Rendition of J.R. “Bob” Dobbs

A film at South by Southwest Film Festival this year explores how a joke created by one St. Mark’s School of Texas alumnus and his friend formed a new religion.

“J.R. ‘Bob’ Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius,” a documentary by director Sandy K. Boone, explores how the satirical church came to be popular. The film includes interviews with celebrities and the church’s founders Ivan Stang (born Douglass St. Clair Smith) and Philo Drummond (born Steve Wilcox).

Stang, a St. Mark’s alum, and Drummond founded the Church of the SubGenius in the late 1970s to parody and satirize better-known religions and to combat the “conspiracy of normalcy.” Stang is the church’s leader and has written multiple publications about the religion.

The church idolizes a prophet named J.R. “Bob” Dobbs, who was allegedly a salesman from the 1950s who was asked, according to church literature, to lead a group that would brainwash individuals to make them work for a living but refused. Instead, he started a counter-movement.

The church soon became a sanctuary for self-proclaimed “weirdos.”

Boone’s documentary uses local television footage and archived tapes to supplement the interviews given by filmmaker Richard Linklater, actor Nick Offerman, magician Penn Jillette and more.

The film first aired Sunday at the festival held in Austin, TX. It is set to air again on March 12 at 9 p.m. and March 13 at 8 p.m. Tickets and show information can be found on the festival’s website.

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