According to Billy Reuben – the straight man in the Juxtsuppose comedy duo — “The
juxtapositioning of totally unrelated elements is not possible in present-day society Everything has an association with every other object in existence, however insubstantial/’ The pages of Juxtsuppose are the practice of that theory in both text and image. Along with original text and comics, the makers of Juxtsuppose — two guys from Vancouver, Brad Yung and Reuben — lift sentences, quotations and images from all across the cultural landscape and position them side by side. These text collages reveal
a great deal more than any of the snippets did in their original form.
One of their pages shows us a Palmolive ad with a brand new caption proclaiming: “Post-modernism, you’re soaking in it.” That says as much about the actual idea of post-modernism as it does about how we consume such concepts. If everything in our present culture is construed, then it can also be deconstrued. Taken out of their rational contexts and rearranged in the Juxtsuppose domain, the inanities and absurdities that often pass as advertising, plot, dialogue, and political jargon almost invariably reveal as much truth as humour. It is that search for irony within the mundane that determines the conceptual basis for the zine. Billy explains it this way: “We like to remove a few sentences from their original frame of reference, and let those sentences become absurd on their own. Juxtapose a whole bunch and let them provide the context for the other quotes. Then see what odd relationships you can get between them. Juxtapose becomes Juxtsuppose/’ ‘That/’ Brad continues, “was the original idea for the zine. Of course/’ he says in characteristic Juxtsuppose style, “once we got started, it became much less than that.”
Brad and Billy find their material everywhere: “Newspapers, books, magazines, anything that can be photocopied,” Brad says. “The Bridges of Madison County was hilarious, I couldn’t stop laughing.” Another recent acquisition for cultural plunder was a copy of Mr. T’s autobiography. In the Juxtsuppose universe, even a frozen cake box can provide hilarity and fun. Concept, composition and layout of Juxtsuppose is complex. Issue #2 took about nine months, so understandably, they print a lot of them. “We do about a 1000 copies of each issue. We’re optimists … we don’t want to have to bother with a second printing,” says Brad. Billy expands on this sentiment: “We don’t trust our printer. We’d rather get screwed all at once instead of several times over. That would be stupid.” Once printed, each individual copy takes about ten minutes to assemble with all the added inserts. For instance, Issue #1 included such things as a page from a mass market paperback with all the potentially offensive sentences blacked out with magic marker, a balloon on a string and a personalised name tag. Issue #2 displayed even more delicate handy work including two popups, one of the Anik-E geostationary telecommunications satellite and another of two cartoon pigs pulling on a rope. Yet another dimension of the zine is their audio cassette. “It’s like the zine, but with better effect,” Brad explains. “We took the weirdest and funniest audio quotes we could find, some intentional some not, and spliced an hour’s worth together. The sources were anything that could be put on tape … CD’s, records, TV, movies, radio…” Billy gives some examples “The Dial-A-Pope phone line message, how to swear in French, the laundromat marriage…” The story of how these two got together is just as you might suspect. “I was walking past a store downtown that had all these TV’s in the window,” Brad recalls. “This guy, Billy, comes by with one of those universal remote controls things. He pulls it out and shuts all the TV’s off. I followed him home and insisted we work together. He didn’t resist and I’ve been pushing him around ever since.” “I have that exact same story,” Billy adds. “But I tell it in the third person.” Although Billy prefers not to give too much background information, saying “I like being an enigma. I think we need more mystery in life…,” Brad confesses he started cartooning in university for a student newspaper. He also did a current events humour column for over a year and left school for a quick flirt with a comic strip syndicate. Then came the zine. Two issues, a cassette and a set of postcards. Brad also does a strip on an e-zine called ‘Stay as you are’ which is free at hhtp:// insitezine.com/InSite. He encourages all those with computers to log on, because if his ratings go up, he might even get paid. For both of them, Juxtsuppose is their first foray into the zine world. They have mixed feelings about the zine scene. “We like the concept of zines. It’s just that so few of them live up to the promise, or even the expectation. It’s like TV — its a’ great medium when it’s used well, but when it isn’t, it makes you want to chuck out the whole thing.” In Vancouver, they point to zines like Gee-Zuz, Bunyon, Rubberneck, and Waiter There’s A Conspiracy In My Soup, among others, as “the good stuff.” As far as there being a ‘scene’ in Vancouver, Brad and Billy say “It’s not a tight knit group in the sense that we don’t all hang out together all the time…”
“Unless,” Billy remarks, “they’re doing something and not telling us…” Juxtsuppose is not a zine that aims itself at a specific audience. “We put whatever we come up with that is neat or funny into the zine. So our audience is whoever thinks our stuff is neat or funny.” To reach that amorphous group, they get local stores to sell the zine for them. As well, Brad adds, “occasionally I go to a book fair while Mr. Enigma stays home…” They also have a few small distributors, but for wider distribution, as with most zines, they rely on reviews in other zines, magazines and newspapers, which often use words like ‘mind-blowing,’ ‘crazy’ and ‘excellent’ to describe this reassembling of the culture landscape.
Perhaps the explanation for the wide-ranging appeal of Juxtsuppose’s hilarity can be found in the re-arrangement of texts, morals and motifs the zine champions. In each copy the reader finds not a new jokester world as easily assembled as it is taken apart, but pieces of a the very old world we live in dismantled, examined, and scattered. So the ‘why’ of this story does not rely on any particular mission or agenda. As Brad says: “Hey, I don’t even know what I’m going to do tomorrow.” Luckily, Billy is more specific: “I guess world domination is kinda cliché, huh?”
interview by Hilary Clark