This Saturday, November 13, Joel Hodgson and the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew bring their latest riffing venture, Cinematic Titanic, to the Family Arena in St. Charles. As they did in the grand old days of yore, Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, J. Elvis Weinstein, Frank Conniff and Mary Jo Pehl will mock cheesy, awful, "horribly great" movies, but this time they'll do it before a live audience.
Last week, Daily RFT talked to Hodgson about MST, Cinematic Titanic and the fine art of riffing. When we called, Hodgson was admiring the Gypsy figurine that comes with the latest MST3K box set. (Hint, hint. Christmas will be here before you know it!)
Daily RFT: Was it difficult to get the cast back together?
Joel Hodgson: It just kind of worked out. We had all remained friends and we were all in LA, except for Mary Jo, lives in Austin. We realized we missed movie riffing. I was frustrated with how things had worked out with Mystery Science Theater and so I started talking with Trace and Frank and Mary Jo and said, "Do you wanna do this?" I'm probably blanking some stuff out. I know it wasn't really that easy.
The success of Cinematic Titanic is based on MST. It was an instant success because our fan base was so great and they wanted to see us. When we first started Mystery Science Theater, we were unknown and we just made this show we because we thought people might like it. People are still buying DVDs from shows we did twenty years ago.
Rumor has it there's a backstory for Cinematic Titanic like there was for MST3K, where you were captured by evil scientists and forced to watch bad movies.
We dropped that. When we started out, we felt like we needed to do that, like Mystery Science Theater. We were going to do studio shows and then a few lives shows that we would put on tape, like how we did MST. It was a pretty ambiguous storyline. Our intention was to reveal the storyline later on.
But the live shows were more meaningful. And they were better. We were doing a better job and writing better stuff because we knew people would see it. So we decided just to do live shows and we found we didn't need the concept anymore, we didn't need a reason for watching the movie. It took care of itself: us being ourselves, doing what we do.
How is it different riffing live instead of on TV? Do you ever get sick of telling the same jokes over and over?
Our goal is to do the best live show we can and make people laugh. We want to get the script is good as it can be. Sometimes the audience laughing gets in the way of the setup for a joke and so we'll have to drop it. There's some live editing going on. We never know what's going to happen.
Last Friday in Boston we did Rattlers, the movie we're doing in St. Louis, and on Monday we got together to discuss it. It's like, "What did you think of this line?" We're already working to improve it.
Would Cinematic Titanic ever do Titanic?
No, we wouldn't. I'm fairly sure Jim Cameron would not let us license it. It takes a couple of months to write a script. I wouldn't put all that time into something we couldn't put out on DVD.
Do you ever riff on movies when you're not doing Cinematic Titanic?
I don't do it in real life. It's kind of like work. [Laughs.] People think we just do it off the top of our heads. I'd only do it in real life if I were really irritated, but I'd do it in my head. When we do riffs on a movie, we write it all together. The live show is the best work from five people. When I do a joke, it's one-fifth as good.
Will there ever be an MST mash-up with you and Mike Nelson, or there a huge rivalry between you guys and Rifftrax?
We just saw those guys at DragonCon. We did a show together and had a panel discussion.
How does it feel to be coming back to St. Louis for the third time? Are we an OK audience?
I'm really looking forward to it. I love the room [the Family Arena].It's the biggest venue we've ever been in. It makes me feel like a rock star.