If there’s one thing that you can’t help but adore is Mystery Science Theater 3000. At Rogues Portal, it’s still one of the things that we love best in this entire world, and we can’t wait til Netflix blesses us on Turkey Day for the brand new series.
However, before the new series lands on Netflix, Jonah, Crow, Tom, Gypsy, and Joel are embarking on their 30th-anniversary tour.
We had the absolutely wonderful opportunity to catch up with Joel Hodgson before he left for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 30th anniversary tour. Insha was able to talk with him about the upcoming tour, creating his new comic, creativity, and trust.
Insha Fitzpatrick: Thank you so much for talking with me. I know it must be crazy with the tour coming up.
Joel Hodgson: IT IS! It is. Crazy. Busy. It’s the most creative. I mean, it has been so worth it creativity for me to do this. I mean, we got a six-issue comic book coming out. That just started coming out [last month]. We’ve got new shows on Netflix and the live tour. A ton of stuff.
Insha: I wanted to ask you about the comic, but I’ll ask you about the tour first!
Insha: How does it feel to be doing another round of touring and then also being a part of the act now?
Joel: Well, it’s really cool because we deliberately didn’t want… I deliberately didn’t want to be part of it last year because Jonah [Ray] really had to get in there and kinda… just… get it. I think if I would have been in it last year, last summer, a year ago last summer… you know what I mean. It would have been kind of… it would have been distracting. But he went in there, did really great. They all loved him. So now, it’s kind of like an okay time for me to get involved with it and be riffing with him.
I don’t know how long I’ll do it. This is kind of, as far as me being on stage, it’s a special thing. I don’t know if I’ll be doing a lot of it in the future. I’ll still go out and produce and direct the event, but I think this is just a one-time thing that we’re doing for the 30th, ya know?
Insha: Yeah and that’s so cool!
Joel: Awww, thanks!
Insha: Is it super surreal, like, all the love you’ve gotten? Especially after the Kickstarter, the successful first round of the tour, and the revival? Is it still surreal that there’s still this much love of Mystery Science Theater over the years?
Joel: Ahhhh! It is! It’s so crazy, and it’s like the thing that I’ve learned is… it’s so much about trust. I can do all these things because people trust me. It’s the weirdest feeling cause I’ve had times in my life where people didn’t trust me to be creative and to do the things I wanted to do. And it’s so hard and once you get people to trust you it kind of opens up, and it’s a really crazy thing.
But that’s like the biggest thing I’m learning right now is just if you have people who trust you, it’s really amazing. That’s kind of, I think, that’s one of the big things I’m noticing right now in the world, and it’s really hard, you know what I mean? It’s sometimes very hard to trust people, and if you can though, you can do a lot.
Insha: Yeah, no, I’m going through that at the moment too.
Joel: Yeah, it’s really huge.
Insha: Yeah, trust is… I think trusting as a creative is one of the biggest and hardest things.
Joel: Oh my god, yeah.
Insha: [laughs] Cause you don’t know if someone is going to be like anything you do, so it’s like, “Okay, yeah, I’m gonna show you or tell you this really crazy idea. Maybe you’ll like it, but please don’t like… please trust me!”
Joel: Oh my god. It’s tough and… that’s a big problem. Captain Beefheart says that like how do you see it before you see it.
Joel: That’s what being creative is. It’s really hard cause most of the world we’re in, we can see it, we can negotiate it, but then when you start to describe something that doesn’t exist yet, that can be really challenging so, yeah, it’s really weird.
Insha: Yeah. This is one question I’ve always wanted to ask. One that has been on my mind since I started watching Mystery Science Theater. How do guys pick the movies that you’re gonna riff?
Joel: There’s a lot of different ways that that happens. Last season, I had over the year picked out movies I really wanted to do so I had kind of a wishlist of movies. Some of those movies were able to get, other you aren’t. A lot of time you have to wait into it and actually talk to lawyers or talk to people who own the movies and get the rights to them. That’s always an ongoing thing. You can’t spend too much time thinking about the movie until you get it.
It’s kind of an open architecture at first. Once you get a movie, it’s kind of this weird feeling where you have to scan the movie and screen the movie and have a good idea about what it is. You can’t write the movie because if you invested all the time writing, then you didn’t clear the rights, it’d be a huge waste of time. You kind have to have this vibe like, “Oh I like this movie cause its got enough of a…” I guess I’m kinda always looking for a movie that has a certain amount of charm. Both in these movies and a lot of movies have that because they’re often trying to do something. It’s like they’re play-acting, but they’re a movie. They want to be a big grown-up movie, but they’re not quite. You know?
Insha: [laughs] Oh yeah, I get it.
Joel: It’s kinda like that and so you kind of look for that, I think. But, if they’re too self-conscious… At a certain point, people started making movies that were self-conscious. Like, “We know this is a bad movie, but we’re gonna admit it’s a bad movie.” When you’re doing that, it’s not exactly good for what we do. So, yeah. Yeah!
Insha: So, about the comic! The first issue of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Comic is so good. I immediately fell in love with it because it’s such a cool idea that you’d never think that it would translate into comics but it just works so well. So, what sparked that idea? Was that something that you really wanted to do as well?
Joel: That one was one where I think I went into it really naively. Thinking “Oh this is easy! We’ll just put the theater seats at the bottom of each panel and have the robots and Jonah riff.” That’s what it was, and that was kind of a place marker idea, and when we finally started wade into the project and look at it, it didn’t work. The book that really turned me around about comics was Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, have you seen that?
Insha: Yeah! I love that.
Joel: It’s amazing, right? I read that probably, I don’t know, eight years ago and it really changed the way I thought about it and made me really respect comics on a whole new level. I started talking to Randy Stradley probably ten years ago and had, “Mystery Science Theater comic, yeah right. Yeah, we’ll use old comics, and we’ll insert funny ideas and riffs.” But when you looked at it, the silhouettes and theater seats silhouettes were prohibiting the way you engage with comics. They were kind of getting in the way of the best part of a comic. You need to see it as the full frame. That’s the magic of comics, the engagement of it.
Once we started to realize that we had to go “Oh this isn’t gonna work, we have to go at this another angle.” That meant we have to insert our characters into the comic. Then that meant Kinga’s gotta have a new invention that does that. That’s how the Bubbulat-r happened, the thing with theBubbulat-r, and how do you create something that can go up the tubes to the Satellite of Love and down the tubes. That’s how I got to ‘It’s like this bubble foam like VR. It covers your ears and eyes and nose and kinda does what a VR helmet might do, ya know?
Insha: I love that. The first issue is so interactive as well. I think that that very much works for what you guys are going with. It’s such a great very issue and I’m so excited for the second one.
Joel: Awww, thank you! It really gets fun the second [issue].
Insha: Yes! So, for my last question. In anticipation for the release on Turkey Day, can you give us a little hint of what’s to come for Mystery Science Theater 3000 Season 12?
Joel: Well, I think that… I think the big thing that I could tell you is this season Kinga and Max start to understand how to exploit their position on Netflix. They start to really think about and do something with Mystery Science Theater experiments that really work well with, or in their mind, really works well with Netflix. I guess I’ll just leave it at that.
Insha: That’s perfect. Thank you so much for talking with me! I appreciate it! The tours gonna be insanely cool.
Joel: Thank you so much! I appreciate it.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 Season 12 lands on Netflix this Turkey Day! Catch up while you can!