Interview: MST3K Fans Rejoice! Joel Hodgson and the Cinematic Titanic Crew to Riff on Five Films at Largo
As host and creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K), Joel Hodgson and his robot friends shaped the collective sense of humor of a generation. By coaxing jokes out of truly cheesy movies—and mixing in pop culture references for good measure—they turned movie riffing into an art form and earned a cult following, two Emmy nominations and a Peabody Award.
In the years since Hodgson's departure from the show in 1993 and the show's cancellation in 1999, rumors of his return to riffing have continued to surface. Then in 2007, like a phoenix rising from the ashes of dreadful B-movies, Hodgson and members of the original MST3K team (Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, J. Elvis Weinstein and Mary Jo Pehl) returned to the riffing game under the name Cinematic Titanic.
Thus far, they've released seven DVDs and expanded into one area MST3K never did: On a regular basis, the Cinematic Titanic team takes to the road. Later this month, they will take over Largo at the Coronet to riff on five films in five nights. LAist spoke with Hodgson last week to learn about modern-day movie riffing, his early experiences as a prop comic in LA, and the importance of comfortable shoes.
LAist: What has Cinematic Titanic enabled you to do that you weren't able to do in the past?
Joel Hodgson: The live element is definitely something that sets this apart when you compare it with MST3K. When we go on the road, it's more like a funny Philip Glass concert. We're performing as an ensemble.
When we wrote MST3K, we were really just amusing ourselves and we never knew how people would react. Now we can get instant feedback, and that can be a good thing and a bad thing. If it's going well, then it's great, but if it's not working, we end up thinking about it way more than we ever did when we were doing the show. There's a little more heat on it, too. It's not like people are just sitting at home watching it—they're coming out, buying dinner, and purchasing tickets, so there's a little more pressure.