Monday, May 09, 2005
MYSTERY STREAMING THEATER
In the spirit of Crow and Tom Servo, government propoganda and corporate cornball get a weekly gauntlet run of in-world wiseassery...
The place: rooftop of the Elbow Room bar in Mare (100,44), last Wednesday.
The targets: government and corporate films from the 50s and 60s, including "American Women: Partners in Research", a tribute to the influence of housewives in the creation of coffee percolators, and "Innocent Party", fear-based edutainment on the perils of contracting STDs, along with an unidentified science fiction film featuring a mad scientist and a woman's head.
The players: your acerbic host Elex the Bartender, assorted bar patrons, Hamlet Linden, a blue dragon, and cyborg counter-terrorist agent J.C. Denton from Deus Ex.
The object: Sixty minutes of abject ridicule, in-jokes, political satire, silly risque, and no-prisoners, free-fire sarcasm.
Highlights below, followed by a behind-the-scenes from head wit Elex Dusk...
"Back to the cone."
"I love this cone."
"He must have used prim torture to get that shape."
"And remember...we're not saying that it's un-American to avoid
percolators. We're just watching, that's all."
"Buy me something that takes away the savage despair of my life,
"New, these may LOOK identical...but if you want to please your
man, you must pick out the fake within 4 seconds. 3... 2..."
"We replaced Mrs. Crosby's coffee pot with this handful of razors.
Let's see if she notices."
"Paris and Nicole of the 50's."
"Even back then, the film industry cast 35-year-olds as high
"No, ma'am. We don't want a table. We want a by-the-hour room."
"Joanie Loves Crotchy"
"Say, your nipples are hard!"
“I used to play MST3K: The Home Game on Internet Relay Chat,” Elex Dusk tells me. “We'd all tune to the same cable channel at the same time and MiST away.” When he came to Second Life, the video streaming function wasn’t available, so the idea of creating an in-world tribute to the beloved public access-cum-Comedy Central cult classic came later.
“Like a lot of people,” Elex says, “I arrived with the
intention of building and scripting but got totally sidetracked by the social
elements of the game.” The addition of Quicktime
streaming enabled him to merge both pursuits, in a way. “Once I figured out how to ‘sync’ people
without a multi-cast stream I knew we could successfully play Home Game,” he
says. “Less than 24 hours later I was hosting [it] within Second Life.”
Elex doesn’t charge admission, and instead leaves out a donation jar, so audience members can tip, if they’re inclined. “Though attendance and tips always vary, as of May 1st we had done fifteen ‘episodes’ and my patrons have been very generous.” (Meaning, paradoxically enough, that Elex Dusk’s guests pay him for the opportunity to entertain each other.) “It works for a number of reasons,” he says. “Movies are a low-prim activity. It's a no-money event. The entire audience and the host can participate. And there's no voting.”
To find these films, Elex riffles through archive.org, looking
for old movies so bad that they scream comedy goldmine.
“All of these films are old educational shorts or
corporate-made training films that have lapsed into the public domain,” he
says. “To put together an episode of
four shorts, I have to watch about twelve films.” From there, it’s a matter of taking individual movie URLs and pasting them into his property. “[P]eople ‘buffer’ (download enough to start
playing), then I ‘sync’ us by stopping and then restarting. They're incredibly
small files for digital video, typically one megabyte equals one minute.” So while other film proprietors pay external
server companies [link] for the bandwidth to bring their movies into Second
Life, Elex pays not an extra dime. “I
use the Movie Player created by Ben Linden with no modification and manually
swap the URLs in and out.”
The episode I attended was rather unlike any event I’ve been to, in Second Life. You try to follow the video footage playing out in front of you, while also reading other Residents’ comments in the Chat window, and at the same time, try to think up and furiously type out witty comments of your own. Not so easy, because the image you’re taking a potshot at is usually on the screen for only a few seconds. If you’re not quick enough, your comment shows up too late to be funny. It’s sort of like playing a multiplayer first-person shooter where the enemies are stupid movies, and the weapon of choice is snark.
Several of the audience members were particularly adept at this skill, nimbly typing out grammatically correct sentences that were funny as hell. Elex deigns to praise his own favorite Tom Servos, however.
“If I single out a few people and label them ‘most funny’,” he reasons, “it creates a tremendous amount of pressure on them to be consistently funny, even when they're not at MST3K: The Home Game.”
When I ask him to recount some of his favorite witticisms, he instead recounts a particular series of films which generated some of the biggest hilarity.
“I was worried about showing old child safety films, as they can get pretty grim,” he acknowledges. “But the audience had no problem quipping away while non-union stunt children leapt off of garages, set themselves on fire, and impaled themselves. We're all aware tragedy, plus time, equals comedy. That's all gibberish for: I actually don't save the chat histories for any of the episodes.”
Eanya Dalek: "Paris and Nicole of the 50s."
Elex Dusk: "Joanie Loves Crotchy."
Hamlet Linden: "Buy me something that takes away...", "Say, your nipples are hard!"
Griffin Oud: "I love this cone.", "You know that story about the guy with the hook?"
Nogard Codesmith: "Why is he sitting next to a KKK midget?, "He must have used prim torture...", "Back to the cone...", "He loves her body too...", "Why did you turn my head into a hookah?"
Judah Jimador: "And remember...we're not saying that it's un-American...", "This is where we brew strains of coffee for export to the Commies...", "New, these may LOOK identical...", "Even back then, the film industry...", "No, ma'am. We don't want a table...", "Have a seat, and let's talk about the horrible future you've chosen for yourself."
Sean Gorham: "Just don't cross the sim border, honey, or the car might delink."
Trimming Hedges: "We replaced Mrs. Crosby's coffee pot with this handful of razors..."
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Hahaha... it gets better and better.
What a comedy goldmine!
Posted by: Torley at May 9, 2005 5:37:33 PM
Between this and 'Captions' my 'h' and 'a' keys get a real workout. [haha x a lot]
Posted by: Clark Ambassador at May 9, 2005 9:45:50 PM
"I calculated the odds of this succeeding versus the odds I was doing something incredibly stupid... and I went ahead anyway." -Crow T. Robot
I need to start attending this! Great story!!
Posted by: Aimee Weber at May 10, 2005 8:10:23 AM
I'll have to start checking the event calender for this one. :D
Posted by: Olympia Rebus at May 11, 2005 8:26:54 AM
I'm using "The weapon of choice is snark" in my forum sig, if ya don't mind Ham...that was the most classic line in the article, for my money
Posted by: Az Czukor at May 12, 2005 6:44:33 PM
Goferit, and thanks!
Posted by: Hamlet Linden at May 12, 2005 7:02:17 PM
"...unidentified science fiction film featuring a mad scientist and a woman's head."
Movie: The Brain That Wouldn't Die (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0052646/)
No longer unidentified, courtesy of the guy who owns every episode of MST3K.
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