The original "guy shot up in space" and the creator of the robots. Joel was an employee at Gizmonic Institute, both a janitor and inventor. As part of Dr. Forrester's experiment, he was launched into space aboard the Satellite of Love and is forced to watch horrible movies. Joel has a rather laid-back personality, and as their creator, often acts as a father figure to the Bots. Halfway through Season 5, Joel escapes from the SoL and is replaced by Mike. Joel comes back for one episode later on, where it turns out he settled down as the manager of a Hot Fish Shop in Osseo, Minnesota.
The Ace: But only in the season 10 premiere where he fixes the SoL in a few hours among other great things... poor Mike.
Also to Robinson Crusoe, as he frequently mentions being marooned in space.
The Stoic: Well, Joel's more laid back than stoic, but he seldom ever gets upset. He's so laid back, according to the KTMA Opening Theme lyrics, Joel's response to being shot into space and being forced to watch bad movies?
Joel says, "When you got lemons, you make lemonade."
When he does lose his cool, it's startling. During Attack of the The Eye Creatures, Joel ends up apologizing for the the rest of the the male sex, and later, actually loses his cool, berating one character:
Joel:(angry) You know what? You are one sick mamma-jamma.
And then his infamous rare outburst in Manos: The Hands of Fate, after twenty seconds go by with nothing of any appreciable importance happening on screen.
Joel: ...DO SOMETHING!!! God!
And shortly after admonishing the Bots for yelling at the endless rock climbing sequence from Lost Continent: "Who are you? Where are we? Can we get a FRAME OF REFERENCE, please?!"
Team Dad: Feels more inclined to treat the 'bots more like his children or students than his creations, taking great pride in their accomplishments, reeling them in when they go to far, and going to great lengths to perk them up when they're upset. The 'bots, for all the grief they give him otherwise, seem to appreciate this.
Played by Michael J. Nelson
The second "guy shot up in space" after Joel escaped from the Satellite of Love halfway through Season 5. Mike Nelson is a lifelong temp-worker, bouncing from job to job. Only the coincidence of him being temped out to Deep 13 for their audit at the time of Joel's escape led to him being employed long-term by Dr. Forrester. He's described by Dr. Forrester as a "disgustingly mild-mannered dope", which is pretty apt. To the bots, he's seen as a big brother, college roommate type, or amicable coworker, depending on the situation.
Alternate History: Inspired by a time-traveling Crow's warnings, in one timeline he devoted himself to his rock band, Sex Factory, instead of temping. They actually got successful enough to open for Motörhead, but Mike died due to head trauma from thrown hotel keys and his abusive Jerk Ass brother was sent into space instead. Crow had to go back again to avert this.
Ambiguously Gay: Or perhaps Bi. In "Werewolf" he implies he dated a man named Steve who died (but is interupted by the movie sign), and in "Laserblast" Crow pokes fun at him for thinking one of the actors is cute, among others.
He also kissed a surly old truck driver once. (Who was a durned fine kisser.)
Red Oni, Blue Oni: Even though they only met a couple of times, he comes across as the Red to Joel's Blue.
Sanity Slippage: Many, many times. Unlike Joel, Mike isn't quite as coolheaded, whether it's thinking he's Carol Channing or Captain Janeway, climbing down a stepladder to try to escape the S.O.L.note Oddly, this one would have worked if the Mads hadn't found the bottom end of the ladder and pointed a cannon at it., or trying to invoke a Joel-style escape while sitting it a water heater after seeing Final Justice (starring Joe Don Baker, of course).
Crow: "Ladies and... Gypsy! Michael Nelson 'is... Lord of the Dance!"
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Averted, Mike was very different from Joel. Unlike his predecessor he actively tried to escape from the SOL, gave up on the traditional invention exchanges early on, and was generally more biting and harsh in his riffing style.
Tap on the Head: "...so they conked him on the noggin and they shot him into space..."
Waiting for a Break: Apparently a very talented and prolific stage actor, still had to resort to temp work.
It actually also applies to how he joined the show in Real Life. Originally hired to do "some typing," everyone was very surprised at his joke writing and musical skills, resulting in him soon becoming head writer and getting numerous cameos, and then being the natural choice to replace Joel.
Played by Trace Beaulieu (original KTMA and seasons 1-7), Bill Corbett (seasons 8-10)
TV's wise-cracking Crow is a gold-colored hominid. His most obvious features are his pronounced beak made out of a bowling pin, and a hockey mask he wears as a head crest of sorts. He tends to be the most immature of the trio, generally acting out the most or getting into various types of trouble, referred to as "an unathletic nerd" by Mike and Servo. He also fancies himself a bit of an amateur screenwriter, and a Running Gag on the program is him routinely pitching new scripts at the other two. He sits to Joel/Mike's right in the theater.
Brilliant, but Lazy: He's smarter than he appears, but gets bored easily and often doesn't bother to put in more than the minimum amount of effort on whatever he's doing. Says a lot that when taking an IQ test he failed to answer even one question because he fell asleep.
Sanity Slippage: He's more likely than Servo to descend into madness - and just as easily to Mood Whiplash himself into normalcy. For example, when Crow suckles at his "Mother's" nipple, he shriek's a primal scream when Mike tries to pull him off her - but a few moments later, when Mike gently tells him "That's not your mother", he pauses, and says, "Oh!"... then quickly asks him, "Are you my mother?"
Played by Josh Weinstein (original KTMA and season 1), Kevin Murphy (seasons 2-10)
Tom Servo is a red robot. His most obvious feature is the fact that his head is a gumball machine. He also has inoperable arms on springs, and travels by floating on his hover-skirt. Despite these shortcomings, he's the most cultured of the crew and has a lovely singing voice. His jokes tend to be of the more intellectual type. He sits to Joel/Mike's left in the theater.
The Smart Guy: So much so that when the Observers gave the satellite crew IQ tests, he scored higher than the observers themselves.
Spell My Name with an S: At one point he changes his name to Htom Sirveaux, and corrects Mike when he doesn't pronounce it correctly (even though it's pronounced exactly the same.)
The Spock: If, as Murphy puts it, "kind of weepy".
Through the Eyes of Madness: At one point Pearl gives LSD to the robots and has Mike hook them up to a monitor to see what they're seeing. Servo sees everyone as a lot more demonic, but he just laughs it off and says that that's what he always sees.
Transparent Closet: Not quite as flagrant as Crow, but he is curvy, gifted with better fashion sense, and the best singer on the ship.
Lampshaded when Servo dresses as a Brownie. He angrily tells them that his hoverskirt doesn't give him many options when wearing costumes - or would you rather he wear his Flemish glass blower outfit?
Played by Josh Weinstein (original KTMA), Jim Mallon (seasons 1-8), Patrick Brantseg (seasons 8-10)
Gypsy was a robot built by Joel to service the higher functions of the ship. As such, she doesn't (typically) go into the theater with everyone else. She's basically a snake form, with a long black tube as a body, and her head is a baby's car seat attached so she kinda looks like a vacuum cleaner with a flashlight that serves as her eye. She has a huge crush on Richard Basehart.
Played by Kevin Murphy (original KTMA and seasons 1-5), although he is only heard during Robot Roll Call in the official seasons.
Cambot serves as the camera on the Satellite of Love, projecting to the Mads in Deep 13. As such, he's never seen, never heard, and it's easy to forget he's even there, but he's obviously an essential member of the crew, without whom we wouldn't see all the wacky hijinx on the Satellite.
Silent Snarker: Made his only riff in 'Sidehackers', though made clever comments in one of the host segments as well..
Fan art by Andrew Dickman
Played by Jahn Johnson/Alexandra Carr (seasons 1-5), Mary Jo Pehl (seasons 5-7) and Beth McKeever (Seasons 8-10)
Magic Voice is a female, disembodied voice who resides in the Satellite of Love, and whose main task is to announce when commercial sign is coming up and otherwise make the occasional comment on the action. It's never revealed exactly what she is, but seems to be robotic in nature, given how Joel was able to reprogram her along with the other 'Bots. The most common fan theory is that she's the ship's computer.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: TV's Frank to Dr. Erhardt; Pearl to Frank, and later Dr. Forrester; though to be fair while they filled similar roles their characters were all quite different.
Doctor Clayton Forrester
Played by Trace Beaulieu
Dr. Forrester is the green-coated head scientist down in Deep 13 who oversees the experiment on the Satellite of Love. While he's evil with a capital E, he's also not particularly effective, given how after several years, he still has yet to find that perfect movie that will drive people insane. Oftentimes, the relationship between Dr. F and the folks on the Satellite tends to be strangely amicable.
Dr. F's first assistant, who didn't get much characterization at all, since he was only around for one season. He pretty much aped Dr. F's tendencies towards loving evil and played the part of the sniveling aide.
Dr. Erhardt's replacement after Season 1, TV's Frank was, in the end, far more fleshed out than his predecessor. More laid back, goofy, and ineffectual than even Dr. F himself, Frank often found himself the butt of jokes, or just plain dead. He departed the show at the end of Season 6, where he was assumed into Second Banana Heaven.
TV's Frank:WHY?! WHY?! WHY?!?!?! Oooh, Mc Kenna's Gold is on!
Bizarre Alien Biology: Not an alien (probably...) but he's survived multiple kinds of dismemberment (has replacement organs!), having his blood replaced with antifreeze (blood which is of a previously-unknown type, by the way), and apparently exists in a state of perpetual cardiac problems (his heart works so hard it can power an engine).
Minion with an F in Evil: The reason why so many escape attempts hinged on trying to convince Frank to hit the button that would return the satellite to earth. It almost worked on multiple occasions, Forrester stopping him each time.
Dr. F's beloved mother, who showed up a few times in Season 6, but became Dr. F's foil in Season 7 when she moves back in. Starting Season 8, after Trace Beaulieu leaves the show, she becomes the head scientist showing the movies. The story is that after Clayton died (again, it's a bit complicated), she was put in cyrogenic freezing, thawed by the future apes, and became the Lawgiver. Doesn't make much sense, but you know how it is.
The Gambling Addict: In Prince of Space, she states that her favorite hobby is playing slot machines. And in Hamlet, Mike ropes her into playing a Shell Game and ends up winning his choice of a movie. Of course, Pearl turns the situation back in her favor by sending him a crappy, black-and-white, dubbed version of Hamlet.
My Beloved Smother: Her original characterization with regards to Clayton. She also literally smothered him to death off-screen between seasons 7 and 8, when she realized that being a nicer mother to the reborn Clayton still wasn't enough to prevent him from growing up to be a mad scientist anyway.
Trademark Favorite Food: Noted to have a fondness for chicken-in-a-biskit snack crackers several times, to the point that Brain Guy uses it as motivation to prevent the destruction of the universe. No more universe, no more chicken-in-a-biskit.
Twitchy Eye: Has one driving her VW camper in the title sequence.
Played by Kevin Murphy
An evolved gorilla from the year 2525, from a future where apes evolved from men?. Yes, it's a madhouse. He's heard it all. First appearing in the beginning of Season 8, he's a professor of anthropology, but soon becomes little more than The Ditz often foiling Pearl's machinations.
A member of an allegedly advanced species, the Observers. He and his kind first appear in Season 8 to observe the experiment, but Mike ends up blowing up their planet, leaving only the one behind to hang around with Pearl and Bobo. Allegedly, his species is just the brain, which his "host body" carries around in a salad bowl, but this show being what it is, the concept is only tangentially ever alluded to, and you may as well assume the guy in pale face with the robe is "Brain Guy".
Achilles' Heel: Turns out keeping your brain in a big, open salad bowl is kind of a crummy idea.
Transparent Closet: Inverted. Everyone but Observer are shocked by his Camp Gay behavior, such as dressing as a nurse or wearing drummer outfits. When he takes some condoms, he tells Pearl it's for his many ... ladyfriends.