Steve Girard’s films, animations, and comics show his insecurity, perverse thoughts, and astute observations about other people’s psyches. His work is beautifully surreal, funny, satirical and R. Crumb-like, but it’s loveable and resonant because Steve is so unguarded: “Hey ladies, I’m worth knowing,” “Which one is integrity?” I have similar thoughts and equally inappropriate fantasies every day. Steve’s work doesn’t appeal to me because we’re similarly messed up. Everyone is gross, weird, and alone. We’re all dealing with the same repulsive issues, but you choose how closely you want to examine them. When a person teases apart their psyche (as well as, in Steve’s case, other people’s) and shares it readily, there’s a powerful connection. You feel like you’re the same type—even if that type is just being a gross human. Steve’s work is a reminder that there’s more in life than the things that we see, and there’s more to most people’s thoughts than what’s said.
I spoke to Steve recently, and felt less tragically alone.
KENDALL GEORGE: Hey.
STEVE GIRARD: What’s up.
KENDALL: I know that you had a screening for your senior thesis film today, “1993,” which centers on the themes of being thankful for, and also really uncomfortable with, committing yourself to making art and getting money from family to help you do it. How did that go?
STEVE: It was all right. The film festival stuff is—I don’t even know what I’m looking for in that. You apply to a million places and you get into one percent of them and they all have application fees and a big process. You go there and get a badge and you sit there, and you watch a block of movies. Then they ask you a bizarre question and everyone leaves.
KENDALL: I think the film’s surrealism and issues of ego are a bit like your cartoons: people liking your stuff and you don’t seem to know what to do with that. Lots of feelings.
STEVE: Yeah, it’s weird. I guess it’s funny, you have to be like, “this isn’t even up to you, it’s not something you control,” but when you’re open to feeling emotion, your field is huge. With the drawing stuff, it’s immediately like “sell that on eBay.” Bottle it up, go crazy and try to draw some of that stuff.
KENDALL: I think your work accomplishes that, particularly the horror of interacting with other people. On a loving or sexual level, it can be great, but it also can be kind of like, “oh, this is so fleshy and messy!”
STEVE: Yeah, bodies are fucking silly. Everyone’s a sexual person; sex is not always an emotional thing, and it’s sort of like a second stomach. I just have a weird feeling about that because it makes me feel dishonest, like a vampire. I think people are kind of gross. They’re awesome, but they’re gross.
KENDALL: The people who I’m most sexually attracted to are kinda gross.
STEVE: Yeah, I think people who are really good looking expect sex and feel like they’re doing you a favor a little bit just by being there. Whereas, ugly people cherish sex because they’re starving for it. And then when you do hook up with them they’re crazy. They have all this pent-up passion and it’s amazing.
KENDALL: I mean, the dudes I’m referring to wouldn’t cause people on the street to cringe.
STEVE: Oh yeah. Okay, whatever, on the street, my cringe level is really low. And because of that people without their clothes can be nightmares. People can look like they’re like a 5, then you get them naked and they’re abominable—they can be like a 3. From here to here [gestures from head to shoulders] they’re a 5 when they’re wearing a parka or something.
KENDALL: Your art does seem to focus on people that are verging on the grotesque emotionally and physically.
STEVE: Yeah, but I’m not even trying—I know what you mean. Everyone’s kind of ugly.
KENDALL: Everyone is!
Would you talk to me about your setup when you’re working? Do you listen to E-40? Do you get super baked before every drawing?
STEVE: No. But, I mean, I think I use marijuana like coffee. I don’t always get high, but I get high to do a lot of things. It sort of makes me introverted, and it actually doesn’t—it’s either there or it’s not—it doesn’t really change my work. Usually I’m on the train or laying in my bed, or I have a studio space and I’m just taking a break. I’m usually listening to music. I listen to a little bit of E-40 and a little bit of Mac Dre. Like what we were talking about before, about sex. Rappers are seasoned; they know which ones to keep and which ones to throw away.
KENDALL: Picking a ho that will take the police charges and be good in bed—what are we talking about here?
STEVE: I like rappers because they don’t get sucked up into relationships, get their heads all mixed up, and then don’t know what they’re doing. I think it’s really important to be doing what you do as an artist, or as anyone really. It’s selfish a little bit, but its important to just focus on your life and just not letting yourself get steered and fucked by someone else.
I do want to say, I’m not a sexual fiend or an asshole. I like relationships, I really like girls, I like guys—not like that, but I’m a people person. I don’t get a lot of ass, you know what I mean? And I think that’s what’s driving me crazy and makes me think about this a lot. And I’m single, you know? If this shit was working out I wouldn’t be making psychotic drawings and putting them on the internet. So I’m definitely not a guru.
KENDALL: While we’re on the subject of friendships, would you talk about working with your friends? A lot of your live-action videos seem to be collaboration or you’re having friends star or do voice acting.
STEVE: I like to make movies with my roommate. He’s really smart, he’s really sweet and we’ve known each other for a long time. It’s very organic whenever we work together. It’s not like, “we’ve got to make something funny and it’s got to have this”—it’s just really nice. I have a group of people around me that’s amazing and I really want to work with other people, but right now it’s lonely. I’m not nearly as good as I could be if I had a bunch of other talented people around everyday and we’re all bundling together. It’s arrogant to assume that I’m going to be happy and to be as much as I could be just drawing on my paper. But I can’t always do a big project with a million people because people have lives. I’m happy that I’m able to do something by myself, but ultimately I know that’s not completely fulfilling.
KENDALL: Working with people who amplify your strengths is a pretty special and powerful tool.
Do you prefer live action over claymation or animation?
STEVE: No. I like them the same.
KENDALL: I think the first video of yours I saw, years ago, was balls that walk on screen and pee the rainbow, and it says, “taste the rainbow.”
STEVE: Oh the Skittle. That must have been confusing to think that they were balls, because there’s an M&M and then a Skittle walks up and pees the rainbow into his mouth.
KENDALL: I really remember it’s balls.
STEVE: Oh you know what, he had a dick and balls.
KENDALL: It’s silly, but it was delightfully memorable. Obviously your work has matured a lot since then, but I still think it’s a little bit of the same flavor. Skittle pee flavor.
STEVE: Pee flavor. Yeah. I don’t know. I just don’t want to be boring. That’s really—I just don’t want to be boring. I think dicks and balls will never get boring. And they’re profound. What we’re talking about, it really just comes down to dick and balls. And vaginas and tits, and stuff like that.
You can see more of Steve Girard’s art here and deal with your complex feelings.