There are certain things that just don’t work on the stage, (like “Spider Man” or Dane Cook). So I was feeling a bit of trepidation as I sat in Campbell Hall, waiting for my heroes of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” (“MST3K”) to bring their movie-riffing shtick from the television screen to the stage.
For those who are not familiar with “MST3K,” the idea of the group’s “Cinematic Titantic” tour is to take an utterly terrible film and rip it to pieces with humor; but this time, they’d be doing it live.
But would it work as well live?
Would the rapid-fire joke-making pace continue without breaks or interruptions?
Would the cast be as funny now as they were when they were younger?
I am happy to report that the answer to all those questions is an unequivocal “yes.”
Before the actual show — which was sponsored by Arts & Lectures — the original Tom Servo (when “MST3K” was still on KTMA), J. Elvis Weinstein did an enjoyable stand-up routine.
The rest of the cast performed afterwards with their own pieces. Mary Jo Pehl (who played Pearl Forrester, a “MST3K” villian) read a snippet of her book. Frank Conniff (TV’s Frank) did some stand-up of his own, including a great joke about historical tweets from people like Abraham Lincoln, which received a lot of appreciative audience laughter.
Joel (creator of “MST3K”) did a magic trick involving a ripped-up newspaper (you had to be there). Trace Beaulieu (the original Crow) read from his children’s book. One memorable moment was when the audience thanked him by singing him a jubilant “Happy Birthday.”
The actors chose to riff “The Doomsday Machine.” This terrible ’60s sci-fi film is about a crew of four men and three women (much to the chagrin of the chauvinistic captain) being sent on a space expedition to Venus as the Earth is destroyed by a secret Chinese super-weapon.
The movie is special, as Joel points out at the introduction, because it was 90 percent completed before producing the ending years later with a completely different group of actors. The change is indeed jarring.
The riffs were hilarious. The cast did not skip a beat. They talked about the lame production values (“pick a ship model and stick with it!”) and the sexist attitude the movie professed (When a male character tells a woman she is “more beautiful without her glasses” the riffers counter with, “And you’re a sexy … blob”).
They also tackled the unfunny comic relief present in the film (“That wasn’t funny … cut away before anyone notices!”).
The movie was rife with gaffes, plot holes and terrible acting, which made the jokes about it even better.
All-in-all, it was a great time, and I’m glad the cast members and writers of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” have found steady work.
As a long-time fan, I look forward to more “Cinematic Titanic” in the years to come.