Book Review by Adam McKibbin
Back in the bygone era of real zines - the physical creations lovingly and/or sloppily crafted at Kinko's and sent through the USPS - Nate Gangelhoff's You Idiot fearlessly and sporadically examined the weird and, yes, often idiotic world around us. When video games tried to turn kids off drugs, when professional wrestlers made rap albums, when crazy Christians found the devil in My Little Pony, You Idiot was there to cackle gleefully.
You Idiot: The First Book handily collects and cleans up all the editions of Gangelhoff's zine, along with a couple issues of Whiskey Plus, which he intended as more of a music-based zine. But Whiskey Plus wasn't a music zine in the traditional sense; there were no windy odes to The Replacements or track-by-track breakdowns of Kid A. Instead, Gangelhoff scoured the seedy underbelly of the Web and used CD bins to find those rare bands that were sticking up to Bush, or to analyze the diverse batch of songs titled "Fuck You." In both You Idiot and Whiskey Plus, Gangelhoff finds inspiration in unusual places and has a sharp eye for combining comedy with a tight budget, which leads him to writing about hilarious right-wing books found at Goodwill or bizarre items at the dollar store.
While Gangelhoff revels in random discoveries like pseudoscience and psychobabble books, he seems most reliably tickled (and pissed) by all the very, very strange ways that the American government and Corporate America have tried to lecture and frighten kids about drugs. These aren't serious critical essays, of course, but Gangelhoff does manage to land some serious punches about the confused messaging from the Just Say No culture. Mostly, though, You Idiot serves up its subjects for laughs - and Gangelhoff writes in a consistently engaging manner, supplementing his snarkiness with a healthy dose of self-deprecation (suffice to say that he's painfully aware that he's picking on easy subjects).
You Idiot will surely introduce you to some unintentional comedy gold that would have otherwise stayed off your radar. It would also make a good gift for anyone who's ever joined you in a "Can you believe this shit?" conversation about the drug war, the religious right, or people who think they can get rich and skinny without putting in any work.
Up next for Gangelhoff will be another collection - this time of his Pick Your Poison zine. If it's anything like You Idiot and Whiskey Plus, it will be well worth checking out.
More by this writer:
Harmon Leon - The American Dream
Patton Oswalt - Werewolves and Lollipops [CD/DVD]
Will Sheff / The Tallest Man on Earth - Live - December 20, 2008
Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion