RiffWiki: Okay, first of all, isn’t it kind of weird to be interviewed on your own wiki?Yeah, I'll admit, I do feel a bit silly doing this. But there are some things ABOUT the wiki that I've been wanting to say ON the wiki, and since the interview feature is by far the most popular and viewed feature here, it seems to be the best place to do it. And since the 2014 RiffTrax Live season is over, and with our six-month "anniversary" coming up, it seems like the best time to do it. I'm not trying to be vain by doing this, it's really more about the wiki than it is about me. …although, yes, I will be talking about myself quite a bit, but hey! If you're not your own biggest fan, why should anybody else be?
RiffWiki: Well, fine. Let's get this train wreck a rollin'. Tell us your dang life story, but don't be all day about it!I was born in Ogden, Utah, but I was raised in rural Weber County, and later, Jerusalem. My father is a Biblical Archeologist and we spent a few years of my childhood and adolescence over in the Holy Land. I did go to high school in Utah, where I ran Track and Cross Country.
I joined the U.S. Army right out of high school and spent 10 years having all kinds of adventures all over the world. I was first assigned to the 10th Combat Support Hospital in Fort Carson, Colorado. Then became a recruiter in Utah when I was only 21, which, looking back on it, I had no business doing, but I had a great time doing it. After that I deployed twice to Iraq as part of the 226th Medical Logistics Battalion, and spent my final three years at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Chemical Defense, which has quite an interesting history.
Since I left the Army in 2010, I have been using my GI Bill benefits to earn degrees in Graphic Design from a "college" that shares a parking lot with a Red Lobster and a Comfort Inn. I have also written three novels, which are available on the Amazon Kindle. I love them all, but if you can only choose one, I would recommend The Tumbleweed Dossier. It's about aliens abducting vampires, so it's definitely the best.
RiffWiki: When did you first become aware of Mystery Science Theater 3000?I will point the finger at my older sister, Casi, for this. Her first job was at Blockbuster Video, and she came home one day with Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie , and we watched it together, and it was a damn near life changing experience. After that, I would catch MST3K as often as I could on the Sci-Fi Channel, often after track meets, so it became part of my race-day routine in High School. On both weekday AND weekend races. I have distinct memories of coming home from a not-so-great weekend race and catching Riding With Death, and it turned my mood completely around. While I am fond of quite a few episodes from Comedy Central, my institutional memory of MST3K comes almost completely from the Sci-Fi episodes, which coincidentally has the exact same lineup as RiffTrax.
RiffWiki: Same question, only with RiffTrax.I remember HEARING about RiffTrax when I was in Iraq in 2006, but I was kinda busy at the time and didn't really get around to checking it out then. My first real experience with RiffTrax was in 2008. It was Christmas, and I was going into my final year in the Army, so I didn't go anywhere and I was bored. I had some MST3K episodes on DVD and I remembered that I had been meaning to check out RiffTrax for a while. So I went to the website, bought The Dark Knight commentary, and after consuming that with glee, I realized I had discovered my new all-consuming obsession.
RiffWiki: What was it that made you want to start the RiffWiki?It really started with a desire to somehow contribute to the RiffTrax community in some meaningful way. I had been using my RiffTrax fan art to help develop my skills and style as a designer for about a year when I thought "I could be doing more. I WANT to do more, but what?" So I came up with an idea for a movie about the riffing phenomenon called "RiffLife." I partnered up with a local film producer who was very enthusiastic about the project, and we developed the concept for about six weeks before finally launching with a Kickstarter campaign back in January 2014. But, as most things go with independent film, there were some behind-the-scenes goings-ons that I don't really want to get into that contributed to the project failing to make its funding goal. It was discouraging, but I wouldn't trade that experience for anything because it taught me quite a few important lessons.
Even though the movie didn't get funded, I still had a desire to do something, ANYTHING that would be of value that I could pour all my RiffTrax fandom efforts into. And for a long time I had been dumbfounded by the lack of a RiffTrax wiki on Wikia. There just seemed to be this big gaping hole there where RiffTrax should be, but wasn't. Then one day in June, I realized that the reason that there wasn't a RiffTrax wiki was because I hadn't made it yet and that it would never exist unless I built it. "Really," I said to myself. "Nobody else is gonna do that!" So I decided that I would redirect all my fandom efforts into building a top-notch wiki. My background in design helps a lot, but I think that liking the product I'm writing about so much is an even bigger advantage.
I also wanted this to be a RiffTrax wiki, not an MST3K wiki. Firstly, that already exists, it is what it is and I'll just leave it at that. Secondly, and probably more importantly, MST3K ended 15 years ago. I say this with all the respect and love in the world for MST3K, but it's in the past. I've gotten in trouble a couple of times for suggesting this, but RiffTrax, quite frankly, is doing things in 2014 that dwarf things MST3K was doing in 1999 and far more relevant in terms of movie riffing. I feel like it is time for RiffTrax to move out of MST3K's shadow and stand on its own merits and accomplishments, because, as the demons said unto the Lord, they are Legion.
RiffWiki: What is your favorite aspect of being the RiffWiki "Editor-in-Chief?"It's definitely the interviews. A year ago, if you had told me that I would have gotten to communicate extensively with Matthew J. Elliott, Cole Stratton, Greg Sestero, Janet Varney, Conor Lastowka, Sean Thomason, Robyn Paris and Alan Bagh to name a few, I would have said "uh… what? Why? How?" And it isn't just the riffers, writers and stars associated with RiffTrax and riffed movies. I got to interview Rick Sloane, director of Hobgoblins, for hell's sake! Who even does that anymore? Well, we did, and it was awesome! I have also gotten to know several awesome and interesting iRiffers because of this project. Ronin Fox and Vamperica have one of the best Riff-related love stories ever, and we got to tell that story here. Our interviews with Rikk Wolf, k1 & k2, The Slashers, the cast of Cinester Theater, Ice on Mars and more were all so much fun that I wish I could just talk about them longer, but if I did that, this interview would just go on and on and on. Just go read those interviews. They're the bomb-diggity, yo.
RiffWiki: Speaking of iRiffers, talk a bit about the RiffWiki's policy is regarding iRiffs.This is actually one of the biggest reasons I set up the wiki. I never used to be a big consumer of iRiffs until about two years ago when I started sampling Ronin Fox Trax, OneWallCinema and Ice on Mars. And I realized that there are other riffing troupes out there that have a lot of potential and are using their own creative skills to make riffs of movies that would have otherwise gone unriffed. I gotta say, it's a vast community out there, and the iRiff side of the RiffTrax site wasn't very user friendly at the time, although that is going to change shortly because of the massive RiffTrax.com redesign. Don't get me wrong, RiffTrax did good by giving iRiffers that platform, but that side of the website was a nightmare to navigate and discover new riffs that you otherwise wouldn't know about.
Here's my policy on iRiff shows on the wiki. We want them here. Hell, we consider it a central feature of the wiki. But it is the iRiffer's responsibility to build their own presence. I have personally built skeleton pages for about twenty or so iRiff shows, mine included, and featured them on the front page. If you've been overlooked and want me to set up a skeleton page for your show and feature you with the rest on the front page, all you gotta do is ask and I'll hook you up. If you need help, I'm more than willing to set you on your way. If you make a mess, chances are I or somebody else will come in and clean things up as best we can. I monitor all the RiffWiki creation activity and will probably see every single page within a day or so after creation. I'm gonna do everything in my power to make anybody who wants to use it to promote their product to look good. That being said, if you wanna be here you actually have to be here. I think Ronin Fox Trax, OneWallCinema and Ghosts on the Big Brown Couch have all done excellent jobs in building their presence and newcomers can learn quite a bit from what they have done.
RiffWiki: What can we expect from the RiffWiki in the future?
We're gonna continue to build the wiki, of course. We've gotten the vast majority of RiffTrax pages up, and right now I am personally concentrating on the MST3K pages from Seasons 8 – 10. I know earlier I said this was a RiffTrax wiki, and I stand by every word of that. Although I feel like those particular seasons deserve a place over other seasons because they feature work from the exact same lineup as RiffTrax's (Mike, Kevin and Bill,) and are as relevant to the wiki as, say, the riffs they did for The Film Crew.
We haven't yet started working on any of the shorts, and I'll take the hit for that one. In the last six months we have been focusing on the main entries because they have more information readily available to import. The shorts are gonna take quite a bit more work, but we're gonna try to make it happen. At the very least we'll get some pages up for some of the longer shorts like Setting Up a Room, David and Hazel and This is Hormel.
We're also very excited about some interviews we're hoping to get back and put up in the near future. I don't wanna mention any names right now, but they are three VERY big names in the riffing world. Hint, hint, wink, wink and so on.
RiffWiki: Talk about your own riffs for a bit. What was it that made you want to try your own hand at riffing?Oh man, what a pain in the ass that can be! I mean, yeah, I really do love all my own riffs, but make no mistake, riffing a movie is A LOT OF WORK! I wanted to riff something because I wanted to know if I could be any good at it. I first tried my hand at riffing a couple of shorts back in 2011, and they were just okay. I riffed a cartoon called Playful Polar Bears and an educational short called How to Keep a Job, which RiffTrax later riffed themselves. But it took me a lot longer to finally hunker down and riff and entire movie. There was a two-month period in 2013 where I was in between terms at "college," and I literally had nothing to do. I was bored, and what better motivation is there to actually get off your ass and do something?
I selected Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter as SRD's Movie Night's inaugural full length riff, and it took me about two weeks to "write" and record it. Now, this might give some people a heart attack, but I did not watch the movie OR write a script for my riffs. I know that this works for everybody else, and I'm not saying I'm better than they are. Far from it. I find that I work better off the cuff for my style of riffing, but I rarely leave in first takes. I take several takes of jokes and riffs that I come up with until I get it just right, and sometimes that can take twenty minutes depending on the complexity of the joke. And more times than not, ones that take that long, I usually end up ditching when I do my final edit. And not knowing what is going to happen keeps the process interesting. For Jesse James, a good day of recording resulted in 10 minutes of new material, and on less-than-great days I didn't even record two full minutes. It took two solid weeks to complete the riff from start to finish. In the first five minutes of the riff, you can tell that I'm trying to find my footing and making jokes that I think I should be making that maybe are more common in RiffTrax and iRiff shows. But as things progressed, I found my own voice and allowed myself to actually BE myself and not try to be something else. It has it's flaws, but as a whole I think Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter is one of the greatest creative achievements in my life so far.This past summer I recorded The Alphabet Conspiracy, and it only took me about four days. It was less than an hour long, so I put my shorts from 2011 on the front of it to pad the whole thing out. I like it a lot, but I think I can do better. I have wanted to do another riff this year, but it doesn't look like that's gonna happen. In 2015 I'll make an effort to record more than a single riff to build my library and improve my riffing abilities. Both riffs are available in their entirety FOR FREE on YouTube and on Archive.org. Be sure to check them out, why not? You can find the links or watch them right from their pages here on the RiffWiki.
RiffWiki: Now you gotta make your picks. What are your top three favorite episodes of MST3K, top three favorite RiffTrax and top three favorite iRiffs?Everybody always complains that this is hard, but now that I have to do it my dang self, I have to agree with them. The top three MST3K episodes are easy, though. Time Chasers, Hobgoblins and The Final Sacrifice.
iRiffs? Had this been a year ago, it would be very different. But this year's entry for Ronin Fox Trax blew their other two contenders (The Wizard of Oz and Masters of the Universe) out of the water. So for them, I gotta go with Freddy's Dead. I'm also a HUGE fan of Ice on Mars' riff of Star Trek: Voyager's pilot episode, Caretaker. The last slot has to go to ICWXP's episode that features The Great American Chocolate Factory. Although I gotta mention the very close runner up, which is OneWallCinema's musical riff of Burn-E. Had it been a full-length riff, a requirement I am enforcing on myself in this regard, it would definitely have made the cut.
RiffTrax… Gosh, there are so many. I'm gonna have to go with The Dark Knight for number three because that what opened me up to the new possibilities of the medium.Number Two has to go to The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1. IF there is a flawless riff, this is it. It's the writing staff at their creative best and Mike, Kevin and Bill at their performing best. I would daresay that their argument while Bella is being transformed into a vampire followed by the "commentary" over the credits defines comedic excellence. It's absolute perfection. It's a rare thing to behold such excellence in comedy.
But the number one spot HAS to go to House on Haunted Hill. I had never seen that movie before, and I was so engaged in the plot AND the riff, that I felt like I was actually experiencing the movie with them as if it were their first time as well. It's a rare thing be engaged in both the plot of the movie being riffed and the movie itself on an equal level, and it just gelled so perfectly that I could not stop thinking about it for hours.
RiffWiki: If you could get Mike, Kevin and Bill to riff one movie, what would it be?My choice would have to be The Ten Commandments. Now before you get your pitchforks, let me explain my damn self! I mentioned earlier that my father is a Biblical Archeologist. He is also a professor at Brigham Young University, and when we lived in Israel he was a member of the faculty at their Jerusalem campus. Part of his job was to take students down to Mt. Sinai as part of their Old Testament curriculum. Before they would take the trip they would watch The Ten Commandments in this huge auditorium they have there. I attended this viewing several times, and I also went with my father to Mt. Sinai on several occasions, so the film had a huge impact on my life. But TTC has a few things working against it. 1. It's longer than Titanic and The Return of the King. 2. They rarely do MP3 commentaries anymore, and I don't blame them a bit for that. And 3. The appeal of such a release would be limited, so it might take an act of God for it to actually happen. But if it DID happen… well, it would be pretty damn sweet.