(This was already posted on the subreddit but I thought it may be of interest here as well)
Saw the Time Bubble Tour on Saturday in Rochester (the birthplace of film!). This was my second time at a MST3K Live, as I had also gone to the last tour. I’ll use the same format here as I did with my semi in-depth review from last time:
Crowd/Ambience: I didn’t see any Servos this time, but once again one of the highlights of the show is the experience of watching a riffing alongside other fans. It really is something that you need to experience to know what I’m talking about: it makes the funny moments funnier, the groan-worthy moments from the films all the more groan-worthy, and just generally gives good vibes. It was also a very varied crowd in ages and interests, which fit well with the riff (more on that later) which definitely hit a lot of quadrants. Hopefully we stay on the schedule for future tours as well.
Host: Yes, this is breaking from my format from last time, but I feel it’s important given that this is Emily “Connor” Marsh’s first rodeo! After being a rigger with only a few lines on the last tour and doing stuff in the online bits since (including some riffing of her own), Emily breaks the glass ceiling and officially becomes the first feature-length female test subject (which GPC alludes to during a host segment, although the boy bots don’t quite get the term “sausage fest” and think she’s talking about eating lots of Jimmy Dean). And let me tell you, if her episodes in the next season are as good as this, we’re in for a treat- she’s great! She sings (including, yes, her own theme song), she dances, she performs good physical comedy/facial expressions (which sadly might be lost to anyone sitting farther away than I was), and has good comedic timing. She was good on the riff, but really shined in the host segments (more on those later). Jonah isn’t kidding when he says she’ll be a hero to MSTies.
The movie/riffing: Roland Emmerich is one of the great conoisseurs of cheese in modern cinema, primarily known for his destruction of buildings, cities, civilizations, and soon the goddamn moon. And after watching his first English-language film Making Contact (which he directed and co-wrote) I gotta say it’s a miracle that he ever got a chance to have the career he had because this movie sucks. It is about a kid who thinks he’s speaking to his dead dad on the phone, gets psychic powers and also a sentient robot for some reason, becomes the nemesis of an evil ventriloquist dummy, and also the government gets involved. The pacing is bad, the plot nonsensical, the ripping-off of Spielberg blatant, the acting wooden, and there are so, many, SLATS! Yes, the major visual trademark of this film are slats. Slats on doors, slats on windows, slats on picket fences. SO MANY SLATS.
Thankfully, this makes it a perfect target for riffing, which came at a quick but not too overbearing pace and were a nice mix of high-brow “seriously maybe five people in this theater got that joke” references and low-brow “if anyone doesn’t get this joke they should be forced out of the theater” references, including a few callbacks to classic riffs (although the Hi-Keeba seemed a bit forced). Emily, as I said above, makes an excellent impression, and Nate Begle and Conor McGiffin are old pros at this now and possess voices for the bots that are familiar while still clearly their own. Oh, and GPC joins in a few times as well, primarily for musical bits (Yvonne Freese has a great singing voice) but also for the entirety of the last movie segment (because Mega-Synthia was freaking her out). In addition to GPC outright joining the riffing for good chunks of the show (as opposed to her pop-ins during the Jonah years and extremely-rare theater appearances before that), they also play around a bit with the format: at one point the movie “breaks” and leaves the screen stuck on a snapshot of a bizarre image (go to my Reddit post for the spoiler tag), giving the riffers time to fire off basically every joke they can think of before the movie is “fixed”. Another time, the movie briefly turns into a silent movie as a result of the events of a host segment.
Ironically, though, the best riff of the show might have been no riff at all, as Emily and the Bots are so shaken by a bizarre scene involving a fishbowl that they are unable to say any meaningful words until finally one of them (can’t remember because I was too busy laughing) basically says “Uhh did anyone else just see that?”.
Skits/Host Segments: While the movies and riffing ultimately comes down to personal taste between the tours, I think it is safe to say that in general the skits were better this time than last time. The basic “plot” is that Mega-Synthia has kidnapped not only Emily and the Bots (Emily at one point says that Jonah “had somewhere else he had to be”, while comparing herself to a cool babysitter) but also the entire theater and placed them in a Kingachrome “time bubble” to send them back to 1988, where they will be forced to watch all the MST3K experiments for the first time all over again (which Emily admits isn’t that bad of a punishment, all things considered).
So, each host segment is a different year, with the impact of the year ranging from heavy (a trip to the 1920s brings us Flapper Synthia and causes the silent movie bit, a 1985 visit imagines the creators of the movie having to order “Spielberger Helper” in order to make the film) to light (the 1999 segment basically just has one spare Y2K reference). All of the segments are a hoot, but my personal favorite is probably when Emily gets meta by singing a song to Crow about how buying and owning lots of stuff can help ease the pain of modern life… which soon transitions into a reminder to everyone that there’s merch on sale in the lobby so check it out during the upcoming intermission. Another highlight: Yvonne Freese at one point pulls double-duty as Mega-Synthia AND GPC in quick succession thanks to the magic of curtains!
So, obviously if you are on this subreddit to begin with you probably either are going or wish you could anyway… but still… I highly recommend it. Emily does great, the movie is a riff-happy heaven of horrible, and the host segments are a delight!