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Goodbye Sci-Fi

Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett reflect on MST3K's final broadcast.

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Weekend Discussion Thread: The Little Things

Our pal Tim writes:

I was watching “The Blood Water of Dr. Z” and when Tom came out with the riff “I need to simplify my masturbation ritual,” you can see Crow’s head turn as he was having a “what did he just say?” moment. So i was thinking, what are the little things you notice about the show over the years (you can add Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic.

During “Human Duplicators,” the movie makes the same comment at the same time one of the riffers does, and Crow calls it “riffback.” I’m sure that came from writing room experiences. It’s one of those little things that helps the show feel improvised, even though it isn’t.

You notice one?

49 Replies to “Weekend Discussion Thread: The Little Things”

  1. jay says:

    Tom has a masturbation ritual? Jeez, if ever there was a science facts, just relax moment this is it.

       4 likes

  2. skrag2112 says:

    In ‘Prince Of Space’, the scene where Mike and the Bots are in the wooded glen and a small animal runs across the path, purely by chance. I still wonder what that thing was. Squirrel? Chipmunk?

       5 likes

  3. Sitting Duck says:

    In Robot Monster, when Josh sneezed and they kept going.

       3 likes

  4. duke of puddles says:

    three small points on the ‘improvised’ theme:
    1. ‘amazing transparent man’ as auntie mcfrank is about to hit Dr. f. though he’s trying to hide it you can tell that franks about to lose it.
    2. ‘monster a go-go’ while singing the rousing ‘johnny longtorso’ theme song, frank is once again struggling to not lose it.
    3. ‘stranded in space’ while detonating the bangee-ka-boingee-bonga bomb(something like that) the right plunger arm snaps off in frank’s hand and they stay with the shot.

       2 likes

  5. M&TB’s reactions during Elaine’s “pain” at the end of Horror of Party Beach.

    Made funnier by Servo’s continuation the next scene.

       11 likes

  6. Son of Peanut says:

    In “The Beginning of the End”, when Crow is making his movie pitch, he says, “Peter Graves went to the university of Minnesota, right?” He then opens his mouth and gives a hilarious look of expectation. After 5 seasons, Trace was clearly at the top of his puppeteering game, because this little move is just delightful.

       8 likes

  7. Kenotic says:

    The whole “Buzz Off Kid” scene in Mitchell is filled with them:

    – Crow starts shaking his head.
    – Servo looks uneasy
    – Joel lowers his head in annoyance
    – Crow sighs and looks away
    – Servo’s “AAAHHHHH!!!” is hilarious, but it’s punctuated by him shaking in his seat.

    In the new season (gotta admit, that still feels good to type) there’s a cute scene in Avalanche where Servo’s goofing around and interacting with the screen and slides on the snow. Gypsy appears out of the corner and gives him a push. They may have a little too much of that in the new season but that part was a nice touch.

       8 likes

  8. Sitting Duck says:

    Kenotic:
    In the new season (gotta admit, that still feels good to type) there’s a cute scene in Avalanche where Servo’s goofing around and interacting with the screen and slides on the snow. Gypsy appears out of the corner and gives him a push.

    Pretty sure that was from Starcrash.

       2 likes

  9. RedZoneTuba says:

    Throughout the Trace years, I was constantly amazed and amused by Crow’s eyes. How Trace got such wonderful expressiveness from two marked-up ping pong balls is beyond me.

       34 likes

  10. Yeti of Great Danger says:

    These comments are making me realize how little I understand puppetry yet how much it added to the show. One of my favorite moments, although it sounds kind of mean, was when the fire on Crow’s head got out of control in the “Servo’s death ray” host segment of “Danger!! Death Ray.” I can’t believe that was intentional, but they rolled with it. Trace’s maniacal laugh was the icing on the cake. https://youtu.be/CISRRn3wolk

       14 likes

  11. mando3b says:

    For me, the epitome of puppetry comes in the build-up to “Toobular Boobular Joy”: they’re talking about how much skin there is in “Outlaw”, Crow says “I just can’t comes up with a word to describes it!”, Tom says, “Well, I can!”, and Trace/Crow displays more breathless, joyful surprise than a plastic bowling pin and ping pong balls should be capable of. That is probably my favorite host segment in all of MST, and I find myself rewinding just to watch Crow’s expressions again.

       7 likes

  12. the way Mike laughs when Tom sings Maniac for a second time in Space Mutiny, and the stab (sting/break/turn ?) during that particular part of the song adds to my ‘enjoyment’.

       10 likes

  13. Droppo says:

    Master Ninja 1: After the Master trains Max, he says something like “I didn’t like what happened. I didn’t like it at all.” Servo, I believe, says “it had no texture.” Crow’s net then falls off. He and Joel subtly acknowledge it and they keep going.

       6 likes

  14. Ray Dunakin says:

    In “Santa Claus”, as the Mexican Punch & Judy show ends, Tom says “And now, the hollow feeling that follows any puppet show.” You can see Mike and Crow turn slightly and give each other a little “look”.

       11 likes

  15. Thinking of Crow business, how about his whole rapt reactions caught up in trying to follow along with the judge’s speech at the end of X Marks the Spot?
    (“Yeah, ‘never hit and run’, got it…”)

    Or in the Cheating short before Wild World of Batwoman, the guys starting to “tick” back and forth along with the Bergman-esque clock of doom in Johnny’s darkened room of shame?

       4 likes

  16. Probably in Bruteman where the crusty old grocer cracks up Mike so much. After a few viewings I noticed that Mike’s head is bobbing up and down because he’s laughing so hard, and if you really listen Mike’s laughter is pretty loud.

       18 likes

  17. Blonde Russian Spy says:

    RedZoneTuba:
    Throughout the Trace years, I was constantly amazed and amused by Crow’s eyes.How Trace got such wonderful expressiveness from two marked-up ping pong balls is beyond me.

    I always just took it for granted, until recently. I was watching the sketch where Joel gives the bots presents, and while Gypsy and Servo get cool stuff Crow just gets sensible pants. After the commercial break, Crow is looking soooo dejected and sad, and then it hit me: THIS IS A PUPPET! It’s not even a very expressive puppet, like the Muppets, but Trace does such a good job of conveying emotion with it that you forget it’s just a hunk of plastic, hot glue, and ping pong balls. I had a whole new respect for him after that.

       20 likes

  18. Bob Johnson says:

    Human Duplicators was my first episode, and it had a couple of little moments that I always remember, in the early scene where Yellow Man is giving Kolos his orders. Servo gives some of his little “hmm”s while YM is lecturing. I’ve always liked Servo’s little non-verbal reactions to movies throughout the series. Then there’s Servo’s little jumping motions when YM snaps out the word “if” a couple of times.

       4 likes

  19. When Mike loses it during a show.

    Two times in particular; during The Brute Man, the crotchety old pharmacist/store owner berates his delivery boy when he finds a grocery list. The old guy really plays being a jerk over the top. About the time Crow/Trace says “KISS OFF!!!” Mike is bent over laughing.

    Second: when Troy and Zap meet the Yosemite Sam guy in The Final Sacrifice. This guy’s over the top too, but when he mentions legends, Servo goes in his best Yosemite Sam and says “AHHH Hates Legends!?!”, and Mike is once again bent over laughing.

    I remember he mentioned in the Reunion interview he enjoyed actors who took those roles and squeezed them for all they’re worth.

       16 likes

  20. Eddie J Miller:
    Probably in Bruteman where the crusty old grocer cracks up Mike so much. After a few viewings I noticed that Mike’s head is bobbing up and down because he’s laughing so hard, and if you really listen Mike’s laughter is pretty loud.

    Didn’t see your quote. Great minds think alike!!

       6 likes

  21. Blonde Russian Spy: I always just took it for granted, until recently.I was watching the sketch where Joel gives the bots presents, and while Gypsy and Servo get cool stuff Crow just gets sensible pants.After the commercial break, Crow is looking soooo dejected and sad, and then it hit me:THIS IS A PUPPET!It’s not even a very expressive puppet, like the Muppets, but Trace does such a good job of conveying emotion with it that you forget it’s just a hunk of plastic, hot glue, and ping pong balls.I had a whole new respect for him after that.

    Even in Crow and Servo’s traumatized reactions as they’re just about ready to snap and sob at the end of Joel’s “Hap-py king (doo-do-do-doo!)” attempt to cheer Servo up after Monster a-Go-Go.

    (And then Trace caught by Joel’s ad-lib of “C’mon, Sir Mix-a-Lot!” “It’s…Sir Giggles Von Laughsalot.”)

       0 likes

  22. Ray Dunakin says:

    Blonde Russian Spy: I always just took it for granted, until recently.I was watching the sketch where Joel gives the bots presents, and while Gypsy and Servo get cool stuff Crow just gets sensible pants.After the commercial break, Crow is looking soooo dejected and sad, and then it hit me:THIS IS A PUPPET!It’s not even a very expressive puppet, like the Muppets, but Trace does such a good job of conveying emotion with it that you forget it’s just a hunk of plastic, hot glue, and ping pong balls.I had a whole new respect for him after that.

    I agree completely! And Kevin’s work with Servo is pretty fantastic too, especially considering that Servo DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A FACE! I’m constantly amazed at how much expression he gets out of a puppet with no eyes or anything, just a tiny beak-like mouth. Even the body movement is very limited, what with the lack of articulation, inanimate arms, etc. Yet Kevin brings him to life and makes him feel like a real, complex character.

       9 likes

  23. Johnny Drama says:

    “Who keeps a masturbation journal?” – a great callback of sorts from Cinematic Titanic’s Wasp Woman

       5 likes

  24. jjk50 says:

    jay:
    Tom has a masturbation ritual?Jeez, if ever there was a science facts, just relax moment this is it.

    I believe Tom’s riff was referring to Dr. Z’s “ritual” not his own. Although I would kind of like to know what a robots “ritual” is, or maybe not.

       5 likes

  25. the great crowdini says:

    One of my favorite little moments from this show is from Brute Man.

    (brute man is popular today!)

    It’s during the host segment where Crow is trying to get the others to sing “Hang down your head, Tom Dewey”.
    The build up of excitement followed with one of Trace/Crow’s infectious giggles when he thinks he is so clever is just a treat to enjoy!

    Another moment, which is a bit obscure, is from a KTMA episode that I can no longer which one.
    It is a host segment in which Joel tries to explain to the bots how he survived being outside the ship. Joel casually segways into an acoustic version of the opening song.
    “If your wondering how he eats and breaths…”
    It’s a sweet little moment. Too bad I can’t recall which episode it’s from.

       3 likes

  26. Terry the Sensitive Knight says:

    Yeti of Great Danger:
    These comments are making me realize how little I understand puppetry yet how much it added to the show.One of my favorite moments, although it sounds kind of mean, was when the fire on Crow’s head got out of control in the “Servo’s death ray” host segment of “Danger!! Death Ray.”I can’t believe that was intentional, but they rolled with it.Trace’s maniacal laugh was the icing on the cake.https://youtu.be/CISRRn3wolk

    This is definitely a favorite of mine. I also like Crow’s manic screams when Servo has him in a jar of ether.
    Also, anytime Trace’s Crow giggles is a time of high-hilarity.

       9 likes

  27. Ray Dunakin: I agree completely!And Kevin’s work with Servo is pretty fantastic too, especially considering that Servo DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A FACE! I’m constantly amazed at how much expression he gets out of a puppet with no eyes or anything, just a tiny beak-like mouth. Even the body movement is very limited, what with the lack of articulation, inanimate arms, etc. Yet Kevin brings him to life and makes him feel like a real, complex character.

    I agree totally. A lot is the way Kevin plays Servo as just barely on the edge of his sanity. No “inside voice” for him (A Mike weakness), Servo at any moment is going over the top APE!

       7 likes

  28. Terry the Sensitive Knight says:

    Speaking of “Amazing Transparent Man” (Crow in a jar), the ‘pet the llama’ sketch for Auntie McFrank’s B&B is amazing.

    Mike NEVER BLINKS. It’s creepy and hilarious and I love it. Also has llama-Crow screaming… and Servo going off the rails. Just one their best sketches. “YOU DON’T GIVE NO MATCHES TO MIKEY!!! I DON’T CARE WHAT MIKEY SAY OR MIKEY DO!!! YOU SHUT UP MIKEY!!!””
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9Akw_7yWxw

       9 likes

  29. Speedy B. says:

    Whenever Joel/Mike and/or the bots say “Huh?”/”Hmm?” whenever a movie has to be censored for stronger curse words. It makes what would ordinarily be an awkward silence into yet another riff opportunity just by giving an honest reaction. Of course, sometimes they go further by making an actual joke about it: “Why’d they bleep out “former guy from Talk Soup?”

       6 likes

  30. During “Patrick Swayze Christmas”, when Crow sings “… or we’ll tear your throat out and kick you in the ear…” I love how Servo’s mouth just drops open in horror.

       8 likes

  31. jay says:

    jjk50: I believe Tom’s riff was referring to Dr. Z’s “ritual” not his own.

    I knew that. Heh-heh.

       3 likes

  32. In Samson and the Vampire Women, Zorina, Queen of the Vampires, is checking out the portrait of Rebeca over the mantelpiece with two of the luchadores/vampiros.

    At 19:01 (at least on the YouTube copy), a live rat runs across the mantel, completely unnoticed, right behind her. Either somebody in Mexico City was a highly-skilled rat wrangler (because that little sucker is BOOKING, looking neither to the right not the left), or Churubusco Studios needs to invest in a couple-three kitties.

       8 likes

  33. Raigely says:

    At the very end of Red Zone Cuba they sing the “Happy Upbeat Song”, which is, on its own, completely hilarious. The icing on the cake for me, though, again comes down to the puppetry work when the bots are dancing. In particular I enjoy Crow’s verse of the song where he synchs up his bobbing to the syncopation of the words.

       5 likes

  34. Ray Dunakin says:

    BTW, I’ve noticed something in at least two episodes (can’t recall offhand which ones)… there’s been a couple times where you can tell by the movement of the shadow that Crow is saying something, yet there’s no voice. Has anyone else caught that? I’ve always wondered what happened. I assume that either the line was flubbed and they didn’t bother to redo it, or maybe a line was ad-libbed and then rejected.

       1 likes

  35. mando3b says:

    Terry the Sensitive Knight: Also, anytime Trace’s Crow giggles is a time of high-hilarity.

    Totally agree. Trace/Crow’s giggles always come at just the right point, and each time I laugh out loud.

       9 likes

  36. mando3b says:

    Ray Dunakin: And Kevin’s work with Servo is pretty fantastic too, especially considering that Servo DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A FACE! I’m constantly amazed at how much expression he gets out of a puppet with no eyes or anything, just a tiny beak-like mouth.

    Another comment I totally agree with. The combination of Kevin’s voice, synchronized perfectly with his beak movements (ghaahh, that sounds icky . . . ) and body movements creates a fuller figure that the puppet alone could possibly do. His Servo was the plump, pompous (yet affable) backbone of the show for 9 years. (Err, that’s kind of a disturbing image, too . . . )

       8 likes

  37. Terry the Sensitive Knight says:

    One of the little things I’ve always loved is how the show has a distinctly Midwest feel to it (while joyously poking fun at the Midwest, especially Wisconsin and Minnesota), while most other TV shows are very East/West Coast heavy…

    As someone from Illinois (and Mike’s hometown, no less!), this is sadly another quality that’s missing from the reboot…

       11 likes

  38. mando3b says:

    Terry the Sensitive Knight: One of the little things I’ve always loved is how the show has a distinctly Midwest feel to it (while joyously poking fun at the Midwest, especially Wisconsin and Minnesota), while most other TV shows are very East/West Coast heavy…

    As someone from Illinois (and Mike’s hometown, no less!), this is sadly another quality that’s missing from the reboot…

    That is one reason why I’m a MSTie–the humor makes me feel right at home (Chicago’s western suburbs). And, yes, it’s sad that the reboot seems so . . . coastal.

       5 likes

  39. There’s a moment similar to the one Tim describes in Episode 704 (The Incredible Melting Man) when Mike looks at Mrs. ATCHKA!!’s knitting and quips, “That’s an enormous booty.” Crow turns to Mike, opens his bowling pin and inhales* as if to speak, then just gives up. Mike chuckles.

    *because that is a thing that robots do

       7 likes

  40. Bill Corbett did a fine job crafting a unique Crow personality. Trace did such a magnificent job making Crow come alive that Bill was in a hole from the start, and instead of copying Trace (impossible, he tried and it wasn’t working) he created a whole new personality; impatient, caustic, who suddenly would become one of the characters in the movie.

    You can feel Crow boiling in The Touch of Satan with all the pauses. Finally Crow says “TALK QUICKER!!” and Servo laughs. In Hamlet, when Hamlet and Laertes parry at the start, Crow finally boils over and say “WILL YOU TWO JUST FIGHT!!?!?!” making Mike and Servo jump. I wonder if they were ready for how over-the-top Crow’s explosion was going to be.

       11 likes

  41. Some Other Guy says:

    The one that sticks in my head is from MST3K: The Movie. When Drs Ruth Adams and Steve Carlson are talking in Exeter’s compound, a man enters the scene from a back door and walks towards and then past them. Tom Servo makes a racing car noise and Crow’s head follows him as this unnamed scientist walks briskly through the scene. It always cracks me up!

    Fast forward to 4:35 to see it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moPB92lu3fQ

       5 likes

  42. GareChicago says:

    Hercules (or Unchained) – Gypsy (who is the Hellenistic Ideal) is playing the lyre with her face (Last Niiiiight! BANG!). Crow turns toward the camera and says “Y’know, you just don’t hear music like that anymore..” and then slightly, ever so slightly, rolls his eyes.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwThYiKre7E

    Gare

       7 likes

  43. Lisa H. says:

    George Orwell: Bill was in a hole from the start

    Or a puppeteering trench, as the case may be.

       5 likes

  44. Terry the Sensitive Knight says:

    GareChicago: (Last Niiiiight! BANG!)

    I can’t tell you how many times I sing this to myself

    “Last niiii-IIIIIIGHT!” *BANG!*
    “Last niiii-IIIIIIGHT!” *BANG!*
    “Last niiii-IIIIIIGHT I couldn’t get to sleep at all!”
    “Last niiii-IIIIIIGHT!” *BANG!*

       2 likes

  45. IR5 says:

    Sister Ann in Future War bends over at a meeting about Monsters in the Hood- Crow clearly raises his pin-beak head to check out her ass.

       2 likes

  46. Lisa H. says:

    Yeti of Great Danger:
    These comments are making me realize how little I understand puppetry yet how much it added to the show.One of my favorite moments, although it sounds kind of mean, was when the fire on Crow’s head got out of control in the “Servo’s death ray” host segment of “Danger!! Death Ray.”I can’t believe that was intentional, but they rolled with it.Trace’s maniacal laugh was the icing on the cake.https://youtu.be/CISRRn3wolk

    That’s my favorite bit on the Poopie! tape. “Well, I’ll be in my trailer!”

       4 likes

  47. Lupe Vallejo says:

    In Prince of Space, krankor’s men tell him that they need to stop wasting fire at Prince of Space in the open field because they’re depleting their fuel and wont make it back home, Krankor turns dramatically to the camera and it is clearly Mike who riffs “Make it pee-kawk”. If you look at Crow at that riff you can see that he mouths the exact same riff. Apparently during shooting of the scene, Crow originally makes that riff, but was later edited to Mike making that riff.

       5 likes

  48. I have always loved when any of the characters (and I think they have all done it at one point or another in the show) begin to talk in the stereotypical Minnesota/North Midwest accent.

    What with all the “dontcha knows” and “the crappies biting” and what-have yous.

       3 likes

  49. goalieboy82 says:

    one of the people in the background of The Wild Wild World of Batwomen (at 1 hour and 3 minutes and 50 seconds) give the camera the bird.

       0 likes

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