RiffWiki: It's starting to become a common starting point for these interviews, but it's just so natural that I'm gonna say it's okay. Do you remember how and when you first became aware of Mystery Science Theater 3000?K1) I still remember the first episode of MST3K that I saw. I was on a church youth group event in 1994 in NH and I was the only guy who went, so I ended up with my own hotel room. A bit of insomnia resulted in channel flipping and I stumbled across a movie called Invasion USA. Even back then I enjoyed watching crappy B-movies just to laugh at them. I stopped for a minute or two and I was stunned to hear voices on the TV saying things I was thinking! I think I ended up staying up almost all night because even after the movie got over I still couldn’t quite wrap my brain around what it was that I had just seen.
The next morning as I was trying to describe what I had seen everyone was looking at me like I was crazy. They may have had a point. But I didn't care. TV as I knew it had changed forever. Unfortunately nobody in my circle of friends had ever heard or the show, so I had nobody to “Keep Circulating The Tapes” with until probably college when we used to regularly have MST3K marathons in my dorm room sometimes with up to 15 people all crammed into a room that was probably 14 by 16.
K2) For me it was when you brought home a VHS of MST3K the Movie when I was about 13 or 14.
K1) That would have been 1997 I believe.
K2) A few years earlier I had seen the first movie that I thought was stupid. It was North with Elijah Wood. For some reason I have a very vivid recollection of this. I remember making fun of it to my friend at the time like any 11 year old would: fart noises, butt jokes, whatever. So when Kevin came home with this video of adults making fun of a movie in a funny and very smart way it was really eye opening. Oh my god, what if I rewatched North and it's amazing?? I'd have to rethink my whole life.
RiffWiki: Same question, only with RiffTrax.K2) Kevin again. Isn't that kind of the older brother's job? Introduce the younger sibling to things that are cool?
K1) I think so! That’s an easy one for me to answer. Road House. I pretty much came across it right when the initial Rifftrax website launched. I can’t remember if Fifth Element was released when I found Rifftrax or not. I think it was listed as “Coming Soon” at that point.
RiffWiki: What was it that compelled you to try your hand at "iRiffing?"
K2) I'd always thought that my brother and I were pretty clever and funny. When we were in bands the in-between-songs banter usually turned into the Kevin and Kyle show. When I first saw other people outside of the MST3K gang riffing movies, I thought "we could do that." I mean that with zero disrespect to the other groups, quite the opposite actually. They made it look effortless and easy. Turns out there's a lot of damn work that goes into riffing and very little of it is easy.
K1) You got that right! It’s one thing to crack an occasional joke here and there when you’re watching stuff with friends, but it’s an entirely different beast to consistently come up with funny jokes for an entire video.
What really gave us the final push to go ahead with it was the announcement on the Rifftrax site that they would be starting the iRiff service. We really wanted to have someone done for day one of the launch. We dove right in and started recording Dragnet: Episode 18 - The Big Seventeen. I just thought the title was funny. Why didn’t they air it one episode sooner? Turns out it was a very riffable episode and we were really proud of it when it came out. Looking back on it now it’s pretty cringe-worthy. Too much dead air and the sound quality on our old set up wasn’t as good as I would have liked. I’ve often considered pulling that one and Enter The Lone Ranger off of the site and maybe re-recording them with new jokes, but just haven’t had the time.
RiffWiki: One of the great things about iRiffs and iRiffing is that it not only opens up the riffing world to new riffers and styles, but it also goes a long way to filling in the gaps left by MST3K and RiffTrax. How do you feel about the entries you've made into the larger "riffing canon" and which do you think will go down as your "riffing legacy?"K2) God, I don't know. Are we interesting enough to be canonized? I think if we stand out it's because of Burn-E, mainly. Although I think our method of using an improv track to capture our genuine reactions to the shows/movies stands out a bit. Gives us kind of a feeling like it's live, in a way. We're reacting along with you.
K1) I agree with Kyle on that one. I can’t say we’re one of the best selling iRiff groups out there, but I really do feel we bring something to the table by largely including the improv track we record the very first time we watch whatever we are riffing. There are other groups that do strictly improv recordings as well though. So I’d say if we can be called pioneers of anything it’s probably for our sing-along riffs. We even try to incorporate a little bit of that into our traditional riffs if we can. There’s a Johnny Cash song in the G.I. Joe riff as well as a quick Bon Jovi bit.
RiffWiki: Looking at your Riffography, it says that Dragnet was your first publicized riff? I'm sure there has to be a story there.K2) Is there? I mean we would riff on movies at home but unless there's an unreleased turd burger that I've completely repressed I think it's just a nod to doing it at home.
K1) Pretty much.RiffWiki: Tell us the story behind the commercial inserted into your riff of The Cheney Vase? I love that one.
K2) What commercial is that?
K1) There’s a few commercials in that riff, but I’m guessing you’re talking about yet another one of our musical numbers. You weren’t really involved in that particular one.
K2) Oh that’s right. Sometimes it’s difficult to coordinate schedules for us to get together to record so with Kevin having the home studio he has the benefit of being able to get more work done even if I can’t make it. What was the story with that commercial again?
K1) For some reason some spammer thought it would be a good idea to post a commercial for a dentist office as a product on the iRiffs section. No riffing, just a straight up commercial. Someone on the Rifftrax Forum thought it would be fun if a bunch of the iRiff groups riffed the commercial. I knew I wanted to do a musical number for it and just so happened to have this goofy instrumental song we wrote when our band was on tour in 2004 that we called “The Oklahoma Dance In My Pants”. I slapped it over the video and the timing on it worked absolutely perfectly. I wrote some lyrics and recorded them and posted it on YouTube. Normally we spend a ridiculous amount of time on riffs but that one came together in probably about an hour from start to finish.
RiffWiki: Your musical riff of Burn-E stands out in the riffing world as one of the most creative riffs to date. How did this idea come about? Writing songs, even simple ones, can be a real pain in the behind. I wrote a 9 second song for Alphabet Conspiracy, and that was a pretty big creative leap for me. What was it like riffing the entire short in song?K1) Thanks!
K2) Yeh, Burn-E was a pretty ballsy endeavor, if I may say so myself. No one to that point (to my knowledge) had put a song of any kind in their riff, let alone doing something entirely in song. Playing mostly our own instruments, too. Then to put that out for sale and think people would buy it? That's either completely insane or incredibly bold. I tend to side with insane. I think a big reason for us even thinking it was a viable option was that we had been in touring bands for so long and that part of our lives had fizzled out in a sad way. We both still loved playing but we didn't have the outlet anymore. So when we tried to think of what we could do that was creative, unique and something we could do that no one else could do, or at least hadn't done yet... music. What's crazier than putting some parody songs into a riff? Make it all parody songs. And why not just go all in and make it a subtitled singalong?
K1) Yeah, think of what you went through for a 9 second song, now multiply that by at least 500. Maybe more! (Sorry, that was a little Sharknado joke there. I couldn’t help myself.) It was both the most exciting and most frustrating thing at the same time. It’s definitely a different sort of riff from the rest. More creative than funny although it does have it’s moments.
It was really cool of the guys from Team Swizzlebeef to include Burn-E in the iSea Riffs show that they had on the JoCo Cruise Crazy 3. I hope the audience enjoyed it and they weren’t just baffled by what they were seeing.
K2) Hah, I genuinely do wonder if anyone ever actually sang along. I'd like to meet that person.
K1) It was huge. For me it was something that I shared with all my college friends. Like I mentioned earlier we would all get together and just have huge MST3K marathons. It’s always been something that I feel is better to watch in a group. I loved having a bunch of people over and everyone just laughing almost the entire time. So many of the old episodes can be watched over and over and each time you pick up things you missed before. It’s such smart humor and I really think it’s an amazing art form.
RiffWiki: Like a lot of iRiffers, riffing, RiffTrax and MST3K is probably a huge part of your life. How big of an impact do you think this medium of riffing has had on you?
K2) It was my first experience with intelligence in humor. Also subtlety. It's one of my favorite things now when someone does or says something wickedly brilliant but very subtly that it can fly right by a lot of people, myself included at times. It's like catching a lightning bug (or firefly, whatever you weirdos call them). I don't know why I used that metaphor.
K1) As far as our riffing goes, I think I enjoy it because it gives me an outlet for doing something funny and creative. Although it also can be really stressful during the recording process. But it’s also frustrating when it seems that none of your friends (even the ones who love MST3K) will even watch the iRiffs you’ve made. I know some of them probably do occasionally, but that probably is the hardest thing for me on a personal level. The flip side of that is that we do seem to have a very loyal group of followers online who are super supportive. So even if our “real life” friends don’t care about what we do, it’s nice to get feedback from fans. So a big thanks to all the OneWallCinemaniacs out there! Can we call them that? I just made that up. Should we make t-shirts with the Hulk Hogan font?
RiffWiki: Riffing with family members is probably a very unique experience. How would you describe it? Is it beneficial towards the creativity? Do other members of your family watch the riffs?K2) It definitely has its advantages. We have pretty similar brains and senses of humor so writing can go pretty quickly when we're on the same page. Though I probably tend to skew a bit darker at times. I think being brothers also gives us license to disagree and get annoyed with each other. You can step away but you know you're always going to come back.
K1) Exactly. We’re both very similar but different so we can bounce things off each other. Thankfully my skills or lack of skills works well with what Kyle brings to the table and vice versa. If I tend to have more of a broad idea on a joke Kyle is usually able to really pinpoint where I’m going with it. I handle pretty much all the editing, social media, and technical junk since I enjoy that sort of thing. Like he said if we’re on the same page it makes for a very quick process that usually ends up being really funny.
K2) As far as family members watching... I know my wife will watch our releases once when I first ask her to. But she has to put up with my nonsense every day so I think watching/listening to me on our riffs while I simultaneously make additional jokes or explain scenes is probably waaaaay too meta. Which I completely understand; I can barely tolerate me myself. Parents, well, I know they don't like to hear me curse so they probably don't watch much.
K1) I’m in a similar boat. My wife enjoys a very occasional MST3K episode and some Rifftrax releases depending on the movie. It helps when it’s a movie she’s familiar with so she can pay attention to the jokes rather than the plot (or lack thereof) of the film. I typically screen our riffs with her once we’ve finished them just to see what works and what doesn’t. If she laughs at some of it then I know we’re in good shape. As far as our parents go, I typically end up either editing out or bleeping any time that Kyle curses. I prefer to keep the riffs family friendly if I can. I did screen our riff of The Shadow for my dad one time and accidentally played the uncut rough edit which was a bit embarrassing since there was one or two fairly profanity laden parts.
K2) What, you bleep me?? DON’T (censored by K1)ING CENSOR ME YOU (censored by K1)!
RiffWiki: I'm gonna ask you to make some "picks" here. 3 of your own riffs, 3 full length RiffTrax, 3 episodes of MST3K and 3 iRiffs other than your own.K1) This is a tough question. I really have no idea how to narrow it down to just three episodes of MST3K. Maybe between the two of us we can come up with six and just share them? Mitchell, Puma Man, Space Mutiny, Pod People, MST3K The Movie, Cave Dwellers, Manos: The Hands of Fate, Eegah, I Accuse My Parents, The Screaming Skull… Shoot. That’s ten.
K2) I think Pod People was one of the first ones I remember. We actually named our band Wing-ed Potato for a brief period of time because of a throwaway line in that episode, which is part of the beauty of the show. Sometimes the lines they just toss out that aren’t meant to be big jokes make me laugh the hardest. We wrote a song called Mitchell so obviously that one makes the list. Manos is just amazing. I’m sure everyone’s seen these so I don’t even need to tell you how great they are. MST3K: The Movie has to be on my list, right? It’s the one that started it for me.
K2) This is also what happens when you have two very similar personalities and sensibilities; we have a lot of overlap here. xXx, Twilight, Birdemic.
K1) You’ll be shocked but I am struggling to narrow down my list of iRiffs. There are some seriously funny people out there. Can I just name a few iRiff groups rather than individual riffs? Team Swizzlebeef is amazing and if you’re reading this you should go buy all their riffs as soon as you finish this interview. Josh Way is one of the best out there. Highly recommend everything he has his hands in. Riffing, podcasting, comic strips, blogging, tweeting, whatever. ICWXP obviously is on the list as well. Top notch riffing and really high quality video production. There are others I could suggest like Drawback Productions. Their riff of Fast Five was great.
K2) One of the great things about the iRiff community is that there’s a lot of collaboration and support. We’ve had the privilege of working with some really funny people like Dark Matter Productions, Monica Marier, One Man Band, Team Swizzlebeef, David Ganssle, plus a ton of other great teams.
K1) My picks for our riffs would have to be G.I. Joe: The Movie because it was really fun to riff and I love G.I. Joe. Burn-E because I am super proud of what we did with it. Conan The Barbarian because what could be better than 3 different Conan impressions riffing a movie and then all coming together for a hilarious sing-along at the end? I am Conan, hear me roar.K2) What is with us and singalongs? For our own riffs, I would pick Lone Ranger because it was such a big leap forward for us from Dragnet in terms of writing and execution. Burn-E for all the reasons I said before. And the Shadow because it was so damn fun. Our improv track was absolutely ridiculous, especially after the booze kicked in. I’m still somewhat convinced that Michael Caine was in that movie though. RiffWiki: And lastly, if you could choose one movie for Mike, Kevin and Bill to riff that they have not yet, which would it be and why?
K2) North, just so everything can come full circle.