As some of you might know, I’ve been absent from blogging for a couple of weeks because I’ve been busy writing and recording (Mostly writing.) my first iRiff for the Rifftrax web site. For those of you not in the know, let me explain.
In existence since 2006, the site is managed by Mike Nelson, the former head writer and cast member of “Mystery Science Theater 3000”. For the last three years, Nelson (With the help of his former “Mystery Science” cohorts.) has been recording “MST3K” style commentary tracks for big budget Hollywood movies. This past October, they set up a new program called iRiffs where people can create their own rifftraxs and then offer them for sale on the site.
So, I think to myself…”Hmm, I’m a funny guy, I like money…what the hell?”.
Therefore, this past week I finished my first iRiff for “Superman and the Mole-Men”.
Ah, the fifties were a simpler time when a young man from Memphis could drive both teenie boppers and matrons alike coo-coo crazy with a hip swivel. When teenage couples could share a milk shake without having to wear hazmat suits. And when a woman could say “I’m worried about the beaver” on national television and not face a hefty FCC fine.
And from this time of innocence came “Superman and the Mole-Men”. A TV pilot released into theaters. Starring a one time beau of Scarlett O’Hara’s as The Man of Steel and a group of midgets in black footy pajamas as the Mole-Men. THRILL as the filmmakers attempt to deliver an exciting comic book adventure on a Neo-Realist budget. GASP as the filmmakers try to deliver a heavy handed message about tolerance. RECOIL IN HORROR at the girdle like device George Reeves is wearing under his tights. And LAUGH at what your grandparents considered cool as kids.
(This riff was created using the 58 minute theatrical version that can be found on disc four of Warner Brothers Special Edition of “Superman the Movie”.)
I went with “Superman and the Mole-men” because it’s a short movie and I wanted to start with something easy. That’s when I learned the first rule of riffing. NOTHING IS EASY!
Do you know how many pages the script for the riff was? 18.
You know how jokes and/or joke like objects per page? About 20.
That’s close to about four hundred jokes. Or roughly about seven jokes a minute. To make things that much tougher, I was the only one writing the damn things. By day two, I sent out the following tweet.
Imagine my pleasant surprise nine minutes later when I got a reply from the Riffmaster himself!
@TheRagingCelt Stick with it, my friend. The madness will set in and all will be easier.
Needless to say, I did not go mad. But I took enough encouragement from Mr. Nelson’s kind words to push on. And this week, I finally posted the damn thing.
My initial thought on the process:
1) The closest analogy I make about what the process is like is that it’s like creating a medieval tapestry. The film is the warp while the jokes are the weft threads out of which a beautiful pattern will emerge. Or in the case of the iRiff, a pattern of continued laughter.
2) The trick I found to getting though it is to keep the style of humor varied. You can’t make each joke a variant on “man, this movie sucks”. It would be like like hitting the same piano key for two hours straight. All the best MST3K episodes embrace a stream of consciousness vibe. Some of my favorite lines are the ones that seem to barely have any connection to the film save for one image. Example: When a group of men pick up dry brush to set a shed on fire, the line I came up with was “The first little pig hires independent contractors”.
3) Try to remember that whatever film you choose to do, make sure you can at least stand it. Because you will be living with it for a while. During both the writing process and the recording process.
4) Make sure you have an absolute mastery of whatever softwear you are using to record the riff. Because you need to make sure that the riff is properly time coded to sync up to the film. Failing that mastery, you need to record it all in one sitting to get the sync right. If you do this, make sure you have hot tea with lemon at the ready unless you want to go into work the next day sounding like Harvey Fierstein.
5) Make sure that you pick a movie that people may have heard of. This last one may have been the stumbling block. The riff has been posted for five days and I have yet to get a single download. Possibly because I picked an obscure title. (Even though it can be found on Disc Four of Warner Bros four disc edition of “Superman: The Movie” which can be found AT THIS LINK! And since it’s been on the market for close to three years, you’d think they may have moved a few units by now.) Which is why the next film on my list is “Crank”.
Yeah, a caffeinated action thriller where the main character needs to keep his adrenaline level up or he’ll die.
Try and tell me there’s no comedy to be had there.