Radio and TV Talk

Rodney Ho covers TV and radio, from Atlanta’s stations to the hottest “American Idol" news.

Jonah Ray leading 'Mystery Science Theater 3000' tour (Atlanta Symphony Hall, August 12)

This was posted on Thursday, August 3, 2017 by RODNEY HO/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

"Mystery Science Theater 3000" was a Gen X favorite in the 1990s for a certain nerdboy crew. It's basically a man and two robots mocking cheesy sci-fi films mostly from the 1950s and 60s. They were Twitter commenters before Twitter existed.

And thanks to creator Joel Hodgson and some very loyal fans, the show recently returned on Netflix in the social media age and is now a successful live tour, ending its current run at Atlanta Symphony Hall on August 12 with two shows. (Buy tickets here.)

'The shows have been packed," said Jonah Ray, a Nerdist podcaster and comic who was ultimately recruited to take over the 2017 version of "Mystery Science Theater 3000." "It has really resounded with people. I'm not a braggart and feel weird when positive things happen, but we've been getting standing ovations and the fans really go crazy."

Creator Hodgson, Ray added, "always thought MST would work well live. It's so visual with the bots and sketches."

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During each of the two lives shows, they riff off a different movie like they do on the TV program. The early show features "Eegah," a classic MST 3000 target about a prehistoric giant falling in love with a teen-age girl. The second is a "surprise" they won't reveal. The only downside to a live show is the laughter for one joke could drown out opportunities for the next one.

"We have hundreds and hundreds of jokes," Ray said. "You let yourself go into the madness of it. In a normal live comedy performance routine, you can slow it down. You can pause if the laughs come. But this is a movie. You can't stop it."

A few years back, Ray met Hodgson while doing his Nerdist podcast. Hodgson took a liking to Ray. As they began working on jokes, Hodgson liked him more and more. At first, Hodgson offered him to help write the revived show, then produce it, then eventually host it.

For Ray, this is truly a dream come true from a young age. "I should have wished for world peace!" he said. "I now have to fulfill other dreams. I have to be in a Mel Brooks movie. I have to collaborate with Steve Martin and Al Brooks. I have to be on 'The Simpsons.' Now I'm thinking, 'What else can happen?' "

Although Netflix has 14 episodes, Ray doesn't think it's necessary to binge all 20 hours-plus in a row. "It was never appointment viewing to me," he said. "That's what made it so good. It could just be on."

He said this is the first time the show is available outside the United States and it's gaining quite a following in Australia of all places.

Ray loved working with Patton Oswalt, who isn't technically on the tour but joins in via video. He plays one of his character's tormenters in the Netflix series. Ray has known Oswalt for a long time and appreciated Oswalt giving him a kind word and helping hand in his early days in comedy. "Those small things mean a lot to a young comic," he said, "even in platitudes. He's have these viewing parties which were essentially a 'Mystery Science' thing and people would yell out jokes."

Last year, Ray did a parody travel show on Seeso called "Hidden America," which kind of makes fun of the entire genre, including the Anthony Bourdain shows. He stopped by Atlanta, which he adores: "An awesome, artistic, diverse beautiful city."

Of course, all his visits were made up. They had someone obsessed with zombies, who created a special obstacle course filled with people on crack to simulate zombies.

"I love the Ethiopian food in Atlanta so we visited a cafe that was clearly run by a former dictator and his ousted military man," Ray said. "It's almost like a witness protection program. They run the cafe like warlords. While filming, a coup happened. A sous chef led a revolution. "


"Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live"

Saturday, August 12, 7 p.m., 10 p.m.


Atlanta Symphony Hall

1280 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta


About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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