Real-Life Riffs (Part ... Whatever number it is now)

I titled this as being a subsequent volume here, as I’m sure this topic has come up before, although I didn’t see one in the search.

A couple of real-life, and unprepared, experiences riffing in the theaters, and both of these from before MST3K.

The first was back in 1982. I was at the local college theater where they ran movies on Friday and Saturday nights. This particular night they ran about a half-hour of recent movie trailers before the feature. One of the trailers was for the Morgan Fairchild thriller (no, honest) called THE SEDUCTION, where she plays a newscaster being stalked by a fan.

In the trailer, after various scenes of Fairchild’s character being nearly attached, we see her pulling out a shotgun. At that point, the announcer in the trailer says, “She has been pushed to the limit, and now she’ll use the only weapon she has …”

I deadpanned, “A shotgun.”

Don’t know why I blurted that out, as I wasn’t the type to try to draw attention to myself in the theater, but the audience laughed, so it was all good.

A type of anti-riff happened in 1986 at a showing of the movie TRICK OR TREAT. A group of us were waiting for the movie to begin and one friend kept chatting about anything on her mind throughout the opening ads and trailers to the building annoyance of everyone around her.

As the movie itself began with the opening logo, I breathed a sigh of relief that she will finally stop.

“Oh! I love this logo they use on this. It’s really --”

That’s when I stood up and grabbed her seat, rattling it side by side, which earned me a big laugh and did quiet her down for the duration, so all good.

Any other moments where unprepared things were said or done in a theater that got laughs from the crowd?

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Back in the 1990s, anime wasn’t as prevalent in the United States as it is now. Also, it was referred to as “Japanimation”.

Pickin’z were slim and fans were few and far between. You’d attend some really janky drek if it meant seeing, well, anything (even if you had seen it a gazillion times).

Some friends and I went to a “Japanimation” night at the local university. We were amped because there were three films being shown that we hadn’t seen yet (I definitely recall Golgo 13 - The Professional and Fist of the North Star on tap; can’t remember the third but it had to do with demons and joshikosei with black magic powers and whatever). Waiting for things to start, it was apparent that everyone else that showed up were just… bored, or stoned out of their gourd, or both; they weren’t anime fans but looking to kill a few idle hours before the weekend.

First movie starts (Fist of the North Star) and it’s kind of a stinker. None of us are into it. At one point, someone made an offhand, sarcastic crack at a scene that got a few polite chuckles. The muse of MST3K struck at that moment and I suggested to my friends that we riff this mess. We threw a few out, mostly to get a feel for the room, and it worked. By the end of that film, and on through the rest of the night, the entire room was in on the fun, poking holes and cracking jokes.

I don’t condone doing this. Not normally. It’s incredibly rude. I think that night and the circumstances were the right blend to work out in that particular case.

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I agree. In the two situations I mentioned above, the first was an unforced reaction that was not intended, and the second one was more a case of shutting someone up who was talking too much.

It really does depend on the atmosphere of the audience and I’ve found that even when some people have come up with gems in such situations, the longer they continue, the lesser their results, leading to desperation in trying to get back to that sweet spot and eventually the audience turning on those trying to riff.

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