Rifftrax tackles Starship Troopers in nationwide broadcast

Categories: Nerdery, Theater
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Photo copyright TriStar Pictures and Touchstone Pictures
Bill Corbett knows there are plenty of people out there willing to defend Starship Troopers as a classic piece of cinematic satire. He isn't one of them.

"There are bits, like the propaganda scenes, that are satire -- but they are pretty broad. Neil Patrick Harris comes out in what looks like an SS uniform, so we don't think that is subtle. I get that [director] Paul Verhoeven thinks it is satire, but how many scenes of shooting bugs can you have?"

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Corbett and his Rifftrax cohorts -- Kevin Murphy and Mike Nelson -- will tackle the film during a live performance today that will be broadcast across the country. The trio are all Mystery Science Theater 3000 veterans who made up the riffing cast during the show's final three seasons.

Over the past half-dozen years, they've soldiered on as Rifftrax, creating downloadable podcasts that can be synched up with big-budget films (the Twilight series is a particular favorite), along with pre-synched videos of public-domain features and educational and other shorts (their current 1940s Batman serial is quite a sight).

The live broadcasts have been going on for several years as well. "We've done some really fun movies, but the supply of movies in the public domain that could get people in theaters was running thin," Corbett says.

So they did what any modern-day creator would do: They had a Kickstarter campaign to purchase the rights of a movie. "We did try to get Twilight, but they didn't need our piddling amount of money. It is such an empire of schlock. Of the titles we could get with the clock ticking, Starship Troopers was the best," Corbett says.

If you are not among the fans of the film, here's a recap: Extremely loosely based on a Robert A. Heinlein novel, the film follows a bunch of beautiful young people living on a future Earth who go into the military, go through basic training, and then shoot -- and get killed -- by giant, poorly rendered digital space bugs. 

To prepare the riffs, each of the three works on their own, watching and rewatching the film, to produce jokes about the action onscreen. "Top to bottom, I watch the movie half a dozen to a dozen times," Corbett says.

They then gather all of their material together and shape it into the finished product. "There is an astonishing overlap of jokes, often with the weirdest things," Corbett says.

For Corbett, who came to the Twin Cities two decades ago at the Playwrights' Center, the live setting "is a chance to connect with an audience. You have to be lighter on your feet. Some things will get a reaction, or a dull thud. You can move on or inject something to it. It's sort of like the dessert for me as a big ham," he says.

IF YOU GO
Rifftrax Live: Starship Troopers
7 p.m. Thursday
Various theaters
$12.50
Tickets can be purchased at theater box offices or online. For a list of local theaters and to order, visit here.


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