Shut Up, Little Man!

Some Notes Toward a History of Shut Up, Little Man!

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“I Know How to Use Any Weapon There Is” — The new Shut Up Little Man comic book

comic cover
Comic book cover

In the Fall of 1996 a comic illustration arrived in the Shut Up Little Man PO Box. We had received a number of comics, animated cells, and illustrations of Peter and Raymond over the years, but this one was really special. It featured a striking image of Raymond fumbling in the kitchen, screaming “Shut your fuckin’ mouth” at Peter. There were a multitude of clever little visual clues that made it evident that the artist was well-versed in Shut Up Little Man lore: a bottle marked “The Vodka,” a shopping bag from O’Looney’s, Peter’s misplaced keys, his “stolen” billfold, a bottle of The Wine (4 liters, of course), cigarette papers, the stuffed bunny. In general, the illustration had that same unhinged and expansive style that recalled my very favorite comics from the 1970s. I fucking loved it. I wrote back to the artist, M. Flinn, saying: “This is unbelievably good shit! I have been thinking of doing a comic book, would you like to contribute?” M. wrote back saying: “I could spend the rest of my life doing Shut Up Little Man illustrations.”

At around the same time an old friend of mine wrote to me saying I should check out Issue no. 1 of the Fantagraphics’ comic Schizo, one of the sickest and most perverse comics I have ever eyeballed, by a guy named Ivan Brunetti. I picked up a copy, read it, and laughed so fuckin’ hard my stomach muscles hurt. They still hurt. In one scene God appears in the form of the Aztec Sun and taunts Ivan — as Peter’s once provoked Raymond — with a series of feminine names: “Okay, Julie. Okay, Alice. What do you think of Mabel?” I wrote to Ivan, telling him of my plan to make a new comic book. Ivan wrote back saying that he actually had a dream that God was taunting him with Peter’s lines. [Obviously, this dream God was a temperamental Old Testament God.] Ivan agreed to contribute to the Shut Up Little Man comic book. Rich McMurry, who had also sent me an excellent one-panel comic of Peter and Raymond, declared his willingness to participate, as did another Fantagraphics’ artist, Dame Darcy, of Meatcake. Together, M. Flinn and I labored for over two years to assemble the Shut Up Little Man comic book. It was published in October of 1999.

art from comic book, m flinn
Art from the comic book

And, the gospel of Peter and Raymond continued to spread. Another play opened in Minnesota, more Shut Up Little Man samples on records, and constant airplay on morning shows like “The Drew and Mike Show” on WRIF in Detroit and the Spud Bros. Show in Boise, ID. The San Francisco Weekly did an eight page cover story on Shut Up Little Man just before Peter died. Ira Glass did a segment on NPR’s “This American Life” featuring the recordings. Even though Raymond and Peter had passed away and gone off to the big liquor store in the sky, their arguments carried on and on in plays, puppet shows, on stereos and radios, on webpages and in comic books, and in people’s heads, especially when those people had been drinking.

These “notes toward a history” have gotten as long-winded as one of Peter’s drunken tirades after being let out of the jailhouse at 4 AM. Considering that this phenomenon stemmed from a lot of sleepless nights, psychic terror, and a few death threats, it is some strange poetic justice that the wretched excesses and abusive diatribes of two individuals could lead to so many positive things. Fortunately, the Shut Up Little Man recordings have brought a lot of crazy pleasure to a lot of people over time. They have inspired a host of artists to make visual art, theater, film and music. And, thankfully, Mitchell and I have made a lot of friends along the way. It has been overwhelming sometimes and just plain fuckin’ weird most of the time. But, it has been fun. Peoples’ enthusiasm has verified that Peter and Raymond did not appeal merely to my own or to Mitchell’s twisted sense of humor. There seems to be something about the dynamic between Peter and Raymond that taps into some elemental, perhaps archetypal, level in human beings. It has been suggested that their dialogues reflect something about the present state of the human condition. Raymond himself had once proclaimed: “I am the human race!” With all that said, I say unto you, as Peter once said to Raymond in an attempt to get him to shut his dirty little mouth: “Good night, sweet prince!