Riffing Santa Claus Conquers The Martians - 11/1/2008
Live At Family Arena, St. Charles, Missouri
As one of many Msties who was not aware of Mystery Science Theater 3000 during either the 1992, or 1994 live shows, I was thrilled when Joel put the gang back together and started staging Cinematic Titanic Live shows.
I was even happier when I discovered that one would be coming to the Midwest, where I now live.
And so, on October 31st, 2008, I loaded up the car and headed from eastern Kansas to St. Louis, Missouri for a weekend in the Gateway to the West.
This would be my second visit to the city, having taken in Gateway Scifi Convention 2000 in St. Louis eight years prior.
However, this would be my first time to actually see the sights; at Gateway, stayed at the Convention throughout the weekend.
This time, among other things, I got to go up in the arch, which was actually really neat.
But the show is what you came here to read about. First of all, on my way in, I spied a billboard advertising the show on I-70 a few miles west of St. Louis proper.
In fact, for accuracy's sake, the show, much like the billboard, wasn't really in St. Louis.
The event was really happening in a neighboring suburb by the name of St. Charles.
The show was held Saturday night at Family Arena, an indoor hockey rink and multipurpose arena.
My friend Allison and I found our seats, and I also discovered Brian Henry and Steve 'Daddyo' Finley seated front-row-center.
I was about eight rows back on the left.
Doing some really rough math, I would say about 800 people attended the show.
They had it setup to only use one end of the arena.
A stage had been put up and at the back of it was a large screen that the movie would be projected onto.
As people finished coming in, the opening act started, introduced by Mary Jo Pehl.
And who was the opening act? None other than Dave 'Gruber' Allen, who played Mr. Rosso on Freaks and Geeks, and was the 'Gruber' of Higgens Boys and Gruber of long-ago Comedy Channel lore.
He was joined for part of his set by Josh Weinstein, who played bass and sang.
The musical number that they both performed, with Josh taking primary vocal duties, was a sampling from an imaginary radio station, KADD, the station that only plays your favorite parts of your favorite songs.
You can listen to the second half of it by clicking here.
Frank also came to the stage, and performed his 'Convoluted Man' superhero sketch, which was great to see in person.
After the set was finished, there was a ten minute break, and the show started.
Mary Jo Pehl, Frank Conniff, Josh Weinstein, Trace Beaulieu, and Joel Hodgson were all introduced, Joel said a few words, and they all took their places on both sides of the screen.
Unlike the Cinematic Titanic DVD's, no one was on a riser above anyone else, they were all on the same level, although Mary Jo and Frank did have chairs and sat throughout the show.
They all had music stands with lights on them, with their lines in binders on the stands.
Unlike on MST3K, they weren't watching separate monitors with timecode, so they had to pay attention to the movie to know what to say and when, unless they had timers that I couldn't see.
Joel stated before the show started that even though Santa Claus Conquers the Martians had been done on MST3K before, that they would be doing all new riffs in this performance.
It's been a while since I've watched the episode, but nothing jumped out as being familiar.
They did plenty of topical references, something that was largely kept out of MST episodes.
It was a great performance, and it was great to get to see a live riffing in a big group of people.
They ran straight through the film, without taking any breaks for host segment-type material.
I recorded a couple short segments on my digital camera, you can watch one of them by clicking on the image to the right, or by clicking here.
One cool thing about this performance was that it was the entire movie, not the somewhat shortened versions typically shown on Mystery Science Theater.
There was also a plot benefit to this: you find out that Voldar, the bad-guy, isn't just pure evil, he actually has something of a reason for wanting to get rid of Santa.
He believes that Santa will lead to the Martian children going soft, and when they grow up and start leading Mars, enemies will attack and the Martians won't be able to defend themselves.
When the movie ended, they all filed out, and the autograph line formed.
There were all order of things to be signed. DVDs, copies of the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide, one guy even had a completed MST3K Model Kit.
I brought along a copy of the ACEG and a completed Tom Servo head for everyone to sign.
They had some really cool tour-specific shirts for sale, but there were only 3XL's left when I got up to the front of the line.
I got pictures with Mary Jo, Josh, Trace, and Joel.
I was thinking too much about holding up the line, and somehow thought that if I stopped to get a picture with Frank I would be taking too long, and so I don't have a picture with him in it.
My friend Allison says I took way less time than a lot of other people, so this wasn't a very good decision.
Joel was impressed with my Servo head, and asked if I had made it. He signed his name and 'Nice' on the globe.
I was too busy being thrilled with standing next to him that I didn't even notice that he played with the beak a little bit.
Allison ended up telling me about it later.
Ron McAdams (a botbuilders yahoogroup regular) asked Joel about the KTMA Servo Hovorskirt, which the latest consensus is that it's a painted traffic cone.
Joel agrees with this.
I brought up the mythological origins of the engine block, and said to Joel that I understand that he doesn't remember where in the world it came from, being that it was a long time ago.
After getting autographs, I was fortunate enough to talk to Dave 'Gruber' Allen, who was standing off to one side.
He asked where I had driven from, and when I said Kansas, he brought up the John Brown mural by John Steuart Curry in the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka.
It shocked me that he knew about the mural, because I wasn't familiar with Curry, or 'regionalism' art until I moved to Kansas.
Gruber suggested we take a photo like those you see in the paper when a city mayor gives an award to a firefighter.
Thus the photo to the left.
He was really nice, and very easy to talk to.
I never expected I would go to see Cinematic Titanic and get to meet the man who played Mr. Rosso.
I also got a picture of myself, Brian 'Erhardt4' Henry, and Ron McAdams.
All in all, a great show, and what an opportunity, seeing the Brains live.
If you get the chance, and they're anywhere even vaguely nearby, I would definitely recommend it.
Autograph Session Pictures!
Josh signing my ACEG, under his picture in the opening section of the book.
Trace and me.
Joel Hodgson, creator of Mystery Science Theater.
Joel shaking someone's hand, while a Tiny Crow from the 20th Anniversary DVD Box Set looks on.
-Toolmaster Jeff 'Jef' Zehnder
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