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Shut Up Little Man!

by on July 19, 2011
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There are certain documentaries that just speak to your soul. It just so happens that “Shut Up Little Man!” is one such documentary for me.  It’s a tale of Eddie and Mitch, two best friends who enjoyed a rise to cult popularity due to some particularly bizarre circumstances. The year was 1987 when Eddie and Mitch found themselves transplanted in San Francisco after finishing college in Wisconsin. Little did they know, the events that would transpire thereafter would change their lives forever.

Amid the paper-thin walls of the aptly dubbed Pepto Bismol Palace lurked an unlikely comedic duo. Dwelling in the apartment adjacent to Eddie and Mitch lived a proverbial odd couple of sorts in Raymond Huffman and Peter Haskett. Nightly drunken exploits by these mysterious neighbors made living conditions in the ramshackle apartment hellacious. It wasn’t until Eddie decided to record the raucous arguments next door that an underground phenomenon was born.

Haskett is described in the film as being a “queer queen” as opposed to his counterpart Huffman, who is, at worst, a gay-bashing homophobe and, at best, a self-loathing queer himself. The common theme that links the pair in infamy is their chronic alcoholism and the arguments that ensue because of it. Eddie and Mitch recorded literally hundreds upon hundreds of hours of audio, basically from the time they moved in up until the day they moved out. These cassettes, appropriately named “Shut Up Little Man” after one of Peter’s most used catchphrases, were copied and shared among their close friends. Somewhere along the way, fanzines, comic artists and various other prominent figures in the underground art world caught wind of the tapes and started rendering their own vision of the events.

The most remarkable part of this story is how viral these tapes became given the fact this predates YouTube or even digital recordings. The documentary itself is a mash-up of dramatizations, old photographs come to life and a slew of interviews.  Ironically enough, the only individuals who managed to remain completely unaffected by all of this hoopla were Haskett and Huffman.  Having long since passed away, the film acts as more of an ode to the bitter old duo rather than a “Where Are They Now?”.  It’s simply refreshing to see a documentary of such simplicity; just ordinary people rising to minimal popularity via a lost art form.

If you are tickled by The Jerky Boys or just the hilarity inherent in two combative drunks with filthy mouths chewing each other out, this film will definitely speak to you.  Moreover, if you are simply interested in the dynamics of human nature, this film is where it’s at.  Enjoy this as soon as you can, it’s truly a unique documentary.