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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” 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


Image: Comedy Central

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  1. Ben says:

    I know it’s a bit late but frankly, I don’t care. What I have to say is important.

    The greatest movie that has never been MST3K’d is Ozone. Specifically, Ozone: 10th Anniversary Special Edition. If you haven’t seen this movie: gather a few friends, your beverages of choice and any other goodies you usually have during a movie, and hunker down for some of the ripest riffing this side of the Mississip.

    It’s one of those movies you forget about until you watch it with someone else, at which point it becomes legendary. Everyone should do themselves the favor of watching this movie, Netflix has it Instantly, which makes it so easy, that everyone is trying to please me. No, wait, thats G’nf’nR. It’s so easy that if you have a computer, Netflix and a finger, you are required to watch it. Go here mau, di di mau:

    Now, back to your scheduled blogging.

  2. Jeff C. says:

    My favorite line is from “The Day the Earth Froze”:

    Let’s go surfin’ now,
    Even Sven is learning how,
    Come on a safari with me.

  3. MightyMonarch says:

    From Torgo, the immortal line, after the dog meets a cruel fate off-camera:

    “We’ve…got some…poodle meat…in the freezer!”

  4. ninjac says:

    My oldest brother, who lived in NYC would tape the episodes and bring them to me (we were kinda backwoods). Which we would then watch late at night while my parents were asleep. It was horrible when he wouldn’t visit for months! For my birthday he gave me copies of our favorite ones and I watched them till they disintegrated. I loved Joel and was heartbroken when he left. My favorite ones were Tormented, I blame my parents, Mitchell, Pod People, Daddy-O, and any of the Gamera ones. I still sing ‘Hike up your britches’ all the damn time and not a potato has passed my viewing without me saying ‘This potato has wings’….aaahhh the good old times.

  5. Pinky says:

    “Manos.. hands of fate?”

    haha.. my favorite quote ever.. “i left a piece of chewed gum on your pillow”

  6. Joel says:

    Growing up in the Twin Cities suburbs, my brother and I stumbled across the first episode of MST3K (we didn’t know it was the first episode until much later – thanks interweb!). From moment one, we were hooked. Every week it became appointment television for us and couldn’t believed this was coming from just the other side of the ‘burbs!
    I’m a Fugitive Alien guy myself. I still threaten to “kill [people] with a forklift” and have the Fugitive Alien medley on my iPod.

  7. smartbunny says:

    Dudes. I still have my original membership card. We cut them out of the newsletter, remember? On the grey paper. I covered it with tape so it would be safe. Hey, I was a kid! (age 25) Ahem.

  8. Kyle Anderson says:

    Now THAT is commitment.

  9. Ebel says:

    about 10 years ago, I made the $700 investment to buy DVD’s of all the rhino collection and fill in the episode gaps with 1 generation copies off the internet. I don’t have an Iphone, I dont even have a decent computer, but I have these; including all but the first 4 episodes of KTMA-era (the UHF station they started on). I can let my kids watch it, and they love it.

  10. Alec G. says:

    It’s not about pods, it’s not about people, it’s all about DEEP HURTING!

  11. Bill D. says:

    Much as I loved just about everything about this show, my two favorite jokes were when they got super-meta. One was from Gamera, when they trapped Gamera in a rocket and shot him into space.

    Crow: “Hey, Joel, remind you of anything?”

    Tom, Crow (singing): “In the not too distant future!”

    Joel: “Shut up you guys, just shut up!”

    And another, from I think Crash of the Moons, but I don’t remember:

    Tom: “Hey, look, it’s the Mystery Science Theater 3000 logo!”

    Joel (whispering): “Um, Servo, we’re not supposed to know what that looks like.”

  12. GayPuppy says:

    As much as I love Mike, Joel was my first (host of the show I mean).

    Cave Dwellers is one of my all time favs.
    “How much Keeffe?”
    “Miles O’Keeffe!”

    I was in middle school when I discovered MST3K and at that age being different is a harrowing time. Musical tastes are one of the unifying bonds of youth and I was the social leper. In a time of C&C Music Factories tainted with Poison I found solace in the arms of Queen and her Talking Heads (see what I did there?). Seriously though, it sucked. While watching MST3K one night A single quip earned my love an adoration.

    Actor on screen, “This ain’t no party…”
    Joel and the bots, “This ain’t no disco, this ain’t no foolin’ around!”

    Someone else out in the world knew the lyrics to “Life in Wartime”. All at once, my hope in humanity had returned. There were people out there who shared one of my interests and they were clever and they were funny and they were smart.

    Thank you MST3k for helping me get through the inhumane nightmare that is adolescence.

  13. Kyle says:

    I always love this show, I watch episodes all the time. The songs always made it so great, from Nummy Muffin Co-Co Butter, to the Gamera song, to the Greatest Frank of All, to a Patrick Swayze Christmas they are all fantastic in their own ways.

    Overall I have to say my favorite episode was Hobgoblins though, just such a ridiculous movie made it perfect to rip apart.

  14. Bonnie says:

    This show is a family favorite.

    On Saturday mornings, mom would wake us up, make a great big breakfast, and we’d sit and eat while watching MST3K. Best Saturday mornings ever.

    Looking back, it explains so much about my brothers and I now…

  15. Jennifer says:


  16. Andy says:

    @ Jennifer

    that would be Invasion of the Neptune People. The movie with the Children in Disturbing tiny shorts.

    Crow: Where’d that guy who was flying around go…Space Chef?
    Mike: Chief.
    Crow: Chief Chef?

  17. Hannah says:

    MST3K is one of the most hilarious shows to ever grace the television. It’s one of the reasons I love shows like The Soup and Web Soup so much, because it gives me that same feeling. Luckily I don’t have to completely go without it because I have one of the boxed set’s but I still dream of the day when someone(say Chris Hardwick remakes the show). But at least for now we have Rifftrax.
    And as far as the whole Joel and Chris thing, I love Joel but Chris will always win in my book.

  18. Elizabeth says:

    i just read the comment about crackers and imagining it made me crack up. the only ep i can remember had some sort of rainbow colored upside down triangle, dubbed the amazing technicolor cheese wedge. i think it was the same movie where girl threw a tissue in the trash can, which promptly exploded, causing the cast to exclaim “exploding boogers!!”. i would totally watch these on dvd.

  19. Chris says:

    Watch out for snakes!

  20. Shannon says:

    My sister and I rented MST3k on a whim one day. Back when you could still rent VHS. We took home a Pod People and never looked back. It’s still by far our favorite but we love renting new movies/episodes as they come out.

    I have friends who hate it or just don’t understand why it’s funny. I think you need to pay attention to the details to get the humor. It also helps to have some general trivia and pop culture reference stored in your brain.

  21. Diane says:

    Seen and loved them all. Yes I too had the orange fan card. I have to admit I was a bigger fan of joel, tv frank and trace b. Have gone to riff trax Xmas thing, but am really looking forward to Cinematic Titantic coming into Boston in October. They have films on their website,am ordering tiki island. Great reviews can’t wait to see something new from the team!

  22. Cynthia Daigle says:

    I read somewhere that “Rock n Roll Nightmare” was an episode but I’ve never been able to find it. Satan throwing rubber demon starfish! That has to get my vote.

  23. Patrick says:

    This is the song written for the train chase!
    This is the song Rocky and Ken…
    He tried to kill me with a forklift!

  24. daniel says:

    I started watch MST3K with my parents when it first started airing on The Comedy Channel. Pretty soon we started taping all of the episodes as they came on. “Cave Dwellers” is by far my favorite. In high school I would have my friends watch that episode to introduce them to the show.

    “How much Keeffe is in this movie? Miles O’Keeffe!”

  25. Cobalt says:

    Manos. The sheer ineptitude of the filmmaking may have made it an easy target but it was so richly deserved.

  26. John says:

    Forgot to mention “Dinner Date with Your Family” – my favorite short of all time, even justbarelyslightly more so than the glorious “Mr. B Natural”

  27. barabbas says:

    Let’s watch the kids go to their fates, they are walking in the woods, they won’t be found for several days, Cornjob will be blamed…

  28. Chris O says:

    Loved all of them and enjoyed Mike just as much as Joel. The skits on the Sci-Fi days were not as good as the Joel skits, but the movies were just as bad and the comedy just as great.

  29. the_nether says:

    Hearts poundin!
    – Mitchell!
    Veins cloggin’
    – Mitchell!
    Eye on the saaa-mich!

  30. Jennifer says:

    Oh, does anyone know the name of the MST3K episode where the movie had a exploding hotel with Hitler on it? I saw it on a rerun, and haven’t seen it ever again.

    pretty sure it took place in Japan…may or may not have been in black and white…and some aliens in it.

  31. Mal says:

    This is one of those rare shows where I probably missed out on something fun in not having seen it while it was on TV. And my fellow overachieving millennials are not the “tape trading” types. So that’s two strikes. BUT I still love it and hope to catch up over the next couple years.

    And for a favorite: Tormented.

  32. Andrea says:

    I died laughing when…was it Manos?…the music was a snare drum to build suspense and then Crow and Tom Servo started humming “Bolero”.

    The creepy Santa is a good one. “Pop o matic pops the dice!”

    “Gamera is really neat! Gamera is filled with meat! We all love Gameraaaaa!”

  33. Ethan Caine says:

    I saw a torrent with all the MST3K a while back…it was like 50GIGS but was still seeded so not all is lost.

  34. Stevie says:

    When I first heard of it, it was in the first Comedy Central season (Ha! had just merged with the Comedy Channel). i was around 25 & still living with my parents. it was on at midnight, i had decided to tape it to see if it was any good, & i watched it in the basement at the same time. the next morning, my mom asked “what were you laughing like a hysterical idiot at all night?” the episode was The Sidehackers, which has remained my all-time favorite.
    I’m enough of a dork that the premise means something to me, & i never could watch the post-Joel eps with the same adoration. other fans get mad when i say that, but it’s the truth. at least now there’s Cinematic Titanic, which is terrific. The genius of MST3K is that the idea of a show that would put on these old cheesy movies could only appeal to a select type of geek because the movies get unbearably dull. they found a way to make them watchable & fun. brilliant.

  35. Bill says:

    Space Mutiny is a good beginner episode for people who haven’t seen it before and want to get a feel for it.

    Manos: The Hand of Fate was a tough one to get through without killing yourself.

    Werewolf, Riding with Death, Pod People, Prince of Space, Boggy Creek 2, Death Stalker and the Warriors from Hell, and Jack Frost are some of my favorites.

    I’ve always thought Mike was funnier than Joel.

  36. Chris says:

    I would absolutely pay $$ to see Adam carolla and chris hardwick or Joel Mchale remake and modernize this show with movies like point break and rocky IV! They could even have guests like Jimmy kümmel or bill Simmons to add a fresh perspective. WHY HASN’T THIS BEEN DONE YET PEOPLE!!! Hollywood get on this.

  37. Glenna says:

    I still have my amazing colossal episode guide to MST3K! I too loved both Joel and Mike, but Mike a wee bit more. My favorite “intermission” skit was the jazz song about the Godzilla family tree.


  38. Jacqui says:

    My favorite running gag in mst3k is when they take a minor piece of dialogue and relentlessly taunt it back to the movie. My favorite example was early on in the Increadble Melting Man the protagnists akwardly asks his wife why there’s no crackers left in the pantry. For the rest of the movie Mike and the Bots kept yelling out to other charactors where there are or where thesun charactor my find crackers. It was great!

  39. Andy says:

    I’ve always liked Mike a little more than Joel but love them both. MST3K Is my favorite TV show ever and my brother and I will still quote it from time to time.

    My favorite episodes are definitely Space Mutiny, SOUUUUULTAKER and Pod People.

    Also Red Zone Cuba is a fantastic episode and is in my opinion the WORST Movie ever made. Worse than Manos. Or Plan 9.

  40. elise says:

    I went to the movie theater to see Rifftrax live Plan 9 From Outer Space, and I’ve never laughed so hard in my life! It was the most fun Ive ever had at the movies, and the theater was packed.

    “I see no reason to have any kind of reaction…”

    AHH! so good.

  41. Julia says:

    I watched it back when it was on The Comedy Channel, as I lived in the market where they were testing it and Ha! Later they merged both of them to become the Comedy Central we know today.

    I have almost all of the first season on TCC on video. I think I’m missing one ep, possibly because I didn’t like it, possibly because I ran out of tape. It’s been a while!

    Not much can surpass the early eps for me. Robot Holocaust (as someone mentioned above), The Crawling Eye, Robot Monster, The Crawling Hand, Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy.

    To give credit, there’s a lot of later eps that are great – Manos, Santa Claus vs. the Martians, Mitchell (saw that up at Harvard, they had a pre-screening show), Secret Agent Super Dragon, etc. But the first eps I saw will always hold a dear place in my heart.

    MST#1379 (yes, I still have the orange membership card I had to cut out and laminate on my own, and write in my own MST number)