Handpicked Happening: MST3K’s Joel Hodgson

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This edition of the Happening newsletter is brought to you by Mystery Science Theater 3000 creator Joel Hodgson. In 2015, with the help of 48,270 backers on Kickstarter, Joel and his team raised $5.7 million for a reboot of MST3K — making it the most-funded Film project in Kickstarter history. “Using Kickstarter gave us the same level of creative freedom we had when we first started the show almost thirty years ago,” he says of the reboot, which is now streaming on Netflix. Here, he shares some insight into his creative life. (Sign up to receive Happening in your inbox here.)

Fan art by Benjamin J. Colon
Fan art by Benjamin J. Colon

MST3K is back! What should everyone know about the reboot?

Well, if you already knew MST3K, I hope you'll be pleased with the feel of the new season. But you know, if you've never seen MST3K, don't worry: you can jump in anywhere, in the new or old seasons. We didn't want to make the show a love letter to the past — we actually wanted to make it a love letter to the future.

As someone who works in so many different creative fields, what are your go-to resources for creative motivation?

Music. Hunter S. Thompson said it really well:
“Music has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel. I have always needed Fuel. I am a serious consumer. On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio.”

Keeping notebooks. Ever since my freshman year of college, I've kept a hardbound blank notebook with me. I take notes and draw pictures of ideas as they occur to me, even if I don't know the purpose of the ideas yet.

Transcendental meditation. I started about eight years ago, just prior to starting the journey to bring back Mystery Science Theater, and I still do it twice a day. The way I describe the benefit is: Imagine your life if you landed two really good naps every day.

Who is your dream collaborator, and what would you make together?

I'd love to spend a couple of weeks working for Penn & Teller, coming up with ideas for their live shows. Honestly, I would take my vacation time to go work for them. But the sad truth is that they’re such creative dynamos, they really don’t need the help.

Four standout projects

A Trip to the Moon Coloring Book
The magician Georges Méliès is known as one of the earliest fantasy filmmakers. He also reinvented the entire filmmaking process, from printing his own film stock to creating his own studio, and everything in between.

1977 EPA Graphic Standards System Reissue
The EPA can always use a little help, especially these days, and a physical graphics manual is an incredibly valuable innovation that a lot of people never get to see.

The MicroMill: A Desktop CNC Milling Machine
Projects like this can really change the ways we rapidly prototype ideas, explore unusual craft projects, and even fix things around the house.

Paperhand Puppet: 18th Annual Puppet Performance
Puppetry is this wonderful, primitive art form that's constantly being reinvented, and this looks like a lovely project.

Three requirements for crafting a great movie riff

Respect: Collaborate with the movie, don't just mock it. It's really hard to make a movie, even a bad or cheesy one, and it deserves some respect.

Humility: We tend to shy away from sardonic know-it-all types. They're not that much fun to work with, and the goal of a good riff is to point attention to the movie, rather than the person writing the riff.

Fascination: All of our writers bring all of their personal fascinations and interests to the table, so we end up with a really varied set of references and topics in the final riffs.

Fan art by Todd Nauck
Fan art by Todd Nauck



In & Of Itself
Derek DelGaudio is an amazing performer who is re-inventing the way that magicians and audiences work together to create mystery. If you're in NYC, go see this.

Bob Dylan x Bill Flanagan
Bob Dylan seems to have reached the point in his life where he's willing to reveal some of his tricks, techniques, and influences in this interview. Totally worth the read.

"God in Chicago" by Craig Finn
On this wonderful track from the album We All Want The Same Things, Finn (from The Hold Steady) tells a beautiful and haunting story that starts to behave like a memory.

Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements, by Bob Mehr
The Replacements got inside my heart somehow, and Bob Mehr does a really apt job of describing the world that they inhabited while they were doing it. It’s a modern tragedy, for sure, but the good news is that almost all the players survived to tell the tale.

Fan art by Emily Kardamis
Fan art by Emily Kardamis


Songs that inspired the new season of MST3K, curated by Joel Hodgson (register here to read the playlist's backstory).

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