Texas Tech University

Honors College to Offer Mystery Science Theater Class

Karin Slyker

July 13, 2017


The course, taught by pop-culture librarian Rob Weiner, begins in August.

Mystery Science Theater 3000
"Mystery Science Theater 3000" debuted in 1988 and ran for 11 seasons.

The show is self-described as a "human torture experiment more entertaining than anyone could have predicted," and this fall "Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K)" will be available as a course in the Honors College.

The original series premiered in 1988 and featured show creator Joel Hodgson as a man shot into space and forced to watch bad movies, while a mad scientist and his crony monitored his mind. To keep his sanity, Joel built a cast of robot sidekicks whose wisecracks and quips often resulted in hilarity.

MST3K ran for 11 seasons and became one of the most beloved cult television shows of all time. A Kickstarter campaign funded "Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return," a 12th season that recently premiered on Netflix to entertain a whole new generation of fans.

The class, taught by humanities and popular-culture librarian Rob Weiner, offers students an opportunity to gain a new perspective on this unique genre.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return
A Kickstarter campaign funded a 14 episode Netflix reboot in 2017, called "Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return."

"MST3K is an example of a mashup, which takes one piece of art and combines it with another," said Weiner. "The series features B-movies enhanced through riffing."

Riffing is a monologue or spoken improvisation on a particular subject. In this case, the characters make commentary or jokes based upon what they see on the screen before them.

"MST3K did not create riffing, but it contributed to its modern-day popularity," Weiner said. "The style is popular on YouTube and especially Twitch, a website dedicated to riffing. There you'll find bloggers who play video games while chatting and making fun, narrating their every move."

The class also will discuss the art of the movie-going experience, what makes something iconic and what it means to be funny. In Weiner's opinion, clean comedy is the hardest to write. Therefore, his students will be challenged to write and perform a riff of their own.

"Students who may have only heard of " Mystery Science Theater' from their parents are now doing rigorous research while critically analyzing its production, lensing and audience," said Aliza Wong, associate dean of the Honors College. "What Mr. Weiner does is take what we deem " popular culture' and turn it into intellectual culture. His enthusiasm is infectious."

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