‘MST3K’ Returns: Joel Hodgson on Resurrecting the Cult TV Show
Joel Hodgson never set out to start a wisecracking revolution. In fact, his conception for what would become the beloved cult series Mystery Science Theater 3000 was simply born out of a selfish desire to create a television show that incorporated a few of his favorite things: “bad movies, sci-fi, and puppetry.” The rest is pop culture history.
Just a year after its Thanksgiving Day premiere on a UHF channel in Minneapolis in 1988, MST3K made its national debut on the Comedy Channel, an HBO-owned cable network that eventually morphed into Comedy Central. Eight years and a second cancellation later, the futuristic sketch show in which a lost-in-space janitor (first Hodgson, then Michael Nelson) and his robot friends are forced to watch god-awful movies made its way to the Sci-Fi Channel, where it aired for another three seasons before being cancelled yet again in 1999.
As the series continued to run in syndication for years, and found new life via home video and digital streaming, its fandom has never wavered. That fact became glaringly obvious on November 10, when Hodgson launched a Kickstarter campaign to “Bring Back Mystery Science Theater,” with the goal of raising $2 million to create three new episodes. In less than a week, Hodgson had surpassed that number.
By the time the campaign concluded on December 12, nearly 50,000 backers had contributed a whopping $5,764,229 to the project, enough to produce an entire 14-episode season of the once-dearly-departed series and set a new Kickstarter record for the most amount ever raised for a film or video project, narrowly besting the $5,702,153 that the Veronica Mars movie raised in 2013. And that doesn’t even include the $600,000 raised outside of Kickstarter, which leaves Hodgson with $6.3 million in the MST3K bank account, and a near-30-year-legacy to live up to. (With Dan Harmon set to write and Patton Oswalt joining the cast, its future looks bright indeed.)
Just days after his Kickstarter ended, and hours before a well-deserved vacation, Rolling Stone spoke with Hodgson about MST3K’s undying fandom, what the new show will look like, and why penguins are infinitely funny.