Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic: Twice the Fun


In 1988, I piled into an old Dodge Omni for a trip to New Orleans to attend the 1988 Republican National Convention as a college journalist. Joining me for the drive were three other editors of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Badger Herald student newspaper (the good one). Granted, we didn't get ringside seats to the convention speeches, being lowly northerner college boys, but we did get to sit in the auditorium during the final day's speeches (waaaaay in the very last row up in the rafters, I kid you not), and I got to sit next to my newspaper's sports editor (hey, we were The Badger Herald, America's premiere independent daily student newspaper, and if we wanted to bring our sports editor to the GOP convention, we'll bring the damn sports editor to the convention, okay?)

Anyway, the sports editor provided a running commentary wisecracking on everything that was spoken from the podium. It was great. Hilarious. He should have gotten his own comedy show. We barely escaped the wrath of the overdressed Republican woman sitting near us, who didn't like us sniggering about the political claptrap being served up on stage. But I was raised by my mother to not take the utterings of TV and other stars seriously, and that included taking a skeptical attitude toward politicos (my stepfather is a political cartoonist, after all).

When I discovered the great Comedy Central (later Sci Fi Channel) TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000 sometime in the 1990s, I knew I'd discovered a secret show no one else could possibly know about. After all, the humans (and robots) on the screen were wisecracking their way through pretty horrible movies, many of them science fiction, fantasy, or horror. Add to that the fact that they had my sense of humor (I'll sue!), and because they were based in Minneapolis (the Scandinavian neighbor to my then-home state of Wisconsin) they were regularly using references of places and events that were a part of my life. (Any show that references Ashwaubenon gets points in my book.)

Classic stuff. Though I wish it were still around, MST3K was a treasure, and I should be happy that it existed as long as it did.

After Sci Fi Channel finally drove a stake through its wise-cracking Midwestern heart, its creators/writers/performers were flung to the far ends of the galaxy, hunted down by the clone stormtroopers ... wait, I'm getting carried away. They went and did other stuff.

The Film Crew. Remember it? Of course you don't.

Then one batch of the MST3K crew created Rifftrax, and another batch created Cinematic Titanic. There are some differences between the two, but basically all you need to know is that in both projects, smart and funny people make fun of (usually) very bad movies. We can't have MST3K back, but we now have two, not one, replacements. Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic. I love them both, and I heartily recommend them to all of you.

PS: Last I heard, the former Herald sports editor is now a TV sportscaster in Michigan. I hope they're paying him oodles of money.

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