The San Francisco Sketchfest is host to multiple shows and events over several weeks, filled with comedians and celebrities getting laughs out of their audiences. Previous years have hosted RiffTrax Live shows, but this time the Sketchfest brought “Mystery Science Theater 3000” fans a treat with “The Mads are Back.”
Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff, who played Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank on MST3K, took to the stage to riff on a movie in front of a live audience. Their movie of choice was “Walk the Dark Street,” a 1956 movie written and directed by Wyatt Ordung (who MST3K fans may recognize as the writer of “Robot Monster”). It was a perfect choice for riffing – a poor plot, bad editing, and scenes that are supposed to be exciting but really just contain two characters wandering pointlessly around for minutes at a time.
Trace and Frank were on the top of their game, with some perfectly-timed riffs; they knew exactly what notes to hit and just the right time to drop in a witty remark. After the movie, they explained that they watched it at least a dozen times over the course of writing the riffs and playing it at multiple shows, and their experience showed. While “Mystery Science Theater 3000” had to limit itself on the language, this live show had no such restrictions, and they knew how to drop an F-bomb at just the right moment for full comedic effect.
Following the show, they held a Q&A with the audience, answering questions ranging from what they know about the revived MST3K (no more than the rest of us know) to the timing of the show coinciding with the presidential inauguration (they were glad to provide a little joy to an otherwise dark day). It was a nice touch, allowing them to connect with their fans and audience.
After the show, Trace and Frank stuck around to meet their fans and sign autographs, as well as sell copies of Frank’s book, “Twenty Five Mystery Science Theater 3000 Films That Changed My Life in No Way Whatsoever.” The line grew quite long rather quickly, but they still made sure to have time for everyone.
Overall, “The Mads are Back” was a very enjoyable show, and made for an excellent Sketchfest event. The show will continue to tour around the country, so I recommend it to any “Mystery Science Theater 3000” fans who may have the chance to see them.