?Mystery Science Theater 3000 was the best show in the history of ever. Okay, that’s just my opinion [Ed’s note: Actually, no, it’s an established fact. -Rob], but I know plenty of people who agree with it. Watching Joel and/or Mike and the ‘bots was a weekly ritual for so many of us for 10 wonderful years. Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic are wonderful, but they don’t fill the void the show left (not enough puppets).
Through the show’s 10 seasons, only a few characters were there for an extended period of time: the host, the bots, the Mads, and their assistants Dr. Erdhardt, TV’s Frank, Bobo, Brain Guy. But in many episodes, some kooky misfit wandered onto the Satellite of Love for a segment or two. Who are some of the best? These guys, that’s who. WARNING: This article is me geeking out and Rob not stopping me, so you might not get all the character and location references. Just repeat to yourself it’s just a TV show, you should really just relax.
12) John Banner
John Banner is an affable man. He even made a Nazi seem affable as Sgt. Schultz in Hogan’s Heroes. And he was so affable as Bavarro, the ruler of some goofy planet in ep. 417 “Crash of the Moons,” it was actually kind of threatening — and which inspired Joel and the ‘Bots to create the Banner-gram, which sent Banner to be nice to anyone. When Banner shows up in the Hexfield Viewscreen (played by Mike Nelson, at 2:40), Joel sends him down to visit Dr. Forrestor, who was not pleased.
11) Leonard Maltin
Given how much grief the MST3K guys gave Leonard Maltin over the years — especially in the Comedy Central finale “Laserblast,” where they derided him for giving the horrible movie two and a half stars — Maltin was super cool to agree to appear later for the “Gorgo” episode in season 9 (at about 4:05). True to form, Maltin praised the British monster movie, which was also pretty horrible. Before you think Maltin was treated unfairly, please know that other movie he gave 2 1/2-stars — so technically movies that are just as good as Laserblast — Amadeus, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, A Fish Called Wanda and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He deserved what he got.
10) Hugh Beaumont
Hugh Beaumont, whose claim to fame was playing the quintessential ’50s sitcom dad in Leave It to Beaver, appeared in two MST movies, and stopped by the Satellite of Love both times: first in season 2’s “Lost Continent,” where he was an extremely caring Horseman of the Apocalypse (Mike Nelson, painted black and white in a black and white set), and season 4’s “The Human Duplicators,” where… where he basically snapped and screamed about his stupid sitcom kids and sexless sitcom marriage. It’s gold.
?He’s the all-purpose utility henchman! Ortega was the silent, bizarrely hamburger-faced assistant in The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies with a costume so easy to recreate that the MST3K gang brought him back again and again. Sometimes he just hangs out, sometimes he helps answer phones at a telethon, but he’s hideously, ludicrously disgusting all the time. On the plus side, it turns out he’s much nicer in real life than the movie makes him out to be.
8) Nummy Muffin Coocol Butter
Hello Kitty only wishes she were this cute. Nummy Muffin Coocol Butter was the little pink animal engineered by the Mads to be the world’s most adorable pet in season 6’s “Colossus and the Headhunters” (first appearing at 3:30). It was so cute that when the Mad shipped it up to the Satellite, TV’s Frank got sick because he missed Nummy Muffin so much — so much, in fact, that he wrote a song about it. By the end of the episode, even Dr. Forrester himself is under Nummy Muffin’s adorable spell. God help us if science ever creates something as cute at Nummy Muffin Coocol Butter.
Oh, Winky. Rocky Jones’ co-pilot in Manhunt in Space (and later Crash of the Moons), lover of ladies, and player of the ukelele, Winky is pretty much everything you’d expect a co-pilot named Winky in a cheap ’50s space serial mushed into a movie to be. He stopped by the SoL to talk about how awesome he was; it didn’t go particularly well (begins at 2:12).
Timmy, or “evil Crow,” is the all-black puppet that’s used to tape the movie segments; a gold figure wouldn’t work as well in silhouette, so a version painted black replaced it in the theater. This Crow eventually made an appearance during the host segments in episode 416, “Fire Maidens from Outer Space,” slithering out from Crow’s shadow after he wished for a friend (see him beginning at 2:52). Timmy begins by whispering evil things to Crow, then menacing Servo, then nearly taking over the ship before Joel saves the day by shooting Timmy out the airlock, Aliens-style.
Every show needs a devil, and Pitch, from episode 521, “Santa Claus,” is one of the best on television. Played by writer Paul Chaplin in a beard, red make-up and big ears, Pitch showed up to do battle with Santa Claus at the end of the episode (at 3:40-ish), just as the two fought in the Mexican children’s film. He was brought back (one of the few callbacks to the Comedy Central shows) during the Sci-Fi Channel run as a salesman of “devil dolls” in the season 8 episode “Devil Doll.” Later in the episode, he helps turn Servo into a toaster pastry with awesome legs.
4) The Holoclowns
After the grim “Being From Another Planet” in season 4, Joel brought in the Holoclowns to cheer up the Bots. Being clowns, they didn’t particularly work. Unfortunately, by the next episode, “Attack of the Giant Leeches,” they still hadn’t gone and wearing really weird, trying to get Gypsy to eat a “salted nut roll” and screaming at each other. You’ll have to watch their appearance here (they’re right after the credits), but it’s very much worth it.
3) Jack Perkins
Slap some make-up on Mike Nelson and voila! You have a passable Jack Perkins, journalist, intellectual extraordinaire and actuall A&E TV personality (althouygh here he’s played by Mike Nelson in a lot of make-up). Jack’s first appearance was as himself, being tortured by the Mads in Episode 310, “Fugitive Alien.” Later, in the second Turkey Day hosting segments, he was a Thanksgiving party guest who got progressively drunker as the evening went on, and even hit on the creepy man/woman Mr. B Natural. He also served as a host for the syndicated “Mystery Science Theater Hour.”
2) Phantom of Krankor
Most MSTies just call him “the chicken guy” because the original character from Prince of Space looked absolutely goofy, with his pointy nose, inexplicable car motor laugh and all. His better appearance was during the interminably dull ’50s Japanese film Invasion of the Neptune Men, which was almost identical to Prince of Space but had about 3000% more mid-air spaceship battles. During the host segment, the Phantom showed up to make some of his usual empty threats for old times’ sake and offer some respite for the beleaguered SoL crew.
Before Mike Nelson took over as host of the show, he was best-known to fans as the creepy, shambling lackey Torgo, break-out “star” of the movie Manos: The Hands of Fate. This episode is considered one of MST3K‘s must-see masterpieces, and Torgo was the perfect character to show up again and again, either as a delivery boy for Torgo’s Pizza, a temporary replacement TV’s Frank, an actor seeking representation, or finally, as Torgo the White, a holy figure who leads Frank to Second Banana Heaven at the end of season 6.