In the not too distant future – this Thursday A.D. – Joel Hodgson and his robot friends are coming to FLC.
The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live: The Great Cheesy Movie Circus Tour lands at Durango’s Community Concert Hall at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 13. Joel Hodgson, who created the cult hit TV show in 1988, will reprise his role of Joel Robinson for the final time ... at least as far as live tours are concerned.
“I’ve been on the last two tours, ... and I realized that I had enough juice and enthusiasm to do one more,” he said. “And then I want all the young people to take over and do it.”
The TV version of MST3K originated on Minneapolis’ KTMA before moving to the then-new Comedy Channel (which later became Comedy Central), where it ran for seven seasons. It then leapt over to the Sci-Fi channel for another three seasons, eventually getting canceled in 1999. Hodgson left the show midway through the fifth season, but he was instrumental in reviving it on Netflix for two seasons from 2017 to 2018.
In theory, MST3K should be the easiest TV show to adapt to the stage. Most of it involves Joel and robot puppets Tom Servo and Crow wisecracking about a movie as they sit in theatre seats in front of the viewer in silhouette — broken up by short skits performed by Joel and the puppets.
The riffing portion of MST3K is the part that differs the most in the jump from one medium to the other. Much like his character in the show, Hodgson can’t control where the movies begin or end, so the show has to actively reshape itself around audience reactions.
“You’re hoping that the audience reacts and when they react, they react differently each night — so you have to kind of move the material around. Sometimes you have to kind of leave jokes out because they’re laughing over the setup for the next joke. So you’re doing a fair amount of editing while the show is going on,” he said.
As such, no two live riffs of the same movie are exactly the same.
When it comes to the skits for this tour in particular, the creators decided to branch out from what the audience has seen on TV or in previous tours.
“We decided to sort of branch out from what we’re used to seeing, which is just our puppets stationed behind the desk or in a theater seat. We really had to think about how can we actually utilize the space on the stage and have them move around for a change and walk or fly or do some new things that we haven’t really gotten a chance to see them do before,” said writer and producer Matt McGinnis.
“For example, Crow jumps on a pogo stick and he walks around and he rides a unicycle, and Tom Servo flies and is autonomous and can move around the stage,” said Hodgson. “So we had to kind of spend a lot of time developing that in our workshop to get ready for the live tour.”
If you’re a long time viewer of the show and you’re weirded out by seeing Crow’s legs (it’s a bit like seeing Kermit the Frog walk), you’re not alone.
“It’s very unsettling,” said Hodgson.
At the Durango performance, the cast will be riffing on the 1986 martial arts film “No Retreat, No Surrender,” in which Kurt McKinney plays an American teenager who learns karate from the ghost of Bruce Lee and must protect his dojo from a villain played by Jean-Claude van Damme.
For more information or to buy tickets, contact the Community Concert Hall at (970) 247-7657 or durangoconcerts.com.