When we were doing Mystery Science Theater 3000 back in the early 90s, we were pretty much given complete creative freedom by Comedy Central. And there was no Standards & Practices division telling us that joke is too dirty or this joke is too offensive. In any case, we had our own in-house Standards & Practices division and it was called the Writer’s Room. There were always discussions about jokes that might be over the line or too crude or too whatever. If a writer objected to any joke for whatever reason, it was dropped from the script and that was that.
We lost quite a few fart jokes and border-line dick jokes in this process and often a cheap laugh was sacrificed in the name of good taste, and my heart would break because I love getting any kind of laugh, especially a cheap one. But many times a better joke would come along and I would content myself by indulging in low brow burlesque humor on my own time.
The current debate about PC comedy has got me thinking about this because when I look back to that glorious era of my life at Best Brains, I think in some ways we at MST3K were ahead of the curve when it comes to being “too PC.” In addition to going easy on the tasteless shit jokes I so loved, we were also very conscious about not doing jokes that would be offensive to women or gay people or any other marginalized group. Did we police ourselves? Absolutely. And as a result, there probably were some instances where we lost a great joke or two because we were being “Too PC.” But on the other hand, I’m proud that we went against the tide of the racist, misogynistic, and homophobic comedy that was quite prevalent back then. Most of us in the writing room were stand up comics, and we were all exposed to that crap on a nightly basis in many of the clubs we played.
So there can be no doubt that when writing our jokes we were sensitive to the feelings of certain genders and ethnicities. And maybe that is a form of comedic self-censorship. But you know what? I’m going to step out on a limb and say that the show actually holds up quite well.
There was a time, in the not-too-distant future-past, when Thanksgiving Day meant Mystery Science Theater. Joel and/or Mike and the bots would offer specially-shot host segments germane to the day of tryptophan, family squabbling, and your creepy uncle being way too eager to unbutton his pants. Oh, what glorious days were those, when you could plop in front of Comedy Central and enjoy people and robots making fun of bat movies while your mom resented your dad for wanting to watch with you instead of helping her. Those days aren’t completely over, though, friends; back by popular demand, and because last year was such a monster success. Shout! Factory will again be hosting an online MST3K Turkey Day marathon, and boy howdy we couldn’t be more excited.
This year’s crop of classic episodes was handpicked by series creator and first captive aboard the Satellite of Love, Joel Hodgson, who will also be providing brand new host segments introducing all six of episodes. We’re also told that these host segments will include special guest appearances as well, so we might be seeing other members of the gang, or maybe just comedy luminaries, on the day as well. The exact list of episodes hasn’t been finalized yet, but fans are encouraged to tweet Joel to make a case for your favorite.
The whole shebang (technical term) kicks off Thursday, November 27th, Thanksgiving Day you know, at 9:00am PT/12 Noon ET on the aptly addressed www.MST3KTurkeyDay.com. So, hook the internet up to your television if it isn’t already, forego football (because it’s always the Cowboys and Lions anyway) and watch 12 hours+ of riff-making goodness.
This has always been one of my all-time favorite host sketches. It’s so quiet and melancholy; a little bit sad, but not depressing. I can’t think of another time during the Joel era where the parent/child relationship between Joel and the bots was so apparent and beautifully handled. In terms of tone and poignancy, I think the only host segment from Mike’s era that comes close to this one is this one.