Today's interview is with Jason Miller, RiffTrax contributing writer.
RiffWiki: Give us a brief rundown of who you are and what it is that you do with your life.
Jason Miller: I’m a writer and novelist living in Nashville, TN. I’ve published two mystery novels, Down Don’t Bother Me andRed Dog (HarperCollins), with more on the way. I’ve also written comic books (often as a ghost) and about a billion articles for encyclopedias. I’m married to a professor of sociology at Vanderbilt University, and I have four cats, all toms. I love motorcycles.
RiffWiki: Being a writer of comedy these days can be very difficult because the market is so saturated, so those who do do it, for the most part, are doing it out of a labor of love. What was it that drew you to being a comedy writer?
JM: I’ve always loved it. My mystery novels are basically dark comedies, and when I was a kid I wanted really badly to be a cartoonist. Turns out, I could write the jokes but not draw the pictures. A few years ago, I created a Twitter account and after awhile fell in with the funny rabble there.
RiffWiki: Do you remember when you first discovered MST3K? Did it have a significant impact on you?
JM: I was in college, I think. I didn’t have cable at the time, so I saw most of the shows on old VHS tapes, back when people were passing those around. In short order, I became a complete junkie and—probably like a lot of us—found myself talking aloud to TV shows and movies, much to the annoyance of my friends and family.RiffWiki: Same question, only with RiffTrax.
JM: That must have been through Twitter. I’d followed the guys when they were doing the Film Crew movies, but I think I lost track of them for a while after that. A couple of my friends on Twitter were writers for something called RiffTrax, though, and after a bit of detective work I was delighted to see Mike, Kevin, and Bill still at it.
RiffWiki: How did you come to becoming a contributing writer at RiffTrax. Was it something you sought out or did they come to you about it?
JM: Through the Twitter pals I mentioned. One day I decided—what the Hell?—might as well ask. Did RiffTrax ever take on new writers? They weren’t at that moment, but I was told a contributor program was in the planning stage. I asked to be kept in the loop, and (flash-forward screenwipe) here we are today. The audition period lasted maybe six months, and it was pretty tough. It turns out that riffing on your couch is pretty different than coming up with a joke every ten to fifteen seconds in an actual script. I was 100% certain that at any moment I would get cut. Miracle of miracles, this did not happen.
RiffWiki: What’s your process for writing riffs for RiffTrax? Do you do it the same way most of the staff does, or do you have your own methods?
JM: To be honest, I’m not completely intimate with everybody’s method, though I guess I suspect that they’re roughly similar. Usually, I’ll review my block (ten minutes or thereabouts is the norm) several times. There tend to be a handful of can’t miss “moments” sprinkled throughout, like, things you absolutely have to address with a joke. I use those as tent-posts and fill out the rest of my divvy by working backward and forward around them. This can be challenging because the movie or short or whatever doesn’t always want to cooperate.RiffWiki: What was the most fun you ever had writing something for RiffTrax?
JM: That’s a tough one. There have been a lot. If I had to pick just one, I’d probably say Deadly Prey. It’s just utterly ridiculous and inexplicably awful but in a hilarious way. By the time I was done writing my block, I felt almost drunk. It was a blast.
RiffWiki: How much input do you have? Can/have you suggested anything that may or may not have been riffed to date?
JM: There is a LOT of give and take when you work with a group the way we do. Obviously, some gags don’t make it through, though this can be for a variety of reasons. One thing that comes up pretty often is joke overlap. My divvy might be an hour or so into the movie, so someone with an earlier time block might have already hit a certain point or made a reference too similar to something I tried in mine. But, generally speaking, most of your stuff gets in, though again with plenty of tailoring and fine adjustments.
RiffWiki: Has being involved in RiffTrax put you in situations that you are shocked to find yourself in? Are there any hilarious stories about such circumstances where you just stand there afterwards and say "Wow… this is my life" for good or for bad?
JM: At this point, too many to name. Yeah, meeting, hanging out with, and becoming friends with the RiffTrax people has been one of the highlights of my life. Sometimes, I just stop and I’m, like, “Oh, my God, I write for the MST3K guys!” The writers and my fellow contributors are also some of my favorite people ever. I love them. But, yes, the whole thing is…kinda surreal. As for specific incidents, I have a non-official NDA with myself regarding our various adventures, though I will share that one time we got chased out of a bar by a very, very angry little bartender in very, very short shorts.RiffWiki: Have you been to RiffTrax Live in Tennessee or Minneapolis, and if so, what's that experience like?
JM: I live in Nashville, so I’ve been to nearly every live show here in town for the past two or three years, I think. I’ve also been allowed to take part in some of the rewrites for the live shows, since (again) the guys are right here in the city. The live shows are always a blast, whether I’ve written for them or not, and in no small part because RiffTrax fans are just a completely lovely and enthusiastic group. They really do make it fun. I was also able to attend the recent reunion show in Minneapolis, and that was awesome, too, because I got to meet Joel, Trace, Frank, and Mary Joe.
RiffWiki: Everybody we interview gets asked to make "picks." What are your top 3 picks for Official RiffTrax, whether you worked on them or not?
JM: Just gonna be completely upfront here: I was someone who pushed us to do MegaForce and that one turned into a major pain in my ass, so I’m basically out of the movie-suggesting game for now. Okay, to Hell with it: Krull.
RiffWiki: Thanks so much for talking with us today. Is there anything else you'd like to say, anything you'd like to plug, the floor is yours! Thanks again for being with us.
JM: Thank you for having me! This was fun. I’d love for your readers to check out my novels, on account of I am greedy and love money and would strangle my own sainted mother just to get a little more.