Me - The Project - Time and Stuff - Why, why, why? - Riff Types -
I was introduced to MST3K in the early 90's at a friend's house. He raved about the show and I decided to sample it. When the guy in the green lab coat and the guy in black donned their Tank Tops, blew up the target, and one announced to the other that he still saw some of the star and couldn't give away the plush banana, I knew the show was for me. I didn't have Comedy Central at home so most of the MST3K viewing took place at my grandparents house who would tape it for me when I was not there. College was a hiatus from the show and seasons five, six, and seven were completely lost to me. But a rebirth of sorts happened when I decided one day to catch up on the show after years of absence and watched "Space Mutiny". I have never been away since. My life, friends, interests, and locale have all changed. But MST3K is one thing I keep. Even now when the show has left the airwaves, I still make it a part of my life thanks to video archiving technology.
Project: Riff spawned from an observation I made one day while watching #911 "Devil Fish". For some reason, it seemed like Mike and the bots weren't riffing as much as on other shows. I began to think about some of my other favorite episodes like "Day the Earth Froze" and "Warrior of the Lost World" and how the riffing never seemed to stop for those two shows. Then I realized in general that Tom seemed to speak the most. Could it be that the earlier episodes actually did contain more riffing? Could it be that Tom is the most prolific riffer? Could it be that I have too much free time? And thus, Project: Riff was born.
The project was meant to be a comparison between two episodes so I really can't nail down when I started it. I really just kind of worked on it in my free time, thus it took me about four years to complete. And when I say "complete" I mean seasons one to ten. I haven't done KTMA or the movie or any of the Film Crew, Riff Trax, or Cinematic Titanic stuff.
Once I got rolling it was very easy to do. Since I usually watch a couple MST3K episodes a week, I'm surprised it took me so long!
Project: Riff is an effort to obtain the average RPMs (Riffs Per Minute) of each MST3K movie segment and compare that number to other movie segments to see how they stack up against each other. This is done by counting the individual character riffs for that movie segment and then dividing that number by the length in minutes of the movie segment to get average RPMs. Doing this will not only satisfy my curiosity, but it also gives me a way to participate in my favorite show intead of just passively watching it.
Counting riffs is easy. When someone riffs, they get a point. Easy! There are some rules, though, and I've outlined what kind of riffs I'm looking for.
Straight Riff: Your normal, everyday, run-of-the-mill riff. This is the most common type of riff and it is awared one point.
Example: Lions appear and Crow says, "Kitties!"
Often, multiple entities will riff simultaneously. It could be a song or a spoken phrase. One point is awarded to each participant in a group riff.
Example: In show #422, Joel sings, "From the land of sky blue water" to which Tom and Crow respond "Water!" One point awarded to each character.
If there is group discussion about something in the movie, one point is awarded to each participant.
Example: In show #301, one point to Joel and Crow each for this conversation, Joel: "Don't they want their capes back?" Crow: "No they'd have invisible blood on them." Joel: "Oh, I see... Huh?"
I usally don't like to award points for these, unless there's an obvious effort at humor. Use your own judgement on these.
Example: Anytime there's a break in the movie and/or the audio track skips, Tom usually adds a "Hmm?". No point is awarded.
Example: In the short "Here Comes the Circus" in show #422, Joel and the bots yell in fear whenever there is a jump cut to a clown. One point each to Joel, Tom, and Crow.
If a riff lasts for awhile, like Tom singing a song, it is still only given one point, but additional "style" points may be awarded for creativity. Three points should be the maximum, though.
Example: In show #501, Tom rattles off about 30 celebrity names who bear a likeness to each person in a slow camera pan. I awarded one point for the idea of doing that and two style points for the riff complexity for a total of three points.
Points are awarded for non-audible riffs like when Joel stands up and peeks over someone's shoulder in the movie or like when Tom kisses someone on the screen.
Example: Joel's exagerated air-drum solo during the opening credits of show #508 gets a point.
No points for anything that doesn't concern the movie. This mainly applies to the parts of the movie directly before a host segment when Tom says "We gotta go." or after a host segment when they are still singing or talking about it or whatever.
Example: In show #416 when Crow's evil friend Timmy invades the theater and messes with Tom, no points for anything said about Timmy.
Example: In show #913, Pearl shows up during the ending credits to measure stuff and disrupts things. No points for anything she says or anything said about her or her activities.
Riffs are only tallied for Joel, Mike, and the bots except when an obvious substitution is made.
Example: In show #913, Pearl replaces Mike in the first movie segment. Her riffs get added to Mike's.
Example: In show #821, Mike's brother Eddie replaces Mike for one segment. His riffs get added to Mike's.
Example: In show #611, Frank and Dr. F replace Mike and the bots for a segment. I still have no idea what to do about this..?
Half-a-Riff: "Grey areas" should be considered. If you hear a riff that, well, maybe was a riff but really not but then you hear another that was good but not quite actually a riff, you may just want to give the riffer the benefit of the doubt and award a point. I use this a lot for Tom, especially since he often repeats certain musical phrases of movies that may be considered reflexes, but have a hint of genuine sarcasm behind them.
Who Did That?: If you don't know who was responsible for a riff, usually a sound effect, then don't award a point. These are rare so not counting them is no big deal.
Repeated Riffs: Sometimes riffs are repeated when a movie returns to a certain scene within a segment, or even across several segments. This rarely happens so use your own judgement. If you've heard the exact same riff too many times for your liking, stop awarding points for it.