Tag Archives: Joel Hodgson

BRING BACK MST3K and I will unseal an ancient secret from the 1990s!

The “Bring Back MST3K” Kickstarter campaign is very close to reaching its ultimate goal: raising enough money to produce not just a few new episodes of the show, but a whole season’s worth of 12.

The campaign ends on Saturday, December 12, at 1 AM Eastern time. And now, I will roll up my sleeves and hit you with the hard sell.

Click this link to pledge!

(No, that wasn’t it. But why not just click the link and pledge anyway? Then, you can just relax and read the rest of this knowing that there’s nothing else expected of you.)

The success of this project is very much in alignment with my personal interests, fellow sensation-seekers. I’ve been a fan of Mystery Science Theater since the day in 1992 or thereabouts something when I opened a padded envelope that came in the mail from an unfamiliar address, and excised a VHS cassette containing three episodes from season three and four.

My cable system didn’t offer Comedy Central. Not many did. Thus, a huge online community on Usenet and Compuserve and every other improbable lashup of twigs and dried animal skins that passed for the Internet during the Clinton administration organized itself to “keep circulating the tapes.” Total strangers would copy episodes and mail them off to other strangers who were eager to actually see the show that our online brothers and sisters couldn’t stop talking about.

I won’t explain what Mystery Science Theater 3000 is. You either know and love it already, or you will, once you watch pretty much any good example from the show. Like this one:

I want you to reflect on a simple, impressive fact. Even though the final episode aired sixteen years ago, the fans’ love for MST3K was indelible. Joel Hodgson, the show’s creator, was able to raise a couple of million dollars almost immediately after he launched the campaign and announced his plan to revive the show. Everyone involved in MST3K should be immensely proud: it’s quite special to create something that finds a place in someone’s heart forever.

“Revive the show” isn’t the right phrase, though. I admire the fact that Joel isn’t trying to reunite the original cast and writers and pick up where Episode 1013 (“Diabolik”) left off.

This isn’t a mere nostalgia riff for the selfish, short-term amusement of the show’s original fanbase. It’s much bigger: it’s an attempt to continue the work of the show, just as the recent revival of “Doctor Who” renewed it for a whole new era. I’m backing this Kickstarter partly out of a selfish desire to see new episodes, of course! But I’m really hoping that it’ll bring in a brand-new generation of MSTies. People who weren’t even born yet when I was in the throes of my first, full, gran-mal MST3K fandom.

Joel’s lined up an amazing roster of talent, in front of and behind the camera. For god’s sake: he’s landed Patton Oswalt as TV’s Son Of TV’s Frank!!! Look at the artists and designers who are going to be working on it! And the writers! The team is a combination of people you’ve definitely heard of, people you haven’t heard of but you’ve certainly heard of their work…and people whom Joel simply thinks will deliver the goods. This all bodes supremely well for the project.

They’re very close to raising enough dosh to produce a full dozen episodes. I’ve already increased my pledge to the level where I’ll get digital copies of however many they make. So if I can browbeat more of you people to either join the campaign, or increase your pledges…yesss! I get three more digital episodes!!!

No, no…I swear this is for the kids. Those innocent little kids, who never had an MST3K to call their own. Gosh! Why don’t you want to help these kids, people?

Yes, yes: I know that they have the annoying habit of annihilating you during any sort of game enabled for online play. Their trousers are often alarming. Their YouTube channels get way more views than yours. They often neglect their studies by playing those damn bebop records all through the night. 

But is this any reason to deny them a shot at a future?

Dear God! Won’t you click this link to pledge?!

No, not you, God. On second thought…why not? If the Book of Job is any indication, you’re as big fan of comedy as anybody else. Yes, you too, o Lord: click this link to pledge! The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit…all three of you ought to get in on this.

I’ve decided that I want to put some skin in the game. I don’t know how big an effect my little stunt will have, but hey: if it gets them fourteen bucks closer, that’s another two burritos for the writers’ room.

Let me set this up by telling you all about

THE GREAT BOSTON BOT BASH OF 1994

The primary method of grassroots MSTie evangelism was copying episodes and mailing out tapes to people who posted requests on fan message boards. But the even cooler vectors were Bot Bashes.

They were like Tupperware parties. Except with more robots and fewer yellow plastic melon ballers. I can’t speak for the other Bot Bashes that MSTies organized all over the world. I and some friends put together a Bot Bash in Boston. We didn’t have melon ballers. Maybe we should have.

(Damn. Did we screw people out of yellow plastic melon ballers?)

Well. If we failed on that score, it was probably the only detail we didn’t attend to. We rented a VFW hall, arranged a video projector, put the word out, turned the hall into a theater with seats and a stage…we had about sixty or seventy people.

It took weeks of planning and it was a lot of work, but I think we’re all super-proud of putting on a great time for everyone. We had some MST3K episodes and a whole pile of videos that nobody would be likely to have seen before (local commercials featuring the Mads, Joel Hodgson’s standup bits, outtakes). We had live riffing. A “guess the punchline” contest using clips from the show, with a Tom Servo head as one of the prizes. A bunch of people presented their own Invention Exchanges.

(Mine was a takeoff on SIMM memory: “The Nasal Inline Memory Module.” I think I gave half of my presentation with a card from my old Mac Plus up my nose.)

I myself had never seen one of the episodes we showed: “The Slime People,” from the legendary first season of MST3Ks that were never aired outside of the show’s local UHF station’s broadcast area.

It was all pretty great and I have terrific memories of that night, and that community. Our nucleus was formed on the Compuserve Showbiz Forum, but I made lots of realspace friends from that interaction.

It took us a while to take down all of the movie posters and fold all the chairs and get the VFW hall back in shape for its next child beauty pageant or doggie wedding reception. But when we piled into our cars long after midnight, we were all tremendously proud of having put together a terrific evening for the broader MSTie community.

Click this link to pledge!

THE 1994 CASK OF ANCIENT EVILS

(Assuredly not evil. I’m trying to zazz up this pitch.)

Another thing I did for the Bot Bash: I designed and prepared party favors. Everybody was handed one of these at the entrance:

IMG 20151210 165304

I bought tons of things from the Archie McPhee catalogue, and American Science & Surplus, and Building #19, and I think I even filled some of them with odds and ends I’d picked up at the MIT Flea Market.

American Science & Surplus sold me a pack of a hundred or so airline dessert trays. I lined all of them up on the floor, and tried to divide the good stuff evenly among them. The idea being that the party guest could use this stuff as special effects and props if they ever had four days and a budget of $700 to make a big sci-fi/fantasy slab of cheesy drive-in malificence. I wrapped each one in aluminum foil and put on a sticker.

I made more than enough to make sure nobody would get left out. We had a few left over. For some reason, this one here just went into a drawer or on a shelf and I forgot about it for a good while. I rediscovered it when I was cleaning up the office (which I did religiously, once a year, whether I was in danger of  being pinned to the floor by a collapsing pile of BYTE magazines (again) or not).

When I came across this, I had…some…recollection of the stuff I’d put in there. But it was vague. My first impulse was to rip it open and take a look.

But then!

I realized that at some point, this would be like a surprise gift, from 1994 Andy to some form of Far-Flung Future Andy. I liked the idea of preserving this package and then opening it up in the yes-very-much-distant-future. Here was a wrapped gift containing items that I, myself, had hand-selected and personally placed in that little tub…and yet, every item would be a total surprise to me.

I kept good care of it and always put it in a safe place. When I moved into my current house, the party favor went on the mantlepiece, among family photos, my grandmother’s coin bank, and my 1977 California Originals Chewbacca ceramic stein.

The time has come to breach the seal and unleash to the world the contents of this unholy casket. My pledge to you:

If the Bring Back MST3K Kickstarter reaches its ultimate $5.5 million goal, I will shoot and release an unboxing video of this very object.

Who knows what’s in there? The actual stone tablets that Moses received from God on Mount Sinai? The raw ingredients of a SAMPO? A note from some long-forgotten friend from the 90s, reading “I couldn’t stand not knowing what was in here, so I opened it up, dumped everything into my bag, and then sealed it all up again”?

Your guess is as good as mine, fellow sensation-seekers!

I like this idea because I originally put this party favor together as a little gift for true fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Back in 1994, we also didn’t know that in 2015, (a) we wouldn’t necessarily be free from the iron or furry or furry iron boot of robotic/simian/robotic simian fascism, and (b) we’d have a chance to make another 12 episodes of our favorite show happen…this time, in movie-quality high-definition.

This is a chance for us MSTies to give a surprise gift to ourselves.

Click this link to pledge!

GIVE THEM SOME MONEY

So please: pledge to BRING BACK MST3K. If you’ve already pledged, kick in some more dough.

Otherwise, the Secrets Of Andy Ihnatko’s Brain (circa 1994) will remain unknown to the eyes of humanity for at least another whatsit.

Push the button, Frank. Whatever your name is. The one on your mouse or trackpad, after lining the pointer up over one of these links to the Kickstarter page. Just go.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 reboot in the works | EW.com

Mystery Science Theater 3000 reboot in the works | EW.com:

MST3K creator Joel Hodgson is crowdfunding a reboot of the show:

Those who he hopes to get involved include past cast members and writers, as well as a brand new cast that includes a fresh host as well as a new mad scientist and new voices for famous wise-cracking robots Tom Servo and Crow. ‘Basically, I’m trying to blend the old with the new,’ says Hodgson. ‘Mystery Science Theater has already refreshed itself once with a completely new cast, so I think it deserves to do that again. The original cast is going to be invited back to write, produce, and do cameos as their mad science characters, and then there’s a new cast with new talent.’

I love this idea because I love MST3K. I wonder how they’re going to translate it for a modern audience. Most of us first-generation MSTies discovered it the way I suppose Muscovites discovered the Beatles during the days of the Soviet Union: a network of freedom fighters sharing dubbed and re-dubbed cassettes. The show was on Comedy Central but in the 90s it wasn’t on every cable system…nor could everybody in their Twenties afford cable, necessarily. Friends of mine and I used to even rent a VFW hall and throw “‘Bot Bashes,” where dozens of fans could gather and see early episodes for the first time.

Most of the classic eps are on YouTube. Some legally (subscribe to the Official MST3K Channel). Some…well, the phrase “Keep Circulating The Tapes” appears prominently at the end of every episode, so I suppose that’s a license to distribute?

I still watch ‘em from time to time. My favorites (Secret Agent Super Dragon, Warrior Of The Lost World, Code Name: Diamond Head12 To The Moon, Mitchell…and those are just the ones I can name from memory!) still hold up. Still, I’m aware that they’re 90 minute shows, and the pacing might seem slow to an audience that’s used to comedy written in smaller chunks.

Joel seems to be on the right track. Us old folk would be happy just to get a Season 11 (same show, same sets, same cast) but hey, we already got a version of MST3K that’s “ours.” I hope the brains behind MST3K succeed in making one for folks who are as young now as I was when a friend first tried, and failed, to explain what this movie show with puppets was all about.

That said? I can’t wait to see Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff performing together again in character. “Doctor Clayton Forrester” and “TV’s Frank” are, objectively, one of TV’s funniest comedy character duos ever. Right up there with Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton, Oscar Madison and Felix Unger, and Mr. Bean and the predictable and simple rules of human society.

I’m going to support the Kickstarter because this is totally the sort of project I like to support. Here is a creative work that I want to help get made…not a preorder of a gadget that’s already definitely going to happen. 

(I also really want the tee shirt.)

Here, check out one of my favorite MST3K shorts: a little driving safety film called “Last Clear Chance.” There’s a joke from this one that I will spontaneously think of at least once a month until the day I die.