Joel Hodgson is the creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000, which aired on Comedy Central, and later the Sci-Fi Channel, from 1988 to 1999. The show saw Hodgson and two robot puppet friends silhouetted against a movie screen, riffing on B-movies. Hodgson stepped down from the show's lead role in 1993, but it remained a cult classic. Hodgson is now on the road doing a live show called Joel Hodgson Live: Riffing Myself, which comes to the Loft Cinema at 7 p.m., Saturday, April 6. Tickets are $20, or $18 for Loft members. A VIP ticket that includes a meet-and-greet with Hodgson is $45, or $43 for Loft members. For more information, call 795-7777, or visit loftcinema.com.
It's been 20 years since you were on MST3K. What have you been doing since then?
Well, the last six years I've been doing Cinematic Titanic, which is like a live version of Mystery Science Theater. So we've done 100 live shows and put out 12 DVDs over the last six years. Lately, I've been doing my live show, and prior to that I worked in Hollywood.
What do you think made MST3K into the cult classic it became? It was out nearly a decade before shows like South Park premiered.
I think it's just real simple. People like to say stuff during movies. When everybody watches a movie, they want that experience where they're kind of taken away by the movie. But if that doesn't work, for whatever reason, you might start saying stuff about the movie. I think everybody does that, so I think everybody relates to that.
Now you're out on the road "riffing yourself," as you like to say. What was your inspiration to come out and share those stories from the show?
It's just from doing interviews. I bet you I've done 200 interviews in the last six years and it's kind of like, you know, people ask questions. They want to know about the past, they want to know about the history of Mystery Science Theater. I started to realize there were so many things that, you know, kind of got uncovered and got me thinking about it. People frequently asked questions on a website. These are, like, "infrequent answers to frequently asked questions," stuff I can't really cover in an interview like this. Things that are more in-depth. It's really about the origin story of how Mystery Science Theater was created. It's such a unique show, there wasn't anything like it prior, and so I kind of tell the recipe. I explain the formula and how I got to it.
What's the audience like at one of these live shows? Is it more of the middle-aged crowd who watched you as teenagers or young adults? Are you seeing that younger people are finding you on Netflix and coming to see you live?
It all depends on the venue, you know. It's really interesting; it's never really the same, and some venues are used to having a lot of young people, and they just hear about it and come. But it's pretty mixed. It's a lot of college-age students who have found it. It's kind of like, if you're a comedy nerd, you have to know about Mystery Science Theater—it's kind of in the family tree of American comedy, and so anybody who knows about comedy knows about it.
Can you think of any current B-movie you'd like to riff on?
Yeah, sure. I think Olympus Has Fallen seems like it'd be really funny to riff.
What about a movie makes it "riffable"?
You can do it with any movie. For me, personally, I'm like a bacteria and I don't eat things that are alive. I don't really riff on new movies. People have a lot of hope for movies. We've had movies for over, like, 100 years in our culture and it's kind of like people really need movies, and they are always hopeful until they get the word that they're not any good. So I don't really riff on current movies. I tend to riff on movies that are forgotten or movies that people don't care about. Those are the movies that I like to riff on. It's too cynical to riff on any movie.
It says here in the press release that you'll sign whatever the attendees bring. Are you really willing to sign anything?
No. I think that was something that was just put in there; I don't know what that means exactly. Are there certain things I wouldn't sign? Absolutely. It should say that I'll sign anything that's clean and has a smooth surface.