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Weekend Discussion Thread: Riffing is Everywhere

Alert reader dakotaboy observes:

These days, riffing is everywhere. From tweets, to podcasts, and many other medium, riffing has become a cultural phenomenon. Which movie, TV show, etc., is the most like MST3K without actually being MST3K? I vote for the 90’s movie Wayne’s World, because the style of humor is much like our favorite show.

What do you think, sirs?

I have a column in my TweetDeck that just lists every tweet that uses the phrase “MST3K.” You might (or if you are a reader of this site, you might not) be amazed at the THOUSANDS of tweets a day that include that word. And a surprising number of them are talking about somebody who commented, or should comment. on something “just like MST3K.”

So in what unusual or something place or setting have you encountered people suddenly bringing up our favorite cowtown puppet show?

37 Replies to “Weekend Discussion Thread: Riffing is Everywhere”

  1. Jay says:

    I live in a MST3K desert for the most part, however I was buying some unusual industrial fasteners from a construction supply house when the clerk said “If you’re like me, and I know I am …”. Instant connection in an odd place!

       10 likes

  2. Kansas says:

    Ric Meyers is a martial arts fan who does commentary tracks for kung fu movies. On one DVD, he was pointing out numerous goofy moments in the plot and said that he felt like he was on MST3K.

       1 likes

  3. hobgoblin says:

    “Tonight, we’re doing coverage of the State of the Union unlike anybody, I think, has done it before. We are doing it as Political Science Theater 2015. A little like Mystery Science Theater 3000, unless you can sue us for that and then it’s completely different” Glenn Beck

       5 likes

  4. John Hanna says:

    An episode of ‘Wander Over Yonder’ titled ‘The Cartoon’, where the main bad guy watches a cartoon he commissioned. It has the silhouetted theater seats and snarky comments.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9c8UEoKrocI

       3 likes

  5. Green Switch says:

    Near the start of the Ocean’s 11 commentary track, Brad Pitt suggests that they make jokes over the movie like Mystery Science Theater 3000.

       10 likes

  6. ck says:

    #5

    I love commentary tracks of movies (esp. directors like Mel Brooks for Young Frankenstein). Now
    I need to get the Oceans 11 one (I assume it’s the first of the series?).

    I also have several featuring classic movies like The Wolfman (I think That Guy who also appears on some Mst3000 extras is featured on some).

       1 likes

  7. Green Switch says:

    ck:

    I love commentary tracks of movies (esp. directors like Mel Brooks for Young Frankenstein). Now
    I need to get the Oceans 11 one (I assume it’s the first of the series?).

    That’s correct, it’s the first movie in the George Clooney-led trilogy.

       0 likes

  8. Dan says:

    ck:
    #5

    I love commentary tracks of movies (esp. directors like Mel Brooks for Young Frankenstein). Now
    I need to get the Oceans 11 one (I assume it’s the first of the serious.

    I also have several featuring classic movies like The Wolfman (I think That Guy who also appears on some Mst3000 extras is featured on some).

    If you like commentary tracks here are my recommendations. Anything with John Carpenter & Kurt Russell.
    I’m reasonably sure they are drunk for most of them.
    THIS IS SPINAL TAP where the guys stay in character & discuss it as if it was a real documentary.
    TROPIC THUNDER. Robert Downey stays in character in keeping with his line about not dropping character till he does the DVD commentary.

    Also, Beavis & Butthead commenting on videos was rather Mst-like.

       4 likes

  9. BBA says:

    For the strangest place I’ve seen riffing, I submit to you the Nintendo DS version of the turn-based strategy classic Disgaea, in which the game’s adorably annoying penguin mascot Prinny appears on the DS’s second screen to offer his running thoughts on the story. It’s a Japanese game and MST3K appears to be completely unknown in Japan (despite its frequent riffing of Japanese movies) so I’d just chalk it up to a happy coincidence.

       3 likes

  10. Mibbitmaker says:

    There’s a blog that I’m a regular commenter on called The Comics Curmudgeon, where we make fun of comic strips, especially the soaps. And we’re all big MST3K fans!

    Of the fan imitators, one of the best is Media Center Theater 3000. It’s a very well-done tribute, with original DIY robot puppets, a storyline rationale for the guy to be stuck in space watching bad movies, and, unfortunately, only 2 episodes. In their riff on Star*Crash, there’s an especially brilliant riff over a scene of the launching of a star fleet in battle, done by one of the bots in the style of a horse race announcer.

       4 likes

  11. Kali says:

    There’s always Futurama, when Crow and Tom tell the cast to shut up during the movie.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEcgB-6H6MA

    The DVD for the Mexican movie, “The Brainiac” has a guy calling himself “Kirb Pheeler” doing his best MST3K impression during his commentary [opinion: don’t let a kid do a ‘bot’s job].

    And, of course, Tommy Lee Jones and Barry Sonnenfeld did their own MSTing to the first (and best) Men in Black, complete with silhouettes.

       2 likes

  12. Edwin B says:

    I’d say the podcast How Did This Get Made. They have a very MST-like love/hate relationship with bad movies, and deconstruct them in the spirit of MST. My dream is some kind of mash-up of HDTGM and MST :)

       0 likes

  13. Laura says:

    One commentary track on the original “Ghostbusters” DVD has Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis (God rest his soul) with a silhouette. I was rather shocked when I first saw it. No actual mention of MST3K, but I did enjoy it. :-D

       5 likes

  14. MikeK says:

    Mr. B Natural of Riffing says that the spirit of riffing is in ALL of us!

       10 likes

  15. David Mello says:

    Anyone have the blu-ray for “The Heat”? It includes a commentary with Joel, J. Elvis and Trace plus Paul Feig. Even got it signed. There’s also a commentary with Melissa McCarthy’s “family” talking about the movie

       3 likes

  16. EricJ says:

    Riffing actually began back in Shakespeare’s day, when nobility could have plays in their living room, or sit on the side of the stage with the actors.
    As demonstrated by Act V of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, with the horrible performance of Pyramus & Thisbe:
    http://nfs.sparknotes.com/msnd/page_146.html

    And, of course, Dickens’ Great Expectations, where a rowdy London audience watches a bad amateur production of Hamlet (and no one could do Victorian Sarcasm like the Dickster):
    http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/140/great-expectations/2575/chapter-31/

    Nowadays, of course, we have the Nostalgia Critic:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uiFReBTg1U

    ck:
    I love commentary tracks of movies (esp. directors like Mel Brooks for Young Frankenstein).

    Brooks’s Young Frankenstein track was pretty straightforward.
    Mel, DID however, invent modern riffing in 1963’s “The Critic”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PramR5oxn50

    (And if you’ve ever seen anything Norman MacLaren did for the Film Board of Canada in the 40’s or 50’s, you will get the joke.)

       3 likes

  17. jjk says:

    MTV’s Beavis and Butthead with their riffing on music videos(If you remember those).

       5 likes

  18. Son of Peanut says:

    Nostalgia Critic (Channel Awesome) is an MST fan. Not only has he has cut to a few MST clips during his movie reviews, but the reviews, themselves, have a certain MST quality to them.

       4 likes

  19. EricJ says:

    Wait, so dakotaboy’s question was “What other media has MST3K-style riffing?”, but Sampo thinks it’s “What other shows have you seen mention MST3K?”?
    Are we looking for the spirit, or the specific item?

    Son of Peanut:
    Nostalgia Critic (Channel Awesome) is an MST fan. Not only has he has cut to a few MST clips during his movie reviews, but the reviews, themselves, have a certain MST quality to them.

    Nostalgia Critic was top of the line in YouTube MST3K Heirs until Honest Trailers turned a simple Phantom Menace joke into an industry,
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFmkUfrxNS4
    But then Honest Trailers got too full of their own cleverness over the Frozen trailer, and Twitter fans just begged them to do every other Disney movie in existence, even the ones HT flat-out admitted were too good and didn’t have anything particularly wrong with them.
    While Nostalgia Critic became a Sitcom, and got its own channel.

       0 likes

  20. Frank Conniff says:

    Call me crazy, but I think The Mads live show with Trace and Frank, like for instance the ones they have coming up January 20th at the Alamo Draft House in San Francisco and also at the Alamo Draft Houses in San Antonio and Yonkers and Brooklyn, have a real MST3K feel to them. And the podcast Movie Sign with the Mads on iTunes and at CaveComedyRadio.com has kind of a MST3K vibe as well.

       22 likes

  21. Privateiron says:

    The British SF writer Charlie Stross uses the word “MST3K” as a verb, but did not recognize Michael Nelson when he was doing his bacon-only diet bit. So the word may have escaped the strict context of the show to an extent.

       1 likes

  22. Gobi says:

    Frank Conniff:
    Call me crazy, but I think The Mads live show with Trace and Frank, like for instance the ones they have coming up January 20th at the Alamo Draft House in San Francisco and also at the Alamo Draft Houses in San Antonio and Yonkers and Brooklyn, have a real MST3K feel to them. And the podcast Movie Sign with the Mads on iTunes and at CaveComedyRadio.com has kind of a MST3K vibe as well.

    Haven’t seen the live shows, but the podcasts are great and a lot of fun. Keep up the good work!

       6 likes

  23. TruTV had “World’s Dumbest” which was showing video footage of people doing stupid things, and comedian and writers cracking jokes.

       2 likes

  24. Lavendare says:

    Enjoy “RiffTrax Christmas Circus with Whizzo the Clown!” available at rifftrax.com.

    Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

       3 likes

  25. At the beginning of “The Simpsons” movie when Homer stands in the theater and tells everyone how stupid they are to paying to watch something that they could see for free on television. Kind of self riffing.

    M&TB do the same thing in Terror from the Year 5000 when Mike says “now we get to watch someone watching a movie, what kind of crap is that”.

       3 likes

  26. A Flat Minor, Mr. B'smith cousin says:

    Mel Brooks did a short film called The Critic, where he riffed on art.

    Then Disney did it with Lion King 1 1/2

       1 likes

  27. sdogmoore says:

    I was riffing the Hallmark TV Network’s Christmas movies just yesterday. easy targets all. :-)

       0 likes

  28. Cornjob says:

    I think Joel has mentioned What’s Up Tiger Lily? as an influence, and there’s also It Came from Planet Hollywood. Like some of my friends I hated Beavis and Butthead when it premiered, but grew fond of it in time. It didn’t surprise me at all to find out that Mike Judge based the two on all the idiots and a-holes he had to go to school with. That’s just what they struck me as being.

       1 likes

  29. Blowie the Dolphin says:

    the guys on “Fast and Loud” occasionally do an episode called “Demolition Theater”, where they sit around and comment on videos of people doing dangerous and/or stupid things in cars.

       0 likes

  30. Kenneth Morgan says:

    EricJ:
    Mel, DID however, invent modern riffing in 1963’s “The Critic”:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PramR5oxn50

    I’d completely forgotten about “The Critic”. Haven’t seen that one in years; I’ll have to look it up.

    Another relatively early example from U.S. TV were some episodes of “M*A*S*H” where the effectively riff on some home movies the 4077th receives, though they’re much harsher with Frank’s wedding film than with Henry’s daughter’s birthday or Radar’s family dinner.

    RADAR: Those are his wedding pictures!
    HENRY: Must be; I don’t a see a casket.

       3 likes

  31. Kenneth Morgan says:

    Frank Conniff:
    Call me crazy, but I think The Mads live show with Trace and Frank, like for instance the ones they have coming up January 20th at the Alamo Draft House in San Francisco and also at the Alamo Draft Houses in San Antonio and Yonkers and Brooklyn, have a real MST3K feel to them. And the podcast Movie Sign with the Mads on iTunes and at CaveComedyRadio.com has kind of a MST3K vibe as well.

    Any chance you could do a show in NJ? Just asking.

    Good work on the podcasts, too.

       2 likes

  32. pirengle says:

    I’ve taken two film classes where the professors printed in the syllabus that students were not allowed to do any MST-style riffing. One of those professors also taught a short semester course on 1950s sci-fi films and I got to see many MSTed films in their original state. And quietly riffed on them all.

       4 likes

  33. Ro-man, aka one of several possible Steves says:

    Right.

    If the question is “where does riffing show up in our everyday lives” I could come up with many answers — “Honest Trailers” has already been mentioned, “Everything wrong with…”, HISHE, etc, I don’t know if they would have existed without MST3k? Not to mention other things my kids watch which I am vaguely aware of like “Tobuscus” who essentially riffs on video games I think are heavily influenced by MST3K.

    But the real answer for me is: my house. EVERY. SINGLE. MOVIE.

    We CANNOT watch a movie in my home with my four boys without riffing. We have to declare certain movies as “Riff-free Zones” to stop the madness.

    Even BOOKS are mercilessly riffed; the CLASSICS. I’ve had to stop them from riffing THE HOLY BIBLE, for the love of heaven!!

    I’ve either raised them right with healthy doses of MST3K– or I’ve unleashed a terror most heinous upon an unsuspecting humanity. I’m not sure which.

    Like father, like son. Think about it, won’t we? :shock:

       5 likes

  34. Cornjob says:

    Re#33

    Glad your kids are riffers. If you discourage them from riffing some particular thing though, they’ll just do it mentally or when you’re not around. It’s the nature of the beast. And the classics can make for some good riffing.

       0 likes

  35. dakotaboy says:

    Thanks for using my suggestion, Sampo!

    EricJ, I was thinking more along the lines of the spirit of riffing. For example, Jimmy Fallon’s Twitter segments feature a specific tweet, then make a joke abou it – a style of humor not unlike our favorite show.

       0 likes

  36. Jenny erdahl says:

    Hello what about rocky horror picture show. Eliva?
    there also http://www.icwxp.com/ Mike Nelson like them also!

       1 likes

  37. Kilroy says:

    I’m kind of surprised no one else remembered ESPN Classic’s Cheap Seats. The Sklar Brothers gave the MST3K treatment to various, odd sporting events in the ESPN library. It even had its own MST3K-esque premise. To top it off, Mike & the bots cameoed in the first episode of season 2.

       2 likes

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