AND THE WINNER IS…Cesci with Juggalos and Bakhtin’s dark carnival

Well, well THREE IN A ROW. I am one proud little podcaster. And I couldn’t be happier than to win with such a bizarre precedent…

Remember if you are outraged and want to champion the clown church, or simply want to play more Gri-mal-dali.. let us know…

In horror studies you have ‘dark carnival motif, Carnivals are where bad things happen, in a constantly moving place, often late at night. Literary theorist Bakhtin coined ‘carnivalesque’ as a trope related to the fetes and spectacles where a lord of misrule overturned the world. We see this technique in Stephen King, Ray Bradbury and even Highsmith’s ‘Strangers on a Train’

Disclaimer: Stangers on a Train does not include any killer clowns

Like at Coney Island funhouse where you could smash up a replica dining room and hidden fans blew girls’ skirts up over their waists. The Coney Island clown, Steeple chase also had a horrific exaggerated smile ‘…at once innocent and very kinky’. He was played at the park by a clown-faced dwarf that chased visitors around and spanked them with an electric paddle. Fred Trump, father of horror clown Donald bought the original Coney Island funhouse to convert it to waterfront housing. To preempt the city from declaring the park a protected landmark, Trump held a party with his wealthy friends, where they threw bricks through the towering, glass Funny Face’s bared teeth.

None of the Clowns featured in this podcast where as scary as this one

But back to the horror-core rap band who have channeled Bakhtin’s literary criticism into music, I suspect without ever having heard of it are Insane Clown Possee and their followers the Juggalos. Whose hand signal is ‘the wicked clown’. ICP’s music has a mythology called ‘the dark carnival’ where truths will be revealed through albums entitled by joker cards that Shaggy 2 Dope sees in his dreams. The cards are lessons that are told through the lyrics like a moralistic pantomime. The last card ‘wraith’ in 2001, revealed the whole act was a smoke screen for the bands true message: evangelical Christianity.

Plenty more of this at

This has come as something as a surprise for their fans, as at one point were classed as a gang due to their random acts of destruction and violence and tattoo brandings. 7000 Juggalos meet once a year for the gathering of the Juggalos where they wrestle, get naked, take lots of drugs and perform odd rituals around a Detroit manufactured fizzy drink called Faygo. 4 people have died at these gatherings. ICP have their own definition of sin, creating  their own belief system of ‘magic’ (their  book is called ‘behind the paint’ But the much parodied, Juggalo song ‘Miracles’ reveals their evangelical outlook:

‘No more hidden messages

…Truth is we follow GOD!!!, The carnival is GOD

And may all juggalos find him

We’re not sorry if we tricked you.

Long neck giraffes, and pet cats and dogs

Fuckin’ rainbows after it rains

There’s enough miracles here to blow your brains.

Fuckin’ magnets, how do they work?’

Now Juggalos are easy to laugh at but they are not all bad. Seeing themselves as cultural and social outcasts, Juggalos call normal folk ‘floobs’ and see their performing of clowns is a reaction to those tha thave bullied and mocked them. Juggalos have actually done a lot of charity work including a trash pick up and a community helpline

Shaggy 2 Dope. Amazed by a giraffe

Want More Killer Clowns?

Bakhtin, M (1941). Rabelais and his world.

Baudelaire, C. (1956) The Essence of Laughter

Baumgarthuber, C (2012) Troubled Mime (

Dery,M. (1999) The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium; American culture on the brink

Louapre ,D. (1990),A Cotton Candy Autopsy (Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children)

Jurgens, A. (2014) ‘Batman’s Joker, a neo-modern clown of violence’ in Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics (V5, N4) pp. 441 – 55

Radford, B. (2016) Bad Clowns

Ronson, J (2010) ‘Insane Clown Posse: And God created controversy’ in The Guardian (

Snyder,S. (2012) Batman: A Death in the Family

Weiner, G & Peaslee, R (2015). The Joker: A Serious Study of the Clown Prince of Crime.

American Juggalo (2010)

Pokémon & Evolution (Miranda)


In Pokémon Go, you ‘evolve’ into your Pokémon into stronger creatures using Stardust and Candy: Pikachu evolves into Raichu and Zubat into Golbat etc. Substitute the word ‘Stardust’ for ‘natural selection’ and ‘Candy’ for ‘genetic mutation’ and you’re pretty much working along the lines of modern evolutionary synthesis. But what if it isn’t that straightforward? The question I’m asking here is, what would Darwin have made of Evee?

Evee, the super cute rabbity Pokémon, can evolve into either Vaporeon, Jolteon or Flareon. Madness! Madness comparable, however, to one (widely debunked) hypothesis on human evolution: Aquatic Ape Theory. The idea is that when most primates were hanging about in trees or evolving into early homonids, a separate strand evolved to live in the sea – meaning there were also pods of fishy apes flapping about the oceans.

You can find a great/terrible faux documentary from Animal Planet 'Mermaids: The Body Found' (2012) which has great CGI ape-mermaids. The documentary was criticised for appearing 'too factual'...

You can find a great/terrible faux documentary from Animal Planet ‘Mermaids: The Body Found’ (2012) which has great CGI ape-mermaids. The documentary was criticised for appearing ‘too factual’…

If you prefer something with less CGI, here are some maybe slightly less speculative sources:

  • LANGDON, J. H. (1997). Umbrella hypotheses and parsimony in human evolution: a critique of the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis. Journal of Human Evolution. 33, 479-494.
  • MORGAN, E. (1997). The aquatic ape hypothesis. London, Souvenir Press.
  • PARKER, S., & ROBERTS, A. M. (2015). Evolution: the whole story.
  • ROEDE, M. (1991). The aquatic ape: fact or fiction? : the first scientific evaluation of a controversial theory of human evolution. London, Souvenir Press.


Pokémon & Animal Menageries (Miranda)

Pokémon Go is all about collecting wild animals: you roam the countryside trapping defenceless creatures inside tiny balls before bragging to your friends about how many you have.

Historically, these collections of exotic animals, known as menageries, were generally connected to a royal court. For example, the Tower of London housed a royal menagerie for six centuries, housing lions, elephants, leopards and, famously, a polar bear that would be regularly led out of the Tower to catch food and wash itself in the Thames.

You can see a state of the Polar Bear at the Tower of London today and his ghosted is the most sighted...

You can see a statue of the Polar Bear at the Tower of London today and his/her ghost is the most sighted. Maybe think twice about packing Tuna sandwiches on your visit to the crown jewels…

These menageries served as a symbol of the wealth and power of the Crown, but were also used for entertainment. Louis XIV used his menageries to entertain courtiers and visiting dignitaries with bloody battles: in 1682 the ambassador of Persia enjoyed the spectacle of a fight to the death between a royal tiger and an elephant. Next time you’re battling your Pokémon at a gym, you should think of Louis XIV!

Read More:

  • BENNETT, E. T. (1829). The Tower menagerie: comprising the natural history of the animals contained in that establishment; with anecdotes of their characters and history. London, Printed for R. Jennings.
  • GRIGSON, C. (2016). Menagerie: the history of exotic animals in England 1100-1837.
  • HAHN, D. (2004). The Tower menagerie: the amazing 600-year history of the royal collection of wild and ferocious beasts kept at the Tower of London. New York, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin.
  • ROBBINS, L. E. (2002). Elephant slaves and pampered parrots: exotic animals in eighteenth-century Paris. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press.

Pokémon & Animal Training (Miranda)

One other thing I found out is that Pokémon Go players are sometimes referred to as ‘Pokémon trainers’. We had already discussed Pokémon and its frankly disturbing overlaps with cockfighting but this got me thinking about our relationship with animals and, more specifically, all the crazy things we’ve trained them to do. Dogs are a great example: we use them for companionship, to herd livestock, in search and rescue, to hunt, in law enforcement, for protection, to assist people with disabilities, to detect cancer… it’s an endless list.

There are also some pretty bonkers historical examples: Lionel Walter Rothschild trained zebras to pull his carriage through London in the 19th century; Mr Henry Cooke entertained the public with his celebrated ‘Circus Troupe of Educated Dogs and Monkeys’ and, in the 1920s, Mabel Stark hit the headlines as the world’s first woman tiger trainer.

Walter Rothschild & His Zebras (Natural History Museum)

Walter Rothschild & His Zebras (Natural History Museum)

No animals (or Pokémon) were harmed in the making of this podcast.

Lovely books on bizarre animal training:

  • KALOF, L. (2007). Looking at animals in human history. London, Reaktion Books.
  • OROZCO GARCÍA, L., & PARKER-STARBUCK, J. (2015). Performing animality: animals in performance practices.
  • TAIT, P. (2012). Wild and dangerous performances: animals, emotions, circus. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, Palgrave Macmillan.

A Cultural History Of…Pokémon Go!

In our first podcast Miranda and I will be discussing the all encompassing, sometimes frightening phenomenon that is Pokémon Go! 

In between creatively naming our menagerie (Golbat/Flappy Wank is still my number one) and using it as an excuse to get out of the British Library (nothing but Drowzees in Humanities 1) we have been thinking about some of the cultural overlaps of the game. We are currently researching our top 6 to present to our guest Pokémon enthusiast who will choose the winner and thus dictate the rest of the program… however should one of our losing threads catch your interest, check back here for more links and info to fill your academic appetite.

Pokemon Go A Cultural History