Cinematic Titanic Live!
Saturday, November 1, 2008 at the Family Arena in St. Charles, Missouri
Former Mystery Science Theater 3000 writers and performers began the Cinematic Titanic project late last year, picking up where they left off by poking fun of terrible B-movies as they watch them. They’ve been performing this show in person at select locations around the country. My wife and I caught Cinematic Titanic Live! on Saturday, November 1st at the Family Arena in St. Charles, Missouri.
Before the show, I had bumped into 97.1 FM radio host Dave Glover (who was MC-ing this night) as he was standing out in the hallway of the Family Arena. We talked for a minute or two, told him I was a fan since he first started his show and how different he sounded today than when he debuted in 2000. I wanted to snap a photo of him and I, but my wife seated back inside the arena was in possession of my iPhone playing games on it.
The actual festivities started around 7:30 PM with Cinematic Titan Mary Jo Pehl (who played Pearl Forrester in MST3K) coming out on stage to introduce comedian Todd Carlin. As the warm-up act, the hippie-ish Carlin was quirky and funny, and Titan J. Elvis Weinstein (the original Tom Servo) joined him on bass guitar for a few comedic songs. The duo then backed up Titan Frank “TV’s Frank” Conniff who performed an absolutely hilarious rendition of a fictional TV theme that described the show’s plot in the song.
After a brief intermission, Dave Glover came out on stage to formally introduce the Cinematic Titanic performers: the aforementioned Pehl, Weinstein, and Conniff; plus Trace Beaulieu (MST3K’s Dr. Forrester the original Crow T. Robot) and Joel Hodgson (MST3K creator and first host). What was very notable was that during his introduction, Glover had echoed what I have felt all along: when you get right down to it, laugh by laugh, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is the funniest TV program of all time.
Taking the mic, Hodgson announced that the Titans were going to do a brand new riff session on the uber-horrible B-movie Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, a flick that had already been skewered on MST3k in the ’90s. Joel humorously urged the audience that because the riffs would be different than the previous version, not to shout out lines they’d memorized so that they would not “f*** up” the Titans’ presentation.
The Titans stood and sat on stage with their microphones and scripts on stands that had reading lights affixed. The ginormous movie screen was well above the Titans’ heads, so there was no black “silhouette” effect made famous by MST3K and CT.
The Cinematic Titanic theme music and “10 to 1” countdown opened the film, and the Titans immediately got down to gut-busting riffing. As it was with MST3K, it pays off to be a student of pop culture and history; the comical allusions ran the gamut from the 1950s and ’60s references to modern subjects and memes such as Google Earth, bittorrent, and “Don’t tease me bro!”. The more you pick up on, the funnier the show is.
Prior to Saturday’s live show, I had wondered how riff-dense the presentation would be. Just how many jokes would the CT crew attempt to pack into the show and would I be able to even hear half of them through the audience laughter? Luckily, there were a LOT of jokes made and I was able to make out 95% percent of them with no difficulties.
“Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” proved to be great fodder for ridicule with cheesy costumes, makeup, sets, and acting. The Titans came up with dozens of great zingers that made my face hurt from laughing so hard.
If there was anything negative about the show if would be the inclusion of left-wing political humor. Just off the top of my head, there were jabs at Sarah Palin, John McCain, “Swift Boating” (remember that term from when John Kerry ran for Prez?), Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Matt Drudge, Dick Cheney, people who feel global warming is a myth, and the Iraq War Exit Strategy and Surge. These references were met with mostly big laughs and cheers from the audience. I guess if the movie were 10 minutes longer, they could have squeezed in references to George W. Bush, Fox News, Haliburton, and Bill O’Reilly. Now, I’m an “equal-opportunity offender” and enjoy a good laugh about just about any topic, whether it be right wing or left, as long as it’s rooted in the truth – but Mystery Science Theater has NEVER been all that political. Is this a glimpse of things to come with Cinematic Titanic? The otherwise a classic display of movie riffing was nearly ruined by thick, heavy-handed, partisan, moonbat lunacy. It came across you like that boring, one-note liberal friend or two you may have who will use any and every opportunity to bash the right and JUST WON’T SHUT UP ABOUT IT. Talk about your “bitter clingers”…
Overall, it got a big thumbs up from me. My wife, who utterly despised the old Mystery Science Theater 3000, had laughed at several parts. I would highly recommend catching Cinematic Titanic Live if they roll through your town (they’re next appearing at the Lakeshore Theater in Chicago, IL from December 18 – 20, 2008).
After the show, the Cinematic Titans hunkered down at some tables in the arena’s lobby for an autograph session. Although I really had no accurate way of calculating a number, there were easily hundreds upon hundreds of fans who waited in line to see the performers. I estimated that I was in the middle of the line, and it took me an hour to get my chest…uh…I mean my CT face card signed.