Rev. Ivan Stang: The Problem of “Faith”

Stang is one of the founders (some say THE founder) of the Church of the SubGenius. We’ll cleared that issue and other things up about this religion masquerading as a joke (or is that the other way around?)

Some minor technical problems did not deter us from having a great talk about the mystic origins of the SubGenius “faith,” which began with phone and CB radio pranks and evolved to crazed pamphlet-writing and eventually a worldwide phenomenon. We also discussed the problem of SubGenius members who believe too much, which is strange since it seems that the entire movement was founded on the idea of fanatical non-belief masquerading as unwavering devotion.

You might not hear it, but I was laughing hysterically off-microphone for much of the program. The show ends abruptly due to a technical glitch while we were talking about the band DEVO, but Ivan has told me that he wants to continue the conversation a later date.

The image above is from issue #5 of my old magazine. Stang wrote the cover story. Art by Hal Robbins. That’s a terrified Stang looking up at the smelly alien.

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21 Responses to Rev. Ivan Stang: The Problem of “Faith”

  1. Jay says:

    Oh yeah, looking forward to this one…

  2. JT says:

    Outstanding. Can NOT wait. High Weirdness by Mail was one of many ‘key’ volumes in my later teens.

  3. James says:

    Praise Bob!

  4. Sagacious says:

    Hopefully it will be a “keeper” and you’ll post it online.

  5. JT says:

    Great to hear from the Goodish Reverend. Bob, like Mad Magazine and forteana, fell off the radar for me in the late 90s. I’ve reacquainted myself with the lot in the past few years and it’s like I found my old pair of glasses after walking in a haze for a decade.

    Wonderful discussion, and the Reverend was much more open to talking shop with you than doing his usual spiel (which, admittedly, is a lot of fun) and it was insightful, entertaining and engaging. He uttered my favorite question, “Why do we have to know?” discussed the virtues of RAW and Maybe Logic, the downside to running a religion and the loveliness of the semi-all-powerful Bob. Hope you continue this discussion, and maybe get him in on the roundtable episode on the other Bob.

    • Greg says:


      Your summary of the show was much better then mine. SubG fell of the radar for me too, and seeing Stang again after so many years reminded me how fun and smart that group was, and still is.

  6. Mike Church says:

    Thanks Greg, good stuff as always.
    Apropos of something, I watched a lecture posted on the Daily grail yesterday with Alan Moore describing how he chose his “God” for magic workings and very funny too, well worth your time. Maybe Bob Dobbs would work as a facilitator in rituals, if approached in the “right” way.

  7. JT says:

    Greg — ever interview Donna Kossy? If not and you’re still in touch… might be a fun show, all about books, zines and kooks.

  8. Bob Bobbery says:

    Entertaining show.

    I, too, like to check out the Yahoo! comments. They are a fascinating mix of in-your-face racism, stupidity, and off-the-cuff hilarity. Stang got it right: the pulse of the nation is there.

  9. Rev. Ivan’s early trolling with ham radios remind me of the Friendship Island affair, and how some people living in Chile claimed to have been in contact with a strange community living in a remote island of the Chonos archipelago.

    There was an event when a UFO was observed flying over Santiago, and (allegedly) the Friendship dudes would tell their ham-radio pals the movements the UFO will make before they happened.

  10. sorcha da'at says:

    Give me slack or give me whatever, dude.

    Never having been a fan of South Park, Ivan Stang’s comments caught me off guard, and I LOL’d. There can be no greater praise.

    I though Ivan Stang was mythical somehow. I guess between issues of RAW and Steve Rabow on KRAB FM public radio and his later gig on commercial radio, I thought Stang was as dot-matrix as “Bob.” I have been surprised pleasantly. There is no greater praise. Did I say that already? I’m trying to replace that with “by the way” or “actually” but it’s not working.

    • Greg says:

      I’ve known Stang for a long time, so he’s not as mythical to me. I make it a point to approach all people who interest and inspire me, and sometimes they become friends or at least good acquaintances!

  11. Foo Fighter says:

    Mike Church – Alan Moore made the interesting observation that “gods” exist in human consiousness. I think that was the jist.

    Greg – What did you make of Stang’s comment about Keel? I.e., “It’s all showbiz”, and “Keel was a carney”.

    IMO, Keel did seem to look at many strange events as “stories” that he could write down and make a living off of. But I never got the feeling that he was at the Linda Moulton Howe stage where he’d pass along ANYTHING just to have some content.

    On the other hand, Jim Mosley on the paracast made Keel out to be sort of a credulous dupe…like he believed his own stuff a little too much.

    My take away from reading all of Keel’s books was to be wary of supernatural events and entities, that the PHENOMENON was deceptive and that a person had to maintain a balance of accepting that strange things exist without buying into what the phenomenon is selling.

    What I mean is…some newage friends were going to a channeler (sometimes an actual phenomenon) and asked me and my wife to go. In Keel fashion I didn’t try and debate if the channeler was, or was not “real”…I just asked our friends why they trusted this dis-embodied thing? How did they know this channeling entity wasn’t crazy or lying?

    That acceptance of the channeling phenomenon, while maintaining distrust of the phenomenon, blew their minds! I should have kept my mouth shut because we didn’t get to go and see this (probable con-man) channeller. I would have liked to see it just to say I saw one.

    Lastly, maybe Keel was suggesting that many fringe purveyers are the “show”, and that there touting UFO’s etc. is their business. That certainly happens, their are cottage industries around all kinds of things…maybe that’s what Keel meant by it’s all showbiz.

    ~Foo Fighter~

    • sorcha da'ath says:

      I read probably two of Keel’s books, Our Planet something or other for certain, and probably another but not Mothman Profitsies. I think I caught part of the movie on television, though.

      What I took away from Keel was, trickster, trickster, trickster. That we should take what we hear from the other side with a grain of salt. I think that should apply to Keel as well. I have no reason, “nothing invested,” in thinking Keel was stretching things a bit to make a good story. His referencing faerie-lore regarding Greys and whatnought was very good, imho.

      • ~Foo Fighter~ says:

        Yup, that’s essentially what I got from Keel.

        I was really wondering what Greg made of Stang’s comment (if anything).

        ~Foo Fighter~

      • Greg says:

        Keel’s theories are gold to me. from that perspective, It doesn’t matter what he did to get to them.

    • Greg says:

      I think that Keel probably changed details to suit his theories, and I’ve never had a problem with that, as long as people know that’s what he did. This is why I don’t think that Imbrogno should be completely ignored: Just because you don’t like the person or the method doesn’t mean you should ignore the thinking process.

  12. NTS says:

    I really enjoyed this show. Downloaded it and listened to bits and pieces several times during the week. I’m not a SubGenius (except mentally) but Praise Bob!

  13. Jeff Ramey says:

    Great show as always! I have heard of the church of the sub-genius before but didn’t know exactly what it was all about.

  14. Adam Gorightly says:

    Ivan Stang is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life

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