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LJI9 - Week 1 - The Last Laugh

This is my entry for this week of LJ Idol, Season 9. Please check out the entries of my fellow competitors and consider joining the therealljidol community. This week's topic was "Jayus," meaning a joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh

Back from the Box
A large screen showing the MAT3K bots, lovingly made
by the Mad Hatter to resemble those
from "Mystery Science Theater 3000."

The lights dimmed, and the puppets popped up. The final "Mystery Anime Theater 3000" performance had begun. MAT3K's creator, The Cheshire Cat, had voluntarily retired the annual program about 7 years previously, pulling a "Seinfeld" and going out on top. For Otakon's 20th anniversary, he'd agreed to revive the show one last time.


Five months earlier, the Cheshire Cat, a fellow Penn State Monty Python Society alumnus, had rounded up the old gang, "Blues Brothers" style; except that instead of driving around the country in a beat-up former cop car, he'd included us all in a group e-mail. Eager to get back into the collective comedy game, I'd subjected myself to all the prospective films, voting for "Origin: Spirits of the Past" ("Gin-iro no kami no Agito") because it had the right blend of elements to make it riff-able, so to speak.

The perfect candidate for MAT3K treatment had to be bad, but also so bad it was funny. "Origin" filled that bill: an overly-ambitious movie set 300 years in the future, after a manmade environmental disaster had produced sentient forests. Yes, in this environmental screed, trees were the bad guys. More conflict came from the power-hungry leader of an industrial city, at odds with the simple agrarian village home of our dim-witted hero, Agito. Toss in a cryo-frozen love interest, Toola, and an irritating romantic rival, Minka, and you had comic gold.

As I'd written in an e-mail to the group, "Origin" was ripe for parody: "Anything that takes itself too seriously is a candidate, but this one is a would-be 'Avatar' meets teen romance. Ridiculous."

In a follow-up e-mail, I'd written, "'Origin' contains stock-looking characters which will allow plenty of anime in-jokes, and the action is over-reaching enough to lead to some great comments. There are plenty of pregnant pauses between the dialogue. And come on, it's produced by... Gonzo! My vote is for 'Origin.' How can you resist a movie with a line like, 'The forest is hot!'"

(Our eventual riff for that line: "The forest is moderately attractive at best. The forest should maybe get over itself.")

My eloquence had helped tip the scales towards "Origin," which had meant that riffing sessions had followed. My husband, The Gryphon, and I had attended one in April at the home of our friends, The Martial Artist and The Book Lover. While our 3-year-old Kung Fu Panda had played on the floor with our hosts' 7-year-old boy, we adults had engaged in truly juvenile behavior: watching a movie just to make fun of it. We'd then typed up our best lines for possible inclusion in the script.

After several such sessions with different groups of people -- and riffs e-mailed from long-distance friends who'd bravely endured the film alone -- The Cheshire Cat had sent out a combined script giving all the potential riff lines, along with their cues. He'd requested that we sift through them and e-mail him our preferred lines. I'd gone the extra mile and annotated my selections, giving my reasoning for why I'd chosen one line over another. Humor nerd that I am, I can bore you to death with reasons why something is funny.

From all these suggestions, The Cheshire Cat had cobbled together the final script, which had then been further revised after a couple run-throughs by our hapless victims actors.


Now, finally, it was show-time. With my son on my lap, we watched our friends make magic. The riffs, performed live, were even funnier than they'd been on the page. I was thrilled to hear some of my lines getting the biggest laughs.

Then, about halfway through the film, my son had a very human reaction to watching "Origin." He began screaming at the top of his lungs and demanded to be taken out of the theater.

In the hallway, I dropped to my knees beside my 3-year-old and begged, "Can we please go back in? Mommy helped write this show." With the split-screen consciousness of a writer, I inked that moment in my memory, knowing that one day, I'd end up writing about it.

For once, KFP was the one standing firm on bedtime. We had to return to our room and sleep, he told me. Fruitlessly, I suggested sleeping on my lap in the theater instead, but nothing could make him return to that theater, at least not while "Origin" was playing. Smart kid.

During the intermission, we snuck back in to reclaim our gear before returning to our hotel. As I pushed his stroller past people in phosphorescent wigs and yellow leather, I consoled myself by writing one last riff. I would repeat it to my friends for days: "Hey, at least I only had to sit through 'Origin' three and a half times."


( 59 comments — Leave a comment )
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Mar. 14th, 2014 11:30 pm (UTC)
I knew KFP was a smart little boy! Grins. Fun entry!
Mar. 15th, 2014 12:49 am (UTC)
Thanks! I wondered if I should try to make it funnier, so I'm glad you still found it fun.
Mar. 14th, 2014 11:33 pm (UTC)
Your kid is quite cute. xD

This would've been quite the interesting thing to see.
Mar. 15th, 2014 12:49 am (UTC)
Yes, it was lots of fun to see, or at least so I'm told!
Mar. 15th, 2014 02:53 am (UTC)
He was only looking out for you. :P

(and he is so adorable)
Mar. 15th, 2014 03:21 am (UTC)
Yes, that's how it felt, as if the roles were reversed and he was being the grown-up. Thanks! I think he's adorable, too.
Mar. 15th, 2014 09:37 am (UTC)
*amused* This is the third MST3k post that's cropped up on my feed in as many days. There's something in the water, I tell ya!

Your philosophy on "Origin" is *quite* sound IMNSHO - anything that takes itself too seriously is an absolute goldmine for all manner of spoofing, snarking, riffing, and lampooning. Hell, this doesn't just apply to films! Though the idea of Avatar meets teen romance with a fun dose of cryogenics thrown in for good measure sounds like a special brand of absurd. And terrifying.
Mar. 15th, 2014 06:25 pm (UTC)
Definitely something in the water! Probably powdered robots.

You are the sort of person who would be a lot of fun at riffing sessions, I think. You're quite good at snark. :)
Mar. 15th, 2014 09:56 am (UTC)
Lovely piece, amusing :)
Mar. 15th, 2014 06:29 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I wanted to try to be both, and that can be challenging.
Mar. 15th, 2014 12:54 pm (UTC)
As my entry also mentioned, truth is funnier than fiction. KFP's unscripted actions were even funnier than your careful script (though you did a great job!)

Adventures in parenting...we all have to laugh at them. It's the only way to make it.

I'm sorry you missed the rest of your lines. But congrats on putting your son first (as I am sure you always do.)
Mar. 15th, 2014 01:33 pm (UTC)
It is definitely funnier in the retelling than it was to me at the time!

I always put him first, especially in cases like this. But man, sometimes it's hard to be the adult.
Mar. 15th, 2014 03:35 pm (UTC)
"The forest is moderately attractive at best. The forest should maybe get over itself."


teehee! KFP is super cute!
Mar. 15th, 2014 06:28 pm (UTC)
That wasn't my line, but it was one of the ones that made me laugh out loud, and I don't laugh out loud easily.

And I agree: KFP is a cutie. Sometimes it makes it hard to say no to him; I have to remind myself that I'm the adult.
Mar. 15th, 2014 04:00 pm (UTC)
From HIS entry, I thought perhaps KFP was the next Chris Farley. But based on this, maybe he's the next Roger Ebert!
Mar. 15th, 2014 06:27 pm (UTC)
He has a lot of different sides. Every time I'm convinced I know what he'll do when he grows up, he develops a new interest or skill. Both of those comparisons are awesome, btw!
Mar. 16th, 2014 03:51 am (UTC)
Your son is cute insisting he go to bed the same time and keep his life consistent, even if you wanted to finish seeing your finished creation. Great writing!
Mar. 18th, 2014 05:14 am (UTC)
Of course, the very next night, he was begging to stay up! Glad you enjoyed the tale.
Mar. 16th, 2014 05:51 am (UTC)
Your son played a nice joke on you. :)
Mar. 18th, 2014 05:14 am (UTC)
The little prankster! I should have known it wasn't going to go well when he objected to people filing into the theater. We'd gone in early to say hi to all the actors and to get a few pics before the show started. Silly me. This meant, I believe, that he thought we had the whole theater to ourselves to watch what I promised was going to be "a show with cartoons and puppets."
Mar. 16th, 2014 10:37 am (UTC)
Enjoyed reading this...:)..may be he'll get u the CD of the show,when he grows up..;)..(hopefully u'll still be ready to watch it)
Mar. 18th, 2014 05:12 am (UTC)
Oh, I really wouldn't want that, unless somehow he'd managed to get a video of our show with the riffs included, too!
(no subject) - eternal_ot - Mar. 18th, 2014 06:40 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 16th, 2014 07:40 pm (UTC)
I adore MST3K, but I have never tried to write my own riff show!

"The forest is moderately attractive at best. The forest should maybe get over itself."

Mar. 18th, 2014 05:11 am (UTC)
Wish I could claim that one, but I think that might have been written by my friend, The Dormouse.
(no subject) - kandigurl - Mar. 18th, 2014 03:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 17th, 2014 03:49 am (UTC)
Very nice! I just watched a MST3K for the first time in a long time. It must have been great fun working collaboratively to write one.
Mar. 18th, 2014 05:11 am (UTC)
Oh, it was a blast! I'd contributed a couple lines to their previous show, but this time I was much more involved. It was a kick!
Mar. 17th, 2014 03:56 pm (UTC)
Sounds like I might have enjoyed the movie!
Mar. 18th, 2014 05:10 am (UTC)
Well, you might have enjoyed our MAT3K show, but you almost certainly wouldn't enjoy "Origin" by itself. Trust me.
(no subject) - millysdaughter - Mar. 18th, 2014 01:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 17th, 2014 06:50 pm (UTC)
Sounds like a lot of fun. Oh, the adventures of toddlerhood!
Mar. 18th, 2014 05:09 am (UTC)
I know! In moments like this, it helps to remind myself it's all a grand adventure.
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