-by Ken Plume
If you’ve ever seen an episode of the critically acclaimed cult series - and self-proclaimed “Cow Town Puppet Show” - Mystery Science Theater 3000, then you probably know Mike Nelson as the “meat puppet” host of the show’s last five seasons (in addition to serving as the show’s head writer during the entirety of its run).
MST3K ended in 1999 after its 10th season, and Mike left behind a career of riffing on bad movies alongside robots Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo. Greener pastures awaited him, including authoring two books - the first of which was a collection of film-themed essays entitled Mike Nelson’s Movie Megacheese. His second collection of essays, Mike Nelson’s Mind Over Matters, delved into the little idiosyncrasies of life - including the perils of the musical as an art form, navigating the city-size acreage of mega-stores, and the (skewed) history of TV. He also wrote his first novel, Death Rat
The call of bad movies eventually drew him back to collaborating with cohorts Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett as the “Film Crew,” and also providing commentaries for Legend Film’s restored editions of flicks like Plan 9 From Outer Space and Little Shop Of Horrors. There’s even a series of Film Crew DVD releases coming up from the folks at Shout Factory.
This association with Legend Films, however, actually got the Midwest-based Nelson to leave behind the snowy climes of his longtime home in Minnesota for sunny San Diego with the launch of RiffTrax.
If you’re unfamiliar with RiffTrax, they’re essentially downloadable audio commentaries that you can play back on your mp3 player of choice, which you then sync up to your very own DVDs of such classic (and not-so-classic) films as Lord of the Rings, The Phantom Menace, Road House, The Fifth Element, and even Star Trek V. Even better, the commentaries feature that patented Mike Nelson humor we’ve all been so desperately needing back in our lives (and you can’t beat the tracks featuring Mike’s special guest riffers, Kevin and Bill).
You can purchase these commentaries and many more directly from Rifftrax.com for only a few dollars, and additional titles are being added to the library constantly.
I recently got a chance to chat with Mike (something I’ve been doing every few years going back over a decade) about all of these things, plus Dom Deluise. Seriously. Read on…
MIKE NELSON: Hey, this is Mike.
KEN PLUME: Hey Mike, this is Ken Plume.
NELSON: Hey, how are you?
KP: I’m doing well. I hope you’re doing well.
NELSON: Yeah. Doing great.
KP: Apologies for the slight delay.
NELSON: Oh, no problem at all. Sorry for the transfer problems.
KP: I was about to have a great interview with whoever picked up in the hall.
NELSON: That was Erik. He would have gone on for hours.
KP: Well I’m sure that it would have been a tremendously less awkward than this is going to go. It’s a pleasure to be speaking with you again.
NELSON: Nice to talk to you again.
KP: I can’t remember when the last time was. 2002?
NELSON: Yeah, it’s been a while.
KP: I think around Death Rat. Maybe it was even earlier than that.
NELSON: It probably was… well, I can’t remember. It could have been Death Rat.
KP: All those projects tend to blur together.
NELSON: Yeah, yeah. My whole life is a blur.
KP: I never, ever thought that I would hear of a day when you moved out of Minnesota…
NELSON: Yeah, it took a lot. It took a lot to get me out of there.
KP: Was it just dump trucks full of money? Or just a stunning offer?
NELSON: I’m always awoken by the backwards beeping sound of the trucks backing up with the money.
KP: There must have been so many false alarms though, when it was just a trash truck or UPS…
NELSON: Yeah, exactly. No, I’d been sort of casting about for a move or just more regular work and I spent some time in L.A., and it taught me that I’d rather live anywhere than L.A. I’d done a couple of things for Legend Films before, and I drove down from L.A. to do some other project, and I just kind of drove into San Diego and went, “Oh, that’s right, this place isn’t a crap hole! It’s actually really nice!” And then David Martin, the CEO of Legend, just started talking to me like, “Yeah, we could do stuff on a regular basis. Let’s do stuff down here. Don’t move to L.A.” So he kinda rescued me.
KP: Was there a moment when you were actually contemplating that L.A. transition?
NELSON: Oh yeah. Yeah. ‘Cause I just kind of… the freelance world, it worked for me well. I really had a good thing going. But it gets to be really hard to… when you’ve got to keep drumming up your own stuff and you’re always wondering what’s next out there. I was always lucky - there was always… not always, but usually something coming up. But I kinda wanted to, as I got a little older, I wanted to get some regular work for a little while, and the only place to do regular work is kind of in L.A. So that’s what I did. I did a little exploratory tour out there and ended up here.
KP: Who was the big cheerleader for trying to get you out to L.A.? There are plenty of people you know that have made the transition…
NELSON: Yeah, no, it was just sort of… there were a couple of projects that I was working on freelance that brought me out there anyway. So it was kinda like, you know, if those could be extended or maybe if I could find some really good TV work, then we’d have a go of it. It was just kinda, “Let’s see what happens.” And I was probably 50/50 on the fence of, can I even do this or not?
KP: The living in L.A. part of it?
NELSON: Yeah, the living in L.A. part.
KP: What was the leanest that times ever got? Was there any point where you went, “These are really dire straights, I need to make a decision now…”?
NELSON: No, no. That’s never an issue, really. It’s just sort of the… no, it was just more, again, regular work. Yeah, just patching together a year with freelance stuff is tough.
KP: You’re preaching to the choir on that.
KP: Creatively, what appealed to you about the Legend offer?
NELSON: Well, working again with films in kind of the thing that I do best or that I’m best known for just seems to make the most sense. My foray into writing books, it wasn’t particularly a happy time for me just because it’s so… it has it’s own rewards, but it’s so much work. And then you give your work to someone else and you have no more control over it. That gets frustrating. And Legend being a small company and me… if I do a commentary and then there’s any artistic discussion of it, I pick up the phone and would call David, “Hey, what do you think about this?” That’s just the way it goes out there, and I know that it’s going to go out into the world and I know that it’s gonna get sold. So that’s mostly it - the frustrating end of not being in control of your own work is… it wears on you.
KP: How often would you bump up against editorial control that was a little too harsh when you were doing freelance?
NELSON: Well, all the time. I mean, you’re always satisfying a certain client, I guess, if you can call it that. Like I do…
KP: I think the word is “John.”
NELSON: Yeah, exactly. I still do my magazine work and everything, and that’s pretty… I’ve worked long enough where it’s kinda hands off.
KP: Was there any point where the feedback really just grated on you? Something that was just… you had no idea where they were coming from on it?
NELSON: Oh, you know what, I did a couple of things sort of against my better judgment. It was a friend of mine, or an acquaintance, who suggested me for some advertising work. But it was just, “Yeah, just write in your own voice. They know it’ll be sort of under your name. This is not anonymous work - this is like ‘Nelson says…’ kinda stuff.” And I thought, “Well, I don’t know. It never seems to work out that way.” But assurances were made, and then it didn’t work out that way. The client had no idea what was going on. A team of people descended on my work like vultures and ripped it to shreds. That part doesn’t bother me all that much. I’ve written so much, and I don’t have a lot of ego invested in stuff like that.
KP: It was that it went out as “Kevin Murphy says…” that really hurt…
NELSON: Yeah. Well, it’s more the when you just can’t figure out what they want. You know, I’m happy to accommodate, but it’s the whole contradictory notes - where the notes end up making a black hole where you get sucked into it…like, there’s no way to satisfy these contradictory notes. I can’t do it. No human can do it.
KP: So there’s the cognitive dissonance of it all.
NELSON: Yeah, that’s when it gets tough.
KP: Was it difficult to make that transition to freelance after MST3K ended? You went from having MST3K as a brand, to having to make “Mike Nelson” a brand. Which you were able to do, popping up in various articles and, really, selling yourself.
NELSON: Yeah. Well, it hasn’t been that tough. I was just talking to somebody the other day, that I’ve been really blessed to be able to do most of the stuff that I wanted to do - if I would knock on a particular door, it usually opened. And I only say that, I’m really fortunate in that regard. And so I’ve done a little radio, I’ve done magazines and books. I’m writing a children’s book and I’m working on a play. So I’ve been able to do pretty much everything that I wanted to do. The only thing about forming the “Mike Nelson” brand is all the stuff that you don’t really see which is me turning down a whole bunch of stuff. That’s where you really get into shaping what you do. And for me it’s not creating a brand, it’s simply what is in my wheel house…. “What does it make sense for me to do?”
KP: But essentially, just by the fact that you’re out there, you’re having to create some kind of expectation that people have when they see your name attached to something.
NELSON: Yeah. I think that’s definitely true. There were a couple of projects that I did. A couple of TV pilots that, you know, it’s kinda like, “Ah, this really isn’t right in the middle of what I do, but you know, it’s kinda fun.” Then when they got killed, I could only see sort of afterwards. like, “I’m really glad that didn’t turn into a huge successful hit.”
KP: You have to give an example of at least one of those that you’re glad went nowhere.
NELSON: Well, there was one I really loved. It was a friend of mine who ran a production company and said, “You know, you should submit an audition tape for this new show we’re doing where they kinda drive around to different towns where iconic movies were shot, and just give kind of a comic informational tour of those cities and what the people thought of having movies come there to shoot.” And I thought, “Oh, that sounds like a lot of fun.” And it was. It was shot and it was a lot of fun. And then the executives, I don’t know, got fired and some other people came in, they recut it and then they recut it again, and then they cut out the humor, then they cut out me looking dignified in any way, and pretty soon it was just this ugly sludge of just me looking like a moron. So when that didn’t make it I was happy. But it was delightful to shoot and everything, it’s just that whole idea of, man, it goes out there and then you just have no control.
KP: So really it’s just, if you were able to retain control of it, the concept and the execution was fine for you.
NELSON: Yeah, it would have been great fun if it had stayed the way that it was supposed to be.
KP: Is that something that within Legend could ever be resuscitated in some permutation?
NELSON: I think the idea… well, I don’t know who… I would probably not revisit it. It wasn’t my idea. But yeah, I’ve always thought of something like that. Me sort of a man on the street, I’ve always enjoyed doing that kind of stuff. Even though a few of the projects I’ve done, none of them have gotten through to the production stage. But I do like them.
KP: Nothing can be as epic as the pilot for Stupid Human Tricks.
NELSON: Yeah, right.
KP: So count your blessings. Was there any point where you thought about moving beyond the MST-style riffing wheel house? Like, “I’m limiting myself by staying in just this,” or was it always that you fully embraced, “Well, this is what I do…”?
NELSON: More the latter. It’s never bothered me. I’ve never felt constrained by it. I absolutely love crafting comedy. And I still do so many other things. New projects come along all the time. I’ll do college speaking, or I do my magazines and, like I said, all the other writing projects. So I’ve never felt like, “Man, I’m stuck in this dead end.” It’s always been fun and I’ve always had the opportunity to work with people who make you laugh, and that’s like gold.
KP: How different is the actual writing process … because Mystery Science Theater was very tightly scripted. How tightly scripted is RiffTrax?
NELSON: Just as. Just as tightly scripted. The only difference is there’s not the room full of writers experience that you get to have. But as I look back over it, that was less efficient than the way that I write now.
KP: Do you miss that camaraderie at all?
NELSON: Yeah. The camaraderie was what kept the show going for… forever. I mean, if we had written the way that I write RiffTrax, we all would have killed each other and the show would have been over in minutes. But I have a high tolerance for pain, and I can do this and I enjoy it and I actually… the first thing that I did when I was at Mystery Science was get handed the pile full of jokes for the show, and told “Here, make this work.” And so that’s kind of what I did from the very start as the head writer, was just sort of poke those jokes in there and decide which was the best one and edit them. So all that kind of work is what goes into RiffTrax, so it’s kinda what I do anyway.
KP: If you were to compare the ratio of written to discarded, between the two, how much unused material was generated between the MST and RiffTrax?
NELSON: Oh, Mystery Science, scads of material was created. Big reams of material. They would be pretty funny when you’d look at the raw script and you’d see a couple of paragraphs of jokes, and then you get to that spot in the film and there actually wasn’t even in a spot for you to make any joke at all. So we stopped and had tremendous fun for about half an hour writing joke after joke, and we didn’t actually need a joke. So those were the times were… as the show went on we got a little better at figuring out, “Hey guys, you know, as fun as this is, this won’t actually end up in the show.”
KP: How much of that was just to keep your sanity, though?
NELSON: Oh, a lot of it was. That’s why I never, never really tried to curtail it too much. It definitely was. And then also you could generate a whole concept or a thread of jokes in that moment that you could use later. It doesn’t mean we couldn’t use it anywhere. So it wasn’t as wasted as all that. But it still generated a lot of stuff that didn’t get in the show.
KP: Content wise, as far as the types of jokes… because, obviously, you were on basic cable at that point… Was there anything or anyone in particular who was very good at generating material that would never be able to make it to air?
NELSON: Oh, everyone had their talent.
KP: Who would you say is the worst offender?
NELSON: I wouldn’t want to point that person out, Kevin.
KP: Would you say Kevin tends to work a little blue?
NELSON: No, I wouldn’t say that. I mean, we always had a… in a comedy writing room, there’s always going to be a certain amount of that. I remember watching with amusement the case of the woman who I guess was a typist or something in the Friends writing room…
KP: That brought the suit?
NELSON: Yeah, that brought the suit and it just made me laugh, like, “Oh, come on. I doubt it.” In any writing room in the world, anyone who’d been in there for 10 minutes could claim that they had been harassed and abused beyond all measure, because it’s the nature of it. And especially when you’re dealing with these bad films that you had to get so close to and intimate with. You got pretty angry at the film, so that ended up coming out sometimes in jokes.
KP: I heard you used to make Trace cry all the time.
NELSON: (laughs) I did.
KP: But I heard you were just a bit weepy anyway.
NELSON: He was a little bit of a woman. No… (laughing)
KP: Was there any thought then, going to RiffTrax when you don’t have that sort of outside imposition to continue working the same mode, of expanding the boundaries? One of the great things, obviously, is the accessibility that both MST3K and RiffTrax have. Where do you set your personal limits?
NELSON: Mine are throttled pretty low. My thought is that there was a certain audience for Mystery Science, that we got so many letters from families and kids, mothers and fathers and daughters watching together. An astounding amount of people, for whatever reason, would say, “My father was sick,” or something, or “He was recuperating from this, and I brought tapes in, and he’d never seen it. And we watched and we loved it.” So I always have this thought of generations of people watching. That’s always in the back of my mind. I really want to keep it accessible to as many people as possible. And I love writing around problems where a certain joke, if you got a little blue might be good, but to solve the problem of, “Can there be just as good or better of a joke without that?” And I love that challenge.
KP: Is there any point where you’ll go one direction and then circle back to, “You know what? I’m not going to push that level.”
NELSON: Oh yeah. But by now I know it pretty well. But when I’m working with Kevin and Bill, there’s always a little bit of… we have different thresholds by a little bit.
KP: What is the compromise process like on things like that?
NELSON: Oh, it’s pretty easy. We’ve got such an easygoing working relationship that there’s never really any issue on that.
KP: Would you say that there’s recurring themes for both Bill and Kevin that keep popping up?
NELSON: There probably is if you could break it down. One of the things that I think our producer Jim Mallon used to like to do to keep a spark in the writing room was to always, always, always ask, after he laughed at a joke, “That was funny. Whose was that?” And early on, very early on, we learned - even though everybody probably knew whose it was - was to say, “It came out of the writing room.” That is always the attitude of just if it came out of the writing room, we all wrote it. That’s just the way it is. So I wouldn’t say… I suppose there is a way you could break down if you had all the raw material and looked at it that you could figure it out. But we’re sort of writing for the same purpose, so we tend to… it would be a little difficult to pick out who wrote what or how.
KP: Do you find the writing rhythms are different or very similar to what they were going back, what, almost 10 years now?
NELSON: Yeah, they’re pretty similar. I know the way now that certain jokes work, and you know how much space you have. The only thing that is different is the movies are of purportedly better quality. That may just mean better in terms of…
KP: You mean they have better equipment…
NELSON: They actually used lights, yeah. The microphone worked.
KP: They weren’t working from cut film stock…
NELSON: Yeah, and they weren’t piecing together three unfinished monster movies into one.
KP: One of the biggest surprises obviously was when the commentary came out for Plan 9, since that was for years quoted as something like, “How can we possibly go in and do something for that?”
KP: That it kinda parodied itself. So when you finally were confronted with doing that, did you find the going a bit slogful?
NELSON: No, actually, it wasn’t. I can’t really remember what the thought process was for Plan 9 when we said that we wouldn’t do it. What I think I remember most is that we thought there was too much narration in it. There was sort of an idea that was just kind of a dogma that we would never do it but I don’t think anybody really thought about it much. I think sometimes when you have to answer a question a lot in the press, somebody says something that sounds good and then you just repeat it and it kinda echoes because you… you know, the question comes up a few times and then you don’t want to think too hard so you say what somebody else said. And I honestly don’t think if you asked anyone, would they say today that Plan 9 was just one of those we wouldn’t touch. I think there was a couple reasons why we didn’t do it, but the fact that it was untouchable probably isn’t the truth to that.
KP: I’m sure if it had popped up as being licensable during one of those desperate times when you were really searching for a film that you guys could latch onto, you would have been on it in a flash…
NELSON: Oh, yeah. You look at some of the films, the really bottom of the barrel ones, if somebody had in one hand Plan 9 and then they had in the other a Coleman Francis film, at least I know I would have been ripping the Plan 9 out of his hand.
KP: When you look at that, and obviously many people have asked you in the past about the most memorable ones, or the ones you enjoy the least or the most, and knowing that most of it is a blur just because of how many you did over the years - Do any of them flashback, sort of like ‘Nam flashbacks, where suddenly there’s some portion of one of those films that just pops into your head?
NELSON: Not too many. If I see them again… my kids have some of the DVDs, and they’ll occasionally turn one on. I often have to leave the room. First of all, there’s the whole idea of seeing yourself. You’re never comfortable with that. And hearing your voice. Like, “Who’s that idiot? Oh, that’s me again.” But there’s also the… yeah, the movies. When I see a little flash of it in person, I say, “Oh god, I remember that.” I can sorta get that feeling of 2:00 in the afternoon when the glory of lunch was long past and you’re tired and you’re sinking down in the couch and nothing’s coming easily and you just begin to hate the film. Yeah, I can remember it then.
KP: So it’s really a sensory issue more than anything else.
NELSON: Yeah. And I can’t even remember some of the catch phrases. There were things that we didn’t use too much in the actual writing of the film but would sort of circulate around the writing room. Just little moments of movies that we’d use to drive each other crazy. Somebody reminded me of a few of those the other day and I’m like, “Oh god, yeah. It still hurts.”
KP: Any that you still remember at this point?
NELSON: Our editor Brad Keely, for our final show, made a little collection of them and strung them all together just to amuse and annoy us.
KP: Did it accomplish both those goals?
NELSON: It accomplished that. We used to inflate certain moments. Like there was a moment in… oh I forget. See, this is the problem. They’ve hurt me so much. All my useable memory storage is gone.
KP: I almost feel bad asking you now. Almost.
NELSON: (laughs) The one where the guy, they’re riding around in little golf carts. It’s a late 80s movie, I think, in space. Cameron Mitchell is in it looking like Santa Claus. Anyway, he had a line about, he just did a really strange reading when somebody asked him a really straightforward question and he very haltingly said, “I’m thinking of the possible motive” and made a strange inflection on it. And for some reason that whole thing, like, “Why did he read it that way? What is he saying? Why did he suddenly become slightly Russian? What the hell is that?” And the fact that you have to see it 30 times, it just drives you nuts. Anyone else watching the movie might not even notice it. Or they pass it over once and think, “That was kind of amusing.” Whereas it killed my soul.
KP: But come on, how many times over the years was your soul killed?
NELSON: My soul is actually a raisin now. Just a small, shriveled raisin.
KP: I’m surprised it didn’t ask for some kind of legal separation from you at some point. Like it couldn’t take it any more, all the abuse you heaped on it over the years.
KP: How different would it be then, in performance, when you sit down and do a RiffTrax compared to sitting down to do an MST3K performance? Because with MST, you’re the Mike Nelson character largely interacting with two characters…
NELSON: I’m pretty fortunate that Mike Nelson was not a heavy character. I probably couldn’t pull off a heavy character. But mostly it’s just that I had that certain persona, and it kinda is what it is. So that’s pretty easy that I don’t have to change or I don’t have to… if I would have had a big handlebar mustache and a cockney accent on the show it probably would have been a little…
KP: There probably were discussions during that first episode, weren’t there?
NELSON: (laughs) Yeah. Well, there kinda was. You kinda had to be for the long haul. You don’t want to keep up a character like that.
KP: No, especially when you feel like shaving eventually. Which is ironic, that we’re discussing that - Didn’t Trace go through that in the final season that he was on the show? Wasn’t that a fake mustache?
NELSON: He did, yeah. For a time, he did. That’s right.
KP: That could have been you.
NELSON: Yeah, that’s right. I’d forgotten that. See, I’m tellin’ you. It’s like someone put the bulk eraser to my…
KP: I’m surprised you’re not going, “Trace who? What?”
KP: “I barely remember Kevin. His name was… Kevin.” Was it in any way an odd experience doing the first commentary for Legend? Having to sit down there and do a straight commentary?
NELSON: Yeah, there was some choosing about how you… when you’re sitting by yourself in a booth commenting on a film, you can’t be too wacky or people will go, “What the hell’s wrong with that guy?”
KP: Did you find yourself gesturing at all?
NELSON: Yeah… not a lot of insane moving around and pointing at the screen, because first of all they can’t see it. But yeah, it’s a slightly different kind of thing, and mostly it just affects the kind of joke that you write and a little bit but not all of them. Occasionally I’d have to think, “You know, that’s a joke that probably I couldn’t do here,” or can’t quite sell it, or it might sound too over the top for a guy sitting by himself.
KP: Was it in any way an interesting or odd experience when you start bringing Kevin and Bill in, and to actually be doing commentaries with Kevin and Bill?
NELSON: Yeah, as opposed to the small robots?
KP: Yes. I wasn’t gonna say that, but yeah.
NELSON: Not a lot. Once again, we built their characters pretty close to who they were. In Kevin’s case, he slightly lowered his voice. But you know the bit of hamminess and the fact that he’ll sing at the drop of a hat, that’s Kevin as well. And Bill is, you know he just I think just did a slight character voice. He raised his voice a little bit. But otherwise, we tried to follow fairly closely to who they were.
KP: In any ways do you miss the escape of being able to think of these as characters as opposed to being yourself out there?
NELSON: I think it’s sort of a natural transition - as you get a little older, you feel a little silly about… there are certain things where you don’t want to be addressing a puppet every day.
KP: At what point did that really hit home for you?
NELSON: I think when we’re doing these DVDs for… we did them for Rhino and now on Shout Factory, as these Film Crew DVDs that we did - Kevin, Bill and I. And to kinda come up with a persona for the Film Crew, we had to do a lot of thinking about, “Well, who are these guys? Are we the Three Stooges, three guys who live together?” That seems rather undignified.
KP: Yeah, that basement skit was a little bit creepy.
NELSON: (laughs) That’s because Kevin was in a dress.
KP: I thought that’s just Kevin.
NELSON: Yeah. You caught him in a rare candid moment.
KP: It’s the only way he can get comfortable on camera.
NELSON: Yeah. No, so having to think about that and how as you get a little older, what kind of characters can you do. I’ve never been comfortable doing characters myself, so it’s actually somewhat freeing to figure that out. It’s a little bit more of a muted kind of writing, but you could still accomplish what you need to accomplish.
KP: Do you think that you’ve fully shaken off the Mystery Science Theater legacy?
NELSON: Well, it’s not a thing that I worry about shaking off.
KP: Do you worry in ten years’ time that, like the Beatles, someone’s going to come up and offer you scads of cash to reunite for a one-off?
NELSON: I don’t worry about that, I long for it.
KP: It’s like, “Well, we bought the puppets!”
NELSON: I don’t think that’ll happen. I don’t think we were popular enough for that frankly.
KP: Well, can you really say that, though?
NELSON: Yeah. I don’t think that that’s possible. I guess it’s possible. I don’t think it’s probable.
KP: So we’re taking bets on this now.
NELSON: I’ll put some money on it.
KP: I’ll put a nice gentleman’s dollar bet on it.
NELSON: I think I have $4.50 of lunch money in my pocket.
KP: Done and done. That’ll be almost equal to the five dollars I made off of Avi Arad after he claimed that I would cry at his Fantastic Four.
KP: I did, but not for the reasons that he was going to win the bet for. It was kind of awkward to sit down and interview him at Comic-Con. The first thing I said was, “You owe me a dollar.”
NELSON: Did he remember that?
KP: He did remember it and said, “Well, I don’t agree with you, but all I have is five dollars.” I said, “Well, I can make change.” He said, “No no, I can afford it.”
NELSON: Oh, sweet.
KP: So he pulled out the five, and then I just had to really make him pay, so I said, “I have a sharpie - can you sign it?” At that point, after that film, you really have to get some kind of emotional revenge, right?
NELSON: I think you’re owed that and much more.
KP: That bill has a place of honor stuck somewhere that I don’t remember at this point. But yes, I’m more than willing to take up the bet that the show has more of a legacy than you’re giving it.
NELSON: Well, we’ll see. How long do we have?
KP: Ten year span?
NELSON: Alright, that’s good.
KP: That’ll give it enough time to sink into another generation that will elevate you.
NELSON: Alright. I’ll see if that happens.
KP: When they start having the action figures come out, and the anniversary editions of the various things.
NELSON: Well, it hasn’t come up yet, so I’m safe. But we’ll see.
KP: You tell me it’s not a glimmer in the back of Jim Mallon’s mind?
NELSON: Well, that could be.
KP: Stranger things have happened.
NELSON: Yeah, yeah.
KP: At what point was it decided to bring Bill and Kevin into RiffTrax? Because you did the initial ones yourself…
NELSON: Yeah. Well, I think almost right away. That was kind of a goal. Especially the work that we had done with Film Crew. So it was kind of a goal to see - first of all, to see, “Can this thing work? Technically does it work, do people know where to get it, and will anyone bother to do it?” And once that was answered yes on most counts, then, “Oh, we gotta get Kevin and Bill out here.
KP: And those questions were answered in the affirmative rather quickly. You’ve only launched, what, six months ago now?
NELSON: Yeah, yeah it was. It did sort of work from the get go. And people were interested and it sold well.
KP: It’s one of the few things on the net that really isn’t widely bootlegged.
NELSON: Yeah, I think so, and I think people understand that if it is widely bootlegged it’ll just go away.
KP: And it’s so incredibly cheap.
NELSON: Yeah. The other day I accidentally bought a ring tone for my phone that expires in three months. And it was $2.50, and I thought, “Now that’s a rip-off, man.”
KP: You’re just throwing that money away.
NELSON: It’s just right down the tubes.
KP: What was the tone?
NELSON: The ring tone was a Van Morrison song, the only one that they had, which was “Brown Eyed Girl.”
KP: What was the one you wanted?
NELSON: I was looking for something maybe off of Astral Weeks or something.
KP: Something that you could have not been somewhat embarrassed to walk around with…
NELSON: Yeah, exactly.
KP: But yet you still bought it - so it was an impulse buy, then.
NELSON: Well no, it was accidental. I was pressing the button to say, like, “How much do they charge and what’s it like to go through the process of buying one of these dogs?” And then it just said, “Congratulations, you’ve purchased one of these dogs.” So it was a mistake.
KP: So you’re fine for it to expire in a couple of months.
NELSON: I’m fine, yeah. I really figured out I’m not the ring tone kinda guy. I’m comfortable with the bell-like sound that has been servicing us well these many years.
KP: That’s just practical.
KP: I’m sure if someone came up with one of the tracks on Astral Weeks you’d snap it up.
NELSON: I’m not sure I would still want to, you know… I’m not one of those persons that I need to express myself through my phone or my car. God knows my car doesn’t express anything other than I couldn’t really afford a better car.
KP: Does that mean I should scratch the novelty horn off your Christmas list?
NELSON: (laughs) Unless it’s… I think “Dixie” would be worth it out here in San Diego.
KP: I can see you driving around playing “Dixie.”
KP: Just so people will know you’re coming. It’s a nice little tip of the hat town. “Oh, it’s that Mike Nelson.”
NELSON: “There he is again.”
KP: “He works over in the Legend plant.”
NELSON: Which reminds me of another embarrassing thing that the uh… there was a guy in Minneapolis who had a big white van that he painted with the silhouettes, and he used to drive around. He was somewhere in my neighborhood, and constantly people would tell my wife, “Hey, I saw your husband riding around today.” They don’t know me at all, clearly, if they think that I would drive around in a large Econoline van with my own image painted on it…
KP: Well, it should worry you even more that they have this image that you would be that guy.
NELSON: That’s what was troubling. And for all I know it had a novelty horn of the theme song or something.
KP: Did they say it with some sort of pity, like, “Yeah, I saw your husband driving around.”
NELSON: I think it was just sort of a…
KP: “Is he doing well?”
NELSON: I think it was informational, but there could have been a sort of sneer in there. Like, “I saw that idiot husband of yours driving around.”
KP: “Why did you marry him? You can still get out. It’s not too late.” Well it’s a good thing they didn’t know that you lived in the neighborhood.
NELSON: Yeah. I think there was even more than one of them. That was the other thing, too.
KP: They had a whole fleet of them?
NELSON: I don’t think it was a fleet, but there was another incarnation of it on a different van or something. So there was even twice the chance that people could think that I was acting like an idiot.
KP: So, you know, now he’s got that Reign of Fire RiffTrax image airbrushed on there…
NELSON: (laughs) Oh dear god. That’s why I moved out.
KP: Oh, he’ll follow you. Every once in a while you’ll hear that sort of siren song of that horn passing through the neighborhood.
NELSON: Yeah. Well, I was at a college speaking gig a little while ago, and a kid came up in line and he had a pretty sizeable tattoo of the silhouette on his body. And I thought, “Now, that’s commitment.”
KP: Should I ask where it was?
NELSON: Well, you can ask, because I think it was across his chest and arm.
KP: Was it your silhouette or the Joel silhouette?
NELSON: I think it was mine. I didn’t want to look close. His nipple was my head, so I didn’t want…
KP: I’m surprised he didn’t want you to sign it.
NELSON: Yeah. Well, I’ve had that, too. I’d say, “Flat goods only, sir, please.”
KP: I hear you’re doing Comic-Con this year…
NELSON: Yeah. I’m going to be there probably with Legend, and also with Shout Factory.
KP: So you’re gonna see everybody now.
KP: You think that the guy with the tattoo was a little odd…
NELSON: Yeah, well, I strolled around Comic-Con this last year, and I found all in all, pound for pound, it was one of the least weird, if you can believe that, of the conventions that I’ve been at.
KP: Well, considering that two of those were ones that were themed just to your show…
NELSON: Yeah. Well… I have to hold conventions for my own show just so that occasionally people recognize me.
KP: Yeah. So when’s the first RiffTrax one, then?
NELSON: Yeah, we’ve got to get one going. I think we could hold it in my office at this point, though.
KP: You could. Well, it’d just be Erik with a party hat on. And you’re doing, what, the Sketch Fest coming up.
NELSON: Yeah. We’re doing a live movie there, live RiffTrax.
KP: Is this the first time you’ve done a live commentary at a screen since the convention in the 90s?
NELSON: Yes, it would be.
KP: Are you looking forward to it?
NELSON: Yeah. It should be great fun. As always, when you get the immediacy of performance, it’s always fun to do it. It’s always a little riskier and everything, but this should be great fun.
KP: Any part of you miss your stand-up days?
NELSON: No. Not at all. Not at all.
KP: If it’s the immediacy of the response…
NELSON: That’s the problem with stand-up, is that I was threatened to be killed more times than people actually laughed.
KP: Yeah, but you survived touring with Tom Arnold.
NELSON: I did. It was one of my first big tours. And that was right when it was hitting that he and Rosie were an item. So he was particularly strange at that time.
KP: I think you mentioned to me that he was on one of his unique diets at that point, as well…
NELSON: Yeah, he was on some sort of liquid diet that made him particularly cantankerous and jittery. The diet also consisted of him going into a gas station and pulling snack items off the shelf in great armfuls and piling them on the front counter. “How much do I owe ya, captain?” What the hell kind of a diet are you on, here?
KP: I just like the affectation. Have you ever taken up some kind of nautical affectation to call people, like “mate” or “matey”?
NELSON: That puts me in mind of another great Kevin story. We were doing… you know how people throw out the nicknames when they can’t remember your own name? “How you doing there, sports fan?” “You don’t remember who I am.” I was at a critics convention and there was a guy there who had sort of… he kept asking me a lot of questions, and he kept revisiting me again and again. I think he was just sort of palling around with me. Then one day, the next day after spending nearly a day with the guy, he said, “You know what? I don’t think Kevin likes me and I don’t think he even knows who I am.” And I said, “Nonsense, of course, everybody loves you.” And Kevin walked into the room and looked at him and goes, “There he is.” (laughs) “Kevin, you are so busted.”
KP: Did you side with Kevin and go, “You know what, I’m gonna make sure I can smooth this over.” Or did you go, “Hey, Kevin, what’s his name?”
NELSON: No, I just said, “Kevin, come on, you know this is sports fan… come on.”
KP: And, of course, he said, “Uh, where’s the buffet? Gotta go. Do you hear the phone ringing in the other room? It’s for me.”
KP: So, now that you’ve pulled Kevin and Bill into it, are there any plans to lure anyone else down to San Diego?
NELSON: There’s talk. I’d love to… there are many people beyond the MST universe that I think it’d be fun to pull into the booth. We’ve got some names of people who are interested and now it’s just about scheduling those celebrities, and that can be an extremely difficult thing. So I’ll only throw out those names when they’re actually in the can.
KP: I know Erik was talking about trying to ask Kevin Smith about it.
NELSON: Oh yeah. I have to admit I don’t know much about him.
KP: So, you haven’t heard his Road House commentary…
NELSON: No. See, I was a little too miffed about that. I mean, come on, I’m far more closely associated with Road House than him…
KP: You wrote a Christmas song about it.
KP: You should have made the case. See, now I’m going to have this awkwardness when I talk to Kevin next. I’m going to go, “Mike’s got a beef with you.”
NELSON: That bastard stole my Road House commentary gig.
KP: But now it’s a cornerstone of RiffTrax, as well.
NELSON: I did want to… when I heard that Road House 2 was coming out, I made a gesture toward asking for a part in the film. But then I just kinda lost my nerve.
KP: Much like all the actors in it.
NELSON: I confess I haven’t seen it yet. We timed Road House the commentary to come out with the special edition of Road House, which came out with Road House 2. But even given that, I still haven’t seen Road House 2.
KP: It’s hard to think of a film that has less in common with its first film than Road House 2.
NELSON: What about Havana Nights?
KP: Yeah, but Havana Nights at least had dancing.
NELSON: (laughs) Oh, okay. This doesn’t have punching people in the head?
KP: Not in any way that you would call it a Road House picture. It’s more like they tried to make an action adventure thriller… sort of like Miami Vice meets Road House.
NELSON: Were there monster cars?
KP: I don’t recall any monster cars, no.
NELSON: Oh, you’re right then. They’ve lost what their core competencies are.
KP: When you have someone going undercover at the Road House bar, and it’s more about that…
KP: Then you know that… it’s kinda like if you were to make Road House into Donnie Brasco.
NELSON: Yeah, that doesn’t make a lot of sense.
KP: That’s what you got under Road House 2. But now that should just really pique your interest to see just how far they went off what was a clear template they could have followed.
NELSON: A clear and beautiful template. But I don’t think - ultimately, can you ever replicate Ben Gazarra and Sam Elliot? To me. We were just watching the scene where Ben Gazarra sort of interrogates his hoods after their failed performance. It truly is one of my favorite scenes in all of film. I smile every time I watch it.
KP: I just love how beautifully un-self-conscious it is.
NELSON: Oh, yeah. It’s straightforward.
KP: I love in the commentary… have you delved into the director commentary that’s on the special edition?
NELSON: A little bit.
KP: That he just clearly doesn’t understand why they film is a joke.
NELSON: No, that was astounding. I thought surely there would be a lot of smiling his way through that, but not at all.
KP: In fact, I’m sure that he was insulted by Road House 2 for far different reasons than anyone else would be.
KP: But it’s good to live with a delusion that long.
KP: What is the current plan as far as the frequency of the RiffTrax? How long does the writing process actually take you?
NELSON: It takes about a week to write one. And reviewing and going over it. Ultimately, when we get this thing geared up, it would be nice to have one a week. I don’t think that’s realistic for just a little while here.
KP: Not if you want to have any family time or a life.
NELSON: Yeah, to actually live my life. Yeah, I was up with a movie that I had to keep secret. But I was up late. It was about 2:30 in the morning, and I emailed somebody at that point and saw them the next day and they’re like, “What the hell are you doing up at 2:30 in the morning with…” because I made reference to this film. And I had to think to myself, “What has my life come to that I’m doing that at 2:30 in the morning?”
KP: Do you feel it’s somewhat different than the MST days, when you all kept office hours?
NELSON: Yeah, but this is fine with me. Again, having sort of control over your own stuff and building something for the future and building something that people actually like and seek out, it’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of fun to do it, so it doesn’t trouble me. Some day I will want to not be up at 2:30 in the morning with Road House 2, but for the time being, it’s great.
KP: Of the ones you’ve done so far, are there any that were particularly hard going for you?
NELSON: I really, really, truly hated Star Wars: Episode I. I can’t even describe how angry it made me.
KP: Had you seen it prior to that? Did you follow that whole debacle in real time as they were released? Or did you know enough to avoid them even then?
NELSON: I think Kevin at the time called me up and said we should go at the premier of this new Star Wars movie and laugh at the people. And I said, “That sounds fun.” I think we couldn’t get to one… they were all sold out, so we had to get to the one where only like 20% of the audience is dressed up instead of 95%.
KP: That’ll keep down the light saber battles before the show starts.
NELSON: Yeah, you keep getting poked in the eye with light sabers and stuff. So we went to that and it was in the middle of the day, and I don’t know why but I fell asleep during the middle of it. And I also, it was so loud, it was the loudest experience I’d ever had outside a Who concert. It was so loud that I couldn’t even comprehend what was going on. So the memory of it was not coherent.
KP: Don’t worry, neither was the execution…
NELSON: (laughs) Then when I saw it again… I just could not believe how incompetent it is in every way. Storytelling - non existent. Acting - god awful, horrendous, terrible acting. It’s just astounding how bad it is.
KP: And yet made so much money. Do you ever worry about your fellow man when you view some of these huge successes?
NELSON: It does trouble me. It troubles me. But I fully accept that there are certain things that I am immune to. And I try not to make judgments on those. I am immune to the charm of comic books. And I understand that very many talented and smart people make them and read them, so it’s something in me. But with Star Wars, I don’t think I can be that charitable. I can maybe go halfway on that.
KP: Have you ever been offered to write a comic book?
NELSON: I have. I say no because I don’t know enough about it, and it’s not my world.
KP: Is Kevin still living in the Midwest?
NELSON: Yeah, he’s still living in Minnesota.
KP: Is he contemplating the move?
NELSON: I don’t think so. I don’t think so.
KP: Or is he too fond of cutting wood for the winter?
NELSON: He likes it there. Kevin’s got a sweet little home out in a little woodsy neighborhood. He’s got about nine million oak trees, so most of his life is raking and getting hit in the head with acorns.
KP: And that’s just his wife. I guess you can’t turn down a nice bucolic existence like that.
KP: When he comes out, do you hit a chunk of stuff, recording wise?
NELSON: Yeah. I worked him like a mule last time he came out.
KP: But that was at his request.
NELSON: Yeah. Yeah. No, I just figured, as long as we - to extend the metaphor, as long as he’s out here, let’s saddle him out and ride him.
KP: Make sure he goes home broken.
NELSON: Make sure he goes home… yeah, ride him hard and put him away wet.
KP: What is the writing process like when you bring in others? Is it still you writing the entire thing and they just come in?
NELSON: When Kevin and I do it, we hack it up into pieces. I give him the hard sections, and he gives me the easy section.
KP: So things haven’t really changed.
NELSON: Nothing has changed. And we come together, then we go over it. And that’s where it’s most like the old process. Because there are still going to be a lot of moments where you just weren’t able to solve it. Which we did at Mystery Science as well. Until the very last moment, we would just go over and over and over the movie. There was always that moment where you have to admit that the joke that you just passed over isn’t funny. It’s a really hard moment. You have to hit the remote and go, “Well, what do you think of that one?” Everyone agrees, of course, that they hate you. “I don’t know, I didn’t think it was that bad.” And then finally, “Okay, it sucks, it sucks!” And then you’ve got to sit there and stare for another 20 minutes.
KP: How far will, say, Kevin go to fight for a joke?
NELSON: Kevin will physically intimidate me. But that’s why I keep a weapon and a blackjack. No, it’s pretty… we’ve gotten so good at it. There’s such a give and take. We’re easygoing people for the most part.
KP: I’m assuming Bill will only write if there’s a bottle of port and his literary awards scattered about.
NELSON: Yes. Yes, he only writes on his battered Underwood in his little apartment on the Upper West Side.
KP: And he makes sure he puts in the light bulb that flickers…
NELSON: (laughs) And he has a visor on for some reason. I don’t know why.
KP: Well, it’s the only way he can write. You can’t question a man’s methods.
NELSON: Actually we had a writer, Mike Dodge, who’s an old friend and a brilliantly funny guy, and he wrote for a couple of seasons with us. And he would write his sketches, and they were always… when he would explain his sketch ideas, they would be utterly and fully formed and nearly written, which is unusual in a writing room. He didn’t have as many ideas, but they would always be fully formed. And he had never come across a computer in his life, so he would go and hammer out his sketches on a typewriter and hand them back to me. And I would have to enter them into a computer. But I suggested, I go, “Mike, you sit down, and you type. It’s like a typewriter, the keys.” “No, no, no. Couldn’t possibly.” So yeah, for years I would have to type his sketches into the computer.
KP: Did he do it just to see if you would?
NELSON: I think… I tried to test that ground. “Is this his affectation and he has to hold onto it? Is this Tom Wolf’s white suit, or…”
KP: Linus’ security blanket.
NELSON: Yeah. I probed around the edges of that, and he was so adamant about it, and he had other quirks that made it seem like no, this is built into the personality. Like, he would read - every day he would read, religiously, Mark Trail, and then he’d show you, “Now lookit, today’s is brilliant,” and he’d have a fully formed case for why Mark Trail is the greatest comic ever.
KP: It’s got to have one reader.
NELSON: (laughs) Well, Mike Dodge is it.
KP: Did you ever try swapping out the typewriter just to see if he’d notice?
NELSON: It was in his home, too. Because there were only computers in our office, so he would go home and type his thing out. And actually sometimes he would, if he had to write at work, he would longhand it. So then I just had longhand sketches.
KP: So what was the only affectation you had at that point, Doom?
NELSON: That was pretty heavy, but that wasn’t an affectation, that was a pure addiction.
KP: When did you crack that addiction?
NELSON: It was quite a few years ago.
KP: It got pretty bad at one point.
NELSON: Well, when we did the feature film, when you see me on camera, I’m no more than 11 seconds away from having just been in a fierce firefight in Doom.
KP: You used to play Prince, right?
NELSON: Yes. Yeah…
KP: He used to come down in his purple pajamas just to see how things were going in the studio.
NELSON: And we couldn’t look him in the eye and we had to say, “Hey man.” I believe that is the official name for Prince when you work with him, because nobody knows what to call him. So it was kind of that, “There he is…” kind of a thing again. Everyone just says… they put their eyes down, they give a little nod as they pass, and go, “Hey man.” Because what do you call him? You can’t call him Prince, because that’s not his name.
KP: I would go with “sport,” just to see how he reacts.
NELSON: I would add the “O” to that. “Hey, Sport-O.”
KP: He’d probably enjoy it.
NELSON: “Skeeziks,” maybe…
KP: He might even let you live. Was that Doom addiction replaced with anything, or did you manage to grow out of that and never look back?
NELSON: No, I haven’t done anything else. Mostly what that was about, I think that was a very… it was a sophisticated game of tag, really. And the fact that you could taunt in the game was the only thing that made it worthwhile. Well, it wasn’t the only thing. But you could kill and then taunt your opponent live. It’s so beautiful.
KP: I just loved how it got to the point where you would actually, with no regret whatsoever, completely destroy your fans at the convention.
NELSON: That was great fun. And I have to say, no one was even within light years of my skill.
KP: How could they be? I’m sure the designers couldn’t play you at that point.
NELSON: Well, I had heard that the best Doom player at the company played with a mouse, and everyone was, “Oh, that can’t be true. That seems so awkward. No way.” So I spent a few days getting killed a lot, and learned to play with a mouse. It was lights out after that. And still no one made the jump, so I don’t know.
KP: Was there anyone else in the office as addicted to it as you?
NELSON: Oh, I think nearly everyone. Nearly everyone.
KP: There must have been someone in the office who looked down on it like, “Oh, those are children’s games. I don’t understand you.”
NELSON: Oh yes, every female in the office. Every single one.
KP: You can’t tell me that Mary Jo wasn’t secretly wanting to sit down and play.
NELSON: She would do stuff… like, girly stuff… like read books while we were playing these games.
KP: Or paint Kevin’s nails.
KP: Maybe braid his hair. That’s what her and Paul used to do. Now that whole thing makes sense. You’re doing RiffTrax right now. You said you’re still doing the writing on the side…
KP: You’ve got the thing coming up with Shout Factory…
KP: Which is quite a big step. Naturally one can draw the conclusion that you’re not completely exclusive with RiffTrax and Legend…
NELSON: No no, I’m also working… I have a TV pilot in the works. That’s built into the plan of working with Legend, is to be not full time here on any particular thing.
KP: So, really, you’ve got an unbelievably sweet deal.
NELSON: I do.
KP: An almost envious deal.
NELSON: It’s pretty nice. I think that David Martin, he recognized that… being in the business of putting out DVDs, we share the frustration of not controlling your distribution. Of making something that you’re really proud of, working really hard on it, and then having it just not hit the store shelves or not come out. So sharing that, I said, “We’ve got to do something where we can go directly to the people, because people like what you do, so let’s find the people.” So that made sense to me, so that’s kinda what it is. It’s about saying to all of these distributors in the world, “Ha ha! We got a way to actually reach people!”
KP: Is this the most creatively fulfilled that you feel you’ve been in your career thus far?
NELSON: Well, this is gonna sound crass, but I’ve never had an urge to feel creatively fulfilled. I really… I don’t quite know what that means.
KP: I guess I should ask, “Do you feel happy at this point?”
NELSON: (laughs) Ah, thank you for translating that. Yes, I do. What I’m saying is, taking your question seriously, I don’t have a need for that. I know there’s many writers who, when they’re not working, will be writing, and I always think, “Why in god’s name would you do that? Writing hurts! It’s really hard!” You know, I like to do it when there’s a paycheck, but I can’t imagine doing it when there’s not.
KP: I think that’s the best way to sum that up.
NELSON: I think people who are… a surgeon doesn’t go operate on people for fun. I don’t think anyone likes to do their profession in their spare time. Even Brett Favre, or somebody who loves it - still, when you’re off the clock, you don’t want to do it.
KP: In the past 20 years, is there any point where you reached a breaking point -”You know what, maybe I want to do something different?”…
NELSON: Uh, no. No. Part of the problem is I’m not qualified, literally, to do anything but what I do.
KP: I heard you could serve some really great nachos, though.
NELSON: Actually, I could do that. Alright, I’m qualified for two things. What I do and maybe, maybe being… oh, and I could expedite. Where you sit in back and you take the plates and you garnish them, and you arrange them for the waitresses. I could do that. I was pretty good at that.
KP: You gotta admit, the tips were better then.
NELSON: Yeah. You know, I haven’t been tipped since then. I don’t know what’s going on.
KP: You should put just a tip jar on RiffTrax.
NELSON: Yeah. Yeah. There’s a cup on my desk. I could seed that with some tips.
KP: I would love to see what that experiment would do. Now that we’ve put it out there, that if people see you at Sketch Fest or at Comic-Con, if there’s a tip jar there, make sure you tip your Riffer.
NELSON: Should I start with the one dollar bill? Because it seems like if you seed your own tip jar with a five, people just go, “Oh, come on. Please.”
KP: No, I think you seed with a dollar bill, and the rest of the five in quarters.
KP: That way you got some heft to it, that’s not just a single bill, which looks like an obvious seed.
NELSON: And then I’ll have the five dollars I lift off of you ten years down the road.
KP: Yeah, yeah, we’ll see if that happens. More like I’ll be there collecting when you’re sitting beside a puppet, going, “Mike, could you sign this? I’ll even loan you the five.”
NELSON: Well, we’ll see. We’ll see.
KP: If I see you at any convention, I would definitely put a tip in the jar. And it’s between you, Bill and Kevin as to how you split it.
NELSON: I’ll decide that.
KP: I’m sure that’s a fight in and of itself.
KP: And you have to, at some point, just because it hurts me to think that he’s locked in an AFV purgatory, but are there any plans to bring Trace down to do a RiffTrax?
NELSON: Oh I would love to, yeah. I talked to him a few months ago.
KP: I know it’s a nice gig and a steady gig, but it kinda hurts inside to know that he’s on that show…
NELSON: Yeah, he wouldn’t have to travel far. I could go up to L.A. to see him. That’s definitely on the list.
KP: I’m surprised you haven’t done the MST movie yet.
NELSON: I don’t know. The three layers of commentary… at what point does it just collapse on itself?
KP: Even if it’s not a straight RiffTrax, but actually a legitimate track that Universal will never let you guys do.
NELSON: Yeah, well, here’s the other problem, is the movie’s not out there for anyone to get.
KP: Well, of course it is. It’s all over the internet.
NELSON: Oh. Well.
KP: But legitimately, it’s out there. And actually legitimately, legally, it’s available in, what, that edition in Germany that just came out that everyone’s been snapping up…
NELSON: Oh yeah, I’ve heard about that.
KP: So see, you can actually say that there is a legal edition that all the fans would be purchasing at this point.
NELSON: Right. So I can just do a German commentary track.
KP: You could. You’d probably enjoy it. And you know that, just for the songs alone, Kevin would snap that up.
NELSON: Yeah, that’s true.
KP: I’m sure he’s got at least a couple of drinking songs that would easily slot in there.
KP: And just the catering alone for that commentary should make it worth doing.
NELSON: Now you’re talking.
KP: See, I just had to make the pitch. I already gave you the tip jar idea.
NELSON: Man. This has been a boon for me…
KP: Now you’ve got the entire Oktoberfest commentary. But eventually you’re going to lose the five dollars on the other bet, which I’m sorry about.
NELSON: Oh, man, well… Hopefully your suggestions will have more than made up for it.
KP: You should think about doing some on the road podcasts or videos for your trip up to Sketch Fest…
NELSON: Yeah, I think some of the people here are gonna tag along with digital videos and things like that, so we’ll put together something. And maybe some fictionalized pieces or some little sketches or something, too.
KP: Or you can just make that trip over to the gates of the Presidio to make a little journey to Lucasland.
KP: Now that they’ve formally moved in over there…
NELSON: Yeah, that’s right.
KP: Maybe you could lay a wreath and a copy of the RiffTrax.
NELSON: (laughs) I’ll just demand answers. Just storm in.
KP: Have the picket signs. The RiffTrax.com picket signs. “Give us something else, George.”
NELSON: Do a drape of the whole place with the RiffTrax logo all around it.
KP: Or just leave the official RiffTrax tip jar in front of the gate.
KP: See, that could work, too.
NELSON: This is paying, to talk to you.
KP: Sometimes, occasionally, it does. It’s very rare though. Only you and Dom Deluise, so far. And Dom probably not so much. There’s someone you could bring down.
NELSON: Where is he?
KP: Dom is right on the coast, I think in Malibu.
NELSON: Okay. Well, yeah, I can get him.
KP: So he’s very local. And actually legitimately you probably could get him.
NELSON: I’m going to look into it.
KP: Just for the conversation alone, and the fact that I found out he keeps all his memorabilia.
KP: So he has his Captain Chaos outfit and some fake tooth he had for some other role. And I think at least one of the twelve chairs.
NELSON: No kidding?
KP: And you get a free meal out of it.
NELSON: Out of him?
KP: Of course.
NELSON: Wow. I have an Italian-American cookbook with a lot of his recipes in it.
KP: Well, now, at this point…
NELSON: We’re pretty much brothers.
KP: You just have to reach out to him. He may even show up with Burt. You never know.
NELSON: Whom I’ve also met.
KP: That’s right, you have.
NELSON: He had a particularly good wig on the day that I saw him.
KP: Did you resist the urge to kinda shake it?
NELSON: I did, totally. He was very… he cut an impressive figure.
KP: Was this the bearded Burt or shaven Burt?
NELSON: He was, I think, mustachioed at the time. And yeah, very gregarious, and all you could do was shake his hand and say, “Wow, you’re Burt.” But my eyes darted to the wig. I could not see the seams on that thing. It was amazing.
KP: Are you sure it’s not a graft by this point, or a transplant?
NELSON: Well, I think it was different than the ones… it was poofier and more… I don’t know. It seemed as though it was definitely a wig.
KP: Does it look like a mood affectation, like he has different ones for different moods? Was it a leathery kind of thing?
NELSON: I think it was mood related, because he seemed really comfortable and self-assured. The hair was high.
KP: So he’s got the upbeat wig.
KP: Maybe he borrows them from Charles Nelson Reilly.
NELSON: That could be, (laughs)
KP: Maybe they have a support group where they trade. Kinda like a coffee klatch or something.
KP: Well I’ve kept you far too long and I’m sure you’re actually eyeing the clock to get the heck out of the office for the day.
NELSON: No, I’m eyeing a pile of movies that I have to review.
KP: Even worse.
NELSON: So any time away is good time.
KP: Well, hopefully the conversation hasn’t been to uncomfortable.
NELSON: It’s been good, as always.
KP: And definitely keep us apprised of what you’re doing and what we can do to further your cause.
NELSON: I’d love to. I appreciate it.
KP: And we can certainly do whatever the heck we can. But please - save Trace.
NELSON: I will.
KP: Even for a day. Then you can kinda put him back and say, you know, “We tried.”
NELSON: I will. He’s very comfortable at what he’s doing.
KP: How can you not be? I think they drugged him.
NELSON: I think so. But we’ll get him down here.
KP: And tell Kevin that I said hello.
NELSON: Will do.
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