By Shamus Posted Thursday Apr 17, 2008

Filed under: Nerd Culture 27 comments

Word has gotten around, but in case you don’t follow this sort of thing: Rifftrax is run by the former writers and stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000. MST3K was a strange show in that an episode became funnier after repeated viewings. Part of this is the nature of the humor. The more familiar you are with the movie, the funnier you’ll find the jokes arrayed against it. Because of this, I’d always thought the show would have been even better if they could have somehow secured the rights to lampoon big-budget films. I know this was impossible, but that doesn’t change the fact that it would have been ideal.

But with Rifftrax they’ve found a way around it. They just sell an audio file. (Sans DRM! Yay freedom.) You get the movie via Netflix (or whatever) and carefully sync up the audio and the movie and play them together. I was thinking of putting it on a boombox and taking it into the theater, but apparently this is frowned upon.

I understand it’s a bit annoying to get the timing synced up at the start, but the result is something to the effect of MST3K, only better.

Not satisfied with besting their former glory, they went on to bring in guest riffers. Weird Al, Court Jester of Pop, joins in for Jurassic Park. James Lileks, connoisseur of antique culture, helps out with Spider-Man 3. Neil Patrick “Please stop calling me Doogie” Harris is the guest on Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

The free samples are worth a look, allowing you to sample the work – as the name suggests – for free.

Reading over this post, I’m struck by how much I sound like a shill. This is just normal fanboy ranting and should not be confused with a paid endorsement.


From The Archives:

27 thoughts on “Rifftrax

  1. JFargo says:

    That’s an absolutely awesome idea, and I definitely look forward to seeing how really cool this comes out. Fanboy ranting, I believe, is warranted in this case.

    For the record, I think the boombox idea has merit, if you’ve already seen the movie and know it sucks. Help the world get a little more enjoyment from bad movies!

  2. Oleyo says:

    NIce! I need to check this out. Also, its nice to see Lileks pop up. He has a unique wit with his writing, should be fun to hear him :)

    As a humorous, semi-related-to-recent-post note. Pop on over to Lileks.com and play the video there. It looks like a vintage live-action Sims game :)

  3. Deoxy says:

    For the record, I think the boombox idea has merit…

    It would be in bad taste to suggest getting something cheap and abandoning it in another part of the theater after getting it started, so I will make no such suggestion.

    And of course, splicing something into the theatre’s sound system would be criminal (though incredibly funny).

    This is just normal fanboy ranting and should not be confused with a paid endorsement.


  4. wererogue says:

    I don’t know about better – I wish they still did godawful films. The Star Trek 5 one, for example, is fantastic, but there’s nothing really on a par with “Manos: The Hands of Fate” or “The Delta Knights”.

  5. Blackbird71 says:

    MST3K was also one of those shows that got funnier the more people you had watching it. I remember an episode I saw by myself once, and it sorta fell flat. Watched the same episode a few days later with half a dozen friends: hilarious! There’s just something about group humor.

  6. Aelf'en says:

    Here in Austin, there are people riffing on big budget films. They were called Mr. Sinus Theatre for a while, but the people who owned the licensing to “MST3K” sent them a cease and desist letter, so they changed it to Mr. Pancake or something. Anyway, yeah, carrying on the tradition at the Alamo Drafthouse. :)

  7. Teppesh says:

    Actually, if you are watching the films on your PC, you can download a Riff player that will automatically sync a dedicated file with the DVD, which is quite handy. Also worth checking out are their direct download shorts, which are absolutely priceless.

  8. Eric J says:

    There’s also Cinematic Titanic which is Joel Hodgson and a bunch of other guys from MST3K, doing bad movies, complete with silhouettes. (No robots, though.)

    Their first movie, “The Oozing Skull” was recently released as a DVD or DRM-Free download.

  9. Yeah, the Rifftrax player works pretty well. And the shorts are great.

    One of these days I need to see about watching their riff of the Star Wars “Life Day” Special. Speaking of bad movies…

  10. Gabriel says:

    Rifftrax is awesome and totally worth checking out.

  11. Micah says:

    Over the Top with Sly Stallone or Point Break are both excellent Rifftrax. I couldn’t stop laughing the whole time.

  12. Joe says:

    You know, if it’s possible to get RHPS showing at midnight every Saturday for the last 30 years, just how hard would it be to get one of these movies and splice in the rifftrax soundtrack on the theater sound system?

  13. Thad says:

    Also look for The Film Crew (Mike, Kevin and Bill) who have returned to producing DVDs with commentaries (although for movies no-one ever heard of). They also did a whole slew of introduction to various movies for some movie-a-thon on a TV channel, just look on YouTube for them.

  14. Clarissimus says:

    MST3K was a strange show in that an episode became funnier after repeated viewings.

    I dunno, I never really liked watching an MST3K episode the second time because I already heard the jokes before. Plus I don’t like watching movies more than once unless it’s really good. I agree that knowledge of the movie can make it funnier, but knowledge of the riffs just ruins it for me.

    Is it just me?

  15. Shawn says:

    I could watch The Horror Of Party Beach roughly a gajillion times, and it still cracks me up every time.

  16. Craig says:

    Has anyone here heard of Wizard people, dear reader? It is the most wonderful interpretation of Harry Potter I have ever heard. I suggest looking it up on youtube, or going to http://www.illegal-art.org/video/wizard.html to download it. It is a similar idea to rifftrax, but a narration instead of commentary. It is Brad Neely’s magnum opus, if you will, and if you’ve seen his other stuff on youtube or superdeluxe.com

  17. Nilus says:

    I have all three of the star wars rifftrax and the matrix and they are all excellent.

  18. Takkelmaggot says:

    I was wondering when someone would plug “Wizard People.” I still chuckle at his description of Hagrid… “…Whom, if you did not know better, you might mistake…for a huge, hairy truck.”

    For my money, the MST3K folks deserve some sort of geek canonization.

  19. Rolaran says:

    I gotta say, these things are great for parties. Everyone’s already seen 300? Well, let’s watch it with “bonus commentary”! It costs less than actually renting a new movie, so why not?

  20. Thanks for the nice comments, everyone (and for the original blog post!). We have some more cool stuff coming up, some surprises (or “suh-prises”) in store. Keep checking the site and let us know on the forum what else you’d like to see!

  21. Cadamar says:

    Oh! And he had time to make bombs!
    -Cave Dwellers

    MST3K ruled. I miss you guys. I’m going to have to check out RiffTrax. Sounds awesome.

  22. Craig says:

    Cave dwellers was by far my favorite.
    “Hey, how much keefe is in this movie?”
    “Miles O’Keefe”


  23. Alden says:

    Wererogue: they do still do bad movies – they did Glitter and Battlefield Earth.

    I suspect they don’t do bad movies as much because it’s less likely people will actually have a copy on DVD.

    I loved the one they did for the Transformers movie. :)

  24. hotsauce says:

    The RiffTrax for 300 was very good. “Focus groups said ‘more marching’!”

  25. Rolaran says:

    Yeah, the 300 one is my fave so far.

    Also liked the Spider-Man 3 one. Of course, Spidey 3 had the advantage of being almost as bad as the B-movies Mike Nelson and the gang used to review on MST3K, so…

  26. Ben says:

    Eh, my mom and I are both diehard MST3K fans (I swear we’ve memorized a few of the episodes), and we both find the guys in Rifftrax to be too… whiny now. They’re not making jokes with/at the movie, they’re just mocking it repeatedly. At least, that’s my gut reaction.

  27. Ben, only a FEW episodes? I can recite several right now, if you like.. :)

    With regard to the guys being too whiny, I think it’s fair to say that there are some tracks that feel a little like that. I think in the almost 2 years we’ve been around, they have found their niche, and the writing itself has improved vastly.

    I’d highly recommend Eragon, Transformers and The Matrix if there is anyone considering giving them a shot. I’ve also heard great things about Spider-Man, but I haven’t seen that one yet.

    And we’re pumping out a lot of public domain shorts for a dollar each, so if the feature length riffing isn’t your cup of tea…

    Sorry this feels like a sales pitch. I’ll go now. Cheers!

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.