'MST3K' alumni to meet, greet fans, with new books in tow

Categories: Theater
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Image courtesy Mary Jo Pehl
​This Wednesday, fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 can meet two of the creative folks behind the series -- and check out their recent literary efforts as well.

Trace Beaulieu and Mary Jo Pehl, who along with writing for MST3K played Crow/Dr. Clayton Forrester and Pearl Forrester respectively, will be coming to the Wilde Roast Cafe to talk about their new books. For Beaulieu, it's an illustrated collection of dark and funny poetry titled Silly Rhymes for Belligerent Children, which was published last year. For Pehl, it's a recently released collection of humorous essays drawn from her life, Employee of the Month and Other Big Ideas.

In Beaulieu's book, several of the belligerent children come to unfortunate ends, or at least have a very unpleasant experience.

"One of my favorite reviews has been from an actual reader named Joy. She told her mother, 'Ewww! Read me another.' To me, that is the perfect response," Beaulieu says. "Most of them spring out of things that really happened. Of course, they have been exaggerated a bit for dramatic reasons. We really did have a sledding hill in a graveyard. No serious injuries, however. The Becky Webber rhyme is probably the most accurate, aside from changing her name."

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Mary Jo Pehl
Pehl describes Employee of the Month as a "do-over of a book -- and I use that term loosely -- that I had done about six or seven years ago. It was poorly executed and delivered," she says.

In the intervening years, Pehl had a number of writing gigs, including a regular column in Minnesota Monthly, that "transformed my writing. I looked at that old pamphlet, and I thought it could be so much more," she says.

Part of the growth for Pehl was taking her standup/MST3K joke writing and shaping it. "The tendency in standup is to do small quips, and that's a lot different than sustaining an idea for 500 or 600 or 1,000 words," she says.

"The central theme is misadventures through my adult life," Pehl says. "There are a variety of topics: learning how to scuba dive, what it was like having my dad be the mayor of Circle Pines when I was a kid, about being involved in MST and how unreal it was for me. There's a story about using my mother's handicapped parking tag and getting so busted. It was absolutely mortifying."

Beaulieu helped Pehl get the new book together. The two tour together throughout the year with Cinematic Titanic, the successor to MST3K led by creator Joel Hodgson and also featuring cast members J. Elvis Weinstein and Frank Coniff. (Their latest DVD, War of the Insects, was taped live in Minneapolis this fall.) "He shared a lot of information about creating a book," Pehl says. "I adore Trace. He's a genius. In talking to Trace, I realized that my own creative work could benefit by having my mind expanded by working with people I admire."

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Image courtesy Len Peralta
Both Beaulieu and Pehl worked with illustrator Len Peralta for their books.

"I met Len in Cleveland  a couple of years ago," Beaulieu says. "He came to a Cinematic Titanic show to have us on his podcast. Len gave each of us a poster that he had done with some great stuff with monsters and mad scientists -- subjects both dear to my heart. Later, I saw him at DragonCon, and he had done the illustrations for Ken Plume and John Robinson's book There is a Monster in My Tree House. I really liked Len's style, and he seemed like a nice fellow. I asked if he'd be interested in illustrating a book I was working on about a wood tick. He quickly penned a sketch of a little vaudevillian tick in spats, straw hat, and cane. I hadn't completed the tick story, so I asked if he'd like to work on this silly rhyme book."
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Trace Beaulieu. Photo by Kathryn Beaulieu

Peralta's contributions can't be underestimated, Beaulieu says.

"Every drawing Len did was like a gift. I'd send him a little rhyme and he's shoot back these really great sketches. They were better than I could have imagined. Then, he'd turn around and send me the finished colored illustrations. Len works very fast. There were one or two rhymes that I had a rather specific idea about how I wanted the drawings to look but for the most part it was Len's own interpretation of the stories," Beaulieu says.

IF YOU GO

Trace Beaulieu and Mary Jo Pehl
6:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, December 21
Wilde Roast Café
65 Main St. SE, Minneapolis
Free (books available for purchase and signing)
For information, call 612.331.4544 or visit online.

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