Although “RiffTrax Live: Sharknado” is still a fresh and funny memory, the RiffTrax Crew is already preparing for their next event, “RiffTrax Live: Godzilla.” Thanks to a successful Kickstarter, that will soon be followed by “RiffTrax Live: Anaconda.”
To prepare, I spoke with Kevin Murphy of RiffTrax, also known for playing Tom Servo and Professor Bobo in “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” and his book “A Year at the Movies.” We discussed the transition and differences between “Mystery Science Theater 3000” and RiffTrax, his experiences as a riffer, and what the upcoming events have in store. Read on and see the highlights of our conversation!
G33k-HQ: How was the transition from Mystery Science Theater 3000 to RiffTrax? What kind of difference is there in terms of what you can riff on, how you reach people, and how they’re received?
Kevin: Wow, that’s a lot of information in one question (laughs). We had a great run with MST3k, ten years was wonderful, and after that Mike, Bill, and I wound up in the midwest… but we got the opportunity to start riffing again. … Since we don’t have a TV network looking over our shoulders, we can do all the cheesy old stuff we wanted to do, and we can do more recent titles thanks to the advent of MP3. We have to rely more on our own wits and charm, which are limited at best, but we have a great group of writers. I couldn’t think of better people [to work with] than Bill and Mike.
G33k-HQ: What would you say is the biggest difference between working on MST3K and RiffTrax?
Kevin: The biggest thing is it’s the three of us, rather than a whole fictional universe around the show. Otherwise, it’s very much the same spirit of having fun with these shows and this material.
G33k-HQ: Is there a difference between riffing a movie as yourself and as Tom Servo?
Kevin: Oh, absolutely. Tom Servo could get away with murder, and people would let him because he’s an adorable little puppet. So he can say things that are totally inappropriate, but a grown man couldn’t get away with it. Also, you can destroy a puppet and he comes right back to life; if you destroy me, I’m just dead.
G33k-HQ: How do you choose what RiffTrax projects to work on, in regards to shorts, streamable videos, MP3s, and live shows?
Kevin: Well, the shorts are easy; there are so many out there, and we keep digging them up, the only problem we have is finding decent copies of them. The cheesy films get a little bit harder, the older D-movie titles, and we find some sources for them among distributers, so we get a lot of these genre films that never even made it into theaters. We have our fans come up with suggestions for us a lot, and that’s how we pick up on things like The Room and Birdemic. For the live shows, I’d say the criteria have been something big and goofy that everyone would love, something that looks good on the big screen, and that’s the thing with Godzilla, particularly the 1998 movie, which is not the most beloved by viewers, but has been requested the most by our fans, and some we really love to get our hands on, and that’s the story with Anaconda. So for the live shows we’re doing some obscure things, and thanks to Kickstarter, some big things like Anaconda.
G33k-HQ: What are some of the most memorable projects you’ve worked on?
Kevin: As far as RiffTrax goes, y’know, when we discovered “Twilight,” I went to the movie theater, I think I was the first one to go, and I saw this thing, and I was so excited because it was the perfect storm of dumb and bad and horrible acting and terrible writing, and I just thought “Oh yeah, this is like gold for us, this is like heroin, it’s perfect.” These live shows are like my milestones right now for us, because they’re so exciting, a little crazy making, because they’re kind of like a runaway train; once we start, we can’t stop until the train rolls in at the end. And with an audience there, what we do is so much more fun, for us, for the audience, so the live shows have been some of the high marks for the year, and we’re just hitting our 8th anniversary this year.
G33k-HQ: Is there anything you can’t or won’t riff?
Kevin: Well, y’know, there’s some things we just wouldn’t, because it’s just not appropriate subject matter for what we do. Something like “Hotel Rwanda” or “Schindler’s List,” it would just seem somewhat cynical to crack wise at a film that deep and difficult. Other than that, we don’t have a lot of rules; we don’t do torture porn, we don’t do softcore, just because first of all I don’t find them very pleasant to watch, second of all we try to keep everything PG-13.
Kevin: No, it hasn’t been an issue, because for most of what we find we either make a license agreement with the owners, or it’s an “orphan,” or it’s a public domain film that no one really has a claim to, so it hasn’t been an issue, and if it was, we’d talk to the people who own the copyright.
G33k-HQ: What was it that led to the decision to riff the 1998 Godzilla movie for the next RiffTrax Live?
Kevin: It’s got a lot of things going for it, for us, it’s a Roland Emmerich/Dean Devlin movie so you know it’s going to be big loud and dumb, which is perfect for us, Matthew Broderick who’s not the type of guy you’d expect to see in a type of film like this – he’s fun to pick on because he’s such a nice guy – and you’ve got this Godzilla who doesn’t shoot fire, who has great legs, and doesn’t really do anything except lay a lot of eggs. So it’s kind of the perfect film for us – a big, goofy film from the late 90’s that a lot of people remember.
G33k-HQ: What can we look forward to in the upcoming live event?
Kevin: Well, we got the big goofy movie (it’s a bit long, so we’re not doing a lot of additional material) but we do have a surprise that we cannot reveal because it’s a big top secret. It’s something we’ve been working on for quite a while, and I’m very excited for us to do it.
For more from Kevin Murphy, you can follow him on Twitter, and check out RiffTrax.com. “RiffTrax Live: Godzilla” will be in theaters August 14th, with tickets available now, followed by “Anaconda” in September.