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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The man behind the laughs

Do you ever find yourself mocking characters on the screen? Do you mute the television and make up your own lines? If you said yes to any of those questions, make your way over to The Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center on Nov. 4 at 8 p.m. to watch the professionals do what you love to do at home with friends.

Mystery Science Theatre 3000 presents Cinematic Titanic, featuring the original creators of MST3K, “riffing” lines over cheesy movies from the past. Currently, the group is made up of Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Josh Weinstein, Jim Mallon, Kevin Murphy, Frank Conniff, Michael Nelson, Mary Jo Pehl, Bill Corbett and Patrick Brantseg. MUSE sat down with the founder of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, Joel Hodgson, to ask a few questions.

MUSE: How did you get involved with MST3K?

Hodgson: Well, I created it. That started over 20 years ago and we did it locally and developed it in about 22 shows. We did 22 shows locally before we sold it to Comedy Central. That’s kind of how we figured it out and got started. It’s how we figured out how to riff on movies.

Is the riffing scripted or improvisation?

Well, we have always written the movies, even when we were in Mystery Science Theatre so that kind of remains that we write them. They’re usually about 600 riffs per movie. We sometimes change what we say; there’s a lot of editing that goes on. People react differently all the time. Trace [Beaulieu] gets a really big laugh at cutting clips that set up for my jokes so sometimes I have to edit my joke out but I’m happy to do it because it’ll give him a laugh. We do improvise sometimes because the way audience reacts and also we change our jokes to make each other laugh. Pretty much it’s written, just because there’s so many. It’s kind of like music.

How many people are involved in the process of making these movies?

There are five of us that write it and perform it and then we usually travel, and we have a warm up guy and then the stage manager.

What kind of audiences does this type of entertainment usually reach out to?It’s usually only people who know about Mystery Science Theatre, either they watched it while it was on the air or knew people who introduced them to the show. Also, kids who watching it with their parents, too.

If you could riff any of the recent movies, what movie would you riff and why?

I just went to see Footloose and I laughed [because] it was just terrible. It was the remake that just came out.

Why do you think this sort of entertainment makes people laugh?

I think because the movie is the set up, it’s either something they say or something they do. It’s different than doing regular stand up comedy because you don’t have to set up anything – the movie is the reference point so you just add jokes. It’s a little bit different and a little bit easier to do than stand up.

What’s your favorite part of this job?

I love writing them and I love performing it.

Can you tell me a little bit about the movie being shown at Davis?

We’re going to be performing Doomsday Machine. It’s a crazy movie because the last 15 minutes of the movie is made by a completely different cast – a cast that is trying to finish the same movie.  

ELIZABETH ORPINA & PAAYAL ZAVERI can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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