TV STORE ONLINE talks with Joel Hodgson the co-creator and star of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the new traveling live experience Cinematic Titanic.
TV STORE ONLINE: Joel, I'm gonna try and ask you questions that you've never been asked before. So think of me as the Geraldo Rivera of cult T.V and film. So if I get on your nerves, please don't throw a chair at my nose...
JOEL HODGSON: Nice. Do you know what Geraldo's real name is?
TV STORE ONLINE: No, what is it?
JOEL HODGSON: Jerry Rivers. Weird isn't it?
TV STORE ONLINE: Who are you comedy influences? And why?
JOEL HODGSON: Oh Boy...I grew up in the 1970's you know. People I really liked and who influenced me were people like Steve Martin. Martin was The Beatles of comedy. And I loved The Muppets, they were really big back then, and also Andy Kaufman. I was amazed by him, and loved the stuff he did.
TV STORE ONLINE: What did you like so much about Andy Kaufman?
JOEL HODGSON: I loved the show Fridays (1980-82). It blew me away when he announced he was a born again Christian. I really loved the stuff he did because it was just so unbelievable. And I loved it when he painted with the media. Every time he did something it was just so baffling and amazing to me.
TV STORE ONLINE: Who would win in a fist fight between Andy Kaufman and Steve Martin?
JOEL HODGSON: Andy Kaufman. I have a feeling he's just a little more crazier than Steve.
TV STORE ONLINE: The Minneapolis comedy scene is the mid 80's must have been pretty amazing. It had all you MST3K guys in it plus didn't it have those guys that did the Let's Bowl (1998-2002) show like Rich Kronfeld?
JOEL HODGSON: Sure. Rich was around, and Tim Scott, who created Let's Bowl, and he worked on MST3K. Louie Anderson was around. It was great! The comedy boom went hand in hand with cable television taking off. We were lucky that we were all around then. Comedy clubs were everywhere in every town. I think there were eight clubs in Minneapolis alone. It was pretty unusual.
TV STORE ONLINE: Have you ever met any of your comedy heroes and once you met them, discovered that they were just total jerks?
JOEL HODGSON: Not really. All my heroes have died. I was really close to meeting Andy Kaufman, but he passed away. Jim Henson had passed away. I love Frank Zappa, even though he's not a comedian. He was a creative inspiration for me. I did get to talk to him on the phone before he passed away. I saw Steve Martin around L.A a few times but I didn't talk to him. Zappa was amazing to talk to. He loved Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1988-1999), so it was really cool to talk to him about the show.
TV STORE ONLINE: In doing research before our interview today, I've noticed that you've given about 1,456,002 interviews and they're all available on line! Do you ever get tired of being asked the same set of questions? What's one question you wish people would ask you?
JOEL HODGSON: If you get the same questions you always know the answers. I don't get bored with interviews ever. Giving an interview sometimes can be like doing a act. Some people present your interview literally. And I don't like that. That happened to me in the early days. So, I'm happy to be asked the same questions over and over, because then you have a better chance to tell your story perfectly.
TV STORE ONLINE: Going into MST3K... Looking back do you regret leaving the show when you did? And if you had to do it again would you leave when you did?
JOEL HODGSON: Yes and No. There wasn't an alternative for me to stay. I felt I was losing control, I didn't think I was gonna be able to keep the product the way I wanted it. And that was important to me. And mostly, those feelings were about the movie. Granted, I regret it. If I knew what I know now, I could've stopped and said "Wait, let's think about this!" But it would've been great if we could've worked out our differences.
TV STORE ONLINE: Were you happy with how the end MST3K product looked after you left?
JOEL HODGSON: Yeah, I was. The tone of the show stayed the same. The most interesting thing about it, was that once I left, it proved that the concept of the show was the strongest thing. I never left saying that the show would fall apart. I expected and wanted it to continue on. The show was unbreakable. Even seeing what Riff-Trax and Cinematic Titanic are doing now, it proves that movie riffing is still going strong as a creative art form. And that's what it's all about. It showed that I was replaceable. In fact, eventually all of us got replaced, even Trace and Josh. It's the just way it is. It's part of the show's story. I got to do other things and have experiences I wouldn't have had if I had stayed on the show. So at this point, I'm content with the way things worked out
TV STORE ONLINE: Once you left MST3K... Did you stay in touch with everyone?
JOEL HODGSON: Of course. There was a period of a couple years where it was just too emotional, so I didn't really talk to them. But eventually we just kinda got back together.
TV STORE ONLINE: When you came back for your guest appearance for the show's final season was there any awkwardness or difficulty there? How did that appearance come about?
JOEL HODGSON: It was something the SyFy Channel wanted. Yeah, it was awkward. I came in with an idea to pitch. But they said they didn't want to change anything. So I felt that the show had changed. When I was there, we never got notes from the network or executives so that's one thing I noticed was different, I think they lost some control over the show when it was at SyFy.
TV STORE ONLINE: Do you ever miss being on television on a weekly basis?
JOEL HODGSON: I liked making the show. It was a lot of fun. The actual experience of being on television was OK. To be famous because I was on television wasn't the reason I did it. I just loved the craft of making the show.
TV STORE ONLINE: In the documentary on the 20th anniversary MST3K DVD set... You mentioned that the Bruce Dern film SILENT RUNNING (1972) was an influence on you. Growing up were you a big horror and Sci-fi movie fan? And I was wondering if you had an all time favorite horror or Sci-fi film and why?
JOEL HODGSON: In the 70's there where some big sci-fi movies. PLANET OF THE APES (1968) was profound. THE OMEGA MAN (1972) was awesome. It seemed like everyone was getting ready for STAR WARS (1977). I was in high school when STAR WARS came out. And that changed everything. I was somewhat casual about it, but compared to most I felt I knew more about it than others.
TV STORE ONLINE: Do you have a personal favorite MST3K episode?
JOEL HODGSON: I like Hercules Unchained a lot. It was a great movie for us. Also, I Accuse My Parents. I asked a fan one time, "What's the funniest episode?" And they said " I Accuse My Parents." I really couldn't remember what we had did on that one, so I went back and watched it and it's just so funny.
TV STORE ONLINE: Where did that "La La La" section come from in the MST3K theme song? Did you guys write that part?
JOEL HODGSON: That was Charlie Erickson who came up with that. He wrote the music to the theme song. I was singing the lyrics to him one day. I told him I wanted the song to sound like a Devo song, or something like a warm California type song. So I was in the studio singing it and he just kinda threw it in there. Even going back to the KTMA days they were doing that in the song...
TV STORE ONLINE: Are there any "Invention Exchanges" you thought up that never made it to air on the show? Were there any that you really wanted to use but never got the chance?
JOEL HODGSON: It's actually the opposite. There were a bunch I didn't really think we should've used. I got to empty my notebooks on those.
TV STORE ONLINE: Over the years, there's been a huge amount of bootlegging going on with the internet were people are selling entire seasons of shows including the KTMA shows on Ebay, Ioffer.com and through websites like mst3kvideos.com. I was curious to see how you felt about that being the copyright holder of the show?
JOEL HODGSON: Jim Mallon holds the copyright actually. I have mixed feeling about what's available on the internet. It's kinda like the Grateful Dead model. Part of what made them famous, was that you could record their shows. So that idea is available for MST3K. So many people recorded the shows and gave them to their friends. It helped make our show what its become today. The cool thing is... The show is still making money. DVD sales are up. A lot of the shows have been made available on DVD now. Each year that passes shows more DVD sales than the previous year. So it doesn't seem to have hurt it. But at the same time, you just don't know. You have to ask -- If people weren't pirating it, wouldn't we be selling more DVD's or less?
TV STORE ONLINE: I can remember being like fourteen or fifteen years old when MST3K came on Comedy Channel and loving it. I also really loved The Higgins Boys and Grubber (1990-91) show as well...You had a hand in that as well, right?
JOEL HODGSON: I created that show with those guys. It was at the same time as MST3K. The Comedy Channel gave me a deal to create another show. So I introduced those guys to Comedy Channel. We got money to make the pilot, we put in awesome clips of like Monty Python and stuff like that.
TV STORE ONLINE: Dave Allen appeared on that and he also was cast in Judd Apatow's Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000) as a recurring character as well as yourself. Then you got involved with Dave Allen and Paul Feig in T.V Wheel (1995)....
JOEL HODGSON: Dave Allen is still around. He was the Naked Trucker on Comedy Central, and he's been in a ton of movies. Steve Higgins is the producer for Saturday Night Live (1975-Current), and he's also Jimmy Fallon's version of Ed McMahon these days, so their all doing great.
TV STORE ONLINE: When you work on a show like Freaks and Geeks or MST3K for example... Do you ever go back and watch your performance?
JOEL HODGSON: Sure. I'm OK with it. You have to be in the right frame of mind with that. It's kinda like "work" to do it But it's not a problem.
TV STORE ONLINE: With T.V Wheel, are there any finished episodes in the can that never aired? Any chance that fans could see a DVD release in the future? Bootleggers are selling the first show on the net...
JOEL HODGSON: Yeah I know. There is actually only that one episode. "X-box" is the first pilot. I paid for it. Then we got the deal to do T.V Wheel. That's all there is actually...
TV STORE ONLINE: What's one thing that fans don't know about Joel Hodgson?
JOEL HODGSON: I am into magic.
TV STORE ONLINE: Really? So how do you feel about that television show Magic's Biggest Secrets Revealed (2008- Current)?
JOEL HODGSON: The show with the masked magician? It's frustrating. It's all supposed to be a secret. And the guy that does that show is just exploiting it. But it kinda makes magic better. Because magicians can figure out alternate methods to completing tricks.
TV STORE ONLINE: As a Minneapolis man..... I need your answers on these. The Replacements or Prince?
JOEL HODGSON: I have to go with The Replacements.
TV STORE ONLINE: Husker Du or Soul Asylum?
JOEL HODGSON: Husker all the way.
TV STORE ONLINE: Have you seen these Human Centipede (2009-2013) films? If you had to be a part of a human centipede what part would you prefer to be?
JOEL HODGSON: I would have to be the front.
TV STORE ONLINE: You've been doing Cinematic Titanic over the last couple years...Why haven't you tried to trademark the idea of movie riffing?
JOEL HODGSON: I haven't done that. It seems better not to. It seems like it would have a stronger life without that in place.
TV STORE ONLINE: Can you take me through the process you guys use to choose the movies for Cinematic Titanic? I really enjoy how random they are. Especially EAST MEETS WATTS (1974). How did you come across that film? Al Adamson films seem to work well for you guys, No?
JOEL HODGSON: Some movies we have to license. And others are just public domain films. At times, we have people that help us research and clear stuff for us. I look at it like someone who refurbishes homes. We look at it, like this is a movie we can afford, or it's in the public domain, or can we even find a good print of it to show? Right now, we are looking at a bunch of movies for future projects, and we have to do copyright searches. Then once you clear that hurdle, then you find a good print, and then we show that to everyone in the group and they sign off on it. Once we approve everything, then we take a look and see what we can do on it. So behind the scenes...It's really not emotional. It just comes down to picking a movie that we all think we can do a lot with.
TV STORE ONLINE: Post Cinematic Titanic appearance and performance...Are you and the gang still meeting and greeting the fans?
JOEL HODGSON: After the show for sure. We usually will most of time. If there is time we'll meet the fans and sign autographs. It's fun.
TV STORE ONLINE: What's the strangest thing a fan has ever told you?
JOEL HODGSON: Nothing too strange really. The weirdest thing is when a fan comes up to you, like if we've been to a town once in a previous year for a show, and they'll come up to you and expect that you'll remember them from that last year and last time you met them. It's a little troubling. You have to just say, "Thanks for coming, I'm glad you're here."
TV STORE ONLINE: What is your proudest career moment to date and why?
JOEL HODGSON: A couple years ago we did the Nokia Theatre on Times Square in New York City and we sold it out and that was pretty cool. Then when Time Magazine listed MST3K as one of the Top 100 shows of all time. That was super surreal. I thought it was so cool and amazing. Those are probably the things I'm most proud of....