Back in 1992 I lived in the suburbs of Illinois in my dad's basement. I had been kicked out of college and my mom didn't want me to come back home. I had nowhere to go, and I had nothing to do. I worked in a McDonald's that was four miles from my house, and I didn't have a car and there were no buses so I was just walking it every day. I was a punk rock kid living in the suburbs in the early 90s, which meant that sometimes when I was walking to work I would have a car full of jocks shout 'Faggot!' and throw a beer can at me. It was a living hell.
I survived it with the help of a few things. One was 120 Minutes on MTV, which made me feel connected to a culture that hadn't quite made it to the burbs. Another thing was comic books, and my trudging trips to the comic book store kept me going. But the biggest, perhaps, were my video tapes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. We live in a world full of movie riffing, but what I think very few of the current crop of riffers miss about MST3K is that the show wasn't just about jokes, it was about the feeling of weird friendship. Joel reading viewer mail, the way the bots and Joel interacted, the constant address to the camera - all of these things made Mystery Science Theater 3000 feel like a visit with friends, not just a TV show originating out of a place in the midwest that was even worse than where I was stuck.
This morning Joel Hodgson, creator of MST3K (and the best host, let's be clear about this) announced a Kickstarter to revive the show, fifteen years after it went off the air. And, to be fair, fifteen years after a whole lot of imitators (including imitators made up of MST3K alums) ran the concept into the ground. But what makes a revival feel special is that Joel gets the spirit of the original MST, which he talks about on the Kickstarter page:
Ever since MST3K was cancelled, I've felt the world is missing something. Or at least, the world in me.
When all the “pistons were firing,” I think MST3K offered a pretty good model for how to survive the cheesy movie you sometimes have to live through. If you have a few friends that you think are funny, and who share your worldview, riffing can make the whole thing tolerable. Is it too much to say that MST3K was about friendship?
I don’t want to get too maudlin about it, because being too serious is the enemy of comedy. “Job one” was always to make a funny show. But while we did, I hope we also helped show the kids that society, and the stupid things we say and do to each other, are actually “just a show, and you should really just relax.”
Yeah, this is what I was afraid of. Now I’m starting to sound like the Dr. Bronner's label.
I agree fully, and that's why I'm excited to throw my support behind this revival. You can do the same. The Kickstarter has multiple stretch goals, and if things go well Joel and his team could produce up to 12 new episodes. Click here to throw your support behind the show as well.
Again, I think MST is more than just movie riffing, and that with Joel at the helm there's a gentler, sweeter style of comedy (I liked Mike as well, but the show was far more acerbic on his watch). I always felt like Joel had a certain fondness for the films they skewered, and that goes a long way for me, especially as I'm someone who was either familiar with the movies before they riffed on them or who sought them out afterwards (you really can only watch Attack of the the Eye Creatures with the MST riffing, it turns out. Manos as well).
What do you think, MSTies? Are we ready to return to the Satellite of Love?