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RIFFWIKIINTERVIEWS-LJ-01

Today we are interviewing Larry Johnnson, founder and host of Cineprov!, Atlanta's own live movie riffing show. If you're in the area, be sure to drop by on December 18 for their Christmas show.

RiffWiki: So first of all, I suppose we should get the lowdown on who exactly it is we're talking about. First of all, who are you? Secondly, why should we care? (It's customary to pretend to insult your subjects in interviews like this. Trust me, man, it's gonna be HILARIOUS!)

Cineprov3
It’s always nice to be interviewed by someone who has no idea who you are. I could make up anything. I’m third in line to the throne of Latvia. Bet ya didn’t know that. But in the meantime until those other two hearty Latvians die I spend my time in Atlanta doing a monthly movie riffing show called Cineprov. The show has been primarily improvised since it’s debut in 2006. At the time I was in an improv troupe at a brand new theater doing more of Who’s Line Is It Anyway kind of stuff and one night while wearing my MST3K t-shirt to workshop one of the guys had the bright idea that we just start making fun of movies. That way if no one showed up for the show we’d at least have a bad movie to watch instead of playing Uno for three hours. And Cineprov was born.

RiffWiki: At what point in your life did you realize you aspirations for becoming a performer? Was it any one or a number of influences, or was it something else entirely that prompted you to take it up?

I moved to Atlanta and was looking for fun stuff to do in the new city and found an improv troupe that was doing a graduation show. They teach classes and then let the students perform at a bar. I thought it would be fun to take the classes and meet new people. After graduating the class me and a couple of the other folks started our own theater. I’d been a huge MST3K fan so doing something like that just seemed very natural to me and I enjoyed it much more than asking audience members for Jobs with Nametags so we could start scenes.

RiffWiki: Do you remember what your first experience with MST3K was? How much of an impact did it have on you? This is something that we ask in all our interviews, which at first seemed to me to a bit of a stock question and a cheap way to fill space, but I've come around recently as most subjects put a lot of weighty importance of that experience.

Best of MST3K - Mitchell10:01

Best of MST3K - Mitchell

I have two distinct first memories of MST3K. The first one was during a family Spring Cleaning of our house. While we were cleaning the TV was on and once I figured out what was going on I thought it was fantastic. It didn’t really become a regular thing for me until later when my buddy and I would go out drinking and we’d return to his place and I’d settle in to the “room that always spins” and it seemed that MST3K was always on tv when we’d get home those nights. That was really when I got hooked and started watching regularly.

RiffWiki: Same question, only with RiffTrax and the resurgence of movie riffing after MST3K's second cancellation.

I guess I heard about Rifftrax on the interwebs and checked it out. I really didn’t care for the whole process of syncing up the movies and MP3 files so I didn’t really see a lot of their stuff until they started releasing the complete riffs with the movies. Since then I loved a lot of what those guys are up to. Seeing Cinematic Titanic a few times live was cool too. We’d already been doing live shows for years so it was cool to see those guys working more loosely and interacting with the audience and such.

RiffWiki: As anybody who has even attempted to riff a movie and make it presentable knows that this is a medium that you MUST have a passion for in order to take it up. What was it that made you decide to try your hand at it?

Cineprov2
I’d always been a smart ass and tended to have a really quick mind for stuff like this. Friends would hate watching movies with me because I’d almost always start to make fun of them while we watched. Yes, I have been asked to leave a friends house a time or two. I remember going to see Mortal Kombat in the theater with a couple buddies and we just started cracking jokes in the back row for ourselves and by the middle of the movie other people in the audience were laughing along with us so I knew this was for me. After we did a run through of Star Trek 4 with Joel Hodgson who appeared with us last year he called me a “natural born movie riffer”, which is pretty much the best compliment a person can get.

RiffWiki: How do you go about selecting which movies you riff? Is there a criteria, method, or is it a seat-of-your-pants kinda thing?

It used to be very seat of our pants when we were a very small operation entertaining tens of people a month at improv theaters. Don’t tell anyone but we never used to bother getting licensing for the movies we would show. Then I guess some intern at Lucasfilms saw we were doing the Star Wars movies and we got a really cool cease and desist letter from a law firm. Since then we have a licensing deal for the movies we show so we’re all on the up and up now. We tend to go for movies people have heard of. Lots of the action movies from the 80’s work great for us, such as Top Gun or Independence Day. Things like that. We’ve been working our way through the Twilight series (god help us), and we have two more of those left to get through. We used to do the show weekly so we had a broader selection and we’d sprinkle in more public domain flicks and things like that. Now that we are monthly we tend to stick to more blockbuster-y titles.

RiffWiki: Your show's name seems to indicate that the nature of your riffing rooted in improvisation. Is this a correct assumption? And in either case, how much of the show is "planned" as opposed to how much is total improv?

Cineprov presents Molly Grows Up14:24

Cineprov presents Molly Grows Up

That is correct that the show is definitely rooted in improv. We moved into the Plaza Theater 2 and a half years ago which is an actual movie theater and is quite awesome. I always envisioned the show at the Plaza and when Mike Furlinger bought the place he got the concept and welcomed us there. So since we’ve moved there we take the show much more seriously now and we do a run through for the movie the week of the show but it’s still primarily improvised. We find the run through useful for us to just kind of know when to shut up and let the movie breath or we might find a running gag that will work. In the old days we wouldn’t do any prep at all which is how we ended up with our Thanksgiving disaster a few years ago. We thought it would be funny to riff Last of the Mohicans but we didn’t realize it was almost three hours long and had about 12 lines of dialogue. That was a rough one. We found it really funny when Joel joined us because he had some worries about going into the show without a script but we did a run though together and it turned out great. It was like he’d been riffing with us for years and was an awesome experience for all of us.

RiffWiki: What was the atmosphere like on your first show? Was there a lot of anxiety in trying this for the first time in front of an audience?

Cineprov presents As Boys Grow16:18

Cineprov presents As Boys Grow

I wasn’t worried actually. I’d been up on a stage in front of people for a while so sitting behind them with microphones wasn’t a worry for us. Also there were a lot of our friends in the audience that night so that helped. Plus when you pick a movie called Undertaker and His Pals to open with you really can’t go wrong.

RiffWiki: How would you describe the chemistry and dynamics between yourself and the rest of the cast? How difficult, if at all, is it to blend your style with the style of those who are performing with you?

We’ve all been together for a few years now so we have a pretty good sense of playing off of each other. We know our strengths and weaknesses at this point. All of us being MST3K fans and watchers helps too since there’s a definite rhythm to the joke telling that develops throughout the shows.

RiffWiki: Speaking of riffing with others, there are very few people out there who can say they've riffed alongside any MST3K alumni, let alone the creator of the medium, Joel Hodgson. How did that come about, what was it like and did it at all bring a sense of validation to this endeavor?

250px-Joelr

Joel

It came about quite easily which surprised me. I’d met Joel and the rest of the Cinematic Titanic crew a few years earlier at Dragon Con in Atlanta. I went to the Con wearing a Cineprov shirt so I could whore for the show and wanted to meet the gang needless to say. So while I was waiting for Trace to sign something for me, Joel leaned over and was like “Are you the Cineprov Guy? I’ve been on your website and I love your logo”. So knowing that Joel was aware of my little show was pretty awesome. Fast forward to us moving into the Plaza which is a place that we can be proud to show people unlike our previous venues and Joel is touring his Riffing Myself show. So basically I emailed him and proposed that he come to town and do Riffing Myself one night and then sit in with us and riff a movie. He loved the idea and four months later he’s having breakfast in my kitchen and sitting on my sofa riffing Star Trek 4 with us. It was literally like Jimmy Page poking his head in the garage and asking to jam with the band. Mind blowing experience really. Joel is so down to earth and was just awesome to work with.

RiffWiki: We like to put our subjects in the hotseat and force them to make picks. What are your three favorite MST3K episodes, three favorite RiffTrax and three favorite Cineprov! shows?

MST3K- Best of The Final Sacrifice-009:54

MST3K- Best of The Final Sacrifice-0

Fun question. For MST3K I’d say Sword of the Dragon, Mitchell and Final Sacrifice. I do love the MST3K the Movie too. As for Rifftrax I think Cool as Ice is awesome. I really like Planet of Dinosaurs and thought that the Night of the Living Dead was very strong. For our shows obviously Star Trek 4 with Joel is at the top. The third Twilight, whatever the hell it’s called was a really good one. And I’d have to say when we did Showgirls as our Valentine’s Day show. That actually used to be a Cineprov tradition.

RiffWiki: If you could get Mike, Kevin and Bill, or any of the other MST3K alums, to riff a single movie that they have not yet, what would it be and why?

THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS - Trailer ( 1992 )01:53

THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS - Trailer ( 1992 )

That’s a tough one. There are so many movies that deserve the riffing. Maybe Last of the Mohicans so they can feel the pain I felt.

RiffWiki: Thanks so much for talking to us today. We'll end by getting the lowdown on your upcoming show on December 18th. If somebody is in the area, where would they have to go to catch it and what can they expect content-wise once they get there?

Thanks for listening. December 18th is the return of our other tradition. The Cineprov Ruining Childhood Memories Holiday show which was traditionally our last show of every year and was the longest and filthiest show of the year. In the past they were Springsteen-esque in length and would make a sailor blush. We’ve done everything from He Man and She Ra Chistmas special to Elmo Christmas to Star Wars Holiday Special to Nestor. This year we return after a three year hiatus with what promises to be a filthy, funny extravaganza. We will be showing A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus Is Comin To Town. My favorite comment from an audience member was after this show a couple years ago when they came up to me and said, “Never have childhood memories been ruined so brilliantly”. He particularly enjoyed the sticky fur jokes from Rudolph. I felt like we did our job that year! The show is on December 18th at 7:30 at The Plaza Theater located at 1049 Ponce De Leon Ave in Atlanta. We recommend arriving early for this one as we suspect it will sell out. But don’t worry there’s a full bar in the theater and we’re giving away free chocolate treats for all. Tickets are available at the door and you can visit www.cineprov.com for more info and clips of some sex and drug riffs that we recorded.

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