Get ready for a robot roll call! Since Mystery Science Theater 3000 first made its debut on a local Minneapolis station nearly 30 years ago, it’s been refit for a variety of media—including a feature film, a book, and live riffing events. Now the beloved sci-fi series, which pokes fun at some of the best worst films in the cinematic universe, is getting the comic book treatment.
Earlier today, Dark Horse Comics—the publisher behind Frank Miller’s Sin City—announced on its blog that it has partnered with the funny folks at Mystery Science Theater 3000 to produce both a new comic book series as well as a line of MST3K-branded products.
Though the show debuted in 1988, it still maintains a rabid fan base, as creator Joel Hodgson proved in 2015 when he launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring the series back and create a line of merchandise—and promptly raised more than $6.3 million from fans.
Netflix, which will stream the reboot, has yet to announce a firm premiere date for the new series (which will see Jonah Ray take over hosting duties), but production began last year, so a 2017 air date seems likely.
While details on the new comic book series are also very limited, Dark Horse’s vice president of publishing, Randy Stradley, can hardly contain his excitement. “I first encountered the show in 1992, and immediately fell in love with both the concept and the characters,” Stradley said. “I began inquiring about the license in 1993, and now—a mere 24 years later—we have Comics Sign!” Here’s hoping both the new show and the comic book series drop in the not-too-distant future.
Considered by many to be one of the greatest sketch comedy shows of all time, Chappelle’s Show tackled race, contemporary issues, and the misadventures of Eddie Murphy’s older brother in an unflinching—and hilarious—way. The show’s meteoric rise in popularity during its second season led to its star, Dave Chappelle, signing a massive contract, only to then retreat from the spotlight, resulting in the show’s cancellation, which permanently cemented its place on the list of beloved television shows that ended too soon. Here are some facts about the series, which premiered 15 years ago today.
1. HUGH HEFNER INSPIRED DAVE CHAPPELLE TO CREATE THE SHOW.
One night, Dave Chappelle watched a special on Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner that was designed to resemble one of Hefner's Playboy parties. The host of the party interviewed musicians and comedians, who would then perform for Hef, some Playboy Bunnies, and other guests. On Inside the Actors Studio, Chappelle told James Lipton that he was weirdly inspired by it and called his Half Baked (1998) co-writer Neal Brennan to talk about it. “We started talking about variety shows, we wanted to do something that was real personal,” Chappelle recalled of their conversation, which led to the creation of Chappelle's Show.
2. HBO PASSED ON THE SHOW.
Not everyone was immediately sold on the concept. “We pitched to HBO and they looked at us like we were lepers,” Brennan told Free Press Houston.
3. CHAPPELLE AND BRENNAN LEARNED HOW TO WRITE THE SHOW BY READING A BOOK ABOUT SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.
The two read Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by Its Stars, Writers, and Guests, the oral history of the iconic sketch show compiled by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales, before shooting the pilot and writing sketches for the first season. Brennan said the book was “really informative and really helpful” to them.
4. DONNELL RAWLINGS CAME UP WITH HIS PLAYER HATER'S BALL CHARACTER ON THE FLY.
In an interview with King magazine, writer/actor/comedian Donnell Rawlings shared that his Player Hater's Ball character didn't come together until the very last minute. “Ten minutes before we go shoot ‘Player Haters’ Ball, my character didn’t have a name or anything,” Rawlings said. “I went to hair and makeup, told them to give me a Jheri-curl wig. Then I went to props, and I asked for a Moét bottle with an activator on it so I can just squirt my hair down. They didn’t have that, so they gave me the aerosol can … I didn’t have a name, dialogue or anything. Neal told me to make my name up. I walked past the mirror like twice, looked in it, and said, ‘Man, I feel beautiful!’ That’s when ‘Beautiful’ was born.”
5. WAYNE BRADY DIDN’T LIKE WHAT NEGRODAMUS SAID ABOUT HIM.
Wayne Brady was a fan of Chappelle’s Show and never missed an episode. But when he watched Paul Mooney, as Negrodamus, say “White people love Wayne Brady, because Wayne Brady makes Bryant Gumbel look like Malcolm X" in a sketch, he got upset. After buying drinks for some of the crew of the show at the NAACP Image Awards, Brady brought up his feelings about the sketch. Chappelle called him the next day, which led to a famous sketch in which Brady shows off his dark side.
6. CHAPPELLE WASN’T PLANNING ON PLAYING SAMUEL L. JACKSON IN THE SAMUEL JACKSON BEER COMMERCIAL.
"We cast people, they'd do it, and we knew that wasn't how it needed to be done," Brennan said. "Dave knew how he wanted it so he just would do it. Instead of counting on someone else to capture our imagination, we just did it ourselves."
7. THE GUY DOING THE ROBOT WAS THE SHOW’S SET DESIGNER.
Karl Lake first found his way in front of the camera during an And-1 sketch. "We thought it would be funny if people were just bugging out," Brennan told The Root. "To heighten the bug out, [set designer] Karl Lake just started doing the robot. It's so dumb that we kept doing it, and it just became a thing."
8. THEY FILMED THE RACIAL DRAFT SKETCH ACROSS THE STREET FROM JAY Z’S (THEN) FINAL CONCERT.
RZA disappeared for one hour during the shoot, delaying the production. He came back and explained he went over to Madison Square Garden to watch some of the concert.
9. BOBBY BROWN WAS GOING TO DO THE STD PUPPET SCENE, BUT HE GOT ARRESTED.
To replace Brown for the Kneehigh Park sketch, they called Andre 3000 and Pharrell, with no luck. Q-Tip said yes, and Snoop Dogg went from being cast in a “Weed Olympics” sketch that got cut to get involved, too.
10. IT’S CREDITED WITH MAKING LIL JON POPULAR.
Chappelle's “A Moment in the Life of Lil Jon” sketch launched the hip-hop artist into super-stardom. “This Dave Chappelle sh** just really put me on a different level," Lil Jon told MTV. "He basically has thrusted me into pop culture, and not just urban but white society as well. I was in the airport like three weeks ago, this 60-year-old white lady came up to me and was like, 'Aren’t you Lil Jon? … Don’t you do that 'Whuuuut? Yeeeaaah! Okaaayyy!' That’s you, right?’” After Chappelle witnessed fans shouting lines from the show at Lil Jon at the MTV Video Music Awards, Chappelle apologized to him.
11. CHARLIE MURPHY GAVE CHAPPELLE THE IDEA FOR THE RICK JAMES SKETCH OVER LUNCH.
Charlie Murphy and Chappelle were at the lunch table during a break from shooting the “Calvin’s Got a Job” sketch. Murphy, who passed away in 2017, regaled the table with his stories about hanging out with Rick James when Chappelle said it should be reenacted for the show.
12. EDDIE MURPHY THOUGHT THE RICK JAMES SKIT WAS GENIUS.
Charlie showed his brother the sketch. Eddie Murphy watched the whole thing in silence. Once it ended though, he said it was “genius” before laughing and insisting Charlie play it again.
13. CHAPPELLE AND RICK JAMES HAD MET YEARS EARLIER.
A then-19-year-old Dave Chappelle was in Los Angeles filming Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993). Young Dave and James hung out at the hotel bar together a few times. The sketch ultimately led to some problems for a politician named Rick James; when he ran for city council in Hattiesburg, Mississippi in 2005, many of his campaign signs were stolen or defaced by people who added the word “b*tch!” James claimed he saw signs of his as far as 100 miles away.
14. PRINCE GOT HIS REVENGE.
The singer/songwriter confirmed the story about beating Charlie Murphy at basketball, which was ultimately turned into a sketch. But Prince claimed that it wasn’t because he was particularly good at the sport; it was because Charlie Murphy was bad.
In 2013, Prince released his single “Breakfast Can Wait” with a picture of Dave Chappelle dressed as Prince from the show on the cover. “What am I going to do—sue him for using a picture of me dressed up like him?” Chappelle asked rhetorically at the time.
15. CHAPPELLE GREW FRUSTRATED AT STAND-UP AUDIENCES SHOUTING LINES FROM THE SHOW.
Christopher Polk, Getty Images
Chappelle infamously told a 2004 stand-up crowd that they were “stupid” for shouting “I’m Rick James, b*tch” when he was trying to perform, and told them that the show wasruining his life. Chappelle later walked away from a reported $50 million contract before recharging his batteries in Africa.
Chappelle appeared on Oprah in 2006 and said he felt manipulated by those around him. "I felt in a lot of instances I was deliberately being put through stress because when you’re a guy who generates money, people have a vested interest in controlling you,” he said. He told Comedy Central he wanted to restructure the deal and to give his money away to help people. Instead, the network aired an abbreviated “lost episodes” third season using the footage that had been shot, hosted by Rawlings and Charlie Murphy.
This week, nearly three years after bidding farewell to Late Night, David Letterman is making his triumphant return to the small screen via Netflix with My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman (where he'll interview two people who need no introduction: Barack Obama and George Clooney). If the series is anything like Letterman's career thus far, you can expect plenty of innovation.
Here are 23 recurring bits, features, and moments that the former Indiana weatherman (and his writers) invented for our amusement.
1. THE SHORT, NON-TOPICAL MONOLOGUE
Carson Productions, as in Johnny Carson’s production company, co-produced Late Night with David Letterman, and as the upcoming lead-out programming for The Tonight Show, it was important to Carson’s people that Letterman not copy Carson. Letterman’s people were told that among other things, they couldn’t have a sidekick sitting next to the host like Ed McMahon, a band with horns like Doc Severinsen’s, or a monologue. So instead, Letterman opened his show by standing in front of the audience and viewers at home with “opening remarks,” a monologue consisting of just one or two jokes with weird imagery, like tattoos melting in warm weather.
2. POST-INTERVIEW INTERVIEWS
On February 3, 1982—his third-ever broadcast—Late Night conducted two interviews with baseball hall-of-famer Hank Aaron: One was a standard talk show back-and-forth between host and guest. The other occurred after that conversation ended, where NBC Sports reporter Al Albert (son of Marv Albert) asked Aaron how he felt his last few minutes with Letterman went, with the idea that it was the equivalent of a post-game interview.
3. STUPID PET TRICKS
“Stupid Pet Tricks” began on Letterman’s short-lived but Emmy-winning morning show, and was a consistently popular segment on both Late Night and The Late Show. The idea came from original head writer Merrill Markoe, who "remembered how in college my friends and I would be hanging around in the evenings, talking, and drinking. One form of constant entertainment was to put socks on this one dog. Everyone I knew did some version of a silly thing like that with their pets, so we ran an ad to see if we could pull a segment together like that."
4. WORLD’S LARGEST VASE CONTESTS
After questioning people who claimed to have the “world’s largest vase” over the phone in what New York Magazine described as a “longish” segment, the vase was brought into the studio and displayed on Late Night from May 30 through June 2, 1983. On its third night, a 35-inch radio transmitting tower was added to the case when it was discovered that it was shorter than one in Canada. On its final night of national exhibition, Letterman read alleged letters from children addressed to the Vase, and the vase “spoke” to wish for peace for mankind.
5. CATCHPHRASE CONTESTS
Two on-air catchphrase contests, which aired a little over a month apart in the summer of 1984, gave lucky studio audiences the power to make “They pelted us with rocks and garbage” the first rallying cry, before it was displaced by "I do and do and do for you kids, and this is the thanks I get!"
6. A CAMERA FROM THE HOST'S P.O.V.
The February 15, 1982 installment of Late Night began with one continuous five minute and 17 second take through Letterman’s P.O.V. called “Dave Cam.” Cameos included that night’s guest Andy Rooney, Merrill Markoe, and Calvert DeForest, who played Larry “Bud” Melman on Late Night, as “Bert the Human Caboose.”
7. A CAMERA FROM THE GUEST’S P.O.V.
Letterman favorite Tom Hanks was the first wearer of the “Late Night Guest-Cam.” Hanks was on the show the night of December 12, 1985 to promote The Money Pit, which was initially supposed to debut the next day, but would be delayed until the following March. “The Late Night Sky-Cam” makes a cameo.
8. A CAMERA FROM A MONKEY’S P.O.V.
After a false start with a 30-year-old chimp named Bo, who was too small to handle the camera, “Monkey Cam” got its start on March 19, 1986. Zippy, who was on the cover of The Ramones' Animal Boyalbum, would return on roller skates with the “Late Night Monkey Cam Mobile Unit.”
9. PURPOSELY FUNNY TOP 10 LISTS
The very first Top Ten—“The Top Ten Things That Almost Rhyme With Peas"—aired on September 18, 1985, as a satire of the random lists publications like Good Housekeeping were starting to produce at the time. Credit for who thought up the idea for Late Night is disputed; over the years, head writer Steve O’Donnell, former head writer and longtime SNL scribe Jim Downey, Late Night writer Randy Cohen, and producer Robert Morton have all gotten some or all of the credit. Top Ten made it to the end of Late Show’s run, even though the writers were already tiring of it by the February 6, 1986 show, which had the Top Ten list “Top Ten Reasons to Continue the Top Ten Lists Just a Little Longer.”
10. WEARING SUITS OF VELCRO, ALKA-SELTZER, MAGNETS, SPONGES, SUET, AND FOODS
On February 28, 1984, Letterman slipped into a “Suit of Velcro” and ushered in an era of strange outfits including a magnet get-up, which Letterman wore to attach himself to a huge GE fridge. Lowering himself into a 1000-gallon tank of water, Letterman’s suit of Alka-Seltzer fizzed and vaporized. There were also suits of suet, marshmallows, chips, and Rice Krispies, the latter of which made David “snap, crackle, and pop” in a large tub of milk. An influence was Steve Allen, the original host of The Tonight Show, who threw himself into Jell-O vats on television. Allen’s “Man on the Street” interviews were also something Letterman took to new levels of absurdity.
11. HOSTING A SHOW ABOARD AN AIRPLANE
Late Night’s fourth anniversary was celebrated onboard a flight from New York City to Miami.
12. AN EPISODE THAT ROTATES 360 DEGREES
Writers Randy Cohen and Kevin Curran came up with the unique way to celebrate the 800th episode of Late Night. NBC received “several hundred” phone calls about the December 9, 1986 show from viewers complaining that it was giving them headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Carson Productions executives were apparently not informed of the stunt beforehand and were reportedly “furious.”
13. FEUDING WITH BRYANT GUMBEL
After Letterman interrupted an August 19, 1985 broadcast of Today co-hosted by Bryant Gumbel, Gumbel called out the Late Night host for being “unprofessional” and didn’t publicly forgive him for four years. (Letterman claimed it was a Today producer who invited him to pull the stunt.)
14. FEUDING WITH OPRAH WINFREY
In the 16 years between Oprah's 1989 appearance on Late Night and her December 1, 2005 Late Show interview, rumors swirled about a feud between Winfrey and Letterman. The reasons why—and even if—there was a “feud” at all remain unclear.
15. CO-HOSTING AN EPISODE WITH A CORNY MORNING SHOW THEME
On February 27, 1985, Letterman shared hosting duties with “Tawny Harper Reynolds,” with guests Michael Palin, a Pet Psychic, and an exercise segment with Carol Channing.
16. AN HOUR-LONG PARODY OF 1970s PRIMETIME VARIETY SHOWS
“Dave Letterman's Summertime Sunshine Happy Hour” graced the NBC airwaves on the night of August 29, 1985. Early in his TV career, Letterman wrote and was a part of the cast of The Starland Vocal Band Show.
17. AN HOUR-LONG PARODY OF CHRISTMAS SPECIALS
December 19, 1984’s "Christmas With the Lettermans," featuring Pat Boone, won Late Night a 1985 Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Variety, Music or Comedy Program.
18. "CUSTOM-MADE" SHOWS
On November 15, 1983, Late Night relinquished control of the show to the audience, giving them a choice on everything from the furniture to the theme song. On March 27, 1984’s version, the show opened with the theme to Bonanza, the announcer was the New York Lieutenant Governor, and Jane Pauley was interviewed in a dentist's chair.
19. DUBBING A RERUN FROM ENGLISH TO ENGLISH
When the February 17, 1986 episode re-aired on September 25th of that year, 250 confused viewers called the network. After 60 hours and four professional dubbers, everyone on the episode (Raquel Welch was the main guest) magically had different voices. Even Letterman's voice was dubbed (by Speed Racer's Peter Fernandez).
20. 4 A.M. SHOWS
May 14, 2004’s Late Show was taped at four in the morning, on purpose. Amy Sedaris, rat expert Robert Sullivan, and Modest Mouse were the guests. Letterman rode a horse, Sedaris gave an unsafe late night tour of her neighborhood, and Modest Mouse played in their pajamas.
21. DEDICATING MOST OF AN EPISODE TO A DECEASED COMEDIAN AND HIS FAMILY
Letterman invited Bill Hicks’s mother, Mary, to appear on the January 30, 2009 episode to apologize face-to-face for not airing Hicks’s controversial October 1, 1993, stand-up performance. In February of 1994, Hicks passed away from pancreatic cancer at age 32. After talking to Mary, Letterman finally presented Bill’s set.
22. DEDICATING AN ENTIRE EPISODE TO A COMEDY HERO
On the first new Late Show after Johnny Carson's passing, Letterman's monologue was filled with jokes that the retired Carson had anonymously submitted to David over the years. Long-time The Tonight Show executive producer Peter Lassally and bandleader Doc Severinsen were that night's only guests.
23. THE ‘WILL IT FLOAT?’ GAME
The first installment of “Will It Float?” was on February 6, 2002. A brick of Velveeta cheese sank. Dave got it right, whereas Paul got it wrong.