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In the Not-Too-Distant Future…

Before I was 14, I really didn’t know what funny meant.  Then in one year I was introduced to the two things that inexorably shaped my comedic sensibilities: “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”  Python was that dose of intelligent ridiculousness I didn’t know I’d been craving and it opened up a world of British comedy that is basically far superior.  I silly walked my way through the halls of my high school and got a talking to from the assistant principal for it.  That’s another story.

MST3K was totally different yet completely in my new found wheelhouse.  I remembered seeing it as a small child on Comedy Central when my parents would watch it.  I remembered Joel and the bots and the making fun of movies, but apart from the random references to kids shows or crotches, I lost much of the humor.   Many years down the line we got the Sci-Fi Channel, (before it became SyFy) and there was this show again.  The faces and voices were different, but it was still a guy and two robots watching bad movies and cracking wise for 90 minutes.  Within the first two jokes I was in hysterics and proceeded to tape every episode that aired until it ceased transmission.

What made “Mystery Science Theater 3000″ so brilliant, and something I feel is lacking in the comedy world today, is that it was smart humor that didn’t need to rely on foul language and adult content.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that for fuck sake, but they didn’t need to do it.  It was as clean as hilarity could be.  I watched those tapes until they broke trying to crack the code on why these people were so funny.  It might be tempting to say it’s easy to make fun of bad movies, but to do it that consistently and that cleverly takes a huge amount of skill, preparation, and commitment to the premise.  And at no time during the episode did you lose what was happening in the movie.  All they did was make what you were watching infinitely better, like putting ice cream and chocolate syrup on a stale Nilla Wafer.

No one can deny the influence the show has had on the comedy world.  Shows like “The Soup,” and our friend Mr. Hardwick’s own “Web Soup,” owe a great deal to this little puppet show from Minnesota.  Every group of college kids with a case of Pabst and a DVD player can pull of a bad MST3K routine to stuff like “The Skeleton Key” or “Terminator 3.”  The show has also given me reason to enjoy watching crappy movies in general.  I probably wouldn’t have thought to watch “Night of the Lepus” or “The Astro Zombies” if not for learning an appreciation for God-awful cinema from “Mystery Science.”

The reason I bring up this perennial favorite that’s been off the air for close to 11 years is simply out of nostalgia.  My VCR is dead and my old recordings have long since gone by the wayside leaving me a little wistful about something that was such a huge part of my impressionable youth.  I own every episode of “Monty Python” and all the movies but due to licensing and distribution, we’ll probably never get a chance to own every episode of “Mystery Science Theater.”  I miss this show and I miss looking forward to it every week. Over the years, Rhino and now Shout! have put out favorites on DVD and lately Netflix has put a slew of them on Instant Play, allowing us MSTies out there to remember some of the glory that was “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”  I recently watched “The Final Sacrifice” for the first time in years, having seen the episode probably 40 times, and it’s still as funny as it was when it aired.  My hope one day is that a show can capture even a fraction of its fantastitude (a word I will stand by until the day I die).

What are some of your favorite episodes and who do you prefer, Mike or Joel?

You’re welcome
-Kanderson

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142 comments

  • I was sad when Joel left, but eventually came to prefer Mike. As for favorite eps, I remember Giant Spider Invasion, which had the line, “It’s a giant spider invasion of savings at Menards!” I also recall, and still occasionally quote, the line, “This is no time to play the oud!” but I can’t for the life of me remember what episode it’s from.

  • yeah, space mutiny was great, lots of railing fodder…and that brick slabmeat guy.

    I really liked Time Chasers….and Boggy Creek II The Legend Continues. (to not be heard about by anyone) =D
    and the short “johnny at the fair”

    I have so many favorites..it’s hard to remember. I just watched The Blood Waters of Dr. Z on netflix..that was great too.

    As far as which host I like best..I think i like them both for the different things they bring to the table.

  • I discovered MST3K during the SciFi years and Mike will always be my favorite. The Rifftrax crew are the group that I look at as the definitive MST cast, but I realize I’m probably in the minority as most found MST3K before I did.

  • I found it on Comedy Central in 1991, I believe. I was flipping channels one Friday between 10-midnight and it literally changed my world view of comedy. It was a scene with Joel and the Bots building a model and using a toxic adhesive called mucilage. Crow said something like “hey kids! Mucilage tastes like sweeeeeet honey!” and I was hooked. I even made tapes and traded them with my friends: ANALOG VIRAL (did the same thing when I found Ren & Stimpy one Sunday morning on Nickelodeon in 1990).

    Which episode had the lemur in it? I loved that one in particular. Dinosaur Island?

    I owe a SHITLOAD to these guys. I will always have a special place in my heart for Joel, Mike, Kevin, Trace & TV’s Frank. :)

  • I totally agree with Kyle’s sentiments about MPFC and MST3K. There isn’t anything else like these two timeless shows.

    There are so many classic episodes. My favorites usually included riffing on an educational short (e.g. dating or hygiene) or a memorable song like “Patrick Swayze Christmas”.

    I enjoyed both Joel and Mike, but I’m partial to the original cast and writers with their organic midwestern flavor.

  • Rifftrax is great, but I think Cinematic Titanic is even better. I have tickets to see them in September, and I can’t wait.

    Teenagers From Outer Space will always have a special place in my heart. Maybe there are funnier ones, maybe there are stranger ones, but that episode caught me across the brain in just the right way at just the right time….

  • I don’t think there’s an episode of MST3K that I didn’t laugh my panties off at.

    When it first switched to Mike, I preferred Joel, but I’ve grown to enjoy Mike a lot more.

    I saw RiffTrax doing “Plan 9 From Outerspace” in some live simulcast last year, and that was pretty much the funniest thing I have ever seen in my entire life. Like hands down, over any MST3k episode or Python.

  • Puma Man, Hobgoblins, Manos: The Hands of Fate, Pod People, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, Mitchell, Red Zone Cuba, Time Chasers, Space Mutiny, Final Sacrifice, Boggy Creek 2, Gamera, Godzilla vs. Megalon, Prince of Space, and since I’m from the Midwest, Giant Spider Invasion is the best of them all. Twilight is the best Rifftrax they’ve done so far.

  • Manos: Hands of Fate is a classic. As for my favorite… I think it’s Mike, just because I saw more of Mike. I never saw MST3K on Comedy Central because I lived in podunk nowhere that didn’t get that channel yet. But I saw reruns with Mike on Sci-Fi.

  • I’ve got a favorite from each host. For Joel it was Beatniks “I’ve never seen an injection-molded face before.” and Mike was definitely Space Mutiny “I think it was very nice of you to give that dead woman another chance.”

    I rediscovered this show online last year and have not stopped watching since. I would totally marry this show if it was a girl or if it was a man and I was in state where that sort of thing was legal.

  • I have a few.

    First is “Master Ninja.” This episode was responsible for a longstanding running gag amongst my friends. Whenever anyone said “Master Ninja Theme Song” people would have to respond with some pseudo porn music.

    Even though it’s not an “episode” I also have to give some love to the MST3K Movie. I absolutely loved the opening bit with Servo trying to alert Mike to the fact that Crow was trying to tunnel out of the Satellite of love. PRICELESS!!!

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    “The Screaming Skull” had one of my favorite opening jokes ever, when a coffin is shown adorned with flowers, Mike says, “Looks like a dead person just won the Kentucky Derby.” Genius.

  • If those dastardly kids even THINK of making fun of 2nd Engineer in Terminator 3…

    Mike is superior to Joel, and my favourite episodes are probably The Final Sacrifice, Space Mutiny, and Squirm. Every episode belts though.

  • anything with the origional guy joel, really did not like the new guy they brought in… on that note i REALLY dug the show joel did after he left MST3K where it was a big spinning setpeice and he did skits on each little set on the big spinner. forget the name of that, sorry.

  • Sorry, hands down the win HAS to go to “Touch of Satan” and mostly for the segment where the two leads walk down to the river and skip stones… honestly I can’t watch it without laughing so hard I fall on the floor.

    Touch of Satan is the episode I watch to pull me back from the brink of disaster…

    SAX

  • My father first showed my brother and I a tape of “Starfighters” when we were about 8-10 years old, and we’ve never stopped watching since.

    The show was nearing the end of its run on Comedy Central, so at the time it almost felt like it was over before it began for me (I still have the VHS tape of the last Comedy Central broadcast, “Laserblast,” which was followed by the pilot for Joel’s ostensible next show, “The TV Wheel”)

    So imagine how it must have felt to be thumbing through a TV Guide one afternoon and come across a full-page ad featuring a singular image: Tom Servo, in the midst of being surgically resuscitated and an announcement of its impending return on the Sci-Fi channel. I was over the moon! Tearing across my house! Jumping for Joy!

    So the Sci-Fi run really wound up feeling like “my” show. I tried so hard to tape every episode. “Mole People” became my first new favorite, and is still one I re-watch constantly. I even keep a few essentials on my iPod so I can watch in bed or on the train, like “Pumaman,” “Mitchell,” “Future War,” “Final Sacrifice,” “Space Mutiny,” and “Wurrwilf” – I mean, “Werewolf”.

  • Space Mutiny is always fantastic. I’d say my favorites are I Accuse My Parents (“So my mom says to Roosevelt, she says: ‘What about some kinda lend lease program?'”) and the hammy, absurd masterpiece that is The Pumaman — which somehow has Donald Pleasence in it! The special effects and the recurring soundtrack in that kill me every single time. “He has the ability to rear-project major cities!”

    As for the Mike vs. Joel debate, I feel like they each had their strong suits and were very, very good. I refuse to pick a favorite. Although, I don’t think Joel ever had a moment like Joel snapping in Manos and yelling at the screen.

  • My favorite MST3K episode is “Hand of Manos”. I could watch it over and over and over again.

    I’ve always preferred Joel over Mike. I don’t hate Mike but I appreciate what he did in MST3K’s latter seasons.

    There needs to be a TV show like MST3K in today’s world. I’d give almost anything to see it or another show just like it on TV again.

  • so many to choose from..

    The exceedingly creepy Santa Claus is always a good one.. Santa spys on Mexico from his weird ‘it’s a small world’ cloud fortress _and_ battles Satan? ..Yeah he does.

    And Prince of Space is always good for scratching that ‘phantom of crank whore’ itch.

  • Netflix reinvigorated my love of MST3K, which, since highschool, has been unfortunately absent. I was shown by a friend of mine one episode, it’s been so long I couldn’t remember if I tried, but from then on we would tape them whenever they were shown and we even ventured onto the early internet to trade for tapes from people in far away, exotic lands like Kansas and Michigan. If not for MST3K, MPFC and Mad Magazine I would have been lost in highschool until I found sex, and if we’re all being honest here, is much more alluring.
    So, Thank you Netflix, for letting me catch up on some childhood memories which were circumvented by animal instinct. And thank you Jennifer for unintentionally giving me a late night idea. Futurewar, prepare to get the shit watched out of you.

    Oh yea, I think my favorite is Manos simply because it’s the most memorable to any random group misties. Or maybe Laserblast or the Starfighters, because I recently watched those.

  • I came across the show randomly and didn’t really take it in, until one night my affinity for Gamera and the show collided. Imagine, late night, trying not to wake everyone else in the house from my laughing and failing. From that moment on I was hooked. I taped episodes and passed them around as well.

    My favorites MST3K’s always had the Short Documentaries. The absolute greatest was Mister B Natural. A nightmare involving a mysterious androgynous musical pixie, stalking a young man from his bedroom to his locker.

    Excuse me while I go search for a VCR and my tapes…