MST3K “Watch out for Snakes” Tour a Riffing Riot!

I purchased my ticket for the MST3K “Watch out for Snakes!” tour about ten minutes after they’d gone on sale. At the time, my trip to New England was winding down and I remember feeling grateful to have something new to look forward to. In addition to the general admission tickets, fans could also choose between two types of VIP passes. After reviewing the details, I opted for the cheaper one…and the operative word here, folks, is cheaper not cheap. When the big day finally arrived, my friend Nikki and I battled Windy City construction before settling in at a parking garage near Chicago’s Vic Theater. Although the garage itself looked as if it were being held together by spit and gum, it was a pretty neat part of the city that I’d never been to before.

We decided to take advantage of our early arrival by taking in some of the local color. This included an old-fashioned book store where I snagged a hardcover edition of a dinosaur book I’d been looking for as well as a stop at Dark Matter Coffee. I’d never heard of the place but when Nikki described it as “a stronger version of coffee” I knew it was definitely worth a visit. Her description proved accurate as that afternoon boost lasted several hours though it didn’t take hold quite soon enough…

As we were walking back to the theater, Nikki kept kicking my leg and tugging at my arm while muttering things I couldn’t understand. This went on for about a quarter of a block until she finally stopped, turned to look at me and yelled, “WE WERE JUST WALKING BEHIND JONAH RAY!!!”

Then it was my turn to start kicking myself.

Everyone in line was very friendly and many had driven long distances to be there. We were all sharing stories when the tour manager came out to thank us while letting us know what was in store. I thought this was a pretty nice touch.

Fifteen minutes later the doors opened and we were handed our souvenir bags as we walked in. I thought the bags would be totes but they ended up like those eco-friendly ones you get at the grocery store.

Our VIP ticket granted us seating in the first eleven rows (the more expensive holders were guaranteed the first five) along with a special MST3K lanyard and limited edition poster.

The only other bonuses the higher VIP folks got was a wood cut Tom Servo like the ones they’ve been using in their latest season along with having their limited edition posters signed. All of us were able to get first dibs on new MST3K T-Shirts or tumblers but the crew was just pulling that stuff out of boxes when we arrived.

For me, however, the main draw of the VIP ticket was meeting and getting a photo taken with Joel Hodgson and Jonah Ray. This was to be done with our own cameras and had to be either a cell phone or “point-and-shoot.” We all received emails prior to the event letting us know that if our camera had a removable lens, it would not be permitted inside. This meant my beloved Canon EOS would have to sit this Terror Dave adventure out (so don’t complain that these shots look grainy).

 

Seating was first come first serve but, interestingly enough, most of us VIP folks didn’t take advantage of the preferential rows. Those seats were all at ground level which meant you had to arch your neck up to see the stage. Most of us opted for the next section of chairs which put the stage at eye level and required a lot less strain. By the time the show actually began, the regular admission ticket holders took most of the VIP seats…and with all our blessings!

After we settled in (a.k.a. purchased alcoholic beverages), Joel Hodgson stepped on stage and everyone cheered. He thanked us for our support and told us how humbled he was by the success of the MST3K Kickstarter campaign which made the revival show possible. He also took a couple of audience questions; the first whether or not Netflix will be giving them another season. Joel was actually pretty vague on this topic though, I dare say, I detected an air of optimism. Without giving a clear answer (leading me to believe the details are still being hashed out) he mentioned that as of this date the MST3K revival season is the ONLY Netflix series that has a 100% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The next question was which movie shown in the new season has been the most popular with the fans. Joel said that currently Cry Wilderness is the big winner there.

A few moments later, Jonah Ray showed up and waved. The applause he received was no less than Joel’s so clearly he’s been accepted by the die-hard fans who weren’t keen on the old regime’s replacement.

That whole photo experience was very pleasant and the line moved quickly. The person designated to take the picture took several shots to insure that at least one turned out. I will say that the fan in front of me was a tough act to follow since he brought along gifts for the hosts. He gave Jonah and Joel some rather expensive hardcover DC omnibus books which, being a Marvel omnibus collector, was pretty generous. These gifts were likely inspired by the announcement of MST3K headed for comic books. The premise is that Jonah and the robots get transported into old, classic comic book stories which, of course, they’ll be riffing the whole time. I think it’s a brilliant idea and can’t wait to see how it turns out!

When it was my turn, Jonah was the first to shake my hand. I was really surprised how tall this guy is! I said to him, “MST3K…my how I love what you’ve done with the place!” He laughed and thanked me. He said he appreciated the support because he had such a tough act to follow. Speaking of that “tough act,” Joel was next and gave me a warm handshake. I mentioned how I was there when he met Svengoolie a couple of years back at C2E2. He said he remembered that day well and that it had been a true honor meeting “the great Svengoolie.”

Also joining us in the picture was Rebecca Hanson who does the voice of Gypsy and played the villainous Synthia during this tour and Tim Ryder who plays one of the Boneheads on TV and Tom Servo here. Now, personally, I would have been happier just getting a shot with Jonah and Joel but what was I supposed to say? “Excuse me, but would you two mind getting the hell out of my picture!?!”

The power of cropping

We returned to our seats and indulged in more cocktails before the general admission folks arrived. Some of them were dressed as MST3K characters and I stopped one to take a picture. The guy looked strangely familiar until finally it dawned me…it was Chad Byers a.k.a. public assess horror host, Undead Johnny. It’s been a long time since we ditched the Horror Host Report but he recognized me too before asking if I knew if it was okay for them to sit in the front row. “Sure!” I said, “Go for it!”

Joel came back out and did another greeting before taking a few more audience questions.

Tonight’s movie was EEGAH and one person asked if there had been another film he wished he could have shown us instead. Joel said he would have liked to have shown The Green Slime since it was the one they riffed during their pilot episode back in 1988. “Unfortunately,” he said, “Japan doesn’t like movie riffing because they find it disrespectful.”

Once the show started, it was just like being in an actual episode. The theme music kicked off and everyone started clapping and singing along. A big screen above acted like their spaceship monitor and Kinga Forrester (Felicia Day) and Max (Patton Oswalt) appeared to share their new “inventions” just like on TV.

When the movie itself began, Jonah and the robots ran frantically off stage to become the familiar silhouettes we all know and love.

As for as the movie’s riffing, I thought it was off the charts funny! I seriously can’t remember the last time I’d laughed that hard and I particularly loved their musical jabs at the lead male character, Tom (Arch Hall Jr), and his laughable songs. During one of the “commercial breaks,” Jonah donned a blonde wig and started serenading Synthia, who was wearing a black one to look the film’s female lead, Roxie (Marilyn Manning). She then went out to flirt with the audience while belting out some of the most hilarious high notes I’ve ever heard.

The “Watch out for Snakes” thing played out on occasion too. If anyone mentioned snakes in the movie than Felicia Day would appear on the monitor and do his funny montage. They also shot out snake-like tubes at people during breaks. Incidentally, this show did have a fifteen-minute intermission.

If you’re an MST3K fan and have an opportunity to see this show, I highly recommend that you do. A general admission ticket is just fine, unless you’re hell-bent on getting a photo with Jonah and Joel (like I was). The VIP swag wasn’t all that spectacular to warrant the steeper price and, at the end of the day, everyone could sit where they wanted to anyway (at least in Chicago). Though the dynamics were just like the TV show, there was a high-octane energy level here that can’t be replicated at home.

I can only hope there will be another MST3K Tour planned after this one. And “in the not-too-distant future.”

 Dave Fuentes~

 

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