RiffTrax Live: Mothra
In 2014 and 2015, I gleefully shelled out a couple of bucks for the RiffTrax live-show Kickstarters, and since then I've attended them almost religiously. RiffTrax is the media-savvy continuation of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K), where comedians Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett came together to record jokes that accompany bad movies. RiffTrax was initially designed as an audio accompaniment to be downloaded or streamed alongside movies at home. Unlike MST3K which required the creators to pay royalties to show the movies, RiffTrax only sells the audio of their jokes, allowing them to crack-wise alongside popular films and series that were previously beyond their price range. After a couple of successful live shows, they began to run Kickstarter campaigns to produce even more performances, giving us wonderful evenings of Sharknado, The Room, and Godzilla ('98), among many others. Each show is also accompanied by a "short," usually a few-minute instructional video produced from the 1940's to the end of the Cold War.
The latest live outing, hot off the heels of the gut-busting MST3K Reunion Show in late June, is the classic Japanese monster movie Mothra (1961). It began with the true horror of the evening: Soapy the Germ Fighter, a short from 1951 where a giant anthropomorphized bar of soap expounds on the virtues of cleaning oneself to a sleeping child. Mothra, the main attraction, had some great jokes and ridiculous moments as well. The movie a perfect candidate for riffing, with a bizarre plot, odd editing, and severe cultural dissonance that today's viewers will experience. However, the RiffTrax crew seemed to have some difficulties with deliveries and fallen punchlines. This can happen from time to time, as it's the nature of live performances, especially ones that require incredibly specific timing. Some movies by their very nature are incredibly difficult to riff, due to extreme length or poor quality. I'm reminded of their live show of the Matthew Broderick Godzilla, the supposed highlight of the 2015 season, where the jokes couldn't compete with the crushing weight of the film. Mothra had moments of brilliance, as there always is during these shows, and I left having enjoyed it while not feeling entirely satisfied.
If you're looking for recommendations of excellent RiffTrax Live shows to purchase from their website, I highly recommend checking out Sharknado, The Room, Anaconda, and the MST3K Reunion, which actually brought tears to my eyes by the end of it. We'll visit them again in late October when they present RiffTrax Live: Carnival of Souls.