Forget Brexit, forget the presidential election, attending Tuesday night's "Rifftrax Live: Mystery Science Theater 3000 Reunion Show" brought back that there's-hope-for-the-world-yet feeling.
Sure, some fans long ago picked sides between MST3K creator Joel Hodgson and his replacement host, head writer Mike Nelson. And sure, there's what Hodgson calls "a complicated history" between some cast members. But Tuesday night in the show's hometown of Minneapolis, Joel hugged Mike, and Trace insisted Frank take a thousand bows, and Kevin did a weird little jig, and Bridget and Mary Jo deftly dissected the vital importance of a 1950s kitchen, and Bill insisted that corn is grass and new host Jonah proved that he can zing a baldness joke at original host Joel with all the required confidence of the man who's hosting the beloved show's reboot.
If you're a MSTie who couldn't be at the State Theatre in Minneapolis, or in one of the many theaters nationwide that received a simulcast, you should really just relax. The performance taped Tuesday will be simulcast again to theaters on July 12 -- look for me in the balcony howling the loudest at the Minnesota jokes.
Here are 6 reasons why the reunion did the cult classic show proud.
1. MST3K fans are a family of wonderfully geeky nerds
I've seen plenty of "Rifftrax Live!" simulcast shows in theaters, but being in the same theater as the live filming is like getting together with your nerdy friends in a dorm TV room, only better. Fans came dressed as such characters as Torgo and The Master from "Manos: The Hands of Fate," lustily sang along to the preshow broadcast of "Let's Have a Patrick Swayze Christmas" and even rooted for the stagehand who scurried across the stage to give a 1-minute warning. ("YAY, STAGEHAND! ALL RIGHT!")
2. LOL = Land of (10,000) Lakes
The occasional Minnesota-centric joke was enormously well received by the hometown crowd, and Al Franken, Garrison Keillor, muskies and Minnesotans' famed passive-aggressiveness all came in for mentions. But the biggest roar came when the RiffTrax trio of Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett announced how thrilled they were to be in Minneapolis, and Murphy cracked, "But sadly, St. Paul could not be here tonight." You might have to be a Twin Citian to fully appreciate that one.
3. Familiarity breeds hilarity
The show featured several shorts already known to RiffTrax fans. Of those, the biggest howls were saved for "Shake Hands With Danger," an infamous safety short. "I have complete confidence in you, Guy Who Can't Grow a Mustache," Nelson cracked on seeing an especially-'70s looking worker. Bridget Jones Nelson and Mary Jo Pehl revisited "A Word to the Wives," about how to convince your '50s husband he needs to buy you a new kitchen. And the trippy "At Your Fingertips: Grasses," had the entire lineup of alums, plus new host Jonah Ray, joining in. "Nothing says, 'I forgot it was Father's Day' like a grass rubbing," noted Pehl.
4. But new content is always welcome
Some of the riffed-on shorts were ones neither MST3K nor RiffTrax had ever done, including the truly weird "Stamp Day for Superman," in which George Reeves tries to promote US Savings Bonds and possibly, for some unclear reason, typewriters. But the best "new" short may have been the first, "The Talking Car," in which a careless '70s kid has a dream in which cars lecture him on traffic safety. "That's just great," riffed Nelson. "Who needs a normal or popular son?"
5. Fans appreciate the throwback references
Hodgson once said in a DVD retrospective that MST3K writers never worried that fans wouldn't get an especially obscure reference, because "the right people will get it." Everyone in the theater was one of those people Tuesday night, well versed in the show's history and catchphrases, and references to Mr. B. Natural, RiffTrax favorites "The Room" and "Birdemic," and MST3K's early days on Twin Cities' UHF station KTMA were greeted with recognition and laughter. Yes, they've kept circulating the tapes.
6. Laughter remains the best medicine
Sometimes, the live theater crowd was roaring so loud that the riffs were lost, not to mention the sometimes-inaudible dialogue from the decades-old short films. No one cared. And if any of the stars have tricky relationships, nothing showed onstage. The cast members related like old high-school pals reunited once more, slipping back into familiar cadences and connections as if they'd never been apart. "I forgot to tell you, Mike, I was going to be late for work," joked Trace Beaulieu, who played Dr. Clayton Forrester and voiced Crow before leaving the show in 1996. "For about 30 years."