I still remember seeing those robot heads at the bottom of the screen when I hung out with a friend who was lucky enough to have Comedy Central back in the mid-90’s. They were watching a 70’s spy movie and singing along to the crappy theme music, inserting the lyrics to a Herbie Hancock song…”Watermelonnn mannnn”. I couldn’t stop giggling. I still haven’t stopped. Mystery Science Theater riffed on low budget action movies and 50’s educational videos for more than 10 years, even releasing a movie in the theaters, where they watched the movie ‘This Island Earth’…yes, there was a movie about people watching a movie. Pretty meta and it was completely hilarious.
Since the series finale in 1999, the team has split into two groups. Original human friend to the robots, Joel Hodgson (above, left), took series regulars like Trace Beaulieu (Crow, the gold robot pictured above) and Frank Conniff and put on live shows of movie commentary called Cinematic Titanic. Second human host and head writer, Mike Nelson, along with Bill Corbett (Crow’s second voice) and Kevin Murphy (Tom Servo, the gumball machine robot pictured above) started up a service called RiffTrax. With RiffTrax you can download a hilarious mp3 commentary of almost any movie you can imagine, and sync it up with your own DVD collection.
Here’s a great sample of their antics:
The Rifftrax crew has a new gig now however. Calling it Total Riff-Off, the comedy trio will be taking over the National Geographic channel (NatGeo) on the evening of April Fool’s Day. The former Mystery Science Theater jokesters will spend the evening making snarky sarcastic comments over your favorite nature shows and animal documentaries. During a special on koalas, the host comments on koalas “don’t really do anything during the day”, Kevin Murphy retorts “Yeah, ’cause most animals have jobs.” When the host continues, calling koalas “lazy, smelly, and full of disease,” Murphy responds “So they’re like college students.” There are worse ways to spend a Tuesday evening than having some friends over for a few beers and watching a hilarious commentary making fun of those quiet, dignified nature shows you used to watch when you stayed home sick from school.
Total Riff-Off airs on The National Geographic Channel on April 1st, 8pm.