Is It Rude to Talk Over a Film? MST3K’s Mary Jo Pehl on Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #45

We live in a com­men­tary cul­ture with much appre­ci­a­tion for camp and snark, but some­thing spe­cial hap­pened in the ear­ly ’90s when Mys­tery Sci­ence The­ater 3000 pop­u­lar­ized this addi­tive form of com­e­dy, where jokes are made dur­ing a full-length or short film. Mary Jo Pehl was a writer and per­former on MST3K and has since riffed with fel­low MST3K alums for Riff­trax and Cin­e­mat­ic Titan­ic.

Mark, Eri­ca, and Bri­an briefly debate the ethics of talk­ing over some­one else’s art and then inter­view Mary Jo about how riffs get writ­ten, devel­op­ing a riff­ing style and a char­ac­ter that the audi­ence can con­nect with (do you need to include skits to estab­lish a premise for why riff­ing is hap­pen­ing?), riff­ing films you love vs. old garbage, the degree to which riff­ing has gone beyond just MST3K-asso­ci­at­ed come­di­ans, VH-1’s Pop-Up Video, and more.

Fol­low Mary Jo @MaryJoPehl.

Here are a some links to get you watch­ing riff­ing:

Dif­fer­ent teams have dif­fer­ent styles of riff­ing, so if you hate MST3K, you might want to see if you just hate those guys or hate the art form as a whole. The alums them­selves cur­rent­ly work as:

Here are a few rel­e­vant arti­cles:

Also, PROJECT: RIFF is the website/database we talk about where a guy named Andrew fig­ured out how many riffs per minute are in each MST3K episode, which char­ac­ter made the joke, and oth­er stuff.

Learn more at This episode includes bonus dis­cus­sion that you can only hear by sup­port­ing the pod­cast at This pod­cast is part of the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life pod­cast net­work.

Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast is the first pod­cast curat­ed by Open Cul­ture. Browse all Pret­ty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

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