Magic, August 1995

Excerpts from the article, "Fame" by Jennifer Sils

This is an unauthorized reprint.

...Joel Hodgson is more pragmatic about the value of fame. "My 100 episodes of 'Mystery Science Theater' are probably what allowed me to get 'The TV Wheel' made. Fame is more a commodity than a lifestyle."

...Because of the profundity of clever material in each episode of "Mystery Science Theater," fans began to think of Joel Hodgson as a font of cultural knowledge. He's afraid that people will think "that guy is really enlightened; it must be fun being him." People don't read the credits; they don't realize that eight of us wrote the show." After receiving over 50,000 pieces of mail in five years, Joel just stopped reading them. "It was too much to think about." "Mystery Science Theater" achieved an almost cult-like following - complete with several forums on the Internet - that didn't abate after Joel left the program. His friends informed him that there were on-line entries such as: "What's up with Joel?" "Why isn't he on the show?" "Is he into drugs now or something?" Joel doesn't want to be a mysterious, inaccessible figure to his fans. "I hope when people meet me they see that being good at something is not about being charmed, but about working really hard. People think it's supposed to be like hanging out with Robin Williams, that I'll be goofing, being super funny or whatever. At first I wanted to be that for them and I would try, but it's just not how I'm built; I'm not that funny in real life."

...Joel Hodgson, however, points out that shrewd celebrities can use the press to their own advantage, and what looks like a news event can actually be a press release. "Is getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame an actual news event?" he asks, "Or is a cleverly crafted promotional event?" He remembers seeing Johnny Depp on the cover of "People" magazine, which just happened to coincide with the opening of "Ed Wood." "Now, why is that?" asks Joel. "He just happened to be in a lot of trouble when 'Ed Wood' came out? No, his press people engineered it so that we were thinking about Johnny Depp when 'Ed Wood' came out," Joel speculates.

...Joel, too, is more interested in art than fame. "Fame is a part of show business thst isn't so great if you want to be a storyteller. That's all I want to do; I don't want to be on camera, but I kind of made peace with it for 'The TV Wheel.' I am interested in introducing it, like Walt Disney used to present 'The Wonderful World of Disney.' That's kind of fun. It's like saying the buck stops here; I'm the guy who thought this up."