Ten Reasons Why You Should See My New Favorite Cult Classic: Tapeheads (1988)

1. Tapeheads (1988, dir. Bill Fishman), starring John Cusack and Tim Robbins. Shouldn’t those two stars be reason enough? Cusack and Robbins play Ivan Alexeev and Josh Tager respectively, the two-man crew of the music video production team “The Video Aces.” The film is a satire of MTV and pop culture, kind of like what Wayne’s World would try to do a few years later except way weirder and more fun in Tapeheads.

2. There is bad 80s dancing. A lot of it.

3. The Video Aces create an amazingly ridiculous (and ridiculously amazing) commercial for Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles, anthropomorphized food included.

4. The local bar’s sobriety test: saying the alphabet backwards, skipping the vowels and including the sign language for each letter.

5. The film avoids the usual cinematic clichés of melodramatic buildup to romantic subplots: when two characters (Robbins and Katy Boyer) have sex for the first time, Cusack films it and invites a calypso band and random dancing people into the room. (It is the shared living room, after all.)

6. There are a ton of cameos: Don Cornelius, host/creator of Soul Train, as Fuzzball Records president Mo Fuzz; “Weird Al” Yankovic; Connie Stevens; Ted Nugent; Michael Nesmith (The Monkees); Doug E. Fresh; Coati Mundi; King Cotton (as chicken-and-waffles tycoon Roscoe); even an uncredited Courtney Love shows up as a dominatrix.

7. The Video Aces’ first real music video assignment is to film the Swedish band Cube-Squared performing their song “Baby Doll.” The scene plays out as a gloriously entertaining how-to for how not to behave on a production set. Also, the vocals and music were actually recorded by American band Devo.

8. Stiv Bators and his band, The Lords of the New Church, play Goth band “The Blender Children.” The Video Aces’ attempt to make a video for the group does not go as planned.

9. Junior Walker (of Junior Walker & the All Stars) and Sam Moore (of Sam and Dave) play the gods to whom the Video Aces have prayed since childhood, the R&B duo “The Swanky Modes.”

10. Jello Biafra, lead singer of the punk rock band Dead Kennedys, plays an FBI agent (the one without glasses). Pretty excellent. If you’re not convinced that Tapeheads is totally worth seeing, then maybe you don’t have a funny bone. Or maybe you’ve never heard of any of the people who appear in the film, which is definitely your loss. But I assure you that Tapeheads would be a great teaching tool!


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