I had a brief, 30-second conversation with MST3K creator Joel Hodgson. I had a brief conversation with Joel Hodgson. I talked with Joel Hodgson. I came into contact with Joel Hodgson. Joel… Hodgson.
On June 13th, my 26th birthday, I traveled to the city of Philadelphia to see the Cinematic Titanic crew do a live riffing of Danger on Tiki Island. Let me go ahead and spoil the article for you: It was amazing and you need to go see them live. Seriously. Now. Sell the kids, break out the rollerblades, do whatever it takes to get to a live show. Rifftrax, Cinematic Titanic, it doesn’t matter — the Brains and their work were meant to be experienced live. Click past the break for the full report.
(Please note: Due to my lack of a working camera, the header image came from Katy Beaulieu’s cell phone, hence the low quality. [That's a comment on cell phone cameras, not Katy's abilities as a photographer.] In case you can’t tell, that’s Trace on the left and me on the right. I look awful, but I photoshopped in a close approximation of how I felt at the time.)
After waiting an ungodly amount of time in the rain, I waited a slightly less ungodly amount of time inside the theater. Finally, Dave “Gruber” Allen took the stage. You might remember him from The Higgins Boys & Gruber or as Freaks & Geeks‘ Mr. Rosso. I’d heard mixed reviews of his warm-up act from the first few Cinematic Titanic shows, but I found him funny and quite enjoyable. Thanks to Ron DeGroot (aka the internet’s “RAD,” aka Mary Jo’s ridiculously amazing husband), I was able to meet Mr. Allen after the show, and I can honestly say that I’m officially a Gruber fan.
The pre-show skits and jokes consisted of Gruber and/or one or more Brains. Mary Jo came out, Trace came out and assisted Gruber with a bit, Josh came out for several segments, and Frank did his own delightfully self-deprecating thing. Lastly, Joel came out (to what should have been a standing ovation; but whatever, Philadelphia) and said a few words. We waited some more – then finally, the Titans assumed their usual positions and the main event began.
Danger on Tiki Island is an atrocious but amusing monster flick full of skin, midgets, intolerable white people, laughable gore, and the worst movie monster since The Creeping Terror. The movie was by no means unwatchable on its own (for all the wrong reasons), and the riffing made it ten times better. Hopefully, the DVD (which will be recorded in July) won’t lose any of the hilarity of the live show. If it maintains the quality that I witnessed that night, then it could be the best episode of the series yet. I had expected Cinematic Titanic to improve with age, and I haven’t been let down.
After the film ended, we were treated to a somewhat awkward montage of scenes from previous CT episodes, with the Titans recreating the riffs live. It understandably felt a little disjointed and weird, but I do like the idea of an encore. I’m not sure what could be done to improve it (riff an educational short, maybe?) but it did nothing to diminish the experience of the previous 90 minutes.
Then, the meet-and-greet portion of the night began. I was mercifully saved the TORCHA! of waiting in the immense line by tracking down Ron and talking to him for a while. He then helped me locate Katy Beaulieu, Trace’s wife, who is one of the sweetest, most friendly people that you’ll ever encounter. She makes Ron seem like Joe Don Baker by comparison. (Just kidding, Ron!) I ended up chatting with Katy for the remainder of the evening. Honestly, meeting Ron and Katy was equally as enjoyable as meeting the Titans. I’m not a fan of disgustingly blatant butt-kissing, but they truly deserve the praise.
As the venue’s staff urged the crew to hurry things up, Trace began working his way through the line of fans. Katy introduced me to her husband, I met my comedic hero, and I proceeded to turn into a sputtering mute. Good job! As the night came to a close and the last fans went through the line, I nervously made my way to the gauntlet of Titans. Katy introduced me to Josh and he thanked me for this site, shook my hand, and completely won me over with his warmth. (It took a while because my overall exposure to Josh has been minimal.) I then met Mary Jo and immediately shot myself in the foot by introducing myself as “Hugh Beaumont… from the Internet.” (I internally facepalmed as I said it.) Then, Frank met my expectations by commenting on my Speed Racer t-shirt. I totally called it.
Last but not least, Joel Hodgson is one of the nicest, most welcoming human beings you’ll ever meet. I was the last person in line and managed to have something of a 30-second conversation with him — and here’s the best part — without making a total ass of myself. It took gargantuan effort not to devolve into a babbling, staring idiot, as I stared into the face of the man responsible for MST3K and, thus, all of its spin-offs. I shook the hand that had pieced together Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot. Meeting Joel was one of the last things I did that night, and it was the perfect icing on one delicious cake. For someone like me, it can’t get much better.
The whole experience made me ten times more proud to be a MSTie. The fans were so incredibly, delightfully diverse. The Brains were all so charming, hilarious, and friendly. Basically, now I’m really jealous of Ron and Katy, since they’ve pretty much eliminated any likelihood that I can somehow marry into this amazing family of people. I mean, Frank is single, though I doubt he’d be terribly interested. But I digress. In closing, fellow MSTies, let me say this: Beez, call me.
But no, seriously. See Cinematic Titanic live. If you’re even half the MST3K fanatic I am, it’ll be a life-changing (not really, but kinda sorta) experience.