From: (Alex Bost)

Date: Wed, 4 Sep 91 15:15:49 EDT

Subject: MST3K: Article

From "Entertainment Weekly", August 16, 1991 Issue:

[reprinted without permission]

"Crummy Movies, Funny Jokes"

Lips and Laughs on Cable's Clever "Mystery Science Theatre"

by Benjamin Svetkey


It's only a cheesy Japanese Monster movie - the dialogue is dopey, the dubbing a disaster, and the special effects look as if they were slapped together with spit and rice paper - but Joel Hodgson is sitting in a Minneapolis suburb watching "Godzilla vs. Megalon" with the adoring eyes of a film student scrutinizing Fellini's "Satyricon."

"We're *thrilled* to have this movie," gushes the 31-year-old host and creator of "Mystery Science Theatre 3000" (Comedy Central, Saturdays, 7-9pm), cable TV's goofy B-movie send-up. "Godzilla is a *major* star."

Hipper than "Saturday Night Live", cooler than "Arsenio Hall", filled with more pop references than "The Andy Warhol Diaries", MST is the perfect postmodern comedy. The concept is a hoot: Hodgson and his robot sidekicks, Tom Servo and Crow, have been shot into space by mad scientists who force them to watch crummy old movies. As stinkers like"The Slime People," "Jungle Goddess," and "Rocket Attack, U.S.A." unspool in front of them, the trio sits in silhouette, on the corner of the TV sreen and lets loose a stream of jeering one-liners. "How do we stand on fuel?" an astronaut asks in "Rocket Ship X-M." "I'm for it!"comes the off-screen answer. A bride collapses on the altar in "The Corpse Vanishes". "I'm Getting Buried in the Morning" sings the hecklers.

Now in its third season, MST is fast becoming one of cable's fastest cult hits. TIME named it one of cable's top 10 TV shows, and fans have been even more effusive: "I think it's one of the funniest shows on the air," offers Dan O'Shannon, a supervising producer on "Cheers". "It canonizes something we all do, which is talk back to our TV sets. It's definitely on the cutting edge of comedy.

That "cutting edge" first took shape on a tiny UHF station in Minnesota, where Hodgson settled after abandoning a successful stand-up career in L.A. "I was on "Late Night", doing guest spots on "SNL", NBC was offering me a sitcom," he recalls. "All of my dreams were coming true, but I was*really* unhappy." So he beelined it back to Minneapolis and took a string of odd jobs - ironing decals onto T-shirts, building and selling puppets.

Then, in 1988, Minneapolis' KTMA-TV approached him looking for new ideas,and on Thanksgiving Day,MST made its local debut. "The station got great response," Hodgson says. "The switchboard lit up." Hodgson sent clips to HBO, which snapped up the series for its Comedy Channel (which later merged with HA! comedy network to form Comedy Central). Part of what made MST so attractive was its price tag. The series costs only $50,000 per episode (compared with $300,000-$600,000 for network sitcoms). It uses only the cheapest possible movies, and the sets and props are almost allhomemade, including the robots (Tom is made of bits of an old bubble-gum machine, a penny-bank, and a flashlight; Crow's basic parts are a lacrosseface mask, a plastic bowling pin, and a soap dish).

Sitting in the screening room at MST's studio, Hodgson and cowriters Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy, and Mike Nelson are absorbed in their sixth viewing of "Godzilla vs. Megalon." Each of the 800 one-liners per movie is practiced over and over until you'd swear every word was ad-libbed. On the monitor, three cars bounce around the streets of Tokyo in a jumpy, ineptly edited chase sequence. "Action sequences filmed in Confuso-vision!" cracks Murphy. "You know in France this scene would be considered genius." Hodgson quips. "Suddenly, we're watching "Mannix"," sneers Beaulieu. "You know, in France Mike Connors is considered a genius," says Hodgson. "I haven't seen this much action since 'Herbie Goes to Mexico,'" Murphy jeers. "You know, in France Dean Jones is considered..." "JOEL!" the writers screech in unison, "SHUUUUUUUTTTTT UP!"

Please, Joel, anything but that.