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Published on March 18th, 2010 | by gareth

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Q & A with MST3K’s Creator Joel Hodgson

Recently I got the chance to speak with the very talented Joel Hodgson about his current and past projects and the ongoing Cinematic Titanic. Joel is known as the creator of the very popular Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) which made an art form of riffing on bad movies. I want to thank Joel for taking the time to answer our questions and to Eve for arranging the interview.

Gareth von Kallenbach: After doing MST3K, comedy and other projects in Hollywood, how did you come to do Cinematic Titanic?

Joel Hodgson: Over time I felt obliged to do another show. MST3K had evolved into an art form and I had become frustrated as my style differs from Hollywood. MST3K got me jobs in Hollywood but I found them frustrating and not much fun. I always found riffing fun and with ever growing sales of the MST3K dvd’s I thought it would be fun to take another run at it with the same people we had originally done the show with.

GVK: As a comedian, what inspires you and what shows and films have you found funny?

JH: I loved “Airplane.” It was awesome and evoked the spirit of comedy that I like. I also like conceptual comedy from people like Jim Henson, Andy Kaufman, and some of the early Frank Zappa which bent form.

GVK: Is it easier or harder to come up with material now than it was back in the days of doing MST3K?

JH: It is about the same but the process is different. Back then we would all meet in a room and write while we looked at a TV. Now we are all over and we write separately and then converge. So, in that way it was easier, to be all in the same room with a routine of go to work, turn on the TV, and make people laugh.

GVK: How do you select the films that you use and how difficult is it to obtain the rights?

JH: We get about half of the films from licensing and half from the public domain. Each has its own advantages. Over time we developed our own personal style and tastes for the films we used. “Manos: The Hand of Fate”, “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians”, “Hercules Unchained” , and “I Accuse My Parents” are good examples. People gravitate to strange new worlds that they have never heard of.

GVK: Have you ever heard back from talent that did not appreciate what you did with their work?

JH: I always found people were enthused about what we did because actors always have a detachment from their work. Nobody I met was ever really offended and people like Beverly Garland actually liked the attention we gave her as it made her more famous.

GVK: You went after a lot of Ed Wood movies in the past have you ever thought of going after Uwe Boll’s work as many call him a modern day Ed Wood?

JH: Not really, because the films he works with are licensed and as such would be very costly to get the rights to. Also people now become self conscious with bad movies and kind of wink at the camera which makes it hard to make a joke about when they are already making jokes themselves.

GVK: Do you choose to stay clear of R Rated films for a reason?

JH: A few of what we have done may have been R but by the time we edit them down they are in the PG-13 range which is where we like to operate. MST3K had a puppet show element to it and we knew that children were watching it, so we have not changed much for the audience in terms of our content.

GVK: I have always found innuendo much trickier and funnier than using profanity which is often taking the easy way to a laugh for its shock value.

JH: Exactly! That is more my standard and in my wheelhouse.

GVK: How long does it take to write the audio for a show and DVD?

JH: Roughly about a month.

GVK: Which of your past films would you like to go back and redo like you redid “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians?

JH: When Santa was re-riffed we found that all the movies can be revisited because you forget the lines over time and being able to update them allows them to run forever.

GVK: Is there anything current you want to take a shot at?

JH: Nothing yet.

GVK: To what do you credit for the ongoing popularity of your work and what can we look forward to?

JH: With MST3K we were fortunate because we had no network interference. This worked out great because Comedy Central didn’t really promote us. We grew via word of mouth. This was very uniqueand we benefited from being able to find an audience and grow instead of being sold to you. We will have more DVDs and tour dates to come.


Cinematic Titanic Live is the theatrical version of movie riffing, the comedic art form created over twenty years ago in the form of Mystery Science Theater 3000. To catch Joel on tour with the rest of the Cinematic Titanic ensemble, check for current tour dates at www.cinematictitanic.com.


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