This June fans of the cult classic Mystery Science Theater 3000 will get to witness the kind of event they have only dreamed of since the show went off the year more than a decade ago. The cast of Rifftrax (Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett) will be joining the original cast of MST3K (Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff and Mary Jo Pehl) as well as newcomer Jonah Ray for a one night only reunion show sure to blow your minds. The event will be simulcast in theaters all over the country on Thursday, June 28, at 8:00 p.m. ET, with a tape-delayed airing for those in MT and PT.
We sat down with the cast of the reunion to talk about how the show came about and their favorite moments over the years.
Q: You’ve been doing this for, like, decades now. How do you think your riffing style has evolved?
Trace Beaulieu: I only riff in French now.
Bill Corbett: Mine hasn’t.
Kevin Murphy: Boy, I don’t know. Probably, well, 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.
Bill Corbett: I only riff for money now.
Trace Beaulieu: Kevin’s jokes are all about the Big Bopper and Chubby Checker. So, you’re a little bit more contemporary than Frank, because Frank was told (Inaudible). He’s still riffing on the 20’s. Joe Besser jokes.
Kevin Murphy: Yes.
Trace Beaulieu: I’ll try to answer semi-seriously. I don’t know that I’m self-conscious enough – well, I’m plenty self-conscious – don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think I’m smart enough to know how it’s changed until after the fact. And I think there’s been some natural, just slight shift in this now that we’re in the characters of ourselves, the middle-aged dudes, as opposed to Crow and Servo, a slight different anyway. Because with Servo and Crow, you could kind of pretend that they just fell out of the turnip truck or the robot factory, whatever, and our mashing together everything, and they can be a little more extreme and violent in their reactions. So, I think it’s just become a little more in our own voice; although, we do play psychopaths pretty convincingly, not quite at puppet level.
Q: So, I understand that as part of the RiffTtrax MST3K reunion special you guys are going to be doing a lot of shorts, a lot of short films. It really harkens back to the classic days of MST. What is it about educational shorts or informational shorts that really kind of resonates with what you do? And what’s the thrill like when you dig up a new one that you see so much potential into, for riffing?
Kevin Murphy: I think I love them because they’re just so – they seem at this point in time to have come from another planet and it’s like Lost or How To Live Your Life that is imposed by creatures from another civilization or another time. So, they also end up sounding very silly and very weird and filled with rules on how you should or should not run your life. And they’re so serious that they’re, like, the perfect straight man for us.
Alex Biese: Definitely, yeah. Trace, Bill, any other thoughts on that?
Trace Beaulieu: I like that they’re short.
Bill Corbett: Yeah. That is no small matter to me. I have to say, for someone who has a limited attention span, that is kind of a perfect unit for my wandering mind. Yeah. Kevin’s right. They’re like little archaeological digs to mid-20th Century America, and they are pretty tight-assed. 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.
Trace Beaulieu: And they’re short.
Q:All right. This is a more general question for Trace and Kevin and Bill. Having been away from the franchise for over a decade and a half, what was it like collaborating with each other once again? And, for Jonah, I’m wondering seeing that you’ve never participated in the previous incarnation and series, do you have any expectations that were met or exceeded? And just, in general, what expectations did all of you have working once again together?
Bill Corbett: It’s going to be rough. I won’t lie to you,
Trace Beaulieu: I don’t think we ever stepped away – we all carried it with us. We all got that DNA on us from the same womb and we’re now carrying it with us into other projects that are all very similar.
Kevin Murphy: It’s true. And it’s funny, when I talked to Trace or Mary Jo or Bridget or Frank or any of the folks involved, there’s a kind of shorthand we have when it comes to actually doing the stuff that we all know. So, I think we haven’t really actually collaborated yet for the show. So, it’s hard to comment. But when we do, I anticipate that it’s going to be kind of easy, because we all know sort of each other beasts and each other’s shorthand.
Bill Corbett: Yeah. So far, we’ve collaborated on a bunch of emails to agree basically.
Trace Beaulieu: And I’m looking forward to seeing what Jonah brings to the whole thing. I’m hoping for food.
Kevin Murphy: That would be great. If he can bring some snacks, that would be great.
Jonah Ray: Yeah. I’m going to be Team Mom; that’s the title I’ve given myself.
Trace Beaulieu: Awesome.
Jonah Ray: Some Chee-Tos.
Trace Beaulieu: And Fritos.
Jonah Ray: Yeah. This is all still very surreal to me, even beyond a phone call with these guys that have – especially shaped my sense of humor. I’ve never had so many – I don’t think anyone has had as many surrogate fathers as me from the Midwest. I find myself – 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. So, it’s going to be really exciting and surreal for me. Also, waking up, just to let you know this is an odd thing for these guys. I’m not sure if you know this, but my most watched movie is The Mystery Science Theater for This Island Earth. I had it on VHS and I watched it all the time. And then, it became one of those things where I knew it so well that I could turn it on and then fall asleep to it because I knew it so well. And so, you guys have put me to sleep more times than my mom. And so, to come, to start, and I’ve riffed on movies and stuff before with friends or shows and stuff like that, but the work that goes into it is now, like, I’m more in awe of all the guys, just because it’s such applause. It’s, like, no one ever told me that the idea, like the whole concept of the show is also what you go through while making the show. And so, you’re really just slogging through these cheese balls and I’m really excited that, even just to get to go to the show in Minneapolis, so it’s very exciting.