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Essay in L.A. Review of Books

Ian Williams has an essay in the L.A. Review of Books, of all places, about the show, and how it “saved my life, at least twice.”

The cast has said that they’ve received hundreds, maybe thousands of letters along the same line: “I was in the hospital desperately ill/a loved one was desperately ill/a loved one died/a crisis overtook my life/etc. etc. and MST3K saved me and helped me feel normal again.” It’s a great legacy.

18 Replies to “Essay in L.A. Review of Books”

  1. Bookworm says:

    I thanked ’em in the acknowledgements section of my master’s thesis. *grin*

       12 likes

  2. Mr.Shemp says:

    Yeah, I’m not sure what it is chemically about the show, but it pulled me through at least 2 bouts of severe depression. And after a major life upheaval, it was the only way my wife could drift off to sleep for almost a year. Somebody should do a doctoral thesis on it – they would have oodles of case studies.

    …and apparently you agreed, Bookworm. I would LOVE to read it. :)

       16 likes

  3. Into The Void says:

    Wow…a very familiar tale. Thanks for sharing, Ian.

    Here’s mine…

    My wife (then girlfriend) and I got our first apartment in the early ’90s, which was when we stumbled on to MST. I was a “floor tech” on the maintenance crew at a very small, upper mid west liberal arts college (that means I was a janitor, but only did stripping/waxing floors, shampooing carpets, tons of HEAVY furniture moving over summer breaks, etc)

    We married in ’96–had to miss Expo-con 2 Electric Boogaloo, as it was in Aug or Sept, and we married Oct 12th. Money was too tight for both.

    By the end of the decade we’d decided to have our first child, and in that SAME week of getting the good news that my wife was indeed finally pregnant (we’d tried for close to a yr, and I’m a heavy, lifelong pot smoker, so we were just getting ready to begin The Tests to determine which one of us may or may not have issues complicating the matter) I had a very similar experience as Ian’s after Chinese takeouts new yr’s eve. Lower and upper GI tests (isn’t drinking the gallons of the industrial evac orange drink FUN?!)revealed inflammation in the colon, and I began taking meds for Crohn’s.

    I’m 6 ft 2, and at that time was around 210-220 lbs (I’m a drummer, and had always worked manual labor jobs, on my feet all day) and at my worst, had diminished to 160 lbs. I can relate to his story…hell, I got to the point where I’d double a pillow over and sleep sitting on the toilet. Missed tons of work. Many at the college assumed I had some form of caner since I was gaunt and swimming in my clothes in such short time. And for 3 LONG(!) yrs, that’s how life went – I ate sparsely, and got through the bad flare-ups as best I could.

    Toward the end of those 3 yrs, I fell out of one of our work trucks on graduation day at the college, shattering my tibia plateau in my left leg. Rushed to ER, surgeon tells me and my family I may never walk again…had I been older, they would’ve given me a total knee replacement, but given I was in my early 30s, that would’ve meant several subsequent replacements throughout my life. So that was 3 surgeries, and crutches from May to around Halloween 2001. However, toward the end of that dilemma, I go through another hellish round of intestinal distress. I demand a different gastroenterologist, and the first test he orders is the barium one where they watch it travel through your digestive system. Lo n behold, the culprit is found!!! …

    Several yrs prior, I had another worker’s comp injury, a hernia. Well, what had happened was, 5 feet of my small intestine was strangled by scar tissue from the prior hernia surgery.

    So, in short, I got lucky. My dire stomach troubles had a direct cause and effect problem that was easily fixed. No Crohn’s disease.

    However, throughout all of those dark times–that admittedly still held many good times for my little family–MST3K was a constant companion that provided levity and comfort when I was in great pain, and ultimately doubtful about how worthwhile a future I had at all.

       18 likes

  4. Bookworm says:

    Mr.Shemp:
    Yeah, I’m not sure what it is chemically about the show, but it pulled me through at least 2 bouts of severe depression. And after a major life upheaval, it was the only way my wife could drift off to sleep for almost a year. Somebody should do a doctoral thesis on it – they would have oodles of case studies.

    …and apparently you agreed, Bookworm. I would LOVE to read it.

    Well, the thesis itself was in planetary science – not really earth-shattering, so to speak. *grin* But in the acknowledgement section, I thanked my mom for fostering my love of reading, my dad for fostering my love of science, and MST3K for helping me keep my sense of humor.

       5 likes

  5. Method53 says:

    Bookworm:
    I thanked ’em in the acknowledgements section of my master’s thesis. *grin*

    Me too.

       3 likes

  6. Tim S. Turner says:

    MST3K was the one thing that could calm down my grandmother when she was suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s. She’d laugh and clap and smile the entire show. I’m so glad that it brought her some joy in her final days which were spent mostly in fear. MST3K will always have a special place in my heart for that reason. Well, that and it’s been my favorite show for 26 years.

       20 likes

  7. Jay says:

    I can happily report that the show was never put to the test as a life saving device for me, thank goodness, but it served as a teaching tool on more then one occasion. Example –

    Human Anatomy – “When I Held Your Brain In My Arms”. Music is a great avenue to memory. Who among us MSTies does not know about the fissures of rolando now? Ha!

    Thank you, Brains, from the bottom of my ventricles! — Jay

       6 likes

  8. Ramzy Darwish says:

    I’ve also gotten through difficult times in life with the help of MST3K. My younger brother and I loved the show growing up in the 90s, but, unfortunately, he took his own life in 1999.

    Watching the show kind of makes me feel close to him, “spiritually,” and I still celebrate Turkey Day as a way to honor my memory of him.

    And more recently, I had to put my dog down, and I’ve been watching MST3K literally exclusively since the day this happened. I think that, subconsciously, I am kind of using it to help me get through this, and when I’ve kind of had my fill of the show, I think the worst of the sadness will be behind me…hopefully :-)

    I think one of the biggest reasons the show is so affecting is that it’s just out to make you laugh. Even when there are teensy, tiny bits of “politics” in their jokes or sketches, I still feel that the true intention is to make you laugh, not to inform or influence. There are few shows like that. Most shows try to “say something” or push a certain morality/ideology, even if it’s not totally smashed in your face. MST3K is so inherently goofy/silly that it’s impossible to not crack a smile. I feel like you can escape from all of the stressors of the modern world by engaging in the show, and just letting yourself enjoy it.

       17 likes

  9. mst3ktemple says:

    It’s amazing how many of us “found” MST during a rough stretch in our lives. I think for me it was the feeling that someone got my sense of humor really helped me feel like I wasn’t alone. Plus the fact that they told the jokes I only dreamed I was clever enough to come up with. Even the communal idea of being in a theater was important to me. I hope that everyone associated with MST understands how vast the impact is that they have had on peoples lives.

       17 likes

  10. Ro-man says:

    Great stories, everyone. As for me, my wife has had some tough health issues over the years that have put a lot of strain on me and my family from time to time. MST3K has for me been my go-to stress relief; even taking just a few minutes out to catch some time with Joel/Mike and the ‘bots really helps lighten my spirits.


    … Hey, maybe it’s really NOT “just a show”…?!?

       16 likes

  11. gary bowden says:

    They say that laughter is the best medicine and watching MST3K no matter how you feel or what mood you’re in is the only remedy.There were times where I was down and MST3K pulled me through.I could spend nearly 2 hours with these people on the screen whose sole purpose was to make me laugh,to entertain me and they never failed.

       3 likes

  12. Manny Sanguillen says:

    Those are great stories. I know that MST3K & Rifftrax & Cinematic Titanic have effectively nursed me back to health and back to a good state of mind more times than I know. I would include my first real opening up to the show and falling in love with it, and subsequently driving all over town renting every copy of Rhino MST3K tapes from every Blockbuster.
    Than came hooking up with tape traders on the internet, and eventually getting every episode on VHS. My actual internet learning coincided with my discovery of the show, so Satellite News was my first homepage on my Windows 95 PC.

       2 likes

  13. crowschmo says:

    There’s just something about this show that draws people in. It just lets you laugh when you’re feeling down and lifts you up. It’s like a bunch of friends coming over to watch some flicks and crack wise. :-)

       3 likes

  14. Jeff says:

    I got to tell Joel this at a live CT show. He asked me to elaborate but I didn’t want to lay it on him. It was enough for me to let him know. Nice guy. Oh, and the specific episode that did it was Tormented. Go figure. (told him that, too)

       1 likes

  15. Chris Beiting says:

    I can’t say that the show ever got me through anything life-threatening, but I first encountered it when I was overseas in graduate school. My brother worked as a video production tech, so he could convert an American-format TV show into a videotape I could view on a British player. I found the show always a comfort whenever I was depressed (which, in grad school, in England happened a lot).

    To this day, the end title theme always sounds mournful and melancholy to me. I guess I still associate it with the fun being over, and having to go back to my ordinary life.

       1 likes

  16. Penny G says:

    I have lost track of how many times MST3K and even Riff Trax, Cinematic Titanic and/or any of the incarnations have helped me through much of my more difficult times in life including, loss of very close loved ones, divorce, or just having general blues from juggling overwhelming events.
    But on a happier note, I also heavily related the shows during happier times especially the ritual my daughter and started back in 1991 and still do to this very day of bonding and just enjoying the shows as our way of resetting after the week’s events.

    At #14:
    I totally can relate to you Jeff. I was blessed to have had the chance to express my appreciation to almost the whole crew at Dragon Con 2010 in Atlanta. Unfortunately Mike and Bridget weren’t there but it was an event I would have missed out on if it weren’t for my daughter insisting I go with her.
    As I said to all in attendance ” This dream of seeing you all was 19 years in the making. Thanks so much for what you do”

       2 likes

  17. trickymutha says:

    He won the essay contest.

       1 likes

  18. KidFlash says:

    Chris Beiting:
    I can’t say that the show ever got me through anything life-threatening, but I first encountered it when I was overseas in graduate school.My brother worked as a video production tech, so he could convert an American-format TV show into a videotape I could view on a British player.I found the show always a comfort whenever I was depressed (which, in grad school, in England happened a lot).

    To this day, the end title theme always sounds mournful and melancholy to me.I guess I still associate it with the fun being over, and having to go back to my ordinary life.

    I reconnected with the show thanks to YouTube while overseas in South London for grad school. Can’t say I was depressed, but by the time the course was done, I was homesick, for what that’s worth.

    Reading these stories makes me feel good and glad to be a fan of the show and its spinoffs. Thanks for sharing, everyone.

       1 likes

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