There’s a comedy merger taking place and the laughs are being passed on to you.
Recently I’ve had a little bit of unwanted, but much needed time on my hands to take some breaths, organize things, tidy up and see what’s been going on outside the whirlwind that normally envelops me. It’s been nice.
And one thing I’ve zeroed in on while going about my chores in the background is what’s taking place between RiffTrax and MST3K.
Having just typed those two terms probably made half the people reading this click away because this type of humor isn’t for everyone. I totally get that, which is part of the reason it makes it enjoyable. If it were funny to a degree that everyone universally loved it, it probably wouldn’t be funny at all and would be what we’re seeing more and more of, which the canceling of humor n America. Some part of the US is in a “woke” state which means all fun and games are off the table forever.
For those that disregard the popular media and common standpoints, that leaves a large group of people that DO enjoy what MST3K and RiffTrax does and gets it and doesn’t make a big deal about it.
For a brief history’s sake, the two groups diverged for a while, and it seemed the MST3K crowd veered over to appeal to the more “woke” crowd, while the RiffTrax guys stayed true to the formula and kept their core writers and talent intact. There were no bad feelings, just a different business tactic. RiffTrax went with the “rattle a tin can” and get money for their efforts through patronage and small bits here and there, which surely add up over time and will scale and they knew it. It was a smart move to create and do what they do and stream it. Streaming is the future of media consumption.
While that was going on, the MST3K guys had been noticed by Netflix and encouraged to hop aboard their freight train of money and see what would happen. Turns out, not much. It was an overwrought attempt to restyle, rebrand, and “awaken” MST3K to appeal to Netflix markets that binged, wanted fresh new GOOD content delivered regularly and with no backtalk. The reaction to being given a huge vault of money and eyeballs was that they hired a huge team of writers, huge staff, the very wrongly cast characters, and what came out of the grinder was an unappetizing mess. The experiment failed.
So MST3K guys, who were the original guys that brought the whole idea to life, needed a home and workspace and some cash flow. And fiddled with some things along the way.
They returned to Kickstarter to hit up fans for money in exchange for paltry swag and handshakes, but also to prove they could generate a few million dollars for the brand if needed. It was from the sweat equity they’d put in from the prior 30 years.
Meanwhile RiffTrax was plugging away, generating consistent material with 3 people that represented a symbiosis. They are quick wits with a depth of well-read mind material to pull obscure references from, and the three played off each one another seamlessly, organically, and comfortably, which is a magic ingredient that has to be present to pull off what they do.
They had the formula, and had created a demonstrably sustainable business model to keep doing what they enjoyed doing, and were clearly seeing success with the path they had developed to form a viable, scalable business. They are clever in not just their quips but in business as well.
So the two groups, which had never taken their eyes off each other during this whole time, did the smartest thing to do.
They merged. And are undergoing that merger right now as I type this. They’re leveraging what’s best about both tactics and trying to create something bigger than what the two parts are individually.
And I think it’s going to finally work. I’ve griped about the past efforts and shaken my head at awful business and creative decisions, which is easier for me to see than those participating. Happens all the time and isn’t surprising at all.
But without the promotion and support of Netflix, Disney, Pixar, Apple, or any giant media moneyed behemoth, it happening mostly unnoticed. It’s happening on Twitch and on the RiffTrax site and the platforms that can be controlled by the stakeholders themselves. Twitch, which is a site normally where gamers stream themselves, is where you’ll find things going on. Streaming those games requires LOTS of streaming broadband capability moving fast in great, scaled quantity. This is why it makes perfect sense for people that want to stream high-quality movies and audio over massive pipelines can do it. This is the place they want to be. The whole thing isn’t ever going to be high-gloss Blockbuster, over-the-top production like you get with such massive corporate sponsors. That’s not the target audience at all. And at this point, it barely matters to the consumer what platform they can experience the streaming. What matters is that it’s high-def and controllable.
That’s what went awry with the MST3K Netflix attempt. But it’s not going to matter here. The two merging will give them the resources needed to do what they want and call the shots and, most importantly, listen to their audience about what they love, and not try to create what Hollywood or other external force dictates what the audience will like, or else it just won’t happen.
So I’m seeing the gears meshing and the worlds combining and the engagement of MST3K and RiffTrax taking place right now, before me.
RiffTrax is celebrating 10 years of doing what they do. MST3K has been around for 30 years. Collectively, and with all the same talent and writers involved, and a workable plan that has the consumers winning, and the businesses and talent winning, then it’s now starting to scale as they want.
That’s how it works in the comedy business. It’s about finding your competitive advantages and leveraging your equity to extract the symbiotic returns and margins your stakeholders expect and deserve.
The basic algorithm is:
[(MST3K+RiffTrax)-Netflix/Disney*(Kickstarter) = Laughs/Profit].
I have that around here in a spreadsheet somewhere which I can fax if needed, but you get the picture. It’s a win-win-win! And corn is grass.