One of the semi-regular excuses for my wife and I to get out to the theater is for Rifftrax Live. We have both been fans of MST3K/Rifftrax/etc for years (decades? Am I that old?). We try to make it to each one if possible, and the MST3K Reunion show was certainly not going to be any different. So, last Tuesday night we headed out to catch this event, and boy was it an event.
It is no surprise to anyone that I watch most movies at home. However, once in a while, my wife and I head out to the local theater for the time-honored tradition of seeing a film in theaters. Sure, it means shelling out a $25-35 in tickets for the two of us and a chunk of change on some concessions, but we enjoy doing this from time to time. These nights are our Silver Screen Strolls.
This week, we went out to a the showing of Rifftrax Live: MST3K Reunion. This Rifftrax Live was very special as it was celebrating 10 years of Rifftrax. To celebrate this, the Rifftrax crew went back to where it all started, Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K). The three guys who bring us the gut-busting jokes at each Rifftrax Live first worked together on the set of MST3K. As writers and on-screen talents, Michael J. Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy developed a chemistry together that fans would come to love.
After MST3K ended, the three were briefly The Film Crew and eventually became Rifftrax. In addition to these three, Bridget Nelson and Mary Jo Pehl are also making fans guffaw working for Rifftrax. Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff are currently touring together as The Mads. Joel Hodgson, the creator and original test subject of MST3K, has since been the man behind Cinematic Titanic, and most recently Kickstarted the production of a new MST3K. And that brings us to the diaper dandy of the bunch, Jonah Ray. He is a host of the Nerdist podcast and Comedy Central’s The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail. Jonah will soon be the host on the upcoming MST3K revival show.
All together, we have the principle cast of MST3K, as well as the upcoming host of the new show. This is a better collection of riffing talent than anyone could have predicted. As someone who didn’t see much of MST3K when it was originally on TV, this was a welcome opportunity to see so much of the cast together. I got to see so much more talent work and play off each other than I see in most Rifftrax Live events.
Unlike most Rifftrax Live showings, this one was all about shorts instead of a feature length presentations. For each short, our normal Rifftrax Live crew introduced the team and had a few words with them. I had a great time with all of these riffs.
The shorts and teams of the night were:
- Talking Cars – Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett (Rifftrax Live Crew)
- A Word to the Wives – Bridget Nelson and Mary Jo Pehl (Rifftrax)
- More Dates for Kay – Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff (The Mads)
- Barbers and Beauticians – Joel Hodgson and Jonah Ray (Producer and host of the upcoming MST3K revival)
- Best of Rifftrax – Clips of some of the best Rifftrax moments
- Shake Hands With Danger – Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett (Rifftrax Live Crew)
- Segment thanking the Rifftrax employees, bringing the head writers on stage.
- Riff-a-palooza: Stamp Day for Superman – The whole crew!
- Riff-a-palooza Encor: At Your Fingertips: Grass – The whole crew, again!
I’m probably going to be in the minority here, but I felt that the first was least funny of the night. Talking Cars was a safety video where a young kid runs into the street without looking and is almost hit by a car. That night, he has a dream where talking cars test him on safety rules for crossing the road.
I loved Bridget and Mary Jo’s riff on A Word to the Wives. They were pitch perfect throughout on this commercial for kitchen upgrades. I’ll be searching for the riffs that these two have done now.
More Dates for Kay was ridiculous in its own right as it delivered dating advice for lonely high school girls. Trace and Frank hit home runs left and right on this already terrible video. I want to watch it again.
Joel was very good with Barbers and Beauticians, but I felt Jonah wasn’t as strong in this one. I really felt like this was primarily because he was thrown into the deep end. The man is performing on his first Rifftrax Live alongside all these people who he loves and whose footsteps he will be following in. On top of that, he knows everyone will be evaluating him for the upcoming show. I’m going to cut him some slack on this one because he still showed promise.
I even loved the clip show. I loved the call backs to some clips I remember watching at a Rifftrax Live event. With the main crew back on stage, Shake Hands with Danger was a raucous time with a hilariously bad safety video.
Now the pair of Riff-a-paloozas were very polarizing to me. It honestly felt like there were too many people during the first one. People were trying to get their jokes in, but didn’t seem to have the same working chemistry together as they did in their smaller teamings. While not bad, I didn’t enjoy it the way they as much as earlier riffs.
I had kind of accepted the large group was just too big for the best riffing by the time they finished the first Riff-a-palooza. And then came the second Riff-a-palooza, an assault on At Your Fingertips: Grasses. I’ll admit, I was proven totally wrong. I was absolutely wrong. I thought this riff was hilarious and everyone worked together well. Happily, Jonah had really settled in and delivered solid moments throughout. This finish gave me great hope for him and the MST3K revival. I have great confidence in him as part of the brand. I can’t imagine ending the night on a higher note. Choosing a selection from the Rifftrax favorite series of At Your Fingertips was the perfect choice for the final segment.
All of these segments were a great bit of fun and it was wonderful to see everyone take the stage. I thought bookending the guests with the Rifftrax Live crew was a smart way to do this. Additionally, the banter and small talk that they shared with them in front of the fans really made them feel less like guests and more like part of the show.
I didn’t grow up on MST3K quite like some did, but came to love it and Rifftrax later on. As such, I don’t have the same history with all of the varied members of the crew. Given this, I really appreciated the way they were all brought on the show, and felt like they fit right in with Michael, Kevin and Bill. It really helped me develop a rapport with them before they made me laugh.
I also loved how the Rifftrax Live crew brought the head writers on stage and named each and every one of the company’s employees. This show of recognition for those behind the camera is something that you often don’t see. I thought it was great and it helped me appreciate Rifftrax the company as a whole even more.
I loved this Rifftrax Live show and was really happy I got to see it this week. It very well might be my favorite that they have done. Choosing a set of shorts was a great way to involve everyone and let them shine as their own acts. Granted, riffs aren’t for everyone, but if you know you like riffs, you will like this one. These folks are all very talented at their craft, and they shared the stage well. Additionally, it was a great celebration of the old show.
I’m of course hoping that there will be a blu-ray/dvd release of this event, but it may never happen. However, there will definitely be a download/stream available for it at RiffTrax. I recommend that everyone who enjoys riffs pick it up when available. Since this is the kind of thing that has a set demographic, I’m not going to give it a normal numerical score. I’m rating this one in respect to other riffs. I give this one four and a half slices of Torgo’s pizza out of five.