satire laced look at the news and things going on within the US, all with Joe Bob’s point of view. Both of these series would be picked up and syndicated nationwide.
The Fu was strong, and Joe Bob soon created his ratings system and counting method of Drive In Totals. The count would usually include the number of breasts, the number of “aardvarking” scenes, decapitations, the amount of blood splatter by gallon… you know the good stuff. Soon Joe Bob was doing his own shows and stand-up events, with Briggs appearing in full regalia and cowboy hat, leading audiences into the stirring Drive In Oath that Briggs created so that all mutants might pledge their allegiance to all things touched by the glory of the movie projector and dashboard light.
We are drive-in mutants
We are not like other people
We are sick
We are disgusting
We believe in
Blood, and Breasts, and Beasts
We believe in Kung Fu City
If life had a vomit meter
We’d be off the scale
As long as one drive-in remains
On the planet Earth
We will party like jungle animals
We will boogie ’til we puke
The drive-in will never die
While the legend of Joe Bob grew, John Bloom was co-authoring a book about a true horror story that happened in Texas. Evidence of Love was co-written with Jim Atkinson and told the story of Candy Montgomery who literally hacked to pieces with an axe the wife of her lover (the book would be made into two films and the story covered on Snapped years later.) The story is nearly unbelievable but is in fact all true, including the way the trial pans out.
Bloom as Briggs would continue to write books over the following years including compilations of his drive-in reviews in Joe Bob Goes To the Drive In and Joe Bob Goes Back To The Drive In, both of these books having a peek into Joe Bob’s life surrounding the reviews.
In 1985 An Evening With Joe Bob Briggs began and would be performed by Joe Bob for a couple of years in some prestigious venues. The following year would begin the cable TV takeover of the drive-in cowboy as The Movie Channel debuted Joe Bob’s Drive In Theater which would be the start of Joe Bob’s legend as a movie host.
John Bloom would continue his writing career during these years, as would Joe Bob. Both sides of the same well-coiffed coin, each had a lot to say. While Joe Bob’s writing was a satirical take on the absurd in both reality and the fictional world of movies, John Bloom could switch from satirical to the most serious look at the very real and human world around us. Bloom’s piece on the suicide of a close friend and his heartfelt reasoning that it wasn’t a cowardly act but one that while devastating, takes a lot of courage to do is one of the most powerful pieces of writing you’ll experience.
In the mid and late 80s, while still hosting on TMC John Bloom/Joe Bob would hit the big screen as an actor. In 1986 he’d join TCM (not TMC) in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 but sadly those scenes got cut from the final finished film. In 1989 he’d play the real-life disc jockey Dewey Phillips in the Jerry Lee Lewis biopic Great Balls of Fire.
In the 90s Joe Bob and his alter ego (probably more accurate to say Joe Bob’s the ego here though) would be everywhere. You may have heard of a series on Comedy Central called The Daily Show. Along with Stephen Colbert, John Bloom was also the face of God Stuff. God Stuff skewed the crazy side of religion, and no one was out of bounds, especially televangelists.
Along with his skewering of televangelists on screen, Joe Bob/John Bloom was president of the Trinity Foundation. The non-profit used its resources as well as its publication The Door (which of course JB would contribute to) in order to show the abuse and hypocrisy of faith healers, televangelists and those who abuse followers or religion to line their own pockets or more sordid affairs.
It was around this time Joe Bob Briggs would present a line of VHS releases known as “The Sleaziest Movies In The History of The World.” Some of the films chosen for the dubious list were Blood Feast, Nude on The Moon, and Suburban Roulette.
Joe Bob would also appear on the television classic The Tonight Show With Jay Leno in 1992 as a guest. Bloom would appear as the wonderfully named Billy Ray Wetnap in Married With Children for a couple of episodes. In 1994 John Bloom would play another interestingly named character, Deputy Joe Bob, in the miniseries event The Stand, based on Stephen King’s now rather even more unnerving epic about the plague virus that ravages the world.
In 1995 John Bloom would step into the shoes of Don Ward, the not quite the brightest slot manager in the Martin Scorsese classic Casino opposite Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and Sharon Stone. Two years later he would appear as an electroshock technician getting ready to treat Nic Cage’s “Castor Troy” in the John Woo epic Face/Off.
Joe Bob would leave TMC and in 1996 begin his legendary run as host of Monstervision on TNT. Monstervision had been a part of the network prior to Joe Bob taking over with his mobile home and antics with theme nights such as my favorite the Dracula Weekend which had Christopher Lee speaking about his role as the Prince of Darkness while Hammer Dracula films played.
Monstervision was where a lot of fans would discover Joe Bob Briggs who would be joined by his Mail Girls beginning with Honey. Genre icons would join Joe Bob for interviews during segments between showing the films. These would include Wes Craven and Linnea Quigley as well as John Waters and others.
Joe Bob’s reign on TNT would actually go beyond just Monstervision and would include Joe Bob’s Summer School where he would be your teacher with special subjects like Food Science or UFO Studies, usually accompanied by a special guest. There would also be Halloween specials which would see a crossover that mutant fam fans dreamed of with Rhonda Shear of USA Up All-Night joining Joe Bob.
But it wouldn’t just be horror and oddball flicks that Joe Bob would host. Movies like Fargo and Somewhere In Time would be a part of Joe Bob’s Hollywood Saturday Night which would see these more standard films (even though there’s nothing at all normal about Fargo and Somewhere In Time is a fantasy flick, albeit a romantic and heart wrenching one) paired with one of the 100 percent weird variety.
Joe Bob’s run on Monstervision would end in 2000 rather unceremoniously and with no prior warning, not only for fans but for JB himself. Monstervision would go on hostless for a few months more and was finally buried in September of that year, not being able to really keep viewers around without the bolo tie wearing host with the most.
Both John Bloom and Joe Bob would appear in various documentaries over the years expounding on the horror and exploitation genres as well as acting in feature films. Joe Bob would also lend his voice to a number of commentary tracks for classic genre and exploitation DVD film releases. Both Bloom and Briggs would continue writing, with Joe Bob’s Drive In column finding a home at UPI.
The world changed on September 11th, 2001, for everyone in the world and especially those in New York who witnessed firsthand the destruction of the Twin Towers. If you were alive at the time the attack happened, it’s one of those moments you’ll always remember where you were. As it happened John Bloom was in New York City and witnessed it all firsthand. Bloom would write up his experience and the gut-wrenching reality of how precise the attack was for UPI. This piece would be nominated by UPI for the Pulitzer Prize.
In 2004 Bloom would return to the world of Stephen King in the short film All That You Love Will Be Carried Away as the troubled and suicidal main character of the short story Alfie Zimmer. In a post 9/11 reality this story hit harder, and Bloom’s performance is another one of those punches into the heart.
In 2007 John Bloom would star as… a ghost? A grieving father? A drunk hunter? All three…? In the lost classic Hogzilla (here we will pause to allow the chanting to commence.) The film was never completely finished and was considered MIA for a long, long time… probably to JB’s relief. But as you’ll see, what is lost can always be found.
During this time Joe Bob would publish two more books about the world of cinema. Profoundly Disturbing: Shocking Movies That Changed History and Profoundly Erotic: Sexy Movies That Changed History… two categories right up the cowboy’s alley. Both of these books, along with most of the Joe Bob library are really hard to find and we can only hope somebody reprints the entire slew of them for us.
It would be another book in 2016 which would change the course of the stars. John Bloom had written the true story of the Iridium Satellite story with Eccentric Orbits: The Iridium Story. The book details the story of how the Iridium Satellite network was saved and would become a key to satellite telephones being usable by regular folks around the world. While on his book tour (which would include Bloom speaking to UC Berkeley Engineering) he would meet a young woman named Diana Prince who was a fan of Monstervision and Joe Bob Briggs.
Cut to 2018, nearly 20 years from the time Monstervision ended and the horror streaming service Shudder announced that for one 24-hour period only, Joe Bob would return to host THE LAST DRIVE IN. Along for this return to the trailer was Diana Prince aka Darcy The Mail Girl along with music maestro John Brennan and Yuki the Tokyo Cowboy.
The Last Drive In’s marathon initially broke Shudder’s servers for a bit (Yes Joe Bob broke the internet.) The initial run started with the Chuck Connors starring Tourist Trap followed by classics like Re-Animator, Daughters of Darkness, and Sleepaway Camp. Where the original Monstervision had audience participation of a limited sort via its website, The Last Drive In took it to a whole new level.
Twitter and Darcy would go to battle, with the Mail Girl’s activity being so great that she’d get shuttered (not Shuddered) by the platform. The fans gathered on Twitter to hashtag away (WHAT’S UP MUTANTFAM, YOOOOOO!) and to enjoy the films en masse, discussing them and celebrating Joe Bob.
With the success of what was supposed to be the only marathon, Shudder quickly turned around and announced two more specials themed around the holidays. Joe Bob’s Dinner’s of Death and A Very Joe Bob Christmas (which featured nearly every Phantasm movie save for the 2nd film.) Again, these specials were massive hits and would feature guests like Reggie Bannister and Felissa Rose along with Michael Berryman.
It didn’t take a genius to realize that Shudder had a hit and in 2019 The Last Drive In would officially become a series. Around this time Joe Bob would also start a new live show called How Rednecks Saved Hollywood which he would start performing at events and touring around the country.
The Last Drive In would rather perfectly time itself as the COVID pandemic hit across the world. But this series and the family that it spawned online and on the screen would be a place of refuge for many a terrified mutant who felt isolated. As the series and specials rolled on (even with Joe Bob himself coming down with the illness at one point but battling through) something magical happened. The Mutant Fam grew, and Joe Bob discovered just how much he meant to us with every heart felt letter that Darcy would bring him, and he’d be made to read.
Joe Bob or John Bloom found out he’d been there for a number of us weirdos when we didn’t have anyone else to talk about horror movies with, no one else who got why we loved the weird or appreciated it the way Joe Bob did. Some of the letters would speak to kids who had grown up watching Monstervision with a parent who was no longer with us but having Joe Bob back spouting the drive-in totals brought back some sweet memories in a time that they were needed. There’s a number of times Joe Bob visibly teared up reading letters much to his annoyance, but Darcy felt it was her duty to make sure he knew just how loved he was.
Speaking of that… along came the double bill that gave viewers all the Joe Bob they could handle. In 2020 Scare Package was shown, a brilliant and fun anthology which had Joe Bob Briggs playing himself when it premiered. Right after this was shown Darcy shocked and possibly terrified Joe Bob with the reveal that Hogzilla had secretly been completed and was premiering on the show. (You can start your chants now.)
The first three seasons would see the creation of the Silver Bolo Award which Yuki would ensure was “real silver” and would be awarded to online creators who kept the drive-in spirit alive.
Eventually the Christmas specials would evolve into an actual telethon with Fright Rags partnering with the show (creating dolls, shirts, hoodies, and action figures) but also special edition items with proceeds going to charity (just like every PBS telethon you remember from your youth.) Joe Bob and Darcy would start bringing in screen used items and other goodies that would raise money for different charities throughout the episode breaks and would last year giveaway a Drive In Mutant Wedding. This was aired on February 10th of 2023 with the final film choice being the…classic? Nekromantik as part of the Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine special with Joe Bob dressed as Elvis and officiating the wedding of two in-love mutants.
The series has been renewed by Shudder and from it has sprang the Joe Bob Drive In Jamboree which is a massive gathering of the Mutant Fam with movie screenings and concerts as well as a live hosting of films with Joe Bob and Darcy.
Joe Bob Briggs AKA John Bloom has become a legend within the world of horror hosts, having won numerous awards and been inducted into the horror host hall of fame. But I think it’s the way that Joe Bob has turned his drive in into a refuge for the oddballs and the mutants which is really a beautiful testament to the man in the bolo. Joe Bob takes the opportunity to inspire the film geeks out there to follow their dreams and make a damn movie if they want to make a damn movie. He even shows them at the jamboree as part of a film festival. He makes a point of telling everyone that it doesn’t matter how weird you think you are, you’re at home among the mutants.
Even with how eloquent Joe Bob is with his rants, he’s even more so with the moments where he tells the kids out there still watching that they aren’t alone and they’re always welcome at the drive in. And just like the drive in, the legend of Joe Bob Briggs will never die. And we’re all the better for it.
A couple previous episodes of WTF Happened to This Horror Celebrity? can be viewed below. To see more, click over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/joe-bob-briggs-wtf-happened-to-this-horror-celebrity/