Joel Hodgson on Breezeways, Playing a Thief, and the Promptness of Mary Jo Pehl

Joel Hodgson on Breezeways, Playing a Thief, and the Promptness of Mary Jo Pehl

Comic, actor, producer and general gizmocrat Joel Hodgson needs no introduction from this website. Co-creator, producer and writer for Mystery Science Theater 3000, he also hosted the show for its first four and a half seasons as the amiable Joel Robinson.  Hodgson has gone on to appear in numerous other projects including riffing for Cinematic

Comic, actor, producer and general gizmocrat Joel Hodgson needs no introduction from this website. Co-creator, producer and writer for Mystery Science Theater 3000, he also hosted the show for its first four and a half seasons as the amiable Joel Robinson.  Hodgson has gone on to appear in numerous other projects including riffing for Cinematic Titanic with his MST3K co-workers, acting in memorable cult shows Freaks and Geeks, Arrested Development, and Other Space, and voicing Mayor Bill Dewey since the inception of Steven Universe. After successfully creating the second-most-popular Kickstarter of all time, he has produced, written and appeared (as the hazmat-besuited Ardy) in the show’s two-season (so far) long Netflix revival, which just released its latest batch of episodes, nicknamed the Gauntlet, this past November.  

I happen to have a copy of the fifth issue of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Comic on my desk as we speak. Could you tell our readers why you decided to bring MST3K to life in comic form?

A lot of that has to do with my partner Harold Buchholz who, I don’t know if you know this, but he used to be a vice president for Archie Comics. And so one of the first things we talked about when we met was the idea of doing a Mystery Science Theater 3000 comic book. That was probably — five years ago, six years ago? 2012. So, doing a comic book for MST was kind of always on our minds, and Harold, I feel he’s an expert at the form. And I’m just kind of interested in it, I’ve read a couple of the Scott McCloud books, I like comics so I was always really interested in seeing if we could make that work.

The selection of vintage comics you’ve picked to use are fascinatingly disparate – everything from adventure comics to horror comics to superhero comics. Were there any issues you rejected using? Were there comics you wanted to riff that you couldn’t get the rights to because they weren’t in the public domain?

Oh, that’s interesting. Well, we don’t really go and spend a lot of time on stuff we don’t have the rights to so we don’t like, really, for example, wade into a property, develop it  get really excited about it and then find out if we can work on it. There aren’t any stories of like ‘oh, you should’ve seen the one that got away.’ We wanted to riff on Green Lantern, but, it turns out…oops!  What happened! We don’t have any stories like that. If we were dumber, I think we’d have more stories like that, we’d probably want to go and do some fantastic, really broad comic book. But because we’re dealing in the public domain, we really deliberately went for comics we knew we could clear. So that kind of kept it in the path of what we were hoping to do.

What’s your favorite joke from the comic?

Oh my goodness, I don’t have one! I don’t have a favorite joke! Should I go get the comic and look? OK, hold on, let me grab the comic!

[Joel grabs the first issue]

Well, I’m sure it’s something with Tom Servo. Let me see. Well, right away when we go into the world of the comic, and the woman — Shelly Marx [Ed: who plays Tom’s character’s girlfriend in the comics] — is saying ‘I can’t remember when I’ve laughed so much’ and Wayne says ‘yes it was very funny — watching Koyaanisqatsi never gets old!’ That one is the very first one in the comic and I love that one! It’s kinda unfair to ask, ‘cause I like them all. I don’t have one that sticks out.

Let me look at a few more, see if there’s anything else. Now see, these are just…and I like them for completely different reasons than normal people! Here’s one where Tom’s talking to Shelly Marx’ dad, and he goes ‘I’ll have someone bring in your things now, I’d like you to meet the family.’ And Tom Servo says, ‘Sounds great!’ and then her dad says, ‘besides, we’ve already spent too much time in this breezeway!’ Now that cracks me up, the idea that they’re in a breezeway. It’s so from the fifties and sixties, right? Like, someone would want to spend time in a breezeway, or talk about a breezeway. But again, I’m the wrong guy to ask about this, I don’t know.

In May, the sixth part of the comic will come out. Will there be more issues?

We don’t know. We’ll just have to see how it does, and kind of like — if we get any good press, all of that stuff. It all depends on what Dark Horse wants to do. There’s a lot of moving pieces to it. But we did set it up so that we can continue on if need be.

We’re all waiting with bated breath to find out if MST3K will be renewed for its thirteenth season by Netflix. Do you have any tentative plans for movies you might want to get to, or hopes for what you might like to do storyline wise with Jonah, Kinga and the others?

Oh yeah, of course I do! But I can’t tell you that. Otherwise I won’t have a show to make.

Heh! You can’t blame a girl for trying! Would you consider returning to guest-riff an episode alongside Jonah?

Oh, I don’t think so. That would really disrupt the canon, I think. I really don’t wanna go back in there, ‘cause we worked so hard and took so much time to bring Jonah back, and to bring him out that I don’t want to revert to that, you know what I mean? And kind of undo some of the stuff. I guess nothing’s out of the question, but yeah, I’m like I want the new guy to do it.

You’ve talked a few times about movies you wish you’d gotten for the show that you couldn’t license for various reasons. Which movie surprised you by being more enjoyable than you expected? Conversely — are there any movies you wish you’d never done on the show?

I don’t know, I don’t really have any regrets about movies. You know, it takes so much time to take a movie and write and develop it, and write all the riffs for it. It’s kind of like you’re in such a different place when you come out the other end. And I don’t really have examples of movies I wish I could have done or couldn’t do. The only movie I would have liked to have done that I didn’t get to do was Green Slime, which was a movie we did for the pilot that we could never get the rights to it. And it’s not likely we’ll get it done because it’s a Toho movie, and Toho doesn’t really like Mystery Science Theatre and they’re not that interested in licensing us movies or anything.

Do you have a favorite host segment from your run on the show?

Oh my goodness! Do you mean back when I used to host the show and used to do the host segments?

Yeah!

‘Cause my run on the show is forever, since I created it, you know what I mean? No, you know, I like them all. ‘Cause they’re so a part of history and part of the show, I don’t really have a favorite. There’s one that I like that I saw recently that makes me laugh which is when we lip-synch to ‘Are You Happy In Your Work?’ from I Accuse My Parents. The ‘Bots really act like Muppets, and kind of hopping around and just like, bopping around and walking around and it was really funny and I like it. I like that one.

I’m really excited to hear you say that, ‘cause that’s one of my absolute favorite episodes of all time.

That’s nice to hear!

Now — Crow, Gypsy, Magic Voice, Cambot, Tom Servo or M. Waverly: Which ‘Bot is your favorite bot?

Oh, that’s easy, I’m just gonna say — I’m not gonna tell you that! I don’t have any — I like ‘em all! That’s a trick question!

Do you have a favorite Cinematic Titanic episode?

Oh boy, I don’t even know! I think it could be — there was one about insects. I think it’s called — what’s it called, Genocide? [Ed: Joel was right both times! The movie is titled War of the Insects/Genocide].Yeah, I don’t remember the name of it. But it was a Japanese movie and it was about something about bugs. It was really neat though.

What’s your favorite part about playing Mayor Dewey on Steven Universe?

I think it was just funny that they made him look like me. Kind of a little cartoon version of what I look like.

Have you seen any of the Steven Universe comics that have been released? ‘Cause there’s been a bunch of them.

No, I haven’t! Are they good?

They are! I just reviewed the last issue and I think they did a pretty good job with it.

Yeah, it’s such a beautiful show. I love the cartoon so much, it’s so great-looking.

Beautifully animated, beautifully written, the songs I love everything about it, it’s all beautiful!  I love that show! They do a good job translating it into comics, I think.

Yeah, I believe it.

Now, on April 18th, you appeared on Critical Role’s Kickstarter Campaign Closer Party. Have you ever played Dungeons and Dragons before?

Yes!

What do you play?  

You know what?  Back in the day I was a thief. This was in college. I think I’m gonna start again and — are you familiar with Artificer?

Yes, I am!

I think I may become an Artificer. That looks kinda interesting.

And if you were invited to participate on the show, would you agree to appear?  

Yeah, I would love to, of course!

You and the uber-talented Mary Jo Pehl are scheduled to co-host Mystery Science Expo 3000 at the Greenwich Odeum at the end of the month  – now I’ve been to the Odeum a few times and I’m terribly happy that this is going to benefit the theatre’s restoration program, aptly named Restore the Second Floor. Would you like to tell us about the event?

Oh, mostly, it’s really a chance to get to spend time with Mary Jo. She’s so great and everybody in the fandom really loves her.  It’s just a chance to hang out and kinda spend time together. And it’s really gonna be fun, and I’m looking forward to it!

What’s your favorite memory of working with Mary Jo?

My favorite memory of Mary Jo? She’s always on time. My favorite memory is she’s always on time. That’s my favorite thing. She’s prompt.


I am endlessly grateful to Mr. Hodgson for his time and his patience with my first ever interview and the attendant jitters and stumbles I had. I was awkward but he was kind, and that meant everything to me.

You can catch Joel alongside Mary Jo Pehl and MST3K concept artist Gary Glover at Mystery Science Expo 3000, running from April 25th to April 28th at the Greenwich Odeum in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. The weekend’s events include several classic episode screenings with Q&As, an exclusive creativity workshop, a discussion/lecture with Mary Jo and Joel, a meet and greet and a brunch. Package ticketholders will also be invited to an exclusive event that will be revealed in due time. Tickets are available at the Odeum box office or digitally here.

Joel was also a special guest at the Critical Role Kickstarter Campaign Closer Party, which streamed at 11:30 PM PST April 18th on their official Twitch channel. Click here for an archive of the stream!

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Lisa Fernandes
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  • thom "thom" v.
    May 2, 2019, 5:47 pm

    Great interview, Lisa!! I love it when we learn more about one of our three favorite MST3K hosts _ever_ . . . . thanks!!

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