Just wanted to share a few things I remembered today that kind of primed me for MST3K when I came across it.
I grew in a suburb of Detroit, south of Detroit ( just a city boy, born and raised in South Detroit), down river as we called it. There was a show from Toledo on Saturday nights called The Ghoul. He played lame horror films and though he didn’t riff them, he would occasionally throw a clip from a comedy album in to keep things lively. Any Ghoul fans out there?
Sometime in high school I was flipping through the channels and came across Woody Allen’s What’s Up Tiger Lily? which isn’t a riff, it is an overdub and still pretty funny.
I joined the Air Force in 1980 and at my first base we stumbled into our dorm one night when cable TV was new. We flipped through some channels and came across the film J-Men Forever. It wasn’t really riffing, it was an overdub like What’s Up Tiger Lily? but I thought it was funnier. J-Men was done by Peter Bergman and Philip Proctor from Firesign Theater. I was a bit drunk at the time but I remember nearly hurting myself laughing while we watched it. “Let’s see I want to go up and I want to go really fast. OFF I GO, IN MY BLUE PAJAMAS!”
And that leads me to MST3k. In the 90s I lived in base housing at Edwards AFB. Edwards is out in the middle of nowhere and if you wanted to watch TV back then you got cable or you only got two stations, one of which was local access. Though not drunk (father of two at the time), I did come home later in the evening, laid on the floor in front of the TV and started channel surfing. Had to keep it down because the kids were sleeping but I stopped on the Comedy Channel and an MST3k episode was playing. Just like with J-Men (though minus the alcohol) I once again nearly hurt myself laughing so hard.
Anyone else got any pre-MST3k movie riffing/dubbing experiences to share?
I remember watching that one with my dad. I still remember them showing a Zorro movie and there being a running gag about Zorro’s sidekick calling him “Floyd” when he had his mask off and Zorro when he did not.
“It Came From Hollywood” was the first time I had seen riffing. It played on HBO a bunch in the early '80s and I watched it every time it came on. Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Cheech and Chong and Gilda Radner just killed me with their riffs.
Was it Vampira’s show that introduced the idea of showing bad movies in order to have fun mocking them? I assume people had done so privately before, but I guess that must have been the root of the MST3K family tree.
I remember The Ghoul fondly – I cannot remember the movie, but I remember the scene that hooked me. It was a prison flick of some sort, and someone was getting the chair, and when they cut to a shot of someone throwing a huge blade switch, he dubbed in the sound of a toilet flushing.
Downhill all the way from there.
My dad used to do a hysterical riffing of The Ten Commandments during its annual showing (back in the 70s when “big” movies like that and The Wizard of Oz were shown once a year on one of the networks). We also used ‘riff therapy’ to wean my mom off her usual 532 showings of It’s A Wonderful Life during the holidays… but that was in self defense.
Oh, how I wish we could claim him, but The Ghoul was out of Cleveland, not Toledo – the spiritual successor to the great Ghoulardi. I don’t ever remember him being on any Toledo channels, we always watched him on either 20 or 50 out of Detroit, carefully adjusting the antenna and the UHF dials when reception was less than optimal.
One of my favorite movies as a kid was Steve Martin’s Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. It’s not riffing on the films, but the way he intersperses himself into old movies and interacts with their characters and dialog reminds me of how J/M/J and the bots will sometimes deliver a line as one of the the film characters, responding to another character’s dialog. So I guess that’s my first experience with that sort of meta-dialog.
Here’s something I hope someone can help me with. Sometime in (I think) the early-to-mid Eighties, we were at the home of a family friend who travelled quite a bit as an orchestral conductor.
He showed us something he’d brought back from the USA or Canada that was a sort of prototype riff show, in that they screened Wild Women of Wongo with full forewarning that it was a complete turkey.
Every now and then, a presenter popped up on screen and ranted about how bad the movie was.
This was a long time back and my memory may be playing tricks, but I seem to remember him being skinny, bearded and quite manic.
Any ideas what this show is, or who the presenter was?
It has that live 80s improv try-hard feel that, I’ll be honest, is likely on par with MST3K’s KTMA era. And I’ll tell you the truth, the more I’ve watched those early years of MST3K, the more I appreciate it.
That describes my Saturday nights as a high schooler! Channel 20 and futzing with the antenna to get the best picture. He always said “Parma” which is closer to Cleveland now that you mention it. I made an intentionally cheesy home movie and sent it to him. He played it and I was kind of a big deal amongst my nerdy friends for about a week.
How could I forget Dead Men? I loved it!
Looks like you need a cup of my java.
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