It’s been over twenty-five years since a man named Joel Robinson was first shot into space and forced to watch terrible movies by the evil Dr. Forrester. The show was called Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K for short) and that first episode led to ten seasons and a devoted following of fans and soon, a Kickstarter-backed reboot. Following the end of the series’ run in 1999, the show’s alumni created several spinoff projects such as Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic. But on June 28, the (almost) entire roster of past and present MST3K cast members are getting together for a special reunion show hosted by Rifftrax, to be broadcast live in theaters across the country.
To help celebrate the upcoming event, several of the veterans got together to answer a few questions
last week: Trace Beaulieu, the original voice of Crow T. Robot on MST3K and a member of Cinematic
Titanic; Bill Corbett, the second voice of Crow and now a core member of Rifftrax; Kevin Murphy, the
(technically second) voice of Tom Servo and another member of Rifftrax; and Jonah Ray, the man who
won the right to be constantly compared to his predecessors as the new host of MST3K.
The reunion is a long-awaited event for fans. “It’s actually easier because we all live in the same town,
almost,” says Corbett. “But I still demanded to be flown in to Minneapolis from Minneapolis,” Beaulieu
When asked about MST3K’s legacy upon how people watch movies (particularly bad movies), Murphy
points out that what they’re doing goes back at least as far as the Bard himself.
“I think the first time I saw this happen was in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, when they’re doing
[Pyramus and Thisbe] and the King’s court are all mocking it, and making comments right back to the
stage. So, what we do is certainly not anything new. But I think we’re some of the few people that
actually make a living off it, and that’s kind of nice.”
“I would just say Kevin’s right. Shakespeare started it, but we’re better than Shakespeare,” Corbett adds.
For Ray, the idea that he’s the new host of MST3K still hasn’t quite sunken in. “This is all still very surreal to me, [being alongside] these guys that have shaped my sense of humor. […] The way I joke around my friends and the way I like to write jokes and the comedic stuff I do, it’s all really based off of the rhythm that I learned from watching Mystery Science Theater.” He compares the original cast members to grunge rock pioneers Nirvana, prompting Murphy to note, “I’m not killing myself for you, Ray.”
In the new season, Crow and Tom Servo will be voiced by MST3K newcomers Hampton Yount and Baron Vaughn, respectively. How will the robots, Crow and Tom Servo, respond to Jonah’s arrival?
“They’re going to despise me. They don’t want me around. I’m kind of gregarious and I’d like to be
friends with them because I’m the new guy and they just aren’t having it. They like the old guys better
and that essentially will mirror what the general public might feel.”
Many of the cast members have been writing or performing riffs for nearly thirty years. Given the
barrage of pop culture references in any given episode of MST3K or Rifftrax, evolving with the times can be challenging. “I’m old now, so I can’t keep up with the current culture, so I really heavily depend on our younger writers to know what the hell is going on,” says Murphy.
Another quirk of contemporary culture is that social media has made it easier for the cast to hear from
the creators behind the films they mock. The cast and crew of the 1997 MST3K episode Time Chasers
famously had a party to watch the episode premiere and, according to legend, the party was a bit of a
downer. Now Rifftrax is doing a live show riffing on Time Chasers once again.
“I think some of the Time Chasers’ guys are actually coming to Nashville to watch the show in the
theater,” says Murphy. “And that sort of terrifies me, because we’re unkind to them. I mean, the bottom
line is the movie’s really dumb and it hasn’t gotten any better with the years. So, we’re not going to be
any less kind to the film, just because they’re there. So, it is an odd thing when people do that, and I
think it’s probably going to become more common because with new technology and digital filmmaking, it’s easier than ever to make a really crappy film.”
The cast recognized that both the reunion show and the return of MST3K are due to the direct support
of their fans. “If the Kickstarter taught me anything is that people are willing to […] invest and are pretty
confident they’ll get their money’s worth back out of whatever it is we do, whether it’s the new Mystery
Science Theater or whether it’s RiffTrax,” says Murphy. “And so in a way, it feels like a bit of an
obligation, but it’s also, for me, motivation just to make our stuff the funniest it can possibly be.”
Catch the encore showing of RiffTrax Live 2016: Time Chasers on May 17th, with tickets available here. The Rifftrax Reunion will be broadcast live in theaters on June 28, with an encore showing on July 12. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.rifftrax.com/live. The new season of MST3K is set to debut sometime this summer.