I was once a juggalo. There, I said it.
Circa 1997, when I was just a tender lad of fifteen with frosted hair, 74-inch leg openings on my jeans and a perpetual boner, Insane Clown Posse was just catching on nationwide, but was already the shit within the community of acne-plagued burnouts I hung out with in Michigan, the home state ICP and I share. I personally owned copies of two ICP albums, Riddlebox and The Great Milenko, and had even mostly memorized the lyrics to "What is a Juggalo," the seminal track that explains how to be a juggalo with such helpful tips as "He'll eat Monopoly and shit out Connect Four" and "He'll walk up and bust a nut in your macaroni."
I did these things to the fullest extent of my ability. I was down with the clown.
Insane Clown Posse
By the time I was about seventeen, I had moved on from my juggalo phase and systematically murdered everyone who ever saw me in clown makeup, because I had realized the thing that everyone knows: Only losers like ICP. What is a juggalo? He'll wear red pants and a wallet chain out of the house, and spend valuable time fixing his hair into stupid tiny braids. He's underemployed and smokes dirt weed in his copious spare time. He may have dropped out of high school, but the high school never quite dropped out of him.
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I was better than that, I realized. Then I grew a mustache, bought a Sonic Youth record and became an elitist.
Of course, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope have never been shy about being a band for losers, and in fact have aggressively courted them. Their Gathering of the Juggalos, whose eleventh edition went down over the weekend, is pretty much dedicated to being exactly that: a safe haven where thirty-year-old gas station attendants and meth enthusiasts everywhere can go to be among each other without the mocking jibes of elitists like me. Consider the lineup, which, aside from about ten bands with clown makeup, included the likes of Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer, Bobby Brown, Flavor Flav, Ice Cube. It's like the D-list had diarrhea.
But these washed-up '90s icons are also all acts that I love, albeit in the ironic way of an elitist — which means, in a weird way, that the love of juggalos for these people is more pure. Shaggy 2 Dope observes: "Now that the world has turned their back on them and they're at a point for ridicule for critics and magazines and TV, juggalos are like, 'Okay, these motherfuckers are getting it, but they have somewhere to belong here with us in the not-so-in crowd.'" Huh.
Today, reflecting upon the Gathering of the Juggalos in my ivory tower of obscure Zappa B-sides, I came to a new realization: I kind of respect that. It may be stupid, but maybe I'm stupid, too, because a carnival is a carnival, and I have forgotten how to dream.