Today's interview is with writer Molly Hodgdon. Watch as we poke and prod into seeing what goes into writing for RiffTrax from the standpoint of contributing writer.RiffWiki: Now, there are probably a few people out there who don't know who you are, and I mean that in the best way. Give us the rundown of Molly Hodgdon, if you would. Tell us your life story and be quick about it!
Molly Hodgdon: I’m a native Vermonter and still live in Northern Vermont with my boyfriend and our pets: cats Magpie and Bea and little tortoise Chester. I’m a writer and I’ve been a contributing writer for Rifftrax since 2014.
RiffWiki: What was it that made you become a writer, especially a writer of comedic things. It can't be for the money, because we all know we don't get rich doing this, so it must be something that drives you from within or without to do what you do.
MH: Comedy writing happened completely by accident. I started a twitter account in 2008 and then immediately forgot about it because nothing seemed to be going on there. Sometime in 2013 I rediscovered it when it got more popular and I started posting the jokes and nonsense that pop into my head there. It felt like I was just talking to myself but I liked how it made me turn and craft thoughts in my head so I kept doing it. I was really surprised when I started accumulating followers — complete strangers! — who seemed to think I was funny and creative. That has continued to grow and I’ve had amazing professional and personal relationships spring from it. Twitter can be a petrie dish for the worst kinds of vile human bacteria, but it has also given me a lot and made me a better writer. All of this was happening while I was going to grad school to get my M.S. in criminology. So it has created a strange but not unpleasant balance of dark and light elements in my life.RiffWiki: Do you remember when you first discovered MST3K? Did it have a significant impact on you?
MH: I do remember. I didn’t have cable when I was growing up so I didn’t see it until I was 18, which would’ve been around 1996. I was spending the night at a friend’s house and was channel surfing after everyone else had gone to sleep. I stopped on what I thought was a terrible old sci-fi movie because I love B movies. Then, of course, I noticed there were these silhouette dudes talking over it and I was confused but intrigued. Then came the laughing. Laughing SO HARD. I was jamming blankets in my mouth with tears streaming down my face because I was trying to be quiet and not wake everyone else up. The next morning my stomach muscles felt like I had been pummeled by a boxer from laughing so hard. I loved it so much, but at the time I was somewhat transient and had no regular access to cable to seek out more of it. It wasn’t until a few years later that I really got into it and realized the depth and breadth of the culture and fandom.
RiffWiki: Same question, only with RiffTrax.
MH: For some reason I didn’t hear about Rifftrax until they started doing live shows with Fathom Events. My boyfriend and I would see something called “Rifftrax” on our local movie theater marquis, hear friends talking about a new thing by some of the MST3K people, and eventually we put those pieces together and went to a live show. It was Birdemic and of course we nearly died from laughing.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?
MH: No, I didn’t seek it out at all. In 2014, about a year or so after I had started using twitter again, Bill Corbett started following me and sent me a direct message asking if I would be interested in auditioning for them. That was totally bizarre. I was sure it had to be a prank or something. Bill Motherflipping Corbett contacting me out of nowhere with this invitation. I tried the audition thinking there was no way I’d get it because I had no experience with this kind of writing and still didn’t think of myself as a funny person. But I did it right, I guess, because I’m honored to be still with them today. I’d say it’s like a dream come true but I never actually would’ve had a dream this big. It’s wonderful.
RiffWiki: What's the writing process like? Writing a riff script has to be one of the most unique forms of writing there is. What are the advantages and disadvantages to having such a niche product as far as writing goes?
MH: The writing was quite tedious at first but I guess I’ve gotten used to it. Usually we each get a 10 minute chunk of a film (or smaller pieces of shorts), then you just write your chunk. I don’t know how everyone else does it but I go through and write up all of the time cues I want to use — places where there’s a decent pause into which I can interject a joke. Then it’s like completing a puzzle. Go through one by one and fill in all those slots! I tend to go from beginning to end but will skip around a little if I feel stuck. A disadvantage might be that if I do get really stuck it can be difficult to try to workshop a solution with other people, even other writers. There are many rules to riff writing that don’t apply to other forms, so other people’s suggestions might be very funny but are unusable because they violate one of those hundred little rules. I don’t mean that the Rifftrax guys are fussy or dictatorial at all, it’s just the way they have to be written in order to work. I think a big advantage is that it has made me a better writer. When you have to turn out a certain number of short jokes per minute based the limited premises of whatever movie you’re doing, that has great potential to make writing painfully stale. Doing this has forced me to be more creative, choose my words more effectively, and just really be a better writer in general.RiffWiki: What was the most fun you ever had writing something for RiffTrax?
MH: I love most of the movies we do so I almost always have fun working on them. I think it’s a common misperception that we hate the movies. Sometimes that’s true, but I’m more likely to hate big movies like Jurassic World rather than something like Time Chasers. Smaller, independent horror, action, and sci fi movies are more likely to have genuine passion and heart and I love them for it.
RiffWiki: How much input do you have? Can/have you suggested anything that may or may not have been riffed to date?
MH: I don’t think I’ve ever suggested anything. I guess I figure I don’t know anything about their needs business-wise and all the legal rights-acquisition stuff so I just stay out of it.
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?
MH: Yeah, definitely. I mean the whole situation in general is beyond belief. I can’t really put into words what an honor it is to be a small part of the whole MST3K/Rifftrax legacy and can’t believe my luck has held out for this long. And there have certainly been real life situations that seemed like I must’ve actually been in a coma having a crazy dream. Like going to a party at Bill’s house with Frank Conniff, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy, and Mary Jo Pehl there. And everyone is so kind and gracious, really exactly everything you would hope they’d be. It can be terrifying to meet people you admire because if they’re jerks it has the potential to ruin their work for you. But everyone I’ve met associated with Rifftrax has been incredibly good hearted and generous of spirit.RiffWiki: I had the opportunity to attend RiffTrax Live: Mothra in Nashville this past summer, and it really was one of the most amazing nights of my whole life, and it's hard to tell people what it's like to be in that environment, which is why I'm asking somebody else to do it for me. Have you been to RiffTrax Live in Tennessee or Minneapolis, and if so, what's that experience like?
MH: I’ve been to the live shows in both Nashville and Minneapolis and they’re pretty amazing. At the Nashville one Conor took my boyfriend and I on a tour behind the scenes and we got to see the sets, the green room, the incredibly complicated high tech AV van stuff. The first time I went to one I felt like I was going to throw up as my section of the script approached. I was afraid nobody was going to laugh. But they did laugh and it was beyond gratifying. It’s such a rich communal experience for fans. You see tons of costumes and in-jokes and references on t-shirts. The fandom is intensely loving, not just of Rifftrax but of each other.
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?
MH: Hmm. I would say Cool As Ice, Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (the live version with Jack and the Beanstalk), and Guy From Harlem.RiffWiki: If you could impose your will onto Mike, Kevin and Bill, which movie would you personally choose to have them riff?
MH: I think the 1970 film The Wizard of Gore by Herschell Gordon Lewis. Really any Herschell Gordon Lewis would be great but Wizard of Gore is especially slow and confusing with cartoonishly fake gore effects. I’ve watched it several times and if you can make it all the way to the end you feel like you’re losing your mind.
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.
Nothing specific to plug! If anyone wants to find me I’m on twitter @Manglewood.