Two friends move from Wisconsin to San Fransisco and soon realize their crotchety, old next door neighbors argue constantly. And they’re crude. And loud. And it gets so annoying that the two friends begin to record the often hilarious arguments. Those recordings then made it out into the world and slowly but surely became not only an underground smash, but the inspiration for all kinds of art and merchandise. All the while the two friends who did the recordings reap the benefits without the people on the tapes even knowing they exist.
That’s the incredible true set-up of the documentary Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure, a film that not only tells this story, but investigates its roots, comments on cultural significance, morality, legality and much more.
The two friends in question are Eddie Lee Sausage and Mitchell Deprey and their neighbors were Peter Haskett and Raymond Huffman. The year is 1987 and every night, Peter and Raymond would get super drunk and scream at each other. Peter would tell Ray to “Shut up, little man” and Ray would spout homophobic slurs at Peter. This would happen at all hours of the day and Eddie and Mitch recorded about 14 hours in total.
They let their friend hear the tapes, and then through cassette tape dubbing and exchange, the tapes spread all over the world, inspiring comic books, plays, art, #Movies and more. Shut Up Little Man tells this whole story, follows up on the current whereabouts of Peter and Ray, talks to people who were inspired by the tapes and even gets into the three competing movie adaptations that were happening simultaneously.
Being as the main crux of the film is an audio track, director Matthew Bate does his best to engage the audience visually with varying degrees of success. The film really hits its stride, though, when it puts the Shut Up Little Man tapes in cultural context of yesterday vs. today. The talking heads comment on how this whole phenomenon would have been different in today’s YouTube age while also exploring the notions of morality and legality surrounding the tapes.
Sounds like a lot to digest, right? It is. There is so much to think about in the film that it’s kind of all over the place. At one moment it’s showing Christian Bale remixes and the next an old interview. Still, it all sort of fits in a weird way, even if you do leave the film with some unanswered questions.
Below are a few clips of Peter and Ray from YouTube. If you even remotely enjoy these, you’ll #Love Shut Up Little Man. It’s flawed and unfocused at times, but definitely an interesting story that’s worth hearing.