DADDY-O'S DRIVE-IN DIRT
SCI FI ARCHIVES
archives of the MST3K pages previously hosted by the Sci-Fi Channel's SCIFI.COM.
A while back, MST3K creator Joel Hodgson approached us about posting what he described as twenty
questions only he could answer about the show. Of course, we eagerly agreed. We dumped a huge number of questions
on him, and from that pile Joel chose the questions he felt most like answering, and put the following piece together.
And so without further ado, Satellite News presents:
TWENTY QUESTIONS ONLY
CAN ANSWER ABOUT MST3K
Q. Why "3000"?
J. I was always fond of science fiction shows with numbers attached
to their titles, like Space:
1999 and Sealab 2020, which I think was a Hanna Barbera cartoon-- anyway, you know what I mean. Also,
this is just before the 90's started and people were already applying 2000 to the end of their names. I particularly
remember George Bush's America 2000 campaign. I just wanted to pick something that would sort of
jar and captivate people. They would hear 3000 and think it was the year 3000, I was hoping it would sort of disorient
them and prepare them for the strange message they were about to receive.
Q. So "3000" isn't even a year?
J. No. If you notice any of the press from when I was with the show,
I would always deny it being the year 3000. I thought of it more as a series number, like the Hal 9000 computer
or the Galaxy 500. I guess the difference is Arthur C. Clark and the Ford motor company had the vision
to pick a number that couldn't be confused with a year. Besides, it doesn't make any sense to have these characters
living in the year 3000 when all their points of reference are from the pop culture of the 80's and the 90's. To
quote the theme song, "In the not too distant future-- next Sunday A.D." It really means next Sunday!
I'm writing this on a Tuesday, which is May 18th. That means the show takes place next Sunday, which is May 23rd.
Q. So if 3000 is a series number, what is the series that this would be the 3000th
J. It's at this point I again quote the theme song: "Just repeat
to yourself it's just a show, I should really just..." -- no, seriously, to get deeper into the eschatology
of the show-- the Mads were sort of these scientific heretics of Gizmonic Institute, they were banished
for the other atrocities they created in the lab. I don't think I have to remind you that the Mads are depraved
characters and will do anything for status or power, including shanghaiing a janitor and making him watch bad movies,
then packaging it into a cable show. The Mads attached the 3000 to make it look like it was the 3000th version
of the experiment, you know-- sort of spruce it up a bit. Obviously, they were lying and it was only the first
Q. So that is why they were in Deep 13?
J. Exactly. They had grabbed Joel and pushed him into the Gizmocrats
satellite, then launched it into space. Then, through a diabolical cover up, made the authorities think Joel had
stolen the ship on his own, had a mishap and had destroyed himself and the Satellite of Love. Yes they were banished
from Gizmonics, but they just moved down into Deep 13 to tap into the Gizmocrats hardware to track Joel and the
Q. Just hold up-- why weren't the Mads in Deep 13 from the very first show at TV
23? The Mads didn't start living in Deep 13 until the show moved to national TV.
J. Good question. I think there are two answers to that: time and
money. The first twenty shows at TV 23 were really a workshop. I didn't walk up to Jim Mallon with a finished
script and a show bible for MST3K. I just had a few drawings of a set and some robots and a some silhouettes
in theatre seats. He said "okay" and I went home and decorated the sets and made the puppets. I also
called Trace Beaulieu and Josh Weinstein, and we all showed up to shoot the pilot (also, a tip of
the old top hat to Kevin Murphy for cutting the theatre seats out of foam and fabricating the first doorway
sequence). When we did the pilot, I sort of pictured this guy pirating a signal and then this story unfolding of
him building this satellite and these robots and watching these bad movies. It was okay, but it was sort of hard
to understand. Then a friend of Jim's suggested we make a theme song to explain the story, and this is where the
Mads came from. Josh and I wrote it into the theme song. "His bosses didn't like him so they shot him into
space." Then when we shot the theme song, we dressed up Josh and Trace and had them mouth the words. That
was the beginning of the Mads. It just grew from there, and I might add, made the show better conceptually. This
all happened within the first few weeks. When we got commissioned to do the show for Comedy Channel, it
was time to retool and get a little deeper into the story, and that brought the fulfillment of what Gizmonic Institute
looked like and the invention of Deep Thirteen. We had the time and resources to flesh out these ideas.
Q. Why is there such a marked difference between the look of the sets and the models
between the first and second seasons on Comedy Channel?
J. Well, we had more money and more time the first season than we
did at TV 23. When we got signed to do a second season for the Comedy Channel, we had more money and more time
than the first season. These production deadlines are murder, especially if you're a group of people who had never
really built a TV series before. But after that, I was extremely happy with the story and the look of the show
at the beginning of season two-- everything was working together. I felt like it was finished conceptually. So
if you're looking for conceptual congruity, start looking for it at the beginning of season two of the Comedy Channel.
Q. Why did you ...
J. What number question are we at?
Q. I don't know...um, seven.
J. Great, go ahead.
Q. Why did you name Crow "Crow?"
J. The name Crow was inspired by a number of things. I thought it
would be cool to have a robot with sort of a Native American feel to it. I had a friend a friend in college who
had a friend named Tommy Crow he had all these adventures with. I always thought that was such a cool name.
Also the Jim Carroll Band had a song called "Crow" on the album "Catholic Boy." If you
listen to the song, it's easy to picture the character of Crow.
Q. What about Tom Servo?
J. The name Servo came from a vending machine at the Southdale shopping
center in Minneapolis. They had this great vending machine that was shaped like a robot called Servotron. I just
pulled Servo from that. Then later, as the character developed at TV 23, Josh Weinstein (who performed the puppet)
added the "Tom." Josh told me he thought of it sort of like those DJs on local radio shows who always
had an on air nickname-- well Servo's on air nickname was "Tom."
Q. What about Gypsy?
J. Gypsy was the name my brother gave a pet turtle he had. I always
was so peculiar. I knew Gypsy was going to be big and slow, so Gypsy was the
Q. What shows inspired you in the conception of MST3K?
I think the most direct link is to the Douglas Trumble film Silent Running, which had a huge influence
on me as a kid. I think Bruce Dern did a great job, and it's such great subject matter-- a hippie in space.
I knew I was backward engineering ideas from that film and as time went on, I noticed some connections to other
shows-- particularly Beanie and Cecil. Beanie and Cecil was the first cartoon I remember watching
and I think there are analogies. The SOL is sort of like Leakin Lena. Joel is like Beanie.
Servo is like Captain Huff-n-Puff. Gypsy is sorta like Cecil, and Dishonest John
is like Dr. Forrester-- there's even a Crow that shows up occasionally in the Crows nest! On a bigger
level, I was in love with a show called The Children's Film Festival with Kukla, Fran and Ollie. If you
get a chance to see it, I think it too is strangely similar.
We're familiar with The Children's Film Festival with Kukla, Fran and Ollie, but for the benefit of readers
who might not be, how would you describe it?
J. Basically, it was a show on CBS and I would guess it was on in
the early seventies. Each week Kukla, Fran and Ollie would host a different international film and sort of talk
about it along the way. I just think it's very close structurally-- a human host with puppets watching a movie.
Q. You are greatly admired by your fans, both for your creativity and, if you don't
mind us saying so, for your ineffable charm. Are you comfortable with the idea that some people see you a role
J. I didn't know you thought I had ineffable charm. Just kidding--
absolutely. It's always a great compliment when I find out that some of my work has inspired someone else to try
something creative. It's really what it's all about. That's why I did what I did-- others inspired me. But if you
think you aren't creative that's cool, too. I think being around people who aren't creative is kind of refreshing
Q. What about your presence on the Internet-- any thoughts on that?
J. Yes, mainly I would like to apologize to all the people who have
posted looking for me and wondered where I was. I feel bad that I haven't been able to dialogue with you. The internet
is a total inversion of television. It's the opposite. So I can't very well start answering questions from one
person and then move on to the next. It's just too hard. During the early days of the gizmonics.com site,
I tried to answer questions, but it just was no fun for me. It just felt like homework.
(Satellite News note: In early 2001, Joel felt he wasn't getting a good return on his investment in the
gizmonics.com web site and let the registration for the domain expire. It was subsequently snatched up by a "cybervulture"
company and now serves as a portal to an adult site.)
Q. So you're saying you've never gone online and entered a chat room as "Joel?"
J. Nope, never. It's just too intense.
Q. In your recent interview on Talkspot.com,
you did mention going into a chat room disguised as someone else, right?
J. Only once, probably four years ago. I was hanging out with a friend
of mine and she said, "You have to check this out-- the MSTies are having a fight over who's better at hosting
the show-- Joel or Mike." So we read this war between people, fencing around arguing about who they like better--
Joel or Mike. It was a war. Well the moderator came in to break it all up and say something like "They're
both good in their own ways, and I thought we agreed not to fight about this any more." Everyone had calmed
down and was smoothing out their feathers and saying they were sorry and then my friend and I wrote, "Yeah,
but when you think about it, Joel's better!" And then we took off.
Q. So the only time you've ever been online is in an interview situation and that
one instance you just mentioned.
J. Right, and if you have talked to Joel in a chatroom, you've been
What number are we at?
J. You know, I'm really tired of typing and thinking about how my
going to affect future generations and checking my spelling and all-- would you
mind if we just left it at sixteen?
Q. No problem. It's been an honor.
| VISIT PREVIOUS FEATURED ARTICLES |