Joel Gordon Hodgson is an American writer, comedian and television actor. He is best known for creating Mystery Science Theater 3000 and starring in it as the character Joel Robinson. In 2007 MST3K was listed as "one of the top 100 television shows of all time" by Time.com. Hodgson is currently "movie riffing" with fellow cast members of MST3K under the name Cinematic Titanic, performing live and producing content for DVDs and direct download. He also serves as Creative Lead for Media at Cannae, a Pennsylvania technology firm working on new drive technologies for satellites and other spacefaring vehicles.
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Hi guys. We are getting ready to do our second year of the MST3K Turkey Day Revival (
A quick refresher for those who may not know what MST3K Turkey Day is: we will be streaming MST3K classics starting at 9 AM PST / 12 noon ET on Thanksgiving day on our official site,
Go ahead and AMA. Victoria's helping me get started.
EDIT this is so much fun, thank you. I'm so happy we get to do Turkey Day again, it's going to be a lot of fun. See you guys Thursday:
Hey Joel! I've always wondered...
How did you eat and breathe? And other science facts like that.
You're really gonna make me do this? Okay... repeat to yourself: It's a show, you should just relax...
I used to get up early every Saturday to watch MST3K! Thanks so much for the awesome entertainment.
Who is your favorite robot, and why is it Tom Servo?
I love BOTH robots equally!
Did you ever lampoon a film on MST3k that you felt bad about mocking later? Like maybe you made a mean-ish joke about an actor or a director who turned out to be a really great guy? I know Joe Don Baker really didn't appreciate being the butt of many butt related jokes in Mitchell for example.
That's a really good question.
The answer is YES. The movie was EEGAH, and the person I felt we were particularly tough on was Arch Hall, Jr. I believe we called him a "stiff with teeth and hair." I met him this summer at a convention, and he couldn't have been nicer. And he's a wonderful guy and was very complimentary and said he was really glad we riffed the movie. He said something like "It isn't lost on me that I get to work these conventions because you guys did my movie." He was really nice about it. But i was pretty nervous meeting him, because I thought he was really going to hate me, but he was really nice about it.
Thank you so much for MST3K! Several quotes and references from that show have entered my day-to-day vernacular.
1) For Joel episodes, I like "I accuse my parents" and for Mike episodes, my favorite is "Final Sacrifice."
2) Yes, yes I did. But it took me a long time to come back and watch the show. I was really frustrated when I left and didn't really want to watch it.
Hi Joel, looking forward to another Turkey Day Marathon. Will be be seeing any surprises? TV's Frank? The Bots?
I'm not at liberty to say right now. You'll just have to tune in.
Do people make Thunderdome jokes in your presence, or is everyone beyond that now?
Wow, that's really great.
I'm not going to tell you to get beyond Thunderdome. I know what you're trying to do, and I'm not going to try to ask you to get Beyond Thunderdome.
Pardon any ignorance should I have missed a comment in an interview, but for your prospective MST3k reboot have you considered designing new Bots? Many minuses for sure, but I can think of one big plus.
I think, for the reboot, obviously people would really want to see the original robots back. So I intend to do that. But hopefully we'll bring some new ones too.
I remember your statement on some behind the scenes clips back in the 90's that you proceeded from a stance that "the right people will get this". This is so contrary to the way most people in production think now-a-days, which is why nothing seems to get made that isn't a reboot, a sequel, a prequel, or something that is based off an already accepted story-line (comic-book movies etc.)
How do you stick to this mantra, and who else do you know is still following it?
Oh my god.
I guess, to answer your question - "The right people will get this" was the way I felt about it at the time, and it just happened to work, you know?
In your farewell episode (Mitchell), you allow the bots to destroy a handcrafted replica of Monticello that took years to complete. Was the toothpick model an analogy for the show?
Oh my god, NO. You're reading way too much into it!
What was the turning point that made you leave L.A. to go back to Minnesota and how long did it take to realize that was the right decision?
Oh! Yeah, I just got worn out in LA. I felt like I'd done everything I'd set out to do, and there wasn't anything left for me. And right away, I was happy I went back. Because I still had a lot of cool bohemian friends that were hanging out in Minneapolis doing fun things, so it was fun right away.
Question for you on MST3k. When the series was ramping up in mainstream popularity, was there ever any strange merchandise, promotion, or just general request made by network executives (or others) to further market the brand that you or any of the crew kind of laughed off or outright declined?
No... the amazing thing was, we never had any interference from the executives at Comedy Central when we were making the show. There was only one and that was they wanted us to make the silhouettes green on the B&W movies because they felt people wouldn't be able to see our silhouettes. So we did that for one episode, that was ROBOT MONSTER. But we figured out how to fix it, by putting a blue cast to the film.
But we're FREAKING OUT. Should we relax or not? We need to know.
I like to think you're freaking out, that's good. Watch the Turkey Day Marathon. I want 2-3 more days of solid, good freaking out.
is there any movie you wouldn't do on Mystery Science Theater ?
OF COURSE. There are movies that people love and are very familiar with and I kinda feel like, you know - part of the allure of Mystery Science Theater is that you kinda don't know what movie you're getting? It's like going on a tour of a scary house in your neighborhood, you don't know what's in there.
Do you remember when you did the movie Mitchell? That was awesome.
I do remember it. Thank you very much. And it WAS awesome.
What are some old really bad movies that you wanted to do but couldn't get rights for? How did you get rights to things like Hellcats? Was it relatively easy of did you fight for some of them?
Well, I'll give you the usual answer, and it's kind of long, okay?
Going back aways - we'd get the movies when they were cleared already, so the lawyers already felt confident that they could license the movies. Not the other way around, because it would take investment and manpower to go through them and riff them. It's somewhat obscure, because I think people think we window-shopped for movies, but it's more like fixing up a home - so you want to make sure you can BUY the home first, before you spend a lot of time and money fixing it up.
Hi Joel, I'm a big fan in Austin, Texas. I've always wondered what happened with Mister Sinus Theater, the comedy group who did a live version of MST3K. They changed the name to Master Pancake and the rumour was that you guys sent a cease and desist. What actually happened? For the record, if you did I don't think it was a bad thing to protect your brand.
I didn't have anything to do with that, those guys are good friends of mine, just last year I riffed a bunch of movies with them in Austin.
Who would you rather have break Asimov's 3 Laws of Robotics on you, Crow or Tom Servo?
I completely expect I'll be killed by Crow. Tom couldn't do much, he could just pinch you.
Hey Joel! Anything new to tell us about the MST3K reboot?
We're working on it. I'll tell ya later.
Thanks for taking time out of your crazy schedule to walk amongst us adoring peons! Your willingness to indulge our nosy, interrogative spam festival is deeply appreciated. Got a couple of Qs for ya:
Is there anywhere we might be able to see an un-edited, un-bobbitted, otherwise un-jacked-with version of TV Wheel, as you intended it to be seen?
If if you had to pick one thing you wish your fans knew\understood about you (or your career, or your creations), what would it be? I don't necessarily mean this from a "mundane question you're sick of answering because people don't know how to use Google" perspective, but more of a "people just don't seem to realize\understand this" sort of thing.
Live long and prosper, good sir! Looking forward to Turkey Day. :D
Thanks for checking in about that. I'm certain that I'll release a version of it in the future.
I think I should answer this by saying: It sounds like you are letting me write my own ticket, is that correct? And I appreciate that. Thanks for letting me write my own ticket. And I guess I will say: one of my favorite features of the show is the concept of Movie Sign and I put that in there so we wouldn't have to figure out how to end sketches - the Movie Sign just comes in there and we have to run away. Movie Sign is one of my favorite features, and I put it there because it's impossible to write good endings for sketches, so Movie Sign comes in there and interrupts us so we never have to finish them.
What movie did you most want to skewer on MST3K but couldn't, and why?
Also, what is the worst meal you've ever eaten?
Oh, the movie I would like to do most is HAPPY FEET 2! And why? For obvious reasons.
The worst meal I ever had... oh my god... uh... oh boy... I think a pizza i had at a bowling alley once was pretty bad.
did you really go to school with Faruk Alatan?
Dear Joel, you're awesome.
Do you have a favorite invention from the old invention exchanges?
Yes, I like the one from when we did surgery on Frank and it was a giant Operation game.
I saw J Elvis Weinstein at Acme last week, and I got him to sign my Beeper printed photo, which he did. I told him that Beeper was by far my favorite character on the show and that I gave up on it all together shortly after he became Servo. Now he got that it was joke, as I am a massive fan who has seen every episode. He laughed and we chatted a bit after the show, he is so funny.
My question is, how close was Beeper to becoming a mainstay, I know you created them the day before the shoot. Was there always a big picture plan to have two talking robots or is there an alternate universe where Beeper survived all ten seasons and a movie?
Anyways I love you as a creative inspiration and I am so thankful you made MST3K in the Twin Cities and thank you for helping define my sense of humor, as I am currently pursuing stand-up/comedy writing/improv. Thanks again!
Edit: correcting the structure to underline the fact that I was joking about Beeper actually being my favorite, I'm 29 so there really was no way for me to even know Beeper existed until the internet did. Thanks for the response though Joel! :D
I think there is no way in hell Beeper could have made it in the show. And the fact that he's your favorite confounds me. Is there a way to block you on this?
Seriously, man, I'm worried for you.
If Crow wore one article of clothing. ala a Hannah Barbara character, what would it be?
This is so stupid! I can't believe you are asking me this! But I will answer your question!
A tie! He'd wear a Fred Flintstone style tie!
There's not that many things, when you think about it. It's either going to be a tie or a hat. Did Huckleberry Hound have a tie? I don't think so. They were mostly collars. It seemed like they always gave them collars you know?
A collar / tie hybrid.
What are the most memorable items fans have asked you to sign?
It's really nice when they hand me their original INFORMATION CLUB membership cards, that's always kind of amazing, because that means they've held onto it for over 20 years.
Joel, I'm a huge fan of both MST3K and your stand up work. What advice do you have for someone that wants to get into comedy writing and maybe even stand up?
I would say: just keep a notebook. Write all your ideas down. And take all your jokes, and arrange them from your favorite joke to your least favorite, and start with your second-favorite joke and end with your best joke.
Joel, I am having trouble with velvet leaf and cutworm. Can you recommend anything that is not made by Monsanto?
I was just going to say something from Monsanto!
That's a really good question, but i don't have an answer. It's been so long since I've watched THE FARM REPORT, I can't answer that.
Can we talk to Servo? He was my favorite.
Also, what was your favorite movie that you did on the show?
Can you ask Servo the same question, because I really only care about his response.
I'll hold him up to the keyboard. It takes him a while, cuz his hands are so small but here goes:
And I don't know... this is Joel. Sorry.
If you could watch anyone from history - living or dead - riff a movie, who would you want to do it? Which movie would it be?
I guess I would like to riff a movie with George Méliès, because he created fantasy film. And I guess - HAPPY FEET 2?
What about a movie about a time travelling vampire or demon slayer or vampire slayer or something?
Perfect! We'll call it ROCK N' ROLL DEMONSLAYER: TIME TRAVEL VAMPIRE! It writes itself!
Have you ever considered doing a MST3K type show for TV shows rather than movies?
Yeah, we've talked about it over the years. And you know... my impressions is the thing that's nice about MST3K is that it gets refreshed with new characters and new situations. And the thing about TV is that it's the same characters. Obviously I would never say never about that, but that's my impression. It's just easier to refill with new movies rather than with a TV show that has the same characters.
If they cast you in the new Star Wars, who would you like to play?
Hey Joel, Huge fan of MST3K ever since i can remember.
I was always wondering who came up with the design for tom servo? The gumball machine was just perfect.
Also, do you have a favorite movie or short that was almost too easy to riff on?
Thanks again for doing this ama and for making such a genius show.
Thank you. I designed Tom Servo.
Hehe. Oh my goodness. No, but I can say the hardest one to riff on was MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE. I can't think of the easiest, but the hardest one was MANOS, for me.
How has the world hurt you?
I'll just answer this by saying: Haha, I was only kidding about that. I've actually gone through most of my life relatively unscathed, I'm happy to report.
Have you heard anything more about MST3K coming to PBS stations?
That must be for MASTERPIECE THEATER.
Hi Joel, How do I make hot chocolate with my interocitor? Thanks!
Swiss Miss instant cocoa has put it out as an intelligence test. If you order all their flavors and combine them, you'll get an interocitor.
What is your favorite movie to riff? Do you ever re-watch a movie and come up with new/better jokes and want to remake the episode? Would you ever do this?
Oh! That's a really good question. And I think it's really true. We've already pioneered this idea for Cinematic Titanic when we re-riffed SANTA CLAUSE CONQUERS THE MARTIANS. We did all-new jokes, except for one.
Hi, Joel! I just want to say that MST3K was part of my youth and informed my sense of humor, which may be why no one likes to watch movies with me. Can you tell us about the most memorable, gratifying or just plain weird experience you had meeting a fan? Thanks!
Oh yeah! Just a week ago, I was at a wedding in LA, and I met Mitch Hurwitz, who created ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, my favorite show, and he shocked me by saying he was a huge fan of MST3K. So that was kind of an amazing experience.
Any thoughts on Werner Herzog? He haunts my dreams. Also are there any documentaries you guys would riff?
I'm glad you're finally getting the message, because Werner and I have been working on affecting your dreams, a la Inception, for years now....
Yo Joel! I grew up watching MST3K after my comedy loving brother introduced me to the show. The early seasons were the best and so funny. I always loved when you, Tom and Crow would interact with what is being shown on the screen. Gypsy always cracked me up too. I haven’t watched MST3K in decades, but I will never forget a tune you and the crew sang during Gamera: “Gamera is really neat, Gamera is full of turtle meat.” Had me in stitches.
1) Was it filmed in front of a green screen? If yes, how did you see what you were doing when you when you physically interacted with the movie?
2) Did you see the movie beforehand and come up with a script, or was it all on the spot improv?
3) What is one current movie you would love to MST3K-ify?
1) Actually, it wasn't a green screen, it was a process called luminance key. Which was essentially a large white wall. And the way I was able to see myself was we had a monitor down below the theater seats.
2) It was all written.
3) HAPPY FEET 2.
Thanks for this and for bringing back Turkey Day! Do you have any more holiday surprises like the Patrick Swayze Christmas Choir in store for us this year? :)
Hmmm. If you've been really, really good...
I don't want to spoil anything. That would be telling.
How did your time on Cinematic Titanic compare to your time on MST3K? (Shooting in MN vs. touring; riffing in the internet era, etc.)
Cinematic Titanic was really great, just because we got to kind of develop everything in front of a live audience, so we really found out what worked with a different experience. It changed the content a bit, but was also really fun, because we could also see what was working.
Thanks for doing an AMA again.
Now that my friends and I can't go see Cinematic Titanic anymore, any chance you'll come do "Riffing Myself" in Milwaukee?
Mostly I do "Riffing Myself" when I make comic-con appearances, so if you have one, bring me in!
What's your opinion of the "bad on purpose" SyFy channel movies like Sharknado?
My opinion is they are kind of a big misunderstanding.
Movies like that are predicated on confusing a large percentage of the audience into thinking they were meant to be good, but somehow turned out misaligned, thereby driving discussion online and elsewhere.
But it's a common creative exercise to try to make something bad and I think there are a lot of good benefits to that.
What made you get into MST3K in the first place? Was it well received when you created the show, or was it hard to pitch at first?
Well, fortunately we did 22 episodes before I had to pitch it. So it existed prior to pitching it. So fortunately we just put together a reel and showed that. And it got bought, so...
Favorite James Bond movie?
My favorite Bond movie? I think it's probably... Goldfinger, I guess?
Which horrible movie do you think was made the most entertaining by MST3000?
Which horrible movie couldn't be saved despite any amount of mocking and sarcastic comments?
Oh, what a great question... BEGINNING OF THE END is a good one?
I don't believe that film exists.
When you watch movies with people, do they expect you to crack jokes the whole time and give them the MST3K experience?
Sometimes they do, and they're always really disappointed.
I'm like everybody else: when I go to a movie, I'm hoping to be taken up into the movie just like everybody else. Riffing on movies is my job, and I go to movies to have fun.
Joel, I just listened to the episode of Harmontown where you joined Dan and Jeff at the SF SketchFest earlier this year. How was that, and how drunk was Harmon?
It was really fun to do. I love both those guys SO much. And I think we were all about equally drunk at that time on that show.
What volume of turkeys would properly fill the space required for a turkey day marathon? Will any man harbor a guess?
I think you're on the wrong AMA, man.
I'm a life-long Wisconsin resident living near Fort Atkinson. I understand you lived there as a youngster? Where else in Wisconsin have you lived and how do you think your childhood helped mold your career? Do you miss the tons of snow? Also, thanks to you and MST3K for helping me get through my young teen years.
Well, I was born in Steven's Point. And lived there, and Edgerton, WI, Fort Atkinson, WI, and Ashwaubenon, WI. I'm really proud to be from Wisconsin. I love the Packers. And yes, i think it had a lot to do with who I am.
If you had to pick two robots from any other fictional universe to be your riff buddies. Which two would you choose?
TARS from INTERSTELLAR, and Twiki from Buck Rogers? Twiki would be a good counterpoint.