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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Reunion

It was heaven for comedy geeks last night as the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000 reunited for a live event to celebrate the tenth anniversary of RiffTrax, one of the offshoots. I saw the show on Fathom Events at my local cinema, and as usual, laughed myself silly.

As I wrote about in my review of Cinematic Titanic, the other spin-off of the show, MST3K ran on various networks from 1988-1999, but the cast has never stopped keeping the practice of making jokes about bad movies alive. When you think about it, it's kind of strange, what this small band of people do for a living--they are the only ones who do it. I mean, anyone who fancies themselves funny may have made a crack during a movie, but these guys and gals are actually pros at it, and have been doing it for almost thirty years.

RiffTrax is Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy, all looking grayer of hair and thicker of middle. They started things off with two short subjects--there seems to be no end of instructional shorts from the old days, probably shown to school kids and at work orientations. The first was "The Talking Car," in which a young boy, after almost buying the farm by running into the street, is visited by three talking cars in a dream to remind him of safety rules. They followed this with "Shake Hands With Danger," another safety film about how not to end up losing a hand or worse on construction sites.

They were followed by Bridget Jones Nelson and Mary Jo Pehl, the distaff side of the cast, with a take on how long they've come, baby, with a short called "A Word to the Wives," one of those 1950s films about how dream kitchens can make a woman's life so much easier. It starred a young Darrin McGavin. This short had my favorite riff of the night, when a woman says of her kitchen, while the camera focused on the stove, "It won an award," and Pehl said, "The Sylvia Plath Award."

The best short of the night was Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff riffing on "More Dates for Kay," an example of another popular short, the school film about personal hygiene. Made in 1952, these are always good for laughs because the teenagers look like they're in their 40s and it's the America of Leave it to Beaver and Ozzie and Harriet. The homely Kay is trying to get more dates, and the film shows how she goes about it. There are numerous sexual entendres, such as when the guys say that to get more dates "a pimp helps." The school itself is referred to as "Squeaky Fromme High School."

Next up was the creator of the show, Joel Hodgson, teamed with the host of the new MST3K, which was funded by KickStarter (a platform has not been identified yet), Jonah Ray. They riffed on a short about barbers and beauticians.

The entire cast came back on to riff on a short with the TV Superman cast selling Treasury bills. My favorite line from this one was when a hoodlum was described as having a "face like an old catcher's mitt and smelling like an even older catcher's mitt." Watching George Reeves prancing around in his cape, the riff was "This is how people came out in the '50s."

The encore was a short called "Grass," which had children making crafts out of various grasses. Joel had the best line here, calling the kids "Blair Witch Project Babies." Watching the kids belabor making tacky jewelry out of weeds prompted Frank to say, "Someone should introduce these kids to video games."

I've forgotten many other good lines, and of course many of them aren't funny out of context. The laughs started early, though, as we waited for the film. They had specially made slides showing movie trivia, such as Famous Quotes: "What's in the hunny pot?"-- Piglet, from David Fincher's "Winnie the Po7oh," or "We are all characters in a Garry Marshall ensemble comedy on a commercial holiday."

I'm very much looking forward to the new incarnation of the show, and will be going to see RiffTrax take on Mothra on August 18th.

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