Interview With A Juggalo

This interview is part of my series, Does Normal Exist? A series of articles and interviews on those who appear normal but lead odd lives.
Juggalo is a name given to fans of the hip-hop group Insane Clown Posse. Juggalos have a poor reputation and are largely considered to be ‘white trash’. I decided to interview a Juggalo to dispel these rumours and find an alternative point of view.
If you could, tell me how you became a Juggalo?

I don’t think I ever became a Juggalo. I think there were a lot of things that happened in my life that set me on this path, not a single moment. I think you mean, “When did you become down with the clown?” That’s an easier thing to answer. I was 13 or 14 and a friend of mine was doing backyard wrestling. He said I should come and because I love theatrics and flair, I came up with a seemingly original character. I would be a crazy clown who kills racist people. I worked it out with my friend who agreed to be the racist and worked out skits. I dressed kind of gutter punk and painted my face. One of the guys at the event called me an ICP  rip off. I didn’t know who ICP were so he gave me a Riddlebox tape. It took maybe six months for me to really “get” what they were saying and doing, when the Great Milenko came out, I was already all in.

How has it changed your life?

Oh, GOD yes. It’s been amazing. I grew up exceptionally poor. My family lived in a condemned house for a while. I was severely depressed in high school. I’ve always wanted to be a writer but I didn’t believe that I could ever be anything. My high school guidance counselor told me that I was too dumb to go to college because I’m dyslexic. When Columbine happened, my school (as a way of bullying) decided that I was the most likely to show up with a weapon. It was not going well for me.

Being a Juggalo has given me a community in which I can be myself. It’s helped me deepen my commitment to social justice activism, it’s given me self esteem and a belief that this writing stuff isn’t too difficult for me despite my dyslexia. I met Jumpsteady at a show that a friend of mine was playing and he pointed out that Violent J was a high school drop out who was always told that he was too dumb to do what he wanted and he has platinum selling albums. I used to run a horror music website and got to interview my favourite rappers, became friends with some of them and though I still suffer with depression, unlike many of my high school friends who were not Juggalos, I never got into drugs, I never contemplated suicide, I never self harmed or had eating disorders. I made it through in tact. More or less.

A lot of Juggalos do drugs nowadays but for the longest time ICP themselves had never done drugs. I don’t think we were like straight edge kids but we just weren’t into it. I don’t care if other people smoke weed or eat mushrooms or smoke crack or whatever but it’s not for me. I honestly kind of miss when ICP didn’t smoke weed but it’s not as important to me as it was like 10 years ago.

What do you think of how Juggalos are perceived in the media?

It goes through waves. Sometimes we get a really bad rap and sometimes we’re mostly ignored. What bugs me most is that we’re seen as being a largely white trash movement. I don’t think this is fair because out of all of my Juggalo friends, about 1/3rd are not white. That’s a pretty high ratio when you consider that at my church, it’s like 1/50th people of colour. We’re more racially diverse than we’re given credit for and that bugs me. Also, “trash” bugs me because of it’s obvious classism. Poverty does not make someone trash. We celebrate human diversity regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, criminal past or anything.

Do you think that you have a bad reputation for no good reason?

I don’t think that I, as an individual, have a bad reputation for no good reason but the community as a whole definitely does. People don’t understand what we’re about so they assume the worst. There is a picture online of two women wrestling almost nude and they’ve got this giant smile on their face. They’re overweight and people online talk shit on them pretty hard. “LOL AT THE FATTYS MUD WRESTLING” type thing and I don’t get it. How can you hate on how happy they feel? That kind of thing bugs me a lot worse than what people think about me. Around here, the only people who recognize the ICP merch are Juggalos. I don’t deal with any kind of shit from anybody. But that might be because I’m 31. It’s different for teenagers.

How did your family/friends react when you said you were a Juggalo? Are they too?
It’s not like being gay where you have to sit your parents down and explain to them that you’re That Way and hope they don’t kick you out of the house. When I started listening to ICP, my parents mostly complained about me listening to it too loudly. My dad who was a drug addict and listened to punk bands like Ugly Kid Joe, was a lot more willing to listen to it with me. He identified the spiritual themes on his own, without me having to explain them. My mom never liked it. Never got past hearing the word fuck a bunch of times or loud bass.

My friends, for the most part, aren’t Juggalos. The few Juggalo friends I have are online, with the exception of a woman I met at church and her husband. When I make a new friend and they find out that I’m a Juggalo, they’re pretty familiar with the fact that I like weird music and that ICP are just another extension of that. I usually get “but… you’re smart.” People expect Juggalos to be dumb, which doesn’t make sense. Why do dumb people gotta be the ones who listen to music about a religion of social justice activism, anti-bigotry and radical acceptance? It all comes down to how deep people are willing to look into lyrics. If you can’t get past the word fuck, you’re going to have a much different experience.

Most friends, after learning that I’m a Juggalo, still don’t get it and thats OK.

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