There is a connection between Rifftrax and the Whedonverse: Neil Patrick Harris, also known as Dr. Horrible, was a guest riffer when they did the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. He’s also been a long-time fan of MST3K.
This past Thursday, the Rifftrax crew talked to reporters in a conference call to promote Reefer Madness. Last year, they did similar events where they riffed on Plan 9 From Outer Space, and assorted Christmas shorts. Both are available on DVD. Kevin Murphy said he’s been surprised on how popular these events have become, after years of doing live shows. “The thing I like the most about it is that were are able to get this show live to places of the country that otherwise would not be able to see anything like this,” he said.
So would a 3-D Rifftrax event work? Mike Nelson hopes so. “I’ve always wanted to force people to wear an item of eyewear,” he said, “and this could be my dream chance.”
Bill Corbett didn’t think so, because he claimed he didn’t look good in 3-D. They did say doing a live show rather than a mp3 riff because they can make a few changes in their script, depending on the audience.
When they worked together while MST3K was on SyFy, they usually wrote the show together. Now, Kevin claims, they get their jokes outsourced from Korea. Actually, he says the guys take chunks of the movie to write their riffs. That’s because Mike lives in San Diego while Kevin and Bill are in Minnesota, where the show began.
Kevin said that he likes to riff on movies of the 30’s and 40’s because of how the people dressed and spoke. “Everybody’s wearing suits,” he said, “no matter what they do, even if they’re ten years old. Everybody looks and talks exactly the same. I can barely tell the characters apart.” He does like the cars, though.
Since Rifftrax takes on more recent movies, from Star Wars to the Twilight series, the crew was asked if any big stars have commented on their riffs. Mike says it hasn’t happened yet. However, Mike said he has heard from Tommy Wiseau, who wrote, directed and starred in a cult independent feature called The Room. “He was not fond of our riffing on it,” he said, “but it didn’t come to blows.” Bill, however, claimed that Wiseau was concerned they were stealing his soul.
One movie that is still remembered by MST3K fans is Manos: Hands of Fate, featuring Torgo. Mike says his wife (and former MST writer) Bridget have different opinions about that movie. “I am endlessly amused by it,” he says, “and she finds it an object of pure horror.” In fact, at Comic-Con last month, two guys were spotted dressed as Torgo and the Master from that movie.
So what movies could be the “Manoses” of the future? Mike says the Twilight movies could “baffle future generations”, while Kevin thought it could be recent movies by Nicolas Cage. They also mentioned The Happening and a low-budget movie called Birdemic. “There is high-budget really bad,” Bill said, “and then there’s really bad that’s kind of funny because you can see the workings of it.”
Sometimes it’s not so easy to riff on a bad movie. The crew had a tough time with Transformers 2 because of the confusing plot and, as Kevin put it, “you run out of things to say about Shia Lebouf in the first five minutes,”
Blil also said it was tough to riff on Momento because it’s a good movie and it was tough trying to fit the jokes around the dialogue. The crew have also taken on Casablanca, Jaws and The Dark Knight. That’s proof even good movies get the Rifftrax treatment.
If there is one movie the crew would like to take on for a live show, Mike would like to do Road House while Bill would like to do Billy Jack. Kevin’s choice was The Magnificent Ambersons, but he may have been joking again.
Lately, Rifftrax has been compared to another movie-riffing group called Cinematic Titanic, led by MST3K’s co-creator Joel Hodgson. It also includes alumni like Trace Beaulieu (original Crow), J. Elvis Weinstein (original Servo), Mary Jo Pehl and TV’s Frank Conniff.
While Kevin claimed the Rifftrax crew may be better looking than CT, there’s no rivalry. In fact, they talk to each other quite often.
“We have these two projects that have evolved fro the same kind of mothership,” Bill said, “and they kind of evolved in different ways. Really, there’s just too many people now to drag everybody out and do this one project together.”
Kevin agreed, saying it would be like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir riffing a film, and they’re older and chunkier.
They also revealed the Twilight movie riffs have been very popular, probably with guys who took their girlfriends to those movies.
Fans can get tickets to the Reefer Madness event through Fathom Events. They can also check if their local theater will show the movie. Those who attend will get some digital goodies. They will also have a chance to win an iPad that’s engraved with the Rifftrax logo and pictures of the crew.
Fans can also write riffs that may be used for the movie. A link to the movie clips can be found here.
The Rifftrax site is www.rifftrax.com