Select Page

Interview: Joe Bob Briggs, Darcy the Mail Girl, Yuki Nakamura, and John Brennan Toast Five Years of “The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs”

Thursday, April 20, 2023 | Interviews


July 8th, 2000 is the night that the Joe Bob Briggs era of MonsterVision came to a screeching halt. Fans of the hit show that celebrated the three B’s (IYKYK) of counterculture programming would belly up to the bar for a last call they never knew was coming; to be fair, neither did the show’s host. But the drive-in will never die, and nearly 18 years to the day that he seemingly stashed his bolo ties away for the last time, the Mutant Fam converged upon Shudder for a marathon of 13 films meant to give Joe Bob the send-off he so rightfully deserved. However, a fervent fandom that had fallen out of touch with their favorite drinking buddy and horror-huckleberry nearly two decades earlier wasn’t about to lose him again, and this time around, was just as excited to get acquainted with his new friends: cosplay co-host Darcy the Mail Girl, production coordinator and tunesmith John Brennan, and set designer extraordinaire Yuki Nakamura.

Now, five years later, we’ve spent Friday night double-features together; livened up Thanksgiving dinners with the most comprehensive discourse ever recorded about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; pledged support to our fellow man through charitable auctions every Christmas, and even been guests at a wedding. As The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs prepares for its fifth season premiere on April 21st on Shudder, Joe Bob, Darcy, Yuki, and John all stopped by for a visit with Rue Morgue to revisit those moments – and many more – that began on a night when we all broke the internet.

2018’s original The Last Drive-In marathon marked Joe Bob Briggs’ return to television after a nearly 20-year hiatus, and on that first night back, we crashed Shudder’s servers! Take us back to that momentous evening and share your perspectives surrounding what, at the time, was intended to be a one-off event. 

Joe Bob: First, I was surprised that the producers wanted me to do the exact same show that I had done 20 years earlier because normally, you don’t repeat TV. It’s considered a recipe for disaster if you do something a second time. Then they wanted to have breaks during the movies, and I said, “You’re a streaming service; there are no commercials. People are going to kill us!” They said, “No, trust us.” I wanted to do a 54-hour marathon and then be done. We were going to schedule it for Labor Day, but Shudder didn’t have any money and just canceled the whole thing. Then one of the executives told us he had $30,000 in a fund that we could use. I talked with the producers and asked what we could do for $30,000, and we thought we could probably do two movies. I decided that if we could only do two movies, no one was going to notice. So we decided on a Friday we weren’t going to do it. Then that Sunday, they called me and said everybody on the crew would work for free! I thought, “Fuck, now I have to do it, but it’s got to be at least 24 hours.” But it couldn’t be just a double feature – it had to be an event. We did that whole thing for $30,000 and we borrowed everything. Yuki is a big fan of the West, and he has a bolo tie collection bigger than mine, so he was a good choice to do the art direction. We did the marathon and, as you know, they came to me and said, “Nobody can get on; nobody’s watching.” It was Darcy that told me that and I thought, “Well, that’s disappointing.” But she said, “No, that’s great! You broke the Internet!” I think people eventually got on by about the third movie, but that was, I don’t know, 1:30 – 2:00 in the morning. Originally, we weren’t going to immediately replay it, but because so many people missed the beginning, we did replay it on Sunday. I was shocked that given all the handicaps that we had: doing an old format; interrupting the movies; all these things that, to me, were negatives, turned out to be positives. People DID want the things that I had done 20 years before!

Darcy: It was nerve-racking! I was so hyped to get Joe Bob back, that leading up to the premiere I did whatever I could to make sure it happened. But on the day I was supposed to leave for filming, I started freaking out. I told them I missed my flight and that I couldn’t do this and that they needed to find someone else. Then Joe Bob called and said, “We need you! Get the fuck over here!” I bought another plane ticket and took a later flight. When I got there, he gave me the idea of cosplaying. When I go to horror conventions as a fan, if I’m excited about the movies, I dress up. So, it’s about three days before the show and we haven’t talked about what I’m going to be wearing. I tried to get a costume for all the movies, but because of the format, I had no idea what was going on. I didn’t end up cosplaying all of them because I couldn’t find the pieces in time. And as far as the whole social media interaction thing that we do now – it wasn’t planned. It started because people couldn’t watch and I wanted to get the message out to anyone trying to log in to hold on, because I knew how hard we were trying to fix it. I did Snap, Instagram, Twitter … everything I could, and then people started responding. While they were waiting to log in, they started sharing their Joe Bob stories and why he was so important to them. It became a thing that ended up mostly Twitter-focused because it’s easiest to have conversations there. Now every Friday when we air, we tweet along. It makes it so much more fun, but it’s also interesting because when we were watching MonsterVision years ago, we thought we were alone, but we didn’t know there were so many of us out there!

John: It was interesting, and I’ll also speak for Justin Martell because he was the executive producer on the original marathon and moving forward. For us, it was a strange night because we were also in the midst of producing Lloyd Kaufman’s feature #Shakespeare’s Shitstorm. We’re having a late night at the office and we’re getting this information that people can’t log in and watch. We were both wondering if this was a good thing or a bad thing; we weren’t sure. We were getting real-time updates while we were also setting up this other feature so we couldn’t celebrate, but once it started to come to light that so many people wanted to watch that it’s crashing the servers, we were like, “Alright, this is kind of cool!” We congratulated each other but then had to go make this other film.

Yuki: Nobody expected that, including the producer and the director. We didn’t have enough of a budget; we got a small sound stage in New Jersey, and I think I had enough of a budget for decorations. I had one carpenter other than myself, and I built the set in only one day. That’s usually a two- or three-person job, but I had only one! These guys all grew up with MonsterVision 20 years earlier, so they just wanted to do it again as a reboot. When we did the marathon, it was a big deal.

Even more bolo ties than Joe Bob, Yuki? What’s that about?

Yuki: In Tokyo, I grew up with John Ford. When I got this job and found out that the costumes were Western ties and shirts, I pulled things from my collection and used them as set decorations. I don’t think I’m in front of the camera in the pilot, but when the seasons started and the first was shot in Dallas, of course I brought all kinds of western shirts! I always ask director Austin (Jennings) what I should wear for different scenes, and they never have to bring in any costumes for me. All the things you see me wearing are from my collection.

Were you guys surprised at the reaction to the marathon, and more importantly, could you have imagined that after five years and numerous episodes and specials, you’d still be doing this thing?

Darcy: Once the whole breaking-the-internet thing happened, Shudder said, “Let’s talk on Monday.” I just screamed! I was so happy for Joe Bob because he didn’t think people would show up, so for him to see that he’s as needed as much as we know he is, was amazing.

John: I was surprised that I even got to be a part of it! I was doing my own thing at Troma when Justin, Matt Manjourides, and Austin approached me to submit a demo for the theme song. I didn’t even know this thing was coming back and now I have an opportunity to do a theme song – this was the biggest surprise of my life! Even crazier was that 24 hours later, the song was approved. Now I’m a part of it and then they hired me to be a production coordinator. That I’m used to; I’m not used to having accolades for my music in a public forum, that’s something I’ve been doing in private for 20 years, but the production coordination I could do. I just so happened to be lucky enough to get into the music part of it, too. The craziest part came when there was a guy on the first marathon, the cryptozoologist (and Rue Morgue’s own) Lyle Blackburn, and he was supposed to perform the song “Nobody Sees the Flowers but Me” from The Legend of Boggy Creek. For some reason, he couldn’t bring his guitar. Joe Bob still really wanted to play that song, and so Austin asked if I’d bring my guitar, learn the song, and perform it. The first time I ever met Joe Bob, I had never even said ‘hello’ to him before. We walked in, Austin introduced me as the production coordinator/music supervisor, and said, “Now you guys are going to learn this song.”

Yuki: Nobody was expecting that one job to turn into a weekly show. We didn’t know how many seasons we’d get; we’d do a season and then Shudder would tell us that we’d be back for another, and then another. Having a steady project every year is good!

Joe Bob: What’s kept me going is not so much the show itself, as the community that grew up around it. I’ve never felt so close to my audience in my life. There’s this horror community that exists and teaches me things all the time. For example, last season we did something that sounded like it was going to cause people to surf out immediately, which was show a silent film: The 100th anniversary of Nosferatu followed by the remake of the silent film in German. The audience stayed with us; in fact, many people told me it was their favorite show. That’s an event that never would have happened in my life. All these things derive from fan enthusiasm, and I want to make them happy. When I think of a new idea, it’s always, “Oh, they’re going to love this!”

Darcy, we’ve heard it said that you were instrumental in helping Joe Bob realize that there was still a fanbase for his style of hosting, prior to The Last Drive-In ever being greenlit. Bring us into your mindset back then: How did you approach him, what was the endgame, and how hard of a sell was it that he was still in demand?

Darcy: It was frustrating as hell. I think it was two years before anything even happened. I was trying to convince him to do something: YouTube, a podcast, I’ll pay you to write for my site – just do anything, but he’d say, “People have Google, they don’t need me.” So, I started doing polls and showing him all the reactions. I never want to take full credit because it was simultaneous with the producers and how they created this thing; I was just the confidence boost he needed. I remember when he told me that someone from Shudder called, and he asked me if he should look into it. I told him, “Fuck yeah, you should!”

Viewers often speculate about how the films you screen are selected. What does the decision-making process look like, and is there a grail of a film that you’ve tried your damndest to air, but haven’t been able to make happen?

Joe Bob: There are movies that have licensing problems or whose studios have contracts that say you can’t interrupt their films. They’ll let you use the movie, but you can’t have the breaks. Then there’s the fact that a lot of times Shudder doesn’t want to spend the money on the movies we want, or we can get the movie but it’s only for a short license. Since we’re a streaming service, we want to leave the show up for people to be able to watch for a year or two, at least. Some of the movies that I would like to show, Shudder just doesn’t want to. We got Cannibal Holocaust on – that was a fight – but I’ve never been able to get I Spit on Your Grave. Some movies have become so iconic that bigger organizations with deep pockets buy them so they can run all through October and they’re not available to us. For the most part, it’s convenient if they have one in the Shudder library that we like. I have a pretty broad definition of horror and so we always have a lot of slashers, but we also have foreign art films that are horror, and I love that we have that range.

John: I would love to see Burial Ground; it’s slowly become one of my favorite movies of all time. In the past five years since I first watched it, I’ve seen it maybe a dozen times and I’ve shown it to so many people and it’s always a hit. Another one that’s grown in stature throughout my viewing experiences is Video Violence. It’s such a good concept for a movie and the fact that it’s shot on video … I would love to see Joe Bob take that apart and discuss it and the video store days.

Darcy: Obviously, Halloween 3!

Looking back through all the years and moments, a specific one that fans often point to is the “Keep Rolling” segment after One Cut of the Dead. You needn’t look far to find someone whose life was touched by it. Talk a little about that segment and what it meant to film something so impactful.

Joe Bob: I get emails and people coming up to me at live events saying that episode changed their life, and it’s very gratifying. I go to events where there are a lot of indie filmmakers and they’re frequently discouraged; their family asks, “Why are you wasting your life? Why are you spending so much money on this?” I say similar things to what I said on that show, and they take it to heart. In some cases, they’ve become filmmakers; in others, they’ve become writers. They just needed that motivation. I don’t know what it was particularly about that speech because I’ve done different versions of it over time, but a lot of people tell me that once they saw it, they started working on their film the very next day. That’s one thing we want to do, which is guarantee more indie films because it’s a difficult time for the indie filmmaker. We wanted to tell them there are places out there where you can get your work seen and where you can get paid for your work.


Favorite movies; favorite moments. And go!

Joe Bob: It would probably be that Nosferatu double feature. It just had everything. I like when we deep dive into film history, into the background and the importance of the films and the icons they’ve created. We used to have three specials a year, now it’s like every show is a special. They’re intricate and hard to put together because there are many moving parts with so many elements, and that’s especially true of the season five premiere. Of course, the ones where we connect with the fans emotionally are always memorable, and that tends to be the Christmas shows.

Yuki: Being able to create different scenes for the seasons and specials is fun, like if we show some slasher movie and we’re dressed like kids at a sleepover. When we did Prom Night 2, we were all dancing and singing. For each season, I usually create two sets, but after that I really don’t have a lot to do on the show. When we get a special, I get to create a new, different set, and that’s always fun.

Darcy: Favorite film was Prom Night 2. I was psyched when we started picking out movies and I just knew we had to show it. Then they even threw me a prom! Favorite moment is a little harder because there’s been so many, but off the top of my head it’d have to be Chris Jericho coming on. As a fangirl, to have Jericho, be able to pay tribute to him, and do a video together, that’s such a dream come true. He was seriously discussing Bloodsucking Freaks with us!

John: Favorite moment was the conceptualization and making of the “Spookies Rap.” It came from Austin who asked what genres of music I wanted to tackle (that season), and I said I wanted to do hip hop. We were showing Spookies and we thought it’d be awesome to do a fake end-credit rap song. Best movie is hard, but for me, the best Joe Bob-related content and movie combination was that Thanksgiving Dinners of Death marathon with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. When I watched I thought, “Here’s a man who loves this movie, deep diving into any and all information that he could give you about it.” I think if you put together all the Joe Bob segments, the running time is longer than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre itself! Another favorite, which some people disparaged this episode but I know that a lot of others loved it, was the VHS night. I had blast watching those movies.

The Last Drive-In is as much a celebration of the fandom as it is of the films themselves. A major part of why these shows aren’t dumped onto Shudder all at once is so we can hang out every Friday night and watch these films together – no matter how far apart we are. As we approach the show’s season five premiere, share some of your favorite personal experiences with the Mutant Family.

Joe Bob: I’m grateful to the fans because they not only show up for the horror stuff but also for my How Rednecks Saved Hollywood events and the other things that I do. I met a guy in Tulsa, 13 years old, and his T-shirt was of Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession. That’s the kind of fans we have in the horror world; they’re smart and well-informed and they love to go on these deep dives with me. There aren’t many hosts that go as deep into the subject matter as we do. We’re doing Criterion Collection-level information on horror films, which very few people do outside of an academic setting.

Darcy: It’s amazing to meet so many people and see how this has brought them all together. People kind of follow my story, too, which is amazing. I talk openly about my anxiety and how I kicked and screamed the whole time while on the show, about how I didn’t think it was for me and I couldn’t do it. Now, in season five, I’m good and I feel like I belong. It’s cool and people let me know that they’re inspired by that.

Yuki: I may be more famous than before I appeared on the show, but I’m not an actor; people aren’t stopping me on the street or while I’m out shopping at the store. One time, while at a bar with John Brennan, someone came up and asked, “Aren’t you Yuki?” That does happen occasionally. But I’m not Tom Cruise – I just love doing the design!

John: The Drive-In Jamborees are incredible. Before the first one, the pandemic had happened, and the show grew exponentially and became more popular than ever. Then we did the event in 2021 at the Mahoning drive-in and I hadn’t been to a convention related to the show until then. I was pulling double duty between doing the music and working behind the scenes doing logistics. The thing that I was not prepared for, as I’m walking through the parking lot and doing my work, was that people would constantly stop me and ask for my autograph. I was so overwhelmed, to the point where it started to become where anytime I needed to do something and I had to walk there, I would have to give myself an extra half hour! All weekend, people were coming up with kind words and stories about how Joe Bob and the show changed their lives; one guy told me how my songs helped him through a breakup. For somebody to say that, it’s earth-shattering.

The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs season premiere airs tomorrow, April 21st on Shudder.

Kevin Hoover
Ever since watching CREEPSHOW as a child, Kevin Hoover has spent a lifetime addicted to horror (and terrified of cockroaches). He wholeheartedly believes in the concept of reanimating the dead if only we’d give it the old college try, and thinks FRIDAY THE 13th PART V is the best in the franchise. Aside from writing “Cryptid Cinema Chronicles” for Rue Morgue, he’s been a working copywriter for over a decade and you’ve probably bought something with his words on it. He also believes even the worst movie can be improved with buckets of gore.