RiffTrax Live! took the stage at the Tribeca Film Festival for their first ever New York show on April 17th. The crew consisted of the talent behind classic TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000, Mike J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett. Although MST3K went off the air officially in 1999, their particular brand of humor, consisting of running commentary on classic terrible B-movies got a new life in the form of RiffTrax. With RiffTrax, the guys have shed their MST3K alter-egos (Bill as Crow T Robot, Kevin as Tom Servo and Mike as…Mike) and have broadened their scope to include live shows and downloadable tracks riffing on mainstream studio films. For their Tribeca audience, the guys presented Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 “disasterpiece” The Room. I caught up with the trio on their red carpet. In true RiffTrax fashion while Mike posed in front of photographers, Kevin and Bill stalled off to the side to riff on his technique before all heading over for a hilarious chat about what they do:
Lauren Damon: So…why The Room?
Mike Lawrence: Have you seen it?
Mike: Yeah. I mean it’s the weirdest movie ever, it has to be done.
Bill Corbett: It is the Citizen Kane of bad movies.
LD: Have you guys ever met Tommy Wiseau, does he know what you’re up to?
Mike: Oh yes.
Bill: Yeah, he has to agree to this, believe it or not.
LD: Does he think the movie is good?
Kevin Murphy: I think he was confused at first. He didn’t know exactly—He thought we were stealing his film at first—
Bill: He thought we were stealing his soul!
Kevin: But then he realized we were just having fun with it and he already knows people have fun with the film.
Kevin: He’s accepted it and he’s embraced it so—
Bill: He decided to call it a comedy.
Mike: He’s a good sport about it.
Kevin: He’s a very good sport about it.
LD: And you’ll be doing this again live?
Kevin: We’re doing it live, May 6th, Rifftrax.com for all the information
Bill: Across the land!
LD: And you’ll have new material on this same film every time?
Bill: Yeah, this will probably change, yeah. This is very different from the one we recorded before, yeah, it’ll change a lot.
LD: Can you also talk about how with Rifftrax you switched from Mystery Science 3000 riffing on B-movies to now these downloadable tracks for mainstream movies?
Mike: Well we’ve never had a chance to do them, since we can’t get the rights to them, and the technology allowed it was just like there’s a whole bunch of movies out there that are opened up by doing it that way.
Kevin: It helped us to get some of these big, more recent films for our live shows. Like we’re doing Sharknado 2 in July. Yeah and then what’s that big blockbuster? Santa and The Ice Cream Bunny. [laughing]
Bill: George Lucas’s, I believe?
Kevin: [laughing] I think so, yes, in December.
LD: I enjoy downloading your tracks on my favorite movies. I have all your Marvel universe ones, because I’ve seen them a ton of times and I like to get a ‘new take’ on them.
Kevin: Yeah [all laughing] I’m glad we can provide that for you!
Bill: If we can do NOTHING else, it’s talk about the Hulk’s schlong.
LD: Do you miss your Mystery Science Theatre 3000 alter-egos, your robots?
Bill: I miss being Mike. I played Mike, you realize that don’t you?
Kevin: It’s amazing.
Mike: Make up. Hours in the chair.
Kevin: And Mike was Crow but he wasn’t a puppet, it was make up. It was just all make up. No, I had the opportunity to bring one of the show puppets home after the show was over and I said I don’t want that thing around my house. It would be like Anthony Hopkins in Magic [in presumably a demon puppet voice] “Chop your head off Kevin, CHOP YOUR HEAD OFF!”
Bill: KEVIN! KEEEEEVIN!
When you started MST3K almost 30 years ago did you ever think you’d be doing anything similar all this time later?
Bill: I thought I’d work as like a bus boy or a porter or be, I don’t know on the Bowery.
Mike: I was sure I’d be back at TGIFridays. I still remember all the codes for extra broccoli.
Bill: Something to fall back on.
Kevin: We kinda were in job transitions and it seemed like fun so we did it and boom, we’re still here.
Bill: Well At this point we have no other discernible skill set. So we kind of have to do it.
Kevin: Yeah we kind of boned ourselves here!
LD: Do you go to see ‘real movies’? Are you in MS3TK mode, how are you about people talking during films?
All: Oh yeah.
Bill: By all means, oh yeah. I hate people who talk in the movie theater! I’m really a prig and a tight-ass when it comes to that.
Kevin: “SHUSH!!” It’s true.
LD: Do you think, with rights issues, there will ever be a return to the MS3TK characters or that format?
Kevin: Really not up to us because we’re not really controlling—or owners of the company in any way. So…
Bill: I think they will be resurrected on the last days of EARTH. Like…the living and the dead…
Kevin: All the immortal souls.
Bill: Definitely that!
LD: Because it continues to have such life with dvds…
Kevin: Well, wait for the rapture, we’ll see what happens!
Bill: And this movie [The Room] will be the thing that kicks off the rapture.
Mike: Luckily you don’t have to wait very long at all.
Fortunately, the presentation at Tribeca did not bring about the rapture–although I can’t make any promises for the May 6th nationwide broadcast–but it was a hell of a good time. Not only were audiences treated to The Room, but the gang pre-gamed with a black and white children’s safety film, “Live and Learn” that featured more lessons than you can shake a dangerous pointed stick at. My face hurt from laughing and the crowd gave the trio a standing O.
Tickets for the May 6th broadcast of Rifftrax Live: The Room are available via Fathom Events