Many of you have likely heard of Mystery Science Theater 3000, fewer of you have probably heard of Cinematic Titanic, a live performance that builds on the same vein of “movie riffing.” The creator of both, Joel Hodgson was kind enough to talk with ReviewSTL in preparation for this Saturday’s performance of Cinematic Titanic. You can catch him and the CT crew at the St. Charles Family Arena on November 13th, 2010.
Can you give us any information about this weekend’s performance?
Sure. This is our third time coming to St Louis, we love it there, were playing at a place called The Family Arena, which is the biggest venue we play. It’s actually over 3000 seats and it makes us feel like rock stars because it’s actually a sports arena, so it’s really fun. The other thing that’s unusual is that we usually have an opening act, which is Dave Allen and he can’t be there this week so were doing our own opening, were doing stand up to open our own show. That’s how we all met was doing stand up, so were each doing like 5-7 minutes, so it’ll be interesting.
How is it going back to stand up?
It’s great, we all really like it and in a way our show is like five stand ups doing their acts while you watch a movie, so it’s like we do over 600 riffs per movie and so that’s about 120 per person, so that’s about what a comic does in his act so it’s kind of similar, but it’s kind of a throwback to how we all met. We did it two weeks ago in Boston so we’re not completely foreign to it and also Frank is really active in the L.A. comedy scene and so is Josh, they both do stand up regularly…its Trace and Mary Jo and I who are more rusty.
Is it good to be going back to the roots?
Yeah it’s great, it’s kind of how we learned to be on stage and so movie riffing kind of grew out of that.I know you’ve more or less made your living riffing B-Movies; do you enjoy watching B-Movies as well?
Oh I guess I kind of look at it like a person who maybe fixes up homes, old houses…refurbishes them, for people like that it’s kind of their passion to look at old houses and go “oh I’d love to fix this up” that’s kind of how I look at these movies. A good time of my time is spent looking for them and finding them and so I think I’m always doing it with an eye towards “how can I make a movie riffing show out of this” not really “I’m just going to sit back and let it wash over me and enjoy it”…it’s not really like that.
Have you ever found a movie that’s just too bad to riff?
Yeah, that’s a really good question. Actually a lot of people don’t realize that there are movies that are so bad that we can’t even work with them. Frank is really good about pointing that out, you know our show is really built on the back of another show; it’s usually built on the back of a movie so the movie has to accomplish its task of telling a story and if it doesn’t the audience is really kind of not satisfied. You know we’re there to be funny, but the movie has to do the heavy lifting as far as telling a story goes.
Do you feel within the first viewing or two you get a good feeling about if it could be riffed, or are there certain things you look for?
Well I have to show it to everybody in the cast before we go ahead with it so I just have a feeling about it; I think everybody just goes on feelings. Sometimes I’ll put something forward and they’ll just go “I don’t want to do that” and I’ll have to go back and start looking again. Fortunately it always feels great when people sign off and this movie were doing in St. Louis called Rattlers which is obviously a snake attack movie is brand new, we just did it for its first time in Boston two weeks ago, so were just getting out there with it. We’ve just been doing punch up on it this week. So we’re fixing the things we didn’t like about it in Boston and hopefully we’ll be getting closer to making it exactly where we want it…the way we want it.
Well the way we do it is we all do our own joke pass on it individually, so we’ll each spend about two weeks on it and then we merge all our riffs together and then we kind of split it up. Each person takes a segment and they’re kind of the segment producer and then they take all the riffs and then they assign the very best ones…the funniest ones to the script. And then it’s kind of like painting with jokes, you know you have all these really funny ideas and then you kind of arrange them and assign who gets to say them and then we put it all together in a big master script…and then we start practicing it and putting it up in front of audiences.
Do you anticipate another mainstream theatrical release for your work with Cinematic Titanic?
I think so; I have a feeling that will happen…you know with the way you can do more and more media in theaters now. In fact the guys from Mystery Science Theater, the other guys at RiffTrax are already doing that and we were frustrated because we were having that same discussion about how we should do a digital cinema event and they kind of beat us to it. So you know that’s going on right now, there’s a permutation of Mystery Science Theater, they just did a show at Halloween that was in a bunch of theaters.
Oh no way, I’m super proud of Mystery Science Theater and it’s the show that allows me to kind of be in the room in a lot of places I wouldn’t have been normally. You know as Frank Conniff says, history has been kind to Mystery Science Theater, so it’s great, you know we were able to mount Cinematic Titanic and it was kind of an instant success because of Mystery Science Theater. So to me they’re all kind of the same; Cinematic Titanic is just another way of movie riffing. It’s just a little bit easier to mount as a production and go and travel and do it live than doing Mystery Science Theater would be.
What led you to want to try a live version of movie riffing?
Well that went hand in hand with the development of Cinematic Titanic. The week we did our first studio show in L.A. we also flew up to San Francisco and did a live show at Industrial Light and Magic and so they go hand in hand and I think the inspiration…after seeing Phillip Glass perform and I realized that was kind of a model of sorts for me, though I didn’t realize it at the time. He performed with a movie and did a new composition with it for a silent movie and it was just very Spartan…think of it as a funny Phillip Glass concert, you know?
What was it like working on Freaks and Geeks?
Well I feel really fortunate to have been a part of it because like almost every kid that was in that movie is now a big movie star and a lot of that had to do with just knowing the guys who ran it like Judd Apatow and Paul Feig and those guys were the guys that put me in and also booked everybody in Cinematic Titanic to be in it. So it was pretty cool and it’s one of those nice things where…you know there’s a few shows…I mean I’ve been doing this for 25 years and fortunately the few shows I’ve done like Letterman and Saturday Night Live and Mystery Science Theater and Freaks and Geeks are still kind of out there on the periphery…so I’m kind of lucky that way, I just have been involved with shows that are good…that people like.
Looking back on those 25 years, what would be your fondest memory?
Oh there’s lots of them, but I think things like when we first started to get press, I think that was a really exciting time for Mystery Science Theater, I remember that very fondly. We got in People magazine and we got in Time magazine and The New York Times…it was kind of very strange and kind of great to be attached to a show that people were liking, that you know the fans were liking but also the critics…so that was a really good thing.
What do you find personally funny?
I’m amazed with the show 30 Rock. I love 30 Rock; I think Tina Fey is unbelievable. I was really impressed with the Mark Twain award she just got, I thought that was really great…I think that’s well deserved.
St. Louis is a great city, with so much culture and so many things to do. Why not check out something new this weekend.
“Simply Wonderful! Beguiling Theatrical Magic!” hails the New York Post for Rodgers & Hammerstein’s SOUTH PACIFIC. A stunning reinvention produced by Lincoln Center Theater, SOUTH PACIFIC swept the 2008 Tony Awards®, winning seven honors including Best Musical Revival and Best Director for Bartlett Sher. The breathtaking new production features a cast of 34 and a full orchestra of 26 members – the largest orchestra of any touring Broadway production. Set on a tropical island during World War II, the musical tells the sweeping romantic story of two couples and how their happiness is threatened by the realities of war and by their own prejudices. The beloved score’s songs include “Some Enchanted Evening,” “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair,” “This Nearly Was Mine” and “There is Nothin’ Like a Dame.” USA Today cheers, “Four Stars! Gorgeous! SOUTH PACIFIC doesn’t just float; it soars!”
Based on James Michener’s Pulitzer Prize winning book Tales of the South Pacific, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s SOUTH PACIFIC has music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, a book by Oscar Hammerstein II and Joshua Logan and is directed by 2008 Tony Award®-winner Bartlett Sher.
From the people who brought you Mystery Science Theater 3000 comes a whole new movie-riffing experience: CINEMATIC TITANIC. Created by Joel Hodgson, creator and star of MST3K (as it’s known to its devoted fans), and featuring the writing and performing talents of the show’s original cast – Joel (Joel Robinson), Trace Beaulieu (Crow, Dr. Forrester) and J. Elvis Weinstein (Tom Servo, Dr. Ehrhardt) along with longtime writers and co-stars from the show’s 10 year run, Frank Conniff (TV’s Frank) and Mary Jo Pehl (Pearl Forrester).
Now you can see them as they riff on a movie LIVE at the Family Arena on Saturday, November 13.
This year Cinematic Titanic will be taking on the 1975 “masterpiece” Rattlers – Starring a cast so obscure most of them don’t even rate Wikipedia pages. When two boys are attacked by a pack (pride?) of rattlesnakes, a herpetologist discovers that the creatures have been infected by a top secret military nerve gas.
Opening Act(s): Suburban Legends, Koo Koo Kanga Roo
Doors: 6:00 pm
Show: 7:00 pm
Price: General Admission $23.50adv/$25dos | Balcony [general admission]
Age restriction: All Ages [Balcony 21+] :: $2 Minor Surcharge at Door
Aaron Barrett – Vocals, Guitar
Dan Regan – Trombone
Scott Klopfenstein – Trumpet, Vocal Harmonies, Guitar
John Cristianson (Johnny Christmas) – Trumpet
Ryland Steen – Drums
Derek Gibbs – Bass
Orange County, CaliforniaRecord Label:Rock Ridge Music
ReviewSTL.com had the chance to check out Cinematic Titanic last Saturday, at the St. Charles Family Arena. A few days before the show, we caught up with Joel Hodgson (the creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000) and were able to ask him some questions about the show, his career, and of course – MST3K. Check out the interview here.
From cinematictitanic.com —
Cinematic Titanic, the new feature-length movie riffing show from the creator and original cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000, continues the tradition of riffing on the unfathomable, the horribly great, and the just plain ‘cheesy’ movies of the past.
With seven feature-length episodes available on DVD and for download, and an ever-growing schedule of live shows, the CT crew is reconnecting with MSTies around the world as well as bringing new fans to the comedy art form first introduced by this group 20 years ago on television. Sign up for the email club and find out what’s new on DVD, where you can see Cinematic Titanic live, and all the latest news. Join us, won’t us?
Check out some of the photos from Cinematic Titanic on Saturday:
Kevin and I were lucky enough to talk with Mystery Science Theater 3000 creator, Joel Hodgson, a little while ago. Joel whose show is coming to the Family Arena as part of the St. Louis International Film Festival on November 21st, answered some questions for us about the live show and his previous work. Don’t miss the question of who would win a fight between his robots from MST and Wall-E. Also, don’t forget to get your tickets for tomorrow night! Should be a good show.
JH: It should be fun, this time we are doing ‘War of the Insects’ it’s a Japanese movie. It is widescreen, which is the first widescreen movie we have done. We are writing it now, so St. Louis will be the first time we’ve performed it. What’s great about that is that it always works the first time we do it.
Do the jokes always work? Or have you been heckled during a riff?
No, not really. I guess what’s funny is last year we were in St. Louis there was a drunk guy they had to throw out because I guess he was yelling. Only drunk people would do something like that because you don’t want to pay for a ticket and get thrown out.
Yea, It isn’t your normal type of standup night. The price point is such that only people who really want to be there are there. You don’t get that. I think people heckle you in a comedy club if they don’t know who you are. When I used to do stand up they were in a room and they don’t know what they were getting, and you come up and for whatever reason they want to heckle you. If they are paying to come see you, they are very invested in it. Not only do they go out and pay for the ticket a lot of people have to get a babysitter , some people go out to eat. It gets expensive they don’t want someone screwing it up.
How did you create Mystery Science Theater? Where did that come from?
It started with an idea I called “You are Here” it was kind of based on an old Charlton Heston movie called ‘The Omega Man’ it was like ‘I Am Legend’ that came out recently with Will Smith. ‘Omega Man’ was the remake of the original ‘I Am Legend’. It was a movie about zombies, and in it this guy is in a movie theater and he is watching Woodstock. He’s marveling because all of the humans are dead so he’s talking about ‘Look at all the people…’. So, I had an idea based on that called ‘You Are Here’, which was kind of after the apocalypse. A guy would watch movies and he would have a robot companion and they would talk about the movie. When I finally met Jim Mallon, who was in Minneapolis running a local TV station, and he said he wanted to do a stand up comedy show, and he wanted me to help him or consult on it. So I told him OK, but I thought I should try and pitch this idea to him. So, I kind of altered it because I realized that a comedy after the apocalypse is pretty hard to do. I went and altered it a little bit and transposed it with another movie I really liked called ‘Silent Running’ which was about a guy with three robots in space, who was lost in space. I pitched him that and he said “That’s great because we have all these movies in our library and we can use those.” So, that was kind of it.
Then I called Josh, who was the original Tom Servo, and got Trace who was the original Crow, and then we started doing it locally. It took us about a year to figure it out. We did it live locally on TV. We’d run a movie and we start riffing on it. Over time we started to figure it out. We created kind of a little tool box with different type of jokes you could do, ways of riffing on a movie. Towards the end we really started to get it figured out. Which was good, because we sold it to The Comedy Channel which became Comedy Central.
Weren’t you one of only a couple shows on Comedy Central at the time? How many were playing at that time?
It is possible we were the very first show. They had VJs that would introduce things, and they had their own little shows. We were probably the first show that was produced outside of Comedy Central. So we were right there when it started twenty years ago.
Yeah, there is one called ‘I Accuse My Parents’ which is this weird black and white movie, and somebody turned me on to it. Actually it was Drew Carey when I was living in LA. I found out he was a fan, and we were hanging out and I asked him “What is your favorite?” and he told me I had to check out ‘I Accuse My Parents’ it was the funniest one he’d ever seen.
So, I got it and I looked at it and I thought ‘Wow’. There is just something stilted about the whole thing, that it just worked really good for us. So that is one of the ones I find funniest personally.
Are there any films you wanted to do, but couldn’t get the rights to? Have there been any big budget flicks you watched and thought they would be really good to riff on?
Yeah, Angels and Demons, that was from the same guy from The DaVinci code. I thought that would be pretty cool. Most of the time it doesn’t really work that way. You kind of have to find the movies first. You find a bunch of movie. Right now I have to find the movies, so I get a bunch of them together and I show everybody. I try to clear the rights first, because you don’t want someone blindly saying “We gotta do this movie!” , because it ends up being an exercise in frustration. If you can’t get the rights to do it. You have to get the rights first. We were in LA last week doing live shows. I had about five movies that we could clear and I showed them. Out of the five there was one everyone liked. So that was one I’ll probably go get.
Your live show, Cinematic Titanic, is pretty scripted. Was MST3K scripted tightly too or did you improv it at all?
No, we wrote it really completely. You have to improvise when you are in the writing room when you are coming up with it. Everything is kind of a knee jerk reaction and that is how you get the ideas improvising while you are together. The problem with that is that when you are improvising you might be imposing yourself on someone else’s line. Occasionally it goes off the rails. We write it pretty careful, but the best shows we have are when the cast is having a great time. I think each person builds in a few surprise, and does a few things differently to surprise the rest of the cast. I don’t think the audience would notice it. People in the cast know they didn’t do that last time. I wouldn’t really call that improvising. Sometimes things just happen. We were doing this show in LA two summers ago, and the show was at the John Ford Amphitheater which is pretty much across from the Hollywood Bowl. Hollywood Bowl was having a concert and we were at the Amphitheater, and at the end of the Bowl concert they let off fireworks. You could hear them and see them, and Josh had to react so he said, “Help! We are under attack from the Hollywood Bowl!” It really felt like that, it felt like they were shooting at us. That’s just an example of something we needed to react to, and luckily Josh had a really funny line for it.
Long story short, we try to write it as completely as possible. We know who is going to say what, but for everyone to have a good time we change it a bit each night. So the audience can have a good time too.
It’s funny, but the secret of our success is having MST on TV for ten years. There are a lot people who grew up watching it, and now are parents. It’s just all over the map. I was would say 90 percent of the people coming to the show are people who grew up watching MST. It’s almost everybody is a fan.
The cast for Cinematic Titanic is from MST mainly. Does the cast get along great? Is it a real organic process writing a script with these folks?
Everybody with the cast was with the show when I was there. Mary Jo and Frank were writing on the show when I was there. They weren’t riffing, but they were both writers. Frank, of course, was TV’s Frank. Mary Jo would do some pit parts, and after Trace left she became Pearl Forrester. Everybody in the cast was at MST when I was there.
As far as getting along, we get along really good. We feel like it is our chance to get it right. So, I think everybody works extra hard to get along.
Do you find it harder to riff live compared to the TV show?
We had our own studio when we did MST. It was just a warehouse space that we hung lights and put a green screen on the wall. Live shows are really different, there is an extra element, the live audience. The live audience works as your barometer on how well it is going. When you are just doing it in a studio, you are producing it, manufacturing it, and trying to add as much sense of quality. You can’t really tell how well you are doing. If people are sparking to it until you do it in front of an audience. Which is the biggest difference.
As far as it being easier, it was easier because I lived five miles from work. We’d just record them, and I could go home afterwards. Doing it live you have to travel, and there is a certain amount of work that goes along with that. Getting the immediate response is really rewarding and fun. To do that with a group of people is a blast.
When you did the TV show, did you guys do a lot takes or run it straight through?
Hard to say, I think we would pretty much go from beginning to end. It was mainly in seven minute segments. If you felt like it was really bad, you could just do the thing again. I don’t feel it was like that. I think we pretty much went through it. We’d go back and pick up the lines we screwed up if we dropped a line. Mike would be taking notes, he’d be listening with a script in hand and if we missed something he’d take a note, and we’d go back and rerecord it. That was the beauty of doing that with silhouettes, because you can’t see our mouths. You could drop in new lines.
Why did Jollyfilter never take off? It was such a great concept.
I couldn’t tell you. If I knew the answer to that I would be a very happy man. It is like a lot of things. You put it out there and hope for the best. You never know about stuff like that, when it is going to happen and when it is not.
Was it the cost of the special effects?
It is just one of those things. Part of what allowed MST to work was that it was right at the beginning of cable. It was a super inexpensive show to do, and people needed programming and we were there. Jollyfilter was more expensive, and there wasn’t exactly a market for it. There is lots of stuff like that. I’ve tried many many things, and MST worked. That is kind of the nature of things though, you have to do a lot to get something that works.
Do you think with the advent of sites like YouTube, FunnyorDIe, etc. it will make it easier for people to do what you were doing with MST3K? Like you with the advent of cable. Have you thought about using video sites like those to further any other projects?
Yeah, absolutely. We have our trailers for Cinematic Titanic on YouTube, and it gets a lot of hits. So we are using it to get the word out. That’s what is great about it. Anybody who is interested and likes to make stuff, it is a new playground. I can’t get over the tutorials and stuff on YouTube. How you can actually use it to learn new stuff.
A bit of a silly question, in a robot battle royale could Servo and Crow beat Wall-E?
Oh, absolutely! Wall-E is a putz. He’s just a bit of a nancy boy robot when you look at him. He’s crying for love, and he needs his little cricket friend and his showtunes. He wants to dance and since. Come on, Servo and Crow are really street smart. They really like to talk trash, and they would just intimidate him. There’s two of them!
What if you paired him with Robin Williams from ‘Bicentennial Man’ the hairiest robot on earth?
He’d be like a brillo pad, he’s got so much back hair.
Awesome! Well, can’t wait to see the show. Thanks for coming to St. Louis again.
We can’t wait to do it, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Cinematic Titanic is the new feature-length movie riffing show from the creator and original cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Cinematic Titanic continues the tradition of riffing on ‘the unfathomable’, ‘the horribly great’, and the just plain ‘cheesy’ movies from the past. With a combination of new shows on DVD every 6-8 weeks and an ever-growing schedule of Live Shows, the CT crew hopes to reconnect with “MSTies” around the world as well as bringing new fans to the comedy artform they first brought to TV 20 years ago.
Children 2 & up must have a ticket.
Ticket price includes $3 facility fee and $2 parking fee.
$40 -> $6.00/ticket
$35 -> $5.25/ticket
$30 -> $4.50/ticket
METROTIX SALES END:
Phone/Internet: 3 hours prior to show
Outlet: 1/2 hour prior to show
If you are a fan of film, most likely you are fan of Joel Hodgson, and his cast from Mystery Science Theater 3000. The comedic value contained in a single episode of MST3k still astounds me. I know you’ve sat through a bad film, and cracked jokes with a friend. Well, these guys do it professionally! No offense to you and your friends, but they do it much better. Cinematic Titanic features the cast from MST3K in an all new fashion, in front of a live audience! Featured as a part of the St. Louis International Film Festival this year, it is sure to be a good time. Stay tuned for more updates about the show, and the review!
CINEMATIC TITANIC is the new feature-length movie riffing show from the creator and original cast of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000. Like MST3K, the show was created by JOEL HODGSON and features the same team that first brought the Peabody award winning cult-classic series to life: TRACE BEAULIEU (Crow, Dr. Forrester), J. ELVIS WEINSTEIN (Tom Servo, Dr. Erhardt), FRANK CONNIFF (TV’s Frank), and MARY JO PEHL (Pearl Forrester), Cinematic Titanic continues the tradition of riffing on ‘the unfathomable’, ‘the horribly great’, and the just plain ‘cheesy’ movies from the past.
Founded in late 2007, Cinematic Titanic is an artist funded, owned, and operated venture. With a combination of new shows on DVD every 6-8 weeks (available in online at cinematictitanic.com) and an ever-growing schedule of LIVE SHOWS, the CT crew hopes to reconnect with “MSTies” around the world as well as bringing new fans to the comedy artform they first brought to TV 20 years ago.
Now you can see them riff on a movie LIVE at the Family Arena on Saturday, November 21.
WHEN: Saturday, November 21, 2009 @ 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: The Family Arena in St. Charles on Arena Parkway
From Interstate 70, take the South 5th Street exit and follow the signs to Arena Parkway. (Just 5 minutes from Riverport).
Tickets can be purchased at the Family Arena Ticket Office and all MetroTix locations including Macy’s and select Schnucks video centers or on the web at www.metrotix.com.
Prices: $40 (Floor), $35 (Lower Lever), $30 (Upper Level)
To charge by phone call MetroTix at 314-534-1111. For help purchasing accessible seating, please call The Family Arena ADA Hotline at 636-896-4234.
FURTHER INFO: Please call The Family Arena event hotline at 636-896-4242 for more information, or their web site at www.familyarena.com.
PARKING: Please note that the cost of parking is included in the ticket price for this event.