Shut Up, Little Man!

“I Can Kill You Instantly” : Some Notes Toward a History of Shut Up, Little Man!

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“I Can Kill You Instantly” — The accelerated proliferation of Shut Up Little Man

sf weekly
SF Weekly article

The events surrounding Peter and Raymond and their endless fisticuffs were always weird, but they were about to get weirder. By some strange osmotic process that still confounds and thrills me, the Shut Up Little Man recordings began to seep up into the social sphere like bubbling crude. A friend called from New Orleans; he had met a woman at a party who had given him her phone number. When he called her to ask her out on a date, she had Peter and Raymond on her answering machine. Another friend from Seattle called to tell me that while she was out at a dive bar the previous night, she overheard someone doing Pete and Ray routines. Inspired, she started doing them too. Then, other people in the bar began to do bits of dialogue. Eventually, someone went out to their car and brought in a Shut Up Little Man tape; the bartender played it over the PA System. I went to see John Zorn, one of my favorite jazz composers, performing with his experimental game-playing ensemble, Cobra. The keyboard player had sampled Shut Up Little Man, and thus, throughout the evening — amidst the saxophone squawks and grinding guitar breaks — there would be sampled little blasts of: “Shut your fuckin’ mouth!” or “I want to kill!” My boss came into work one day, saying: “Last night I was flipping through cable and there was some show on the access channel that had Bert and Ernie puppets acting out Shut Up Little Man dialogue.” I began to read the then-latest book by the papa of cyberpunk, William Gibson, entitled Virtual Light. The novel featured a section wherein the main character, Rydell, cruises around the Lower Haight (where Peter and Raymond and Mitchell and I used to live). Rydell sees some wounded character maneuvering down Haight Street, screaming one of Ray’s most endearing lines: “If you wanna talk to me, then shut your fuckin’ mouth!”

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