In late 2015, a Kickstarter campaign brought back one of my favorite TV shows, Mystery Science Theater 3000. I pledged way too much money for the chance to see the debut episode live in New York with the cast. For a few extra bucks, I bought tickets to the after-party.
MST3K had a two-season run on Netflix but that came to an end and the creatives decided that the only way to keep making new episodes was to develop their own platform called the Gizmoplex.
The Kickstarter for that project just ended and let’s just say it was quite a success.
The project raised over 6.5 million dollars to produce at least 13 new episodes, build the platform and more. As before, I pledged way too much for the chance to have dinner with the series creator Joel Hodgson before one of their live shows happening sometime in the future when it’s COVID-safe for live shows and meet and greets.
Here’s a look back at when I got to visit the premier and afterparty with my dad, which whom I share a love for all things MST3K.
We have movie sign!!!!!!!
That’s right! There’s a new episode of MST3K for the first time since August 1999! Thanks to the largest campaign (at the time) to fund a media project on Kickstarter, Mystery Science Theater is coming back to television on Netflix for 14 new episodes.
When I saw the Kickstarter campaign in late 2015, I knew I had to give something to bring this show back. When looking through the incentives, I saw one I really wanted:
EXPERIMENT 752: JUST LIKE IN NEW YORK!
Tired of watching *us* sit in a theater watching movies while *you* sit at home? We can fix that. Grab a guest, put on your tuxedo jumper and join us at the theatre with TWO TICKETS to MST3K’s NYC PREMIERE EVENT*. Watch the pilot of the new season with the cast and creative team. Throw us your toughest curveballs during the Q&A. We’ll even cover your overpriced popcorn and soda.
*Travel/accommodations not included. See FAQ for more details.
I know this is a miles, points and travel blog, so stay with me here. Sharon and I have been living with the motto, “Experiences, not things” for a while now. If there’s something we want to do, we’ll try to make that happen however we can. For me, collecting miles and points allowed me to not worry about how I would get to New York or pay for my hotel. I knew that would take care of itself. I just had to swallow the price of the admission. With permission from Sharon (yes, it cost that much that I needed to make sure she was OK with me spending that amount), I went ahead and made my pledge.
That was back in December 2015. Since then the whole MST3K team has done a wonderful job of sending out info to the backers to let us know how the project was going. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I got the email on Dec 29th, 2016:
You and a guest
are formally invited
& Special Guests
“WE’VE GOT MOVIE SIGN”
FEBRUARY 14, 2017
NEW YORK CITY
(near Lincoln Square)
Next to getting a letter telling me they accidentally forgot to give me my letter to attend Hogwarts but could I still attend, this was the most excited I could ever be over an email. I had a date to see the new episode. Since Sharon doesn’t really care for Mystery Science Theater, I asked my father to join me on the trip to New York. We were both fans of the original series on TV and I wanted to share this trip with him.
Shortly after that, I received another email to print my tickets to the event with an offer to upgrade to the VIP package including tickets to the afterparty. I wasn’t sure I wanted to pay more to go to the afterparty. I mean, I’m generally an introvert. I’m not too fond of large crowds of people I don’t know. However, I read one line and I was sold.
Get your photo taken with Joel, the cast and the bots, get a reserved VIP seat for the screening, and enjoy free food, beer and wine while getting to know your new cast.
I’ve never been one to fawn over celebrities. They’re just people, just like me, who happen to do something which I find really cool. However, this one was somehow different. I really wanted to meet Joel. Tell him how much MST3K meant to me. How it helped form my sense of humor for the rest of my life. How I still have a stack of videotapes in the closet even though I have the DVDs. Just a second would be worth the money, and a picture would be nice, too.
My dad and I headed to New York and prepared for the event. Not knowing what to wear to a fancy event, I packed 3 versions of my outfit. I tried all of them and decided to go with the most dressed up variant I brought with me.
That’s all you’ll get from me about what was in the new episode. That’s because they asked us to keep it secret, as well as because I had to sign a confidentiality agreement before they would even let me into the movie theater. I can tell you it was a wonderful evening with plenty of laughter. (Note: I wrote this post in January 2017 – I hope you’ve seen the new episodes by now)
We arrived around 5:30 P.M., as was suggested in the email I received that morning. There was already a line forming but it wasn’t too long yet. We were only about 20-25 people from the front.
A little past the scheduled time, we could hand in our forms and hit the red carpet.
From there we went into the theater, where we were able to grab some pretty awesome seats. Before we knew it, the show was starting and Joel was introducing the new residents of the Satellite of Love, Jonah Ray (Jonah Heston), Baron Vaughn (Tom Servo) and Hampton Yount (Crow T. Robot).
They worked the crowd for a bit but insisted on answering only “non-important” questions until later because they did not want to upset anyone who arrived late. So we found out what they had for lunch, how they liked New York and things of that sort. It did show that the new cast had learned how to bounce off one another, as the banter was amusing even though they were essentially talking about nothing.
Eventually, it came down to the time where Joel was ready to introduce the new movie. After telling us a little about the episode, he wanted to make sure the booth was ready because this was “a big deal” and if the movie didn’t start, it would look really stupid. Of course, there was an uncomfortable pause between the introduction and when it actually started to which Joel threw in the line, “They told me it was ready, oh here it is.”
I can’t say anything about the movie but if you are reading this so far, I’m sure you will watch it when it premieres on Netflix. It’s worth it. A really solid first episode (Note: remember, this post was originally written in January 2017).
After it was finished, the cast returned for a Q&A session which ended with Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo showing up to field some questions (and Tom even did some singing).
From there, we left and headed to the afterparty, which was held about 10 minutes away at a club that was way fancier than I would ever go to. Flashing our special wristbands, we were granted admittance. While headed to the coat check, I passed Joel talking to several people. Wait…..what…..um….is that real? Looking around, the entire new cast was mulling around the club, talking to the guests. After taking a few deep breaths and checking my jacket, I found a corner of a table to calm myself. Remember, I don’t do well with crowds or social situations.
Right around this time I lost my dad, who went in search of selfies. So I started to talk with the people around my table. Several of them were fans and one person with a lanyard indicating he worked with the show. We talked and I found out he was involved with the opening sequence, which was very cool. Turns out that the MST3K people went out and hired the company that does Robot Chicken to film the opening, which was who this guy worked for. So I was talking to someone involved with Robot Chicken at an MST3K party. I asked him if they could have possibly hired any more people from things I liked involved with this series. He laughed.
Dad returned with his selfies with Joel and Hampton and pushed me to get some pictures. Some things never change; for my whole life, he’s always been pushing me to be more social, against my better judgment. Sometimes it pays off, like on this night.
It was around then I decided the one thing I really wanted was a picture with Joel. Just a second to tell him how much the series was a part of my life. Unfortunately, he was nowhere to be found. Dad and I took few more pictures (he was jealous because I got one with Jonah and he didn’t) and settled in at the party. At this time they announced that Jonah and the bots were now in the photo booth (a green screen made to look like the set) and taking pictures. The line was halfway around the room but what the heck, so we got in line.
Then I saw that Joel had reappeared in the crowd. I told Dad to stay in line and I was going on my quest. I followed the first group he was with until it disbanded and he headed to a different area. This was a much smaller group and Joel introduced one of the other people he was talking with. It was Paul (of Paul and Storm fame) who worked with Joel and others in writing songs for the new series.
It just came over me. I told Paul that I saw him when he and Storm played in Orlando several years ago. He said, “No one was at that show.” I replied, ” Well, I was,” to which he gave a wry smile.
As I was talking to Paul, the people talking with Joel left. It was my time; I knew it.
I stepped in and introduced myself. I knew I had a bunch to say. But he’s been hearing stories from fans all night.
“I just wanted to tell you thanks. For everything.”
He was polite and thanked me for supporting the project.
Then I asked for a picture with him. He graciously agreed.
I had done it. I felt my Experience Points going up after completing my quest.
But wait, there was the bonus quest. I turned back to Paul and said “You know there will be some of my friends who will be totally freaked out I met you. Can I get a picture?”
“Well, let’s freak them out!”
Bonus quest completed.
I remembered my dad was still in line for a picture with the bots and Jonah. As I got back to him and he was three people from the front and I asked what seemed to be an insignificant question. “Dad, which robot do you want to stand behind?” He didn’t care, but I did; I just didn’t know it until the choice was necessary to make. Almost instantly I said, “Crow. I want to be by Crow.” As it happened, when we got to the front of the line, the techs said it would be a few minutes because they needed to change the memory card in the camera. So we ended up talking to the puppeteer for Crow. We had a fascinating conversation about how many mutual acquaintances we had (with me living in Orlando and knowing people who do puppetry, who would have thunk). It was finally time for our picture and I don’t think I could have stopped smiling even if I wanted to.
The party was wrapping up and we stayed around for a little while longer before heading back to our hotel trying to get over everything that had happened during the evening.
We went back to our hotel room, totally exhausted. We had to get up the next morning and fly back home. It was one of the most amazing days I’ve ever had.
So yeah – “experiences, not things.” It works for Sharon and me. And this was definitely an experience! We’re supposed to get a souvenir of the event in the mail one of these days, which will be a nice memento. And each of us afterparty attendees did get one really cool thing while we were there – an event poster signed by Joel Hodgson, Jonah Ray, Hampton Yount, Baron Vaughn, Grant Baciocco and Russ Walko (the latter two are the puppeteers for Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo).
What an awesome night!
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary