Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire hit American theaters on December 13, 1996, grossed $17,084,296 at box office in its first weekend, was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and earned Cuba Gooding Jr. the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. It is a good movie and a great time capsule. It’s basically an ode to the Clinton economy, pre-scientological lunacy Cruise, and concussion protocol-free football.
Once the theatrical hoopla died down, Columbia TriStar Home Video got to work distributing Jerry Maguire on VHS. Prior to its 1997 release, a wholesaler told Billboard that he estimated that the movie would move over four million units. That prophecy appears to have been fulfilled, which leaves us with a whole lot of Jerry Maguires no one can play anymore.
Enter Everything Is Terrible!. As member Commodore Gilgamesh describes it, EIT! is a video collective that digs up forgotten, sometimes meaningless footage and re-edits it and makes it a new item, a new piece of work that adds meaning to it. “Sometimes we make it psychedelic, sometimes comedic, sometimes poignant,” he told Inverse. And, since 2008, EIT! has had one very specific, very obsessive project: collecting every single Jerry Maguire VHS in existence. Once collected, they’ll build a pyramid out of “Jerries,” as Gilgamesh calls them, somewhere in the desert.
Inverse spoke with Commodore Gilgamesh about EIT!, the Jerry collecting project, and how the film is a microcosm of American culture.
What is your role at Everything Is Terrible!?
We all kind of fill many, many roles. I would say I am mostly in charge of the tours, the live shows, and the movies that we do. As well as keeping our social media presence. But that’s on top of, of course, editing videos and building costumes.… So I kind of do everything.
How did the Jerry collecting project begin?
The beginning of it was super meaningless. We had no thesis about the project. It was being at thrift stores, buying tapes that we were looking for, and we would see rows and rows of Jerries. We started just by taking pictures of them and putting them on the site, trying to outdo each other of who saw more. Then we did a show in 2009 where I decided to buy 100 of them and give them away as a prize to a lucky audience member. We even brought the person on stage and were like, “This is your prize!” Then, afterwards, I was like, “I’m sorry we can’t give those to you because we like them together.”
So it just became this absurd action of carrying them around and storing them and bringing more of them in to be together. And then calling out to people to join this movement of saving them is what we say a lot, but it’s more about this meaningless object that was once so meaningful but has now been deemed worthless. So we’re giving it some fraction of its meaning again, which is so hard and absurd and funny. The work and money we spend just shipping them and storing them is so crazy. On a two-week tour we get 1,000-to-1,500 given to us, and we’re just driving around in a minivan that’s already jammed full of fog machines and costumes, so we have to mail them home. In the last tour, we mailed half-a-ton of Jerry Maguires to ourselves. So, pretty stupid as far as life decisions go.
What makes a good Jerry for you?
They’re all special in their own way, especially if you see them all together, you see this gradient from perfect crimson, straight out of the factory and wrapped, to almost a white that’s been soaking in the sun in a thrift store window for years. So each of them are beautiful and they’re all beautiful in a row, but we get a lot of the factory sealed ones that have never ever been viewed. I honestly think more of them have been watched once or less than watched more than twice, but they look like they were on a pallet and never left. You know what I mean? They never touched another hand. They’re just perfect.
The Jerry count is currently at 11,777. How many do you estimate there are on Earth?
I would assume that the majority of them are in landfills, but I said recently, and I feel that this is important that we try to count the Jerries we have and not the Jerries that we don’t have because there are so many out there that we’ll probably never get and that’s sad. But the 12,000 that are together are the happiest Jerry Maguires in the world. If you look on the Wikipedia page, it broke records for how many were made in the first couple days. I think that an obvious point of what we’re doing is oversaturation, overconsumption, overproduction, and then to think about what we’re doing. We just look at thousands of Jerries together and think it’s beautiful and hilarious.
What do you think it says about what we like as a culture that we like Jerry Maguire so much?
I think we like whatever we’re told to like, which I feel like that was. It was nominated for all these awards. It had all the right people in it. It had more catchphrases than any movie ever. It had that kid with that face. It’s just these things that were like, “This is good. There will be millions of them. You’re gonna love it.”
Like, I think about my parents and the movies that they’ve seen. They watch a movie a year, and I’m always like, “Why did you pick that movie to watch out of all the movies?” I remember they watched Jerry Maguire because it was the one movie that year that was like, “I have to see this movie.” I guess it was the newspaper that told them. I don’t know who told them, but it’s always interesting to me when those things get that popular. These people that don’t even have any interest in film or anything. They’re just like, it’s a thing, it’s American, it’s happening. I have to see. And that’s getting even bigger now. It’s world wide now, like Star Wars being released in Canada this week. It’s crazy. It’s a culture that wasn’t raised on Star Wars that’s pumped about it. It’s really interesting.
Do you have any of those international copies?
We have a handful. We have a section of specialty Jerries that are kind of worthless to us. They’re awesome. We always get excited when we see them. There’s black ones and a few white ones, the big case ones, and then mostly Australian ones are the ones we get the most. I think we have a Japanese bootleg one, which is super interesting, but they’re only awesome and beautiful when they’re all the same. So when you add the other ones it spoils the bunch visually. So while we’re always super pumped to get special ones, we’re always like, I’m not sure how we’re going to use that when we start building things out of them. But yeah, they’ll have to have special cases or something when we do our final Jerry project where the specialty ones will be showcased.
So this Jerry-collecting project is more about America’s obsession with Jerry Maguire?
Yeah. Not to be super American-centric, but as a kid growing up in America, it’s is all I know and all I know to mess with. The VHS tapes I have primarily have come from the States. Especially with the cultural output that America has, it’s definitely important to focus on. Whenever we’re in Canada people laugh even harder. I feel like they’re laughing at America, which I think is kind of fun, as opposed to in America where people are laughing and kind of clenching their face up and frowning and being embarrassed about their part in all of it. But definitely when I’ve had talks with people around the world with Everything is Terrible! they’re into it, but I think there’s a slightly different angle when you’re not totally entrenched in this culture.
What are you planning to do with all the Jerries, and will this project ever end?
So as of now, and these are all fairly tentative, our plan is to do the Jerry store, which we talked about for years, which is a video store that only carries Jerry Maguires. You can’t actually have any of them. You can bring some more in but you can’t actually take any out. So doing the pop-up store for a few weeks in L.A. to hopefully get more attention and more Jerries because the number that we’re at — 12,000 — in our minds, isn’t enough to build the pyramid as big as we like. So 18,000 to 20,000 is what we’re hoping for. We’re hoping to do a big push the first half of this year to get another 6,000 Jerries, and by the end of the year get the pyramid erected and then do some sort of ceremony.
I think our fans might be a little disappointed to hear that this is us saying that the project is kind of over for us. Because it has to end! We can’t keep collecting Jerry Maguires. There has to be an end game, so planning the pyramid is to make it a place for the rest of the Jerries to go. So, in the center of the pyramid there’s going to be a single piece of sunlight coming from the center that will hit a well in the center. We’re going to dig down into the earth so people can bring their Jerries and deposit them. So until the end of time everyone will be able to continue to bring their Jerries to the Jerry pyramid to properly dispose of them.
Where are you looking to put the pyramid?
We’re trying to do it within a reasonable drive of Los Angeles, so we’ve got a handful of options that are reasonably priced. We’re working on some zoning stuff right now, so a two-hour drive from Los Angeles would be ideal. It has to have proper road access and those boring things we have to figure out before we can do it.
Has anyone involved with the film contacted you about the project?
Totally. Actually, [director] Cameron Crowe mailed up out of the blue 15 virgin, unopened, the most beautiful Jerries I’ve ever seen. He signed one of them and wrote a very nice note about the project, so he is on board in some fashion. It was a very classy move, I felt like, to go that route for him. I was very tickled by that. He’s the only one who has openly said anything about it.
What do you actually think of the film Jerry Maguire?
I’ve never finished it. I don’t really care. I don’t have bad feelings towards it. It’s fine. It seems like many things we make in this country: It’s pretty mediocre. There are other Cameron Crowe movies that I loved when I saw them when I was younger, but that one, it missed me.
I think that’s kind of the point of it for us. The clips that we find and use in Everything Is Terrible! are really special to us. That’s why they’re there, but there’s nothing in Jerry Maguire that’s special to us, so that’s why we kind of forced it into our world to make it special somehow. So the actual video doesn’t mean anything to me. I can’t watch it.
If you’ve got some stray Jerries lying around or come across any in your life, please for Gilgamesh’s and our sakes, send them to EIT!
Everything Is Terrible!
P.O. Box 50825
Los Angeles, CA 90050 USA