On any list I make of things that make life worth living, there is a permanent place for Mystery Science Theater 3000. When it was firing on all cylinders, it was the funniest show in the world.
Like other inspired work, it proceeded from a simple premise. In this case, it was to show bad movies and shorts while wisecracking about them. This was done once a week for two hours.
Two hours of nonstop laughter on a weekly basis. It would be something to do that once. The folks at Minnesota-based Best Brains made it happen over and over.
I don't remember how I found MST3K, but I do remember the first episode I saw: Monster A Go Go. The smiling effects from my encounter with that appalling movie continue to this day.
The Heart of Deep 13
I found MST3K in the mid-1990s, which meant that the glory days of the funniest show in the world coincided with the start of the personal computer revolution. MST3K used to ask viewers to send letters (on paper! in envelopes! with stamps!). But it also ran in the early days of social media.
On CompuServe was a Special Interest Group (SIG) for fans called Deep 13. That SIG had some wicked powerful mojo. Because of it, friendships formed that endure to this day. Marriages happened.
Last month I went to Chicago to see two friends I met originally in Deep 13. We saw some bad movies, and we had ourselves some laughs.
Now playing: Cinematic Titanic and Rifftrax
The people who made the funniest show in the world continue to do what they do. They split into two groups: Cinematic Titanic, created by Joel Hodgson, the original creator of MST3K; and Rifftrax ("we don't make movies ... we make them funny"). Rifftrax is live in movie theaters several times a year.
In Chicago we saw the Rifftax crew -- Kevin Murphy, Mike Nelson, and Bill Corbett -- riff Manos, The Hands of Fate. Without Rifftrax Manos would be unwatchable. With Rifftrax, a large theater audience was in helpless thrall to laughter for two hours.
I know; I was there.
I have an extra reason to be grateful for the funniest show in the world, which is personal. In 1998 I was seriously ill. Thanks to a friend in Deep 13, the folks at Best Brains sent me a get well card.
My message to them in September 2012: Guys, you've still got it. And I am doing fine.
Note: There is an image of the get well card at Writer's Rest.