RiffTrax Reunion Proves MST3K Is In Good Hands

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Next week, Fathom Events will host an encore presentation of the RiffTrax MST3K reunion show. The original performance was beamed live to theaters across the country June 28. If you didn’t catch the first broadcast — and you’re a MSTie — you owe it to yourself to try to make it to the July 12 encore.

The show featured almost every MST3K alum: RiffTrax regulars Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett; Mary Jo Pehl (Pearl Forrester); Bridget Nelson (Mr. B Natural and other roles); Trace Beaulieu (Dr. Clayton Forrester); and Frank Conniff (TV’s Frank). Also riffing were the show’s original host, Joel Hodgson, and the host of the upcoming revival, Jonah Ray.

RiffTrax MST3K
The RiffTrax crew prepares for the MST3K reunion show during a June 28 dress rehearsal.
Trial by fire

When Ray was announced as the host of the new MST3K, some fans were skeptical. I was already a fan of his work on the Nerdist Podcast and his appearances on @midnight, so I was quite confident in him. In fact, when Ray was announced as the new host last year, my first thought was, “He’s the perfect choice.” But then, I also thought Batman v. Superman was going to be good. And Man of Steel. And, against all logic, each Star Wars prequel in turn. So I was very aware that I might be wrong. The RiffTrax MST3K reunion show, then, would be Ray’s trial by fire.

Don’t ya just love live theater?

I co-host a fan podcast about Mystery Science Theater 3000, and that gig sometimes pays dividends. In this case, I had the good fortune to see the June 28 show live at the State Theater in Minneapolis. It was, hands-down, the best live theater experience I’ve ever had. The shorts were well-chosen, and the riffs were sharp and spot-on. “Shake Hands With Danger,” a safety short apparently directed by a guy who was working his way up from snuff films, has to be seen to be believed. And “More Dates for Kay,” a 1950s-era short about a teenage girl’s Machiavellian rise to popularity, was deeply disturbing even without Trace and Frank adding their commentary (“And … gunshot noise”).

A taste of things to come

But one of the biggest treats of the evening, at least for me, was seeing how well Jonah Ray meshed with the veteran performers. Ray — who’s been very upfront about his love for the original show — overcame what had to be a colossal case of jitters and more than held his own. In both his riff with series creator Hodgson and in the two full-cast riffs that ended the show, Ray was sharp and funny, with a bit of a darker edge than we’ve seen before in MST3K. It bodes well for the upcoming revival season.

So if you’re worried about whether Ray is the man for the job, you can stop. He fit right in with the veterans like he’d been riffing movies his entire life. Ray has said before that hosting Mystery Science Theater 3000 is his dream job. And if the RiffTrax reunion show is any indication, it’s the job he was born to do.

Ryan Smith
Ryan Smith is a writer and podcaster living in Denver. He is still angry at Fox for canceling "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr."

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