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Mystery Science Theater 3000 Cast Reunites at Keswick Theater for New Year's Eve

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It’s probably television’s most unlikely success story. A group of Minneapolis residents, led by a stand-up comic with a passion for ventriloquism and robot building, pitched a show entitled Mystery Science Theater 3000 to a little-watched local UHF channel. The plot: evil scientists sent a man to space to test the effects of awful movies on the human brain; however, the man uses his ingenuity to build several robot friends who help him keep his wits by heckling the movies.

The show became a local cult hit and soon graduated to Comedy Central. And, then, it became an international hit with a rabid cult-like audience that still reveres this show to this day and was named as one of TV’s Greatest 100 Shows by Time Magazine. The show is still so beloved, the original cast has reunited under the name, “Cinematic Titanic” and will perform on New Year’s Eve at Glenside’s Keswick Theater. The giant screen will broadcast a Japanese film named, “War of the Insects;” sitting near the stage will be the original gang who will heckle the hell out of the film. MST3K

“Comedy Central really never promoted (MST3K) like they did their bigger ones,” said Joel Hodgson, one of the show’s original creators and its leading man, about its lasting appeal. “People really found it on their own. And when you find something on your own rather than have it sold to you, it has more meaning.”

MST3K started in Minneapolis in the late 80s. In terms of producing quality entertainment, the Twin Cities were regarded as a hinterland in a world dominated by Los Angeles and New York. Right around the same time, local indie bands such as Husker Du and The Replacements also started to become national names. (Hodgson knew members of both bands.) All of the local acts, no matter the medium, stuck to their guns and followed their singular vision, proving that independence and not taking “No” for an answer can really go a long way.

“The Midwest was so ignored in terms of entertainment,” Hodgson said. “But when we did something good, we asked people, ‘How are you going to ignore this?’ It was just natural that we all had this combative attitude.”

And that kind of spirit explains how Mystery Science Theater 3000 became a treasure still lurking in the hearts of many of its fans. The Cinematic Titanic live show draws well wherever it goes; videos DVDs of the original are still collected and traded among fans to this day, even though the show ended its Comedy Central run in 1999.

Part of the love of the show doesn’t just come from the hilarious, seemingly impromptu lines the characters recite during the movie. Many people have actually come to love the movies themselves, even though they are literally among the worst ever made. MSTies (as the fan base dubbed themselves) readily know about the details of films such as Manos: The Hands of Fate, The Pod People, and Santa Clause Versus The Martians.

“What I’m learning is that people don’t just love the riffing on the movies, but they also love that these movies take them to new, weird places,” Hodgson said. “The weirder the movie, the more people love it.”

Cinematic Titanic is performing at the Kewsick Theater on New Year’s Eve. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $52.50.