Satellite News - May 2, 2002 Chat with Mary Jo Pehl


Back to opening screen

  MST3K-related articles

  Written by the MST3K cast!

  IRC transcripts

  Info on all MSTed movies!

  The Rhino DVD's

  List of all MST3K episodes


  Get MST3K news in e-mail!

  The historic printed issues

  Observer's Search Page

  Ten years of MST3K!

  Trade episodes here!

  Gone but not forgotten

  Visit other MST3K sites

  For obsessive fans only

  Keep in touch with us


Visit our archives of the MST3K pages previously hosted by the Sci-Fi Channel's SCIFI.COM.

May 2, 2002 Chat with Mary Jo Pehl

<ChatMod> I'm closing the floor now. Bear with me. It'll take a minutes to make Mary Jo "live" Then we'll post an introduction

*** Mode change [+m] on #auditorium by ChatMod
*** Mode change [+v Mary] on #auditorium by ChatMod

<ChatMod> Mary, can you type to the screen?

<Mary> Hello, there!

<ChatMod> Great!
<ChatMod> Hi everyone, thanks for joining us here. I'm Ben Trumble for SCIFI. For years, fans of the SCI FI show Mystery Science Theater 3000 knew Mary Jo Pehl as Pearl Forrester, the wicked tormenter of the inhabitants of the Satellite of Love.
<ChatMod> In addition to Pearl, Mary Jo also appeared on MST3K as a body-less head, the next-door neighbor and a space mom. Currently, Mary Jo Pehl has contributed writings to Life's A Stitch: The Best of Contemporary Women's Humor. A portion of the book proceeds will be donated to three outstanding charities: amfAR (American Foundation for AIDS Research) , NABCO (National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations) and NCADV (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence).
<ChatMod> Mary Jo's commentaries have been featured on All Things Considered on NPR, The Savvy Traveler on Public Radio International and Almanac, a weekly news program on KTCA-TV, the Twin Cities' PBS station. She has also appeared in commercials and voiceovers (including for the SCIFI.COM animated series The Adventures of Edward the Less) and recently made her New York stage debut in Flats Fixed at the Sanford Meisner Theater.
<ChatMod> Brief word about the drill. This is a moderated chat -- please send your questions for our guest to ChatQ, as private messages. (To send a private message, either double-click on ChatQ or type "/msg ChatQ" on the command line - only without the quotes.)
<ChatMod> Mary, have you done these chats before?

<Mary> Yes... but never on one of these crazy electronic typewriters

<ChatMod> Well, I hope you at least have a fresh ribbon
<ChatMod> First Question:
<ChatMod> <Sampo> to <ChatQ>: Hi Mary Jo. We've enjoyed your occasional pieces on NPR. Do you have any more of those planned, or already in the can?

<Mary> I'm working on one right now - I hope they'll let me do it in a couple of weeks.
<Mary> I mean, not right now literally... I'm on the chat right now, of course!
<Mary> Can someone tape CSI for me?
<Mary> Yes! Keep 'em comin!

<ChatMod> <Daz> to <ChatMod>: Hello Mary Jo. First, thanks so much for taking time to come and "talk" with us tonight. And second, my question: What were the comic influences that shaped your sense of humor as a younger person, and what stuff do you like nowadays?

<Mary> Let's see... I LOVED the Carol Burnett show when I was a kid, and I remember being fascinated by Laugh In which I had to sneak to watch.
<Mary> I also came of comedy age when Steve Martin was an unknown and he really was so funny, and doing the college circuit.
<Mary> After that, it was Monty Python, Spinal Tap, and the first Gary Shandling show.
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> <G-Man> to <ChatQ>: Mary I love your commentaries on NPR but haven't had the time to keep up with them. Have you managed to move out of your parent's basement yet?

<Mary> YES! That peice was a bit outdated when I wrote it and then NPR finally picked it up long after I had moved out of Gerry & Dorothy's basement! Thanks for asking! ga
<Mary> And thank you by the way.

<ChatMod> <dmm316> to <ChatQ>: Hi Mary Jo! I've read some of your work and it's hilarious! Any plans on writing a book in the future?

<Mary> Yes, I'm working on one right now. Actually two - trying to do a compilation of essays, and I'm going great guns on a novel. would you buy either of them if I can manage to get them published?
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> <trnoel> to <ChatQ>: How did you come to join MST3K?

<Mary> I knew Mike, Bridget, Frank, Trace and Joel from the stand-up comedy world. This was the late 80s and the Twin Cities comedy world was pretty small - we all knew each other.
<Mary> I had wearied of doing comedy on the road - I loved the driving but doing my act in small towns... well, in "those days" a female comedian was kind of a freak show
<Mary> people only liked it if you did humor about how ugly you were or what a loser you were - for women comedians, I mean.
<Mary> I would actually get introduced like "our next comedian is a FEMALE comedian" and you could hear the gasps.
<Mary> anyhoo, I heard MST was looking for another writer, and it took three nights before I could muster up the courage to call Mike - and I KNEW him, fer cryin' out loud!
<Mary> they had me come in and audition. I think they forgot I was there and I just stuck around for 7 years. ga

<ChatMod> Speaking of books, what can you tell us about Life's A Stitch: The Best of Contemporary Women's Humor?

<Mary> Hm..... about all I know is that I'm in it!
<Mary> Ha, I tease. No, seriously folks, the editor approached me, I sent her some things and she liked Mono and chose it. I was very happy and proud to be a part of a lot of funny gals.
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> <Red-Zone-Cuba-Libre> to <ChatQ>: Will there be more Edward the Less, and if so, will you take part in it once again?

<Mary> I'm not sure if there are plans to do more EtL. I would hope I would be a part of it... hate to be presumptious but if those guys don't ask me to do it, there'll be BIG MINNESOTA Cathollic girl TROUBLE!
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> <riffer74> to <ChatQ>: Did you keep any MST3K props?

<Mary> Yes. I had LOTS of stuff in my office when the show ended but I was leaving to travel for a year and so really sort of cleaned out my whole life and sold everything.
<Mary> the thing I did save was the civil war map that Crow made when he did his documentary. I always loved the stuff Beez and Patrick made - laugh out loud stuff.
<Mary> They always knew what to do to bring it to life
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> A reminder. This is a moderated chat -- please send your questions for our guest to ChatQ, as private messages. (To send a private message, either double-click on ChatQ or type "/msg ChatQ" on the command line - only without the quotes.)
<ChatMod> Next question:
<ChatMod> <trnoel> to <ChatQ>: Did you like teaching Humor at the Cranbrook Institute last year?

<Mary> Actually, Cranbrook entitled it Writing Your Humor. I don't think you can teach people humor, but you can bring out their humor in their writing. And yes, I LOVED it!
<Mary> It was my first such foray, and I was a nervous wreck but everyone in the workshop was so funny and smart.
<Mary> It made me work harder and it was so cool to be in that kind of company.
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> Mary we have lots of travel questions -- most of which ask...What's your favorite place in the world, and your least favorite place?

<Mary> Favorite: Morocco, Morocco, Morocco, Morocco
<Mary> And - don't tell Texas this, but I don't care for Dallas.
<Mary> I was there last weekend, as part of the USA Film Festival short films panel. I went to the JFK site and it really depressed me. Also, we had an untimely death in my family in Dalls so I don't have good memoeires
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> <Joe-Nash> to <ChatQ>: Did Mary have work at all at the PWNZ Comedy Corner in Minneapolis?

<Mary> Sorry, don't know the place. Is it new? Where is it? There was the Comedy Cabaret...
<Mary> ga
<Mary> sorry!

<ChatMod> <mstjunkie> to <ChatQ>: Other than MST3K , have you writen for any other TV shows?

<Mary> i'm dullwitted. I apologize
<Mary> No... I used to do commentaries for a local news show on the Twin cities PBS station but that's about it. would love to be writing for the right show again.
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> <G-Man> to <ChatQ>: How do you feel about the MST3K Digital Archive Project and their efforts to archive all commercially unreleased episodes of the show for posterity?

<Mary> God love 'em! Sorry, I haven't heard that much about the project. I sorta fell out of the loop when I was gone for almost a year and it's hard to catch up.
<Mary> Plus, factor in that I'm dullwitted and easily confused, and sheeesh, what a mess.
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> <porpoise> to <ChatQ>: how does it make you feel to be part of a cult phenomena - MST3K?

<Mary> It always blows my little dinosaur mind. To me, I was just going to a job everyday - granted, a job that I loved, and was turning out something that I was very proud of
<Mary> and honored to be a part of, but then, being somewhat isolated from the "entertainment capitals" of LA and NY, we'd forget that we were actually putting stuff on the airwaves.
<Mary> So I'm always kind of surprised when people say they liked the show, and I'm delighted when they can quote stuff. and I think it's kind of crazy too!
<Mary> ga

<ChatQ> <Sampo> to <ChatQ>: You did an item for radio's the Savvy Traveller, so we have to know: What's Rudy Maxa REALLY like?

<Mary> oh, and plus, I'm always kind of ashamed when people know more than I do about the show.
<Mary> Get this: I never met Rudy Maxa. He does the show remote from Washington, and I recorded one piece in Minneapolis and the other in New York. He's got kind of a cool name.
<Mary> Like he could be a car. Get the 2002 rudy MAXAAAAAAA!
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> <dre1> to <ChatQ>: What's your take on humor in the 21st century?

<Mary> Oh dear... this is where I'm afraid I'm going to sound like a ninety year old maiden aunt. I don't have a lot of deep insights. I know what I like. And I understand that a lot of humor
<Mary> is generational... and some of it I just don't get.
<Mary> I mean, I understand what the INTENT is supposed to be and what the punch line is and everything, but I don't understand why its funny. They just don't make Benny Hill
<Mary> episodes like they used to...
<Mary> I tease!
<Mary> My dad Loves Benny Hill so I tease him in absentia.
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> Two questions oft asked...:
<ChatMod> <mstjunkie> to <ChatQ>: What is your favorite MST3K episode and why?
<ChatMod> <TServo4> to <ChatQ>: What's your favorite song from MST3k?
<ChatMod> A reminder. This is a moderated chat -- please send your questions for our guest to ChatQ, as private messages. (To send a private message, either double-click on ChatQ or type "/msg ChatQ" on the command line - only without the quotes.)

<Mary> Favorite song: I love the duet that Bill Corbett (Brain Guy) and I did. I also loved the "Please stay..." song. both written by the amazing Mike nelson
<Mary> A couple of my favorite episodes... Parts, the Clonus Horror... um, Skydivers FLABBERGASTED me... Girl In Gold Boots.
<Mary> would you believe I had to look at a list this afternoon to jog my memory? I have bits and snippets of these movies in my head, but none of us could never remember the names.
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> Isn't it awful when you have to do *homework* just to do a chat?
<ChatMod> <dmm316> to <ChatMod>: Are you still in touch with/or working on anything with any former MST 3K castmates?

<Mary> absolutely. Bridget is my bestest friend of the world, and Mike too... see and talk to Kevin regularly... had dinner with him a couple of weeks ago when he was here in the Apple Big
<Mary> Talk to Trace and Josh too - see them when I'm in LA or they're here
<Mary> and Bill Corbett and I very tight
<Mary> and I keep in touch with Beez and Patrick too
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> A followup question to your answer on MST3k's cult status...
<ChatMod> <grottyschlub> to <ChatQ>: Although you now live in one of those entertainment capitals, do you think that perhaps it sometimes helps not to live in a place like that when it comes to writing comedy?

<Mary> yes, I think you are right. you're kind of working in this very competitive, charged atmosphere where the comedy or humor is sort of frenetic.
<Mary> i have a very delicate constitution so it's all terribly upsetting.
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> <MeeSTa3k> to <ChatQ>: Which did you enjoy more during your stay at MST3k, writing or acting?

<Mary> you know, I loved the writing process. to be honest, i never felt like I got my "legs" when I was doing Pearl. I had a ball doing the part, but it was always very important to me
<Mary> I felt like I needed to do justice to the hilarious work that Mike, Kevin, Bill, Trace, etc. were doing. But eventually it served me - when I did a play last fall I was very
<Mary> comfortable and felt like the experience served me. Now I know that when they do the reunion special in twenty years, I will OWN the part of Pearl!
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> Are you hoping to do more theater work in the near future?

<Mary> Plus I was always nervous I'd blow my lines
<Mary> Yes... I'm sort of volunteering to do stuff for my friends. Wes Anderson goes to my video store, so I've left a message for me that I'm available for small character roles.
<Mary> I'd really like to be doing more of it... I'm now accepting offers! anyone? anyone?
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> <Erhardt> to <ChatQ>: Hiya, Mary Jo. What can you tell us about your role in the "Darkstar" CD-ROM game?

<Mary> It was a lot of fun to do. I love doing the voice over stuff. I'm a computer voice AND the captain of a space ship - it don't get much bettah than that, baby! Plus I got to work
<Mary> with Trace and Beez, and we had a laugh riot. Joel and Frank shot their stuff in LA.
<Mary> But since the shooting was pretty fragmented, i don't know how it's all going to come together. And i don't know if you need a computer for computer games.
<Mary> I'm gonna figure out a way around that.
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> <BlzBubba> to <ChatQ>: Mary, what are the chances you could snag copies of those first 3 KTMA eps from jim mallon? :)

<Mary> Hmmmm... do you have a vested interest in that snagging project, my friend?!?!
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> <pitch> to <ChatQ>: Hi Mary Jo. Was there any ideas or plot developments that you really wanted to do on the MST3K but weren't able to with the cancellation?

<Mary> No, I really don't think so - none come to mind. We always had tons of ideas every writing cycle, but after our winnowing process, we pretty much narrowed it down.
<Mary> and it seemed to serve the show better to not have too many running through-lines from show to show
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> Mary many people want to know if you'll be attending any conventions this year?

<Mary> Haven't been invited to any as of yet. Always love doing 'em though. Maybe I'll have a convention of just me at my apartment...
<Mary> ga
<Mary> bug your convention operator to have me come1
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> <redmond51> to <ChatQ>: when you are writing, do you work best alone or in collaboration ?

<Mary> ah, good question, my friend. I tend to work best alone - collaboration is a very tricky thing. The huge exception was MST. It was collaborative in the best sense a
<Mary> and I really learned how to do it there. I have worked with my dear funny friend Kris Strobeck - we did a show at the Minnesota Fringe Festival and that was great fun...
<Mary> I'm open to doing more collaborative work but again, it's that delicate balance and the right chemistry
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> <MeeSTa3k> to <ChatQ>: Are there any mostly-unknown comedians or programs you would recommend to fans of MST3K-style humor?

<Mary> You bet... all my friends! Kris Strobeck is very funny, and I'm also a fan of Meg Sweeney Lawless. As for shows, sheesh, if I've heard of 'em that means they've already
<Mary> hit the mainstream for the most part..
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> <trnoel> to <ChatQ>: Did you ever try on Bobo's mask?

<Mary> I wouldn't say I tried it on - but it came close to my face once. I think Kevin was trying to make me smell it. the horror, the horror
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> <weirdfi> to <ChatQ>: (response to video store comment) What kind of videos do you rent, usually? romance,scifi, mst3k, "bridge crossing"?

<Mary> Ouch!
<Mary> I rent everything, really. I'm always trying to expand my video knowledge, if you will. So one week it will be old b/w, next week Maya Deren films, foreign, then more current
<Mary> For a month, I rented all film renditions of Herman Melville stories. I'm a Melville -- ian? Melville-ite? I love Melville and I wanted to see how his stuff was brought to the screen
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> Mary, this is the last question. And by the way you've been a PERFECT guest (you type very well.) What advice do give to aspiring writers and/or performers -- or just to anyone who wants to be funny?

<Mary> Wait ! I will rent anything but a Meg Ryan film. The only thing I've ever seen her in was Sleepless in Seattle. Never again.

<ChatMod> Billy Budd!

<Mary> Do we have to end? This has been fun - why doesn't everyone come over to my place for pop and crackers?
<Mary> the advice I would give is don't listen to people who want to quash your dreams and figure out a way to do your own stuff if nobody else is acknowledging you or hiring you
<Mary> Find the people who support your work but still give you meaningful feedback to keep you growing and working hard and stick with 'em - people you trust
<Mary> everyone else, ferget 'em.
<Mary> ga

<ChatMod> Mary, thanks a million for joining us. We hope you'll come back and do this agin. Thanks to the audience too for your many questions. We'll open the floor now.

<Mary> Roddy McDowall was in Billy Budd. I loved him.
<Mary> Thanks, everyone!

*** Mode change [-m] on #auditorium by ChatMod

<Mary> Bye fer now!

*** ChatMod has changed the topic on #auditorium to "Dominion Chat"

*** Mary ( has left IRC [(signed off)]

Reprinted with permission of The Sci-Fi Channel.