Mystery Science Theater 3000 (“MST3K” as it’s known to the legion of fans, who often refer to ourselves as “MSTies”) was a television show created in the late 1980s by prop comedian Joel Hodgson for a small UHF station near Minneapolis. The premise was simple: A janitor (Joel) is sent into space by his evil employers so that they may study him as they attempt to drive him mad. They hope to do this by forcing him to watch the worst movies they can find. Unfortunately for them, Joel built a couple of robot pals from spare parts and together, they keep their sanity by making fun of the horrible films.
We all watch the movie with Joel and his ‘bots, their live silhouettes (along with a row of theater seats) gracing the bottom of the TV screen. Their acerbic jabs at the movie are rapid-fired for 90 minutes of non-stop hilarity, broken up by a few “host segments” where Joel and his robot friends wreck havoc in the ship, often to the dismay of their evil overlords.
They did this for 11 seasons, creating nearly 200 television episodes and one feature film in the process. While Joel was replaced with (head writer) Mike midway through the series and the evil overlords changed several times over the years, the show never lost its Saturday Morning TV charm and smart, satirical appeal. No sharks were ever jumped.
The overall innocence of the home-made feel of the show, combined with the subversive intent and humor of the characters and the wretchedness of the movies they impaled, made for a cult classic that shows no sign of waning interest among fans. In fact, Joel has recently completed a Kickstarter campaign where enough money (over $6.5 million!) was raised by fan contributions to fund a complete reboot season, 15 years after the original show ended. Netflix has agreed to pick it up and the first episodes air in 2017. Not bad for a puppet show.
I am MSTie #26636 (yes, I procrastinated joining the fan club for some reason) and had begun trading tapes since I first discovered MST3K back in early 1991, following the show’s credo of “keep circulating the tapes“. I was known then as “BotSnak” in the early days of commercial internet, when our gang of Prodigy and AOL MSTies were pretty active both on and offline. You can see many of us hosting the ’93 TurkeyDay bumpers (I am the taller Dr Forrester introducing episode 420 – The Human Duplicators) and working as volunteers during the first Conventio-Con in 1994. My wife “Nuveena” and I also hosted the AOL room at that event, where we all plotted and executed the infamous Operation Flamingo prank on BBI (documented in all it’s glory on Disc 6 of the ’94 MST3K ConventioCon Set).