I’m a huge fan of RiffTrax . If you’re not familiar, it’s a thing where three Mystery Science Theater 3000 alumni have banded together to produce downloadable commentary tracks for movies. They’ve been at it since 2006, and have done over 100 feature films, and a ludicrous quantity of shorts (of which ” Drugs Are Like That ” remains my absolute favorite).
In 2008 they launched a thing called ” iRiffs ,” where other people can sell commentaries through their site. iRiffs are all over the place of course, but a few really excellent ones have emerged too. I really like Cinester Theater ‘s riffs of the Back to the Future trilogy and Total Recall , and Blame Society has also done some top-tier stuff. Riff Raff Theater ‘s crowdsourced riffing has also produced some great riffs. More recently Team Four Star (the guys who mainly do Dragon Ball Z fandubs) put out a richly-deserverd iRiff of Dragonball Evolution .
Not unlike with RPGs, with riffs I see a dearth of anime/Japanese stuff, which got me motivated to try my hand at it. I recruited my friend Mike Mallon to help with the project, since in my experience solo riffs just aren’t as good, even when Mike Nelson is doing them. Mike Mallon is one of those people who can barely stand to be serious for five minutes, and for a while did he did a “Great Teacher Largo” panel at various anime conventions, where he would basically do in-character improv comedy for an hour at a stretch. For me watching YouTube videos of the GTL panels from FanimeCon is surreal because it’s the exact same humor he throws around in everyday life, so to me it doesn’t feel like an act exactly. There’s a certain kind of internet humor that he’s immersed in and really grasps in a way that I struggle to keep up with. He can also do the Group X voice pretty much perfectly.
While MST3K concentrated on obscure, terrible movies, RiffTrax has let Mike Nelson and company take a crack at big, mainstream titles that beg to be mocked. For both ventures (not to mention Joel Hodgson’s excellent Cinematic Titanic ) I’ve found that what makes a movie good for riffing isn’t being bad exactly, but being ridiculous, especially if it does so with an air of self-importance. That’s why the RiffTrax of movies like 300 and Avatar turned out so great, while the riff of Daredevil was so-so. It’s also why our riff project is going to be of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children . It’s a fun, entertaining movie, but it also treats most everything as Serious Business.
I don’t expect to make much of any money from this–iRiffs are a niche within a niche after all–but it’s been a fun project to work on so far. Plus, maybe between our respective followings Mike and I can at least get some people to give it a chance. Last night we gave the movie a once-through, and it highlighted how different our styles of humor are. Mike is incredibly spontaneous, while I have to craft and script things more often than not. 20 minutes messing around with Wikipedia gives me a couple of solid sentences of joke, while Mike effortlessly comes up with these amazing running gags. From here the plan is to get heavily into the writing, and after that we’ll be getting into recording and editing, for which I’m going to have to buy some equipment (which fortunately will be useful for podcasting too).