Q: When I look back over the whole history of
the show, I really think Joel was a better, funnier host
than Mike. Am I alone in this feeling?
A: Hardly. In fact, both Joel and Mike have
themselves been asked which of them was a better host, and
both of them gave the same answer: Joel. Joel is beloved by
just about all fans of the show.
At the same time, when Mike took over the hosting duties,
the vast majority of fans quickly came to love him, too.
Mike has his own performing style, and comparing the two is
really comparing apples and oranges. Each is good in his own
way. Of course, Joel created the series and made a vital
ongoing contribution to it when he was its star, but those
who say he is "funnier" might want to keep in mind that
MST3K scripts have always been a team effort, and Head
Writer Mike Nelson and the rest of the writing staff were
writing a lot of Joel's dialog.
Q: I thought Mike did a great job, and Joel
was great, too. Do people seriously argue about which one
A: It doesn't happen much anymore, but
immediately after Mike took over in the fall of 1993, and
continuing for about a year, the Great Joel vs Mike Flamewar roared out of control everywhere in MSTie
cyberspace. The enduring legacy of that time is that
bringing up the issue in public forums is something of a
However, as the show begins to receed in people's memories,
that taboo is beginning to fade. The emotions surrounding
the issue just aren't as strong as they used to be.
Once in a great while, you may still see somebody in a forum asking "Who
do you like better, Mike or Joel?" or saying "I hate Mike,
Joel was funnier" (or the reverse). One of three
things is happening:
- The person is intentionally trying to cause trouble (and it used to
work, but, as already noted, such tactics are less and
less likely to cause a major argument these days);
- the person is new to the MST3K
discussion area and is just looking to break the ice,
unaware of what a tender topic it is (and while this
blunder once brought scorn and derision, it now actually
may work as a pleasant icebreaker);
- or the person is a long-time
regular slyly mocking the heated emotions that once
surrounded so inflammatory an issue.
Q: It deserves mockery! Why in the world
would people get so exercised about the characters in a TV
A: Looking back, it seems pretty silly, now.
The only way to explain those times is to note that MST3K
fans were (and in some cases, still are) remarkably
passionate about the series. Plus, it seems to be human
nature, when confronted with a dichotomy, to take sides
(tastes great! less filling!) or to at least compare and
contrast. In a situation like that, somebody, almost
unavoidably, will say "host A vs. host B: discuss."
Those elements were all that was needed, at the time, to
spark a very ugly situation. But that was a long time ago.
Q: I've heard that "Joel vs. Mike"
discussions were forbidden! Is that true?
A: Yes, there was a time when, in some
moderated discussion forums, that topic was off limits. The
ban was imposed because years of experience
had shown that the topic only sparked angry words.
Again, the issue is no longer quite the tender topic it once
was, but even those who post in the unmoderated Usenet
newsgroups are advised to steer clear of "Joel vs. Mike"
discussions, or approach them warily and with a light,
Q: Sheesh! I thought online discussion forums
were for debate! Why shouldn't people debate this?
A: They can, of course, and increasingly they
are. But for many years they chose not to, because online
MSTie groups often saw themselves as communities--relatively
happy, peaceful communities, at that--and, while these
communities respected freedom of expression, they also did
their best to avoid and discourage situations where
divisions and angry words could arise. The "Joel vs. Mike"
issue was put along side the topics of politics and religion
as conversation topics to avoid.
Some forums have gotten to the point where the issue no
longer sparks angry words, but it's still advisable to be
cautious. Here are the three most popular reasons people
give for steering clear of the issue:
- Been there, done
that: It seems like
yesterday to some folks, but Joel left the series in
1993. This is certainly not a new or undiscussed
- Nobody's right, nobody's
wrong: We are talking,
after all, about something that is purely a matter of
opinion--and it's a matter of opinion about which
everybody has already made up their minds.
- Can you say "faux
pas"?: Bringing the
issue up was, in the past, seen as aggressive and
inconsiderate gesture, even by those who happened to
agree with you. Even if your post is not intended as a
disruption, some who read your comments could
(understandably, based on past history) consider you a
If, after reading all those
reasons, you still wish to bring up this issue, we can only
say: Be careful out there!
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