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Review: Rifftrax's MST3K reunion brings the laughs

As a longtime Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan, I was possibly more excited than was even necessary about the Rifftrax Live event last night, a MST3K reunion featuring Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Mary Jo Pehl, Bridget Nelson and the host of the upcoming MST3K revival, Jonah Ray. They joined Rifftrax stalwarts Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett for an evening of riffing on shorts that had the theater I attended in Norman, OK, howling in laughter. 

The Oklahoman's Brandy McDonnell talked to the cast prior to the event, and you can read her article at BAM's Blog.

In case you're unfamiliar, Rifftrax is a series of commentaries on movies, TV and short films sold primarily at Rifftrax.com.  It celebrated its 10th anniversary with this live show. The principals of Rifftrax -- Nelson, Murphy and Corbett -- were veterans of the TV program "Mystery Science Theater 3000," which featured a hapless host and his robot friends providing humorous commentaries on films while trapped in a spacecraft. (The spacecraft, called the 'Satellite of Love,' did not always behave in a manner consistent with a satellite, but as the show's theme song indicates, it's best to relax about such quirks.)  The show ran from 1988 to 1999 and was originally created and hosted by Joel Hodgson. 

For last evening's event, many of the MST3K stars came together for a night of riffing, primarily of educational short films dating from the 1950s to the 1970s.  The "Shake Hands with Danger" short and commentary was worth the price of admission alone.

“For someone who has a limited attention span, that is kind of a perfect unit for my wandering mind,” Corbett said at BAM's Blog. “They're like little archaeological digs to mid-20th-century America. … I think they are really micro-managed aspects of life. As well-intentioned as they were, they really dig in and they're fun because exactly that: They're good fodder because they take themselves seriously.”

The show concluded with a "Super-Riff-A-Palooza," or "all skate" with all the riffers taking aim at the George Reeves educational(ish) short, "Stamp Day for Superman," and sticking around for an encore of sorts with another "educational" short on grass, literal grass, that was just amazing that it was ever made.   The jokes were rapid-fire, and it didn't seem anyone had lost a step.   Seeing Mike and Joel on stage together was both surreal and awesome, and as an old-time fan I enjoyed it a lot.  Though it's been 17 years since the show ended, this reunion event showed the talent that made it one of the funniest things on TV at the time, and even still today.  At the end of the two hours, it felt like very little time had passed.

A rebroadcast is set for July 12 in theaters, and I recommend old-school MST fans and more recent converts check it out.  More information at fathomevents.com. Meanwhile, there's more to come: Rifftrax has a riff of "Mothra" planned for August; Conniff and Beaulieu are traveling the country doing live riffs; and Hodgson and Ray are involved with the new "MST3K" revival, which recently became Kickstarter's most funded project ever, to the tune of about $5.7 million.

According to the BAM's Blog article, Hodgson announced last month that former “Daily Show” scribe Elliott Kalan will be the reboot’s head writer. Along with Ray, Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt have been cast for the new “MST3K,” and Jerry Seinfeld, Joel McHale and Mark Hamill have agreed to do cameos.

Getting ready to enter the theater for Rifftrax Live: MST3K Reunion. Photo by Matthew Price
Getting ready to enter the theater for Rifftrax Live: MST3K Reunion. Photo by Matthew Price

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Getting ready to enter the theater for Rifftrax Live: MST3K Reunion. Photo by Matthew Price

Getting ready to enter the theater for Rifftrax Live: MST3K Reunion. Photo by Matthew Price

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-d7e19dc6eeeb1caec92426cf738c8a6a.jpg" alt="Photo - Getting ready to enter the theater for Rifftrax Live: MST3K Reunion. Photo by Matthew Price" title="Getting ready to enter the theater for Rifftrax Live: MST3K Reunion. Photo by Matthew Price"><figcaption>Getting ready to enter the theater for Rifftrax Live: MST3K Reunion. Photo by Matthew Price</figcaption></figure>
Matthew Price

Features Editor Matthew Price has worked for The Oklahoman since 2000. He’s a University of Oklahoma graduate who has also worked at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund intern for the Dallas Morning News. He’s... Read more ›

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