Before its recent reboot on Netflix, Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) was a longtime staple of Comedy Central in the 1990s. The show featured a hapless guy shot into space, sentenced to watch bad movies with his homemade robots.
Originally that hapless guy went by the name of Joel and was played by the show's creator, Joel Hodgson, a native of Fort Atkinson who found inspiration in Milwaukee television programs of the 1970s. "Local TV was so influential on the creation of Mystery Science Theater," says Hodgson.
In fact there was a particular character on Milwaukee's airwaves that helped inspire MST3K: Albert the Alley Cat.
"When I was growing up there was a puppet that did the weather and his name was Albert the Alley Cat. And if you can imagine being a kid, eight-years-old, watching the news - and the news was so dull when you were a kid - and then having a puppet show up... do the weather. It was like winning the lottery, I couldn't believe how great that was," says Hodgson.
When Hodgson last joined Lake Effect, MST3K had been off the air for years, but a groundswell of support was building for a reboot. That turned into a kickstarter campaign, which raised more than six million dollars, and the series was re-launched with a season on Netflix, featuring a new cast led by comedian Jonah Ray.
Now the cast has embarked on a national tour, featuring a full live show. Robots Tom Servo, Crow, and Gypsy will all appear in the live production, along with the new host Jonah Heston, Synthia, and her bonehead henchmen. Like the television program, the live show will include sketches, invention exchanges and, of course, riffing.
"This is an actual production where we see Moon 13, and you see the satellite of love," Hodgson explains. "You kind of go through the opening of the theme song and see the doorway sequence, see the theater, all that stuff kind of realized visually for you."
Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live will play two shows in Milwaukee Saturday, July 15. One performance will feature the movie Eegah from the original TV series, and the second show will feature a surprise movie.