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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

  • Im tried to narrow this down two two and it just isnt working so 4 is the magic number. Space Mutiny, Hobgoblins, Time Chasers and Overdrawn at the memory bank.

  • The Incredible Melting Man! ” He’s Incredi-meltable!”

    At first I didn’t like that Joel was replaced, but after watching a few episodes that Mike did, I soon came to realize he was a deserving part of the MST3K legacy.

  • I haven’t had the chance to see many episodes of MST3K but the best for me so far has to be Manos the Hands of Fate but the Creeping Terror is a close second.

  • I love them all, but “The Screaming Skull” is a great one that hasn’t made it onto DVD.
    Narrator:”The Screaming Skull” is a motion picture that reaches its climax in shocking horror.
    Mike Nelson:…But we cut that.
    Narrator:This climax is so terrifying that it may have an unforeseen effect. It may kill you.
    Tom Servo:If you watch it in front of a moving bus.

    And to top it off, it has a Gumby episode as the short!

  • It’s a toss-up between Fugitive Alien 2 and Prince of Space for me. Both have an overabundance of awful dubbing and odd plot twists that make them perfect fodder for the guys.

    Joel vs. Mike: When I was younger, Joel. Now that I’m older, Mike.

    Cheers!

    E.A.W.

  • I have most of the MST3K DVDs and the movies that stick out for me are “Manos: The Hands of Fate” and “The Beginning of the End” with Peter Graves. The latter movie deals with giant rampaging grasshoppers and there’s a “special effects” shot at the end of the movie that is supposed to depict the grasshoppers climbing up a skyscraper. It was done by filming normal-sized grasshoppers climbing up a picture postcard of a tall office building. Truly awful indeed.

  • For the love of me I can’t remember what terrible sci fi movie they were watching. But all these muscle-heads in silvery loins cloths were walking about and the 3 of em went off on a rant of goofy names and one was Big McLarge-Huge. I almost choked to death on my Pepsi.

  • I also recently watched “Final Sacrifice”. Love it. I also really liked the movie. And having the MST3K guys on the podcast would kinda make my head melt then explode. Or vice versa.

  • Mike is my fave because I developed a crush on him.
    Definitely get his book, “Movie Megacheese.” They are a collection of movie reviews. I have read that book over and over. MST3K is indeed very quotable.

  • author

    I love the SHIT out of the fact that this has garnered 77 comments. Shows how important this show was to a lot of people. Anyone remember what movie it was where the aliens zapped a dog and it turned into bones? Whatever that one was was the very first episode I ever saw when I was 7.

    Best line from “Touch of Satan.”
    Girl in movie: “This is where the fish lives.”
    Mike Nelson: “You’re kind of an idiot, aren’t you?”

  • Egads, that’s a tough one… well, my favorite Joel episode is Mitchell, because it was the first full episode I ever watched, and was the default episode I’d use to entice other people into watching the show (and it worked all the time because it is such a solid, hilarious episode).

    My favorite Mike episode has got to be Puma Man. The premise of the movie, the lame super hero, and Donald Pleasance as the villain just combine to make for a perfect episode, and once again, a great starter ep for newbies. Still, the Sci-fi years are all winners, because those were the episodes where they had the writing down tight, and they were a bit bolder with their humor.

    God, I love MST3K – anybody wish they’d do an huge, reunion episode??? Just a one-shot deal where half the ep is Joel riffing, and the other half Mike, and the whole gang comes back to make fun of one more movie??? This idea needs to get steam, cause MST3K should never die!

  • Love this comment thread. I totally forgot, I was a member of the club too. I actually sent in this patch with the state seal of Minnesota on it for some reason. Imagine my surprise when that patch turned up on Mike’s uniform on his shoulder.

    That made my year.

  • My first introduction to MST3K was when the cable company had some kind of “preview” week for Comedy Central, which I think might have been a premium channel at the time. They showed Alien in LA (“starring” Kathy Ireland) and I thought it was amazing. I made my best effort to watch it every time it aired that week. I was 12 or 13 and lucky enough to have a 12 inch TV in my room, but sadly no VCR. Eventually I found out they were on video and I bought as many as I could.

    Hands down favorite is Pod People. I can’t hear the word potato without saying to myself “little winged potatoes.”

  • 12 to the Moon (+ Design for dreaming!)

    The best part is when the Asian woman can somehow read the ‘Oriental Picture Writing’.

    ..Also the phantom planet is a lesson in cinematic excellence..

    “The wisest and best is to focus on the good and beautiful” whilst sitting on a headrest made of hotdog buns.

  • I loved this show sense I was a child as well. My favorite was the movie they made. I was the only guy who rented it from my Hollywood video. It was “This Island Earth” and I still quote it to this day. I enjoyed Mike more than Joel. Joel always seemed high to me. I wish I could own all the episodes but they all cost a lot and its near impossible to find them all. I wish there was some way to get comedy central or sci fi to show them again. It seemes like something g4 would show. Chris, you should start a movement within to see if this is even possible. I think you would agree that it would fit in. They could play it in the middle of the night. It would he amazing! :D

  • I’ve only ever seen Space Mutiny, but if that’s any representation of the sheer awesomenessosity of MST3K, then I’m gonna be Netflixing that action.

    “NOW REACHING SPEEDS OF THREE!”

    I had forgotten about the Santa Claus reference in there, too! hahaha good shit.

    I have no opinion on hosts, as I’ve only seen the one, and I don’t remember his name. He didn’t even buy my drink.

  • So hard to choose favorites. Manos is definitely one of them, even if the movie itself is so painful to sit through. But their commentary was masterful. I also love Eegah! And POD PEOPLE! (So much goodness in that one, from the song parody — “wheels on fire!” – to Trumpy, a true classic). And Jungle Goddess!

    Both Joel and Mike had tons of great episodes.

    I also love all the Gamera ones and wish they could get the rights to put those on disc.

    Btw, Chris Hardwick, it’s KING DINOSAUR with “Larry the Lemur” in it. Classic. (I love how they shot close ups of iguanas to try to look like dinosaurs.)

  • Joel 4 life, prop comedy be damned, he’s the best.

    My favs are Cave Dwellers “it’s the speedy delivery boy and man does he have a package”

    Also I Accuse My Parents, “I’m gonna get me a blimp and fight the nazis”

    And finally Mitchell, starring Stacy Keach no less, “do you think they serve beer on the sun?”

    Worst movie award goes easily to Manos Hands of Fate. The movie is so awful that I can’t even watch the mst3k version all the way through.

  • There was an episode about a guy who was in some sort of toxic accident. Maybe the Incredible Melting Man or something. Was done way before the toxic avenger but Crist was it funny.

  • The Horrors of Spider Island is amazing! One scene shows slight turbulence in a plane, then it cuts to a bad shot of a plane nose diving engulfed in flames… with amazing timing Servo says … I think they’re gonna make it

    Such a great episode, and the one with Adam West is great too, Zombie somethin? Batman really brought +10 to the actor skill slot =-D

  • Although I did love Mitchell with Joe Don Baker, mainly because Tom Servo and Crow T Robot read my letter and showed a picture of the Tom Servo Christmas tree “angel” we had made.

  • Sidehackers
    The catalina caper
    Teenage strangler (is it someone who strangles teenagers or a teenager who strangles people, i still don’t know)
    Anything with gamera, hercules, or sinbad
    I am personally fighting gay marriage restrictions just so I can divorce my wife and marry Joel.

  • My favorite is probably Santa Claus Conquers The Martians. It, along with Silent Night, Deadly Night is a yuletide tradition of mine. It’s also amazingly funny.

  • Mitchell with Joe Don Baker and Merlin Olsen is still one of my favorite episodes.

    “STOP, or my heart will explode.”
    “The new Chrysler Fury. The car that thinks it’s a house.”

    As far as the whole Joel vs. Mike argument, I’m in a third camp: who gives a crap. Both Joel and Mike had strengths and weaknesses, but why should it matter which one is on the show as long as it’s funny?

  • Definitely Ep 507 I Accuse My Parents. It wasn’t that bad a movie, but kinda preachy and really dated, so it felt riffing an extended educational short. It’s the one I use to introduce my friends to the show.

    I also find it odd and sad to point out that I discovered MST3K just five years ago, but I’m as old as the guys who grew up watching it.

    Second Sophia on the robots there. For my money, Rifftrax is mostly on the money, but they do falter here and there. Joel & the Cinematic Titanic crew deserve brownie points for handling God-awful poo like Legacy Of Blood & imbuing it with their inimitable charm.

  • There is so much awesome to be had with MST3K, but one of my favorites to date is The Horrors of Spider Island; and there will always be a special place in my heart for This Island Earth.

    Nooorrrmal Viiiieeeewww

  • I especially miss the Turkey Day marathons that were broadcast on Thanksgiving Day. I always loved watching ” TV’s Frank” as well. He and Dr. Forrester made some great comedy together. Everything about MST3K was just wonderful. I really miss that show.

  • My first exposure to MST3K was an MTV news piece. They were riffing on a video (Which I believe was Radiohead’s Just. Which if true….awesome).

    MST3K would also pop up on Talk Soup for some reason.

    Anyway, the first actual MST3K I saw the syndicated MST Hour. I caught the last half of one movie, and the next week’s episode was the first hour of War of the Colossal Beast…which means I got introduced to the wonder that is Mr. B Natural very early. So my fandom was pretty much cemented right there. It wasn’t til a couple years after that where we moved to a house that got Comedy Central (Who had long since cancelled the show and was burning off reruns at that point) that it became regular (And able) viewing.

    Favorite episodes are too many to mention, and as a veteran of MST3K forums, I ain’t falling for a Joel v Mike discussion :p

    FISH! PICKER!

  • Sorry to post again, but, I forgot about Pod People –“let me go get the attachments” “Mcleod!” “If you want to make an omelette, you gotta break some eggs”