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Quick Q&A: Joel Hodgson

The Mystery Science Theater 3000 creator brings the stage version of his long-running show to Clowes Hall on October 3.

In Indy, you and the robots will lampoon No Retreat, No Surrender, starring Jean-Claude van Damme. Do you get tired of seeing the same movie over and over?
We’re actually doing two movies on this tour, which is almost like doing two different musicals at the same time. And we’re hitting smaller performing arts centers instead of the usual huge venues in big cities. By having two movies to offer, we can play locations that aren’t too far from each other without them competing to draw fans. And we like it because it creates a little variety for us.

How do you pick the movies?
You want one that has a good-looking print, so it looks good on screen. And this is hard to explain, but I look for movies that are adorable. They’re not exactly bad movies. Just forgotten ones.

Do you think some of the films you ridicule are actually worthwhile?
All I can say is that when you watch these movies repeatedly, you notice certain performances that are amazing. There are always redeeming moments. Although it might just be Stockholm Syndrome. I’ve watched these films so many times that I can’t help but think there are good things about them.

Are your remarks for live shows scripted, or do you just wing it?
It’s all carefully scripted, and we tend to overprepare. But the unique factor is the audience, which reacts differently to every performance. You have to improvise some. They may laugh a long time at something, which keeps us from doing the setup for the next joke. We have to be ready to deliver the next line in whatever space we have open.

Is there a movie you particularly enjoyed doing?
When you’re making the show, it’s not clear during production which ones are going to be great. You don’t know until it goes out and you receive the audience’s endorsement. For season 11, it was Cry Wilderness. For season 12, it was Mac and Me.

Your show is on Netflix now and it has a new host, but you’re handling the tour. Why?
This is my farewell tour. We were originally going to do half the performances with me and half with Jonah Ray (who hosts the TV show), but it felt kind of unfair to him. We agreed that I would do all the shows because it’s a chance to close out my work. I’m turning 60 next year, so I’m feeling my age. I’m slowly handing over the reins.

But the tour will go on?
Yes, we’re already getting ready to book a Christmas tour for 2020: A Mystery Science Christmas 3000. We’ll be doing Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t. We’re prepping for that, but for the first time, I won’t be there.

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