Read an Excerpt
(NOTE: During the sweltering summer of 1993, after numerous requests by Comedy Central, we hand-picked thirty of our best shows and converted them into two-part, one-hour episodes. The result of our work was The Mystery Science Theater Hour, hosted by Mike Nelson as the affable "Your Host," which Mike so beautifully describes below. )
As the host of The Mystery Science Theater Hour, people approach me all the time and say, "Excuse me, where are the bathrooms?" (You see, it's just this kind of joke writing that makes MST3K the Peabody Award-winning show that it is). Actually, people want to know who that annoying old host is and why, why in heaven's name did we choose him? Well the secret's out--I'm proud to say that annoying old host is me! Okay, it's not actually a secret. My name's been in the credits as the host since the beginning, it's just that no one ever watched that far. But I kid The Mystery Science Theater Hour.
The idea for the Host of the MST3K60m was born out of the writers' deep and enduring love for a cloying, tweedy, septuagenarian by the name of Jack Perkins. Jack is, of course, your warm and affable tour guide through the sun-dappled libraries and the impossibly ladder-cluttered back stages of the cable channel A&E. He is a perfectly tailored, impeccably manicured, impossibly dignified old bird, whose on-screen mien suggests an inconceivably rich family and social life. The plangent tones of his voice seem to interact with the complex surfaces of an ox-blood wing-tip, the sound diffusing and abffusing, becoming ever more engaging, more amiable, invitingly sagacious. Jack is all soft tweed, supple leather, and a whiff of peaty single-malt.
Do not get the impression that Jack is stuffy. Far from it. Jack is equally comfortable enthusing on Blue Man Group as Gainsborough's Blue Boy. His knowledge of entertainment is vast, his love for it, illimitable.
I met Jack Perkins in 1991 outside the Universal Hilton in Los Angeles. He couldn't have been warmer as he asked me in essence, "Who are you, and what do you want from me?" I told him I had impersonated him on a television show. He told me he had never seen or heard of our show. I explained it. He nodded and looked at his watch. I walked away feeling like a boob. Jack walked away and continued weaving the rich, varied tapestry of his endlessly fascinating life. I imagine he discussed American Buffalo with David Mamet over biscotti and strong coffee. I had a couple of Ice beers and fell asleep in front of Bloodsport III in my hotel room.
Well, we may not be able to share in life's rich bounty with quite the same joie de vivre as Mister Perkins, but we sure as heck can make fun of him on our puppet show. Jack doesn't have a puppet show. Poor dumb clod. Hey Perkins, right here, pal!! HAAAA!!! Stupid idiot. Hey Perkins, I like your crappy restaurant chain, you stupid jerk!! Haa haa haaaaaa!!! Dumb bastard.
I hope I my little lucubration on our thought process regarding the selection of a host for the Mystery Science Theatre Hour has been helpful. Now if I could take a moment and explain the make-up procedure.
I would arrive at the Channel 11 studio in Golden Valley 14 hours before the scheduled start! But all the doors were locked and I wasn't scheduled to start make-up for another 9 hours. So I'd go back home and go to sleep. I did this every time we shot, which was six times over a couple of months. I would then return to the studio where I would be barred entrance until, with enough identification and a dozen or so phone calls, they established my identity and I was grudgingly allowed to pass.
Crack make-up artist Crist Ballas and crack other make-up artist Glen would begin by applying a thick, highly toxic coat of naphtha right to my face, with special attention to the nostrils and mucus membranes in the mouth. Crist claimed it was make-up, but I knew.
Then he would get his specially designed Stinky Glue out of the refrigerator where he had it chilling so it was more uncomfortable. Tacky layers of this were then applied directly to my hair until the mistake was discovered and scissors and petroleum distillates were used to extract it. It was re-applied to the perimeter of my huge, expressionless face and a bald cap was put in place. It was discovered early on that my body is a thermal wonder, able to produce 300,000 BTU's consistently. This played hell with the bald cap, causing unwanted wrinkles, so it was anchored further down my back (right above my calves) and held in place with several bottles of Stinky Glue. If I lost concentration, my head would snap back alarmingly and union stage hands were hired at great expense to return my head to its normal position.
With the bald cap in place, Crist and Glen were free to begin applying more class-A carcinogens to my face and neck. Rubbery smelling make-ups and pungent suspensions were daubed, blotted and brushed on. Foul unguents and mephitic salves were poured into my ears and eyes. Latex things were adhesed to me. Finally, I was the host.
I was also very hot. My head was hermetically sealed and I was wearing a thick wool suit. It was the middle of summer and fire hydrants were melting. Luckily, the shoots were only 12 hours long. But we got a lunch break. It was very difficult to eat with all that make-up on, and one afternoon, while eating a chewy hoagie, I discovered I was also masticating my crepe-hair mustache.
But finally the end would come. Getting the make-up off was relatively easy. It was simply pulled off, taking most of my hair with it. The remainder was melted with copious amounts of citrus degreaser (this is absolutely true) that was scooped onto my face and left to sit for 20 minutes. Mmmm. At days end, my face and back were hairless, red and stinging. But we had done our puppet show proud.
Looking back on the MST3K60m, I remember the good times. The hot, stinky, sweaty, poisonous and sore times. I hope that's how you remember them, too.