Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure

Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure


Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

Two friends, Eddie Lee Sausage and Mitchell D, rent a house in San Francisco in the late Eighties and find themselves next door to two noisy, drunk neighbours, Raymond Huffman and Peter Haskett. Their Peptobismol-coloured walls are paper-thin, and Ray and Pete have mouths like unwashed ringpieces. "You wanna talk to me, you need to shut up, little man!" is the only choice cut I can safely print. Imagine a redneck Withnail And I without the self-awareness and fierce intelligence, and you're on the right track.

After not getting any rest, Eddie does what any self-respecting neighbour does, and confronts them - with little success. Naturally, he starts recording their arguments, partly to provide potential evidence for law-enforcement, but more for a shared hilarity among their friends. Through these recordings, we learn a little about the nature of Ray and Pete’s relationship, argybargying like a “married couple”.

These toe-curlingly awful tapes go “pre-digital” viral, with people copying the tapes for friends of friends. Eddie even starts a mail-order business of these recordings with a liberal copyright notice. (This changes later on.) Before long, the perpetually sozzled Ray and Pete are unknowing underground celebrities.

The unexpurgated creativity that leads from the recordings reminds me of last year's The People Vs George Lucas - in the way that immensely clever and funny comic-book artists, animators, writers and stage directors take the material and shape it into their own form of cultural zeitgeist, and how Eddie and Mitchell stamp their authority on these creations retroactively. It also chronicles no fewer than three failed attempts (one marginally successful - Shut Yer Dirty Little Mouth (2001)) to turn Ray and Pete’s story into film. One hysterical pitch by playwright Greg Gibbs had them as "The Odd Couple meets Waiting for Godot".

The movie also has much to say about this none-too-subtle take on voyeurism, and the nature of unexpurgated creativity uninhibited by copyright. A successful comparison is made using much similar “Christian Bale meltdown” YouTube mixtape action.

It also boasts archive footage of these media types trying to find the surviving players in order to get them to sign away the rights to their likenesses and words - $100 is the asking price. The resultant footage of Peter doing a shockingly pitch-perfect “Shut Up Little Man” is described as “Evil Knievel doing one last show, and still making the jump”.

With only a minor misstep at the end, Shut Up Little Man is a delightful entertainment, with a lot to say about the nature of entertainment, voyeurism and recalcitrant creativity. A wonderful documentary.

Reviewed on: 16 Jun 2011
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Two men record their loudmouthed neighbours, share their foul ramblings, and accidentally make them into underground stars.
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Director: Matthew Bate

Writer: Matthew Bate

Starring: Mike Mitchell, Daniel Clowes, Henry S. Rosenthal, Mitchell Deprey, Eddie Guerriero, Ivan Brunetti, Peter Haskett, Raymond Huffman

Year: 2011

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Australia

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