DADDY-O'S DRIVE-IN DIRT
SCI FI ARCHIVES
archives of the MST3K pages previously hosted by the Sci-Fi Channel's SCIFI.COM.
We here at Satellite News are proud as punch to present a new "20 Questions"
interview with Trace Beaulieu, one of the original cast members of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and
originator of the roles of Crow T. Robot and Dr. Clayton Forrester.
You sticklers out there may notice that there are more than 20 questions. Consider
them an extra-special bonus if you'd like.
Q: You've so far revealed very little
about your life before coming to MST3K. Where were you born? Where did you go to school? What were you like
as a kid? If you attended college, where?
A: I was born in Minneapolis.
Well, actually I grew up in Hopkins, a suburb. I attended Harley Hopkins Elementary, which was later torn down.
I spent grades 7 through 9 at Hopkins South Junior High. The school was later closed and made into apartments.
My high school years were endured at Hopkins' Eisenhower High School. The school closed. The University of Minnesota
was next and I fled the campus after a year. As far as I know, the school is still there.
Q: Your bio mentions a period you spent
in Europe as part of a circus. How did you get involved with it? What was it like? Is it an experience you remember
A: THAT IS A TOTAL LIE!
It was an ICE SHOW. A pal of mine had been touring with the show in the Far East.
When he returned to Minneapolis, he invited me to join him. By that time the company was based in France, so off
we went. It was a lot of fun and really hard work. I guess it was like a circus; we traveled from town to town
setting up the show. So yes, very circus like. Our company had a chimp that skated and played badminton in a kilt.
I ate a lot and got rather porky. (Hmm, you may have been right about that circus thing.)
Q: You were part of an improv workshop
when you met Josh "J. Elvis" Weinstein and Joel Hodgson. We'd love to hear more about that workshop. Were you a regular? What were the sessions like?
A: I was hanging around
one of the comedy boutiques, The Comedy Cabaret in Minneapolis, and hooked up with a group of folks doing wacky
shows. I joined their improv classes and we would perform on the weekends. There were a lot of cool people hanging
around, all far too creative to mention here.
Q: What were your impressions of Joel
when you first met him? Same question for Josh.
A: I had never seen
Joel's act back then. I saw his picture in the clubs, but he had already left for fame and fortune by then. The
first time I saw him was on LETTERMAN. I thought his stuff was very funny and cool. I don't remember when I first
met Josh. I think I saw him on stage and immediately resented his talent and youth.
Q: What are your memories of the first
time you picked up Crow? How did you conceive of his character? Did you develop his character on your own
or did Joel offer guidance?
A: Joel had the Satellite
of Love set at one end of the studio. On the matinee movie host's set there were a couple of brightly colored piles
of plastic. Josh went to one pile, while I went to the other. I guess I liked the look of Crow. I'm attracted to
I had done a stint operating a remote control robot at trade shows. I'd walk around
speaking into a coffee cup, and go up to people and be a smart ass. I was using a voice that was staccato and whiny.
So when we were setting up to do those early KTMA shows I was using that voice and it became very limiting. Eventually
I found something that was a bit more comfortable. Or, my voice changed all by itself. (Geesh!
I can't believe I told the coffee cup story.)
Q: When it was decided to create the
mad scientist characters, how did you conceive of the character of Dr. Forrester?
A: You know, in the
beginning, we had to do the whole show in a day and that really didn't leave a lot of time for character exploration.
The name Clayton Forrester is lifted wholesale from Gene Barry's character in WAR OF THE WORLDS. Once we had enough
money to allow me to hide behind some hair and make up, Forrester became more fun. Most of us had worked on the
road doing stand-up, working for jerk club owners. Dr. F's character was inspired by those guys. Sort of the ultimate
"Clayton Forrester, meet Clayton Forrester."
Q: How difficult did you find the ad-libbed
riffing in the theater during the KTMA days?
A: That was frustrating
because there was no feedback. We had all been on stage and were used to getting immediate response from the audience.
That, and we really had to watch the movie
Q: So you preferred the later system,
when the lines were written down ahead of time?
A: ARE YOU KIDDING!?
Once the lines had been worked out and edited and time coded, it was a cakewalk.
Q: Looking back over all the movies
you watched, is there one that sticks out in your memory in some way, as particularly bad or particularly good?
A: Any of the Shorts
I could watch again. Particularly bad? Hmmm? The INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN. Is that the title? That one for some reason
sticks in my head and hurts. If I close my eyes I can still see that guy melting by the trashcan.
Q: Looking back over the experience of MST3K,
what aspect of your contributions to it gives you the most satisfaction?
A: If I had to pick
one thing, it would probably be performing as Crow, but I'm pleased with all the stuff I got to do.
Q: You made a number of improvements
to Joel's initial design of Crow over the years. Was there a point when Joel basically ceded control of the way
Crow looked and operated to you? When was that?
A: I don't remember
if there was that sort of moment.
Q: You also made a considerable contribution
to the art direction side of the show, including much of the work on the Satellite of Love models. What was your
premise as you worked on them?
How did the "dog bone" shape come about? Were you thinking in terms of how a real spaceship might look?
Or were you just hoping to create something that looked neat?
A: The shape of the
S.O.L. came about because the Demon Dogs that had attacked the ship in an early episode were attracted to it because
it looked like a bone. I had very little time to build the first one so I used foam core because it was light and
easy to work with. I was influenced by Ron Cobb's design on ALIEN and the little round ship in FIRST MEN IN THE
MOON. The models for the film gave me a chance to get more detailed, especially on the eight foot. Again they were
made out of foam core with a lot of stuff glued to them. Basically I wanted them to look neat.
Q: You and Frank Conniff developed
a real chemistry together. Can you talk a little about what you think made the two of you such a good team?
Q: What was the experience like working
with Josh again on "America's Funniest Home Videos"?
A: I was pleased to
be working with and getting to know Josh again and for the first time. I think it had been about ten years since
we had worked at Best Brains, and I know that had not been a particularly pleasant experience for Josh. We had
a great time; and I enjoyed working with the other writers Tony DeSena, Todd Thicke, and Joel Madison, another
Midwest boy. All those guys made it a very fun experience.
J. Elvis (second from left) and Trace (third from left, in back) in the AFV writing
Q: A year or so ago we heard that you might
be working on another comic book. What's the status of that? And are you still selling autographed copies of "Here
Come the Big People"?
A: THAT IS SUCH A LIE!
(Oh, yeah. Maybe we did say that.)
Here's the story. A production company approached Laurie (the publisher) about making
the first book into a feature. Yeah? Well, we couldn't believe it either. Laurie came out and we had a very odd
pitch meeting with this company rep. I won't go into all the details, but he was mostly interested in the Freudian
subtext, and wanted to bring more of the Oedipal implications to the foreground. We left doing the "dog with
his head cocked to one side" look. Anyway, we had come up with a bunch of stuff to expand the story and that
stuff was going into a second book. It's all there. It just has to be written down, given to an artist, sent to
a printer and then distributed.
But you can still order copies of the original (cover 1, by Amanda Conner and Jimmy
Palmiotti, cover 2, by Geof Darrow) and I'll sign 'em by sending $9.00 check or money order to:
- Trace Beaulieu
P.O. Box 311
Marine On St. Croix
Q: Are there any other current professional
projects you're working on that you'd like to talk about?
A: Well you already
know about FREAKS AND GEEKS. Those episodes are on sometime in the future and you'll just have to watch it all
the time to catch me. Other stuff is in the works. I'll let you know when it starts to take root.
Q: Would you rather be performing or
writing or a little of both? Or something else?
A: I enjoy both. Lately
I've been making a lot of art.
Q: Are you finding life in California
more or less comfortable than Minnesota? Anything you miss about the Snow Belt?
A: L.A. is fine, but
it ain't mine. I miss the lakes.
Q: What's your dream?
A: I'm in high school
and a big Twinkie chases me naked through the lunchroom.
Q:Where do ya wanna be in five years?
A: I'll let you know
Q: Who put the bomp in the bomp-shoo-bomp?
A: It's best to leave
that one unsolved.
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