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A type of satire performed by adding humorousnote ("humor" ranging anywhere from tongue-in-cheek to outright vitriol) running commentary on top of another work.
The term originates from the fanfiction scene. There, a few lines of the original source material is quoted verbatim, with snarky jokes and comments posted inbetween quotes, like so:
> [Text straight from the fanfiction] MSTer: Witty comment!
The end result is similar to Mystery Science Theater 3000 (hence the term: MST). The practice originally used the cast of that show verbatim (extremely dedicated ones even including The Mads and the Invention Exchange), but eventually alternate casts (typically the person doing the MST, or sometimes characters from the material the fanfiction was based on) were used instead.
In some fandoms, this process is called "sporking". Outside of fanfiction, it's more commonly referred to "riffing" (not to be confused with the musical term). Text riffs are generally similar to fanfiction MSTs; audio or video riffs generally have the original audio present, with the snarky commentary running over it. This trope encompasses both forms.
One should be careful, though, when creating such a fic. For starters, some fanfic archive sites have actively disallowed these fics from their sites. This is mainly because there have been some MST authors that have either made certain ones to spite an author, did so without asking the original author (or even make an attempt to contact them with their plans), or take their jokes one step too far. The first two (the last one, to a certain extent, as well) are known as huge no-no's among MST authors. You'd be surprised at how many authors tend to not take their work that seriously and grant permission (any publicity is good, after all), and it gives respect to those that follow this code. There have been sites that have enacted rules about the genre due to some authors leaving fandoms or writing altogether because a MST writer refused to play by the code. Though good luck getting back in the good graces of the respected MSTers one you cross that line.
For this reason, the MST fanfic is also seen as the most controversial. The code, which most MSTers go by, seems to be:
Don't ever make an MST to spite an author or because you don't like them personally. If this is the reason you do one, do us all a favor and don't write it.
Ask for permission, or at least make an attempt to. If the person doesn't respond, then it's probably okay to go ahead (just be careful). If they say yes, then do so, but if they say no, then respect that wish (most authors will agree to it given that credit is shown, and those that say no might do so because of personal connections to the fic they made).
Give credit to the original author. Even if it's a bad fic, it was still THEIR fic, and it could be borderline plagiarism if you fail to do this.
While the relaxed rules of comedy are in effect, be advised that you should still try to not hit below the belt. Don't joke about sensitive topics unless you are absolutely sure you know what you're doing (not everyone is George Carlin).
PewDiePie is very famous for this when it comes to video games.
Rifftrax: Mostly blockbuster movies and public domain shorts.
Retsupurae: Let's Play videos. There are several groups:
slowbeef and Diabetus are the original pair, and run the titular Retsupurae YouTube account. The pair eventually branched out to bad Flash games (typically of the horror variety) and longplays of bad or bizarre video games.
Chip Cheezum and General Ironicus occasionally do some Retsupuraes on an alternate channel of theirs.
Fullmetal alchemist hasTruth Revealed where all the characters who help take down the homunculie get dumped in a room where alchemy doesn't work and told by a mysterious note that they are watching the future of how the country gets saved. This gets interesting due to where in the FMA timeline they got yanked from, and the fact that Scar is among the characters dropped in. It is highly implied to be Truth fault that this is happening, perhaps working with a future Hoenhiem, from the way Ed feacts to the second note.
The Vampoife Dood Who Lifed starts out with the characters MSTing an awful fanfiction created by the author his/herself, then morphs into an actual story... though there's still quite a bit of snarking.
The many Harry Potter fanfics in which the Marauders (or any other combination of characters!) somehow get hold of one or more of the canon books and read through it, making snarky comments in a Script Fic format.
There's also a fic in which the Marauders get hold of My Immortal (found here).* The Department Of Mysteries is a newborn sporking community for Harry Potter badfics, started by Snowfox and the newbie Gamerex27, both Tropers on this very website.
The LiveJournal community house_mst is dedicated to MSTing the very worst of House fanfiction, using characters from House to comment on it rather than the original MST3K characters.
A MSTing For All Seasons is a website collecting the MSTing works of three separate authors, targeting everything from the infamous "Oscar" stories to a collection of UFO conspiracy theory postings. They may be some of the best examples out there.
Specifically, prolific MSTer Megane 6.7, who's been riffing on fics for nearly a decade (including several MSTs done well after the zenith of the MiSTing community's output). Ever wonder who to thank/beat for finding Oscar's fanfics? Go find Megane; he was the first person to riff "Artemis's Lover".
A Random MST is a series that targets particularly bad fanfiction and other stories. Some exceptions, such as stories that aren't particularly bad, are made, such as the two MSTs of both Pokémon: Attack of Mewtwo and its sequel.
The LiveJournal community badfic_quotes sporks multifandom fanfic and "professional" stories, with a particular love of poorly concieved summaries from The Pit (fanfiction.net), while weepingcock is the smutfic sporking equivalent, hunting down the worst descriptions of sex and body parts that will having you screaming for Brain Bleach. Particularly of note: the dark, dark world of Transformational Porn Fic.
The Chongo Show has started a series called "What the Fanfic", a video MST with accompanied animated pictures to match what is being said. Most readings are blind and all comments are improvised.
The Daily Insanity, made by Raetekusu. As of now, he only has Chapters 1-11 of My Immortal and a MST of an article comparing Stephenie Meyer to J.K. Rowling, but under planned MSTs, he has My Inner Life, a Sue-fic from Kingdom Hearts, and a couple of more recent fics he's found.
Das Sporking has sporkings for sixty-four fandoms and counting, including both fanfiction and published works. It initially had a much smaller range of fandoms to be sporked when the only sporkers were Das Mervin and Mrs. Hyde (who of course could only spork for things they were familiar with or interested in), however the community eventually opened up to allow more sporkers, all of whom brought their own fandoms to the table.
Everything What Is Crap contained lots of MSTings from various series and authors but has been defunct since 2008.
Fanfiction.net decided to ban fic MSTings at one point, because they were "disrespectful" to authors.
Apparently, they have changed their policy or stopped caring since then, since this story is still going strong.
Twitter account fanfiction_txt finds particularly bad lines from fanfiction of all media, and presents them without comment. Tumblr account fanfictionimg then periodically takes some of the cream of that crop and creates little comics out of it, lampooning just how absurd the lines are if taken at face value.
Retsuraed is described as 'halfway between an MST and an Abridged Series'. Besides the usual snarkyness, the people reading the fic often like to add additional 'scenes' to it that poke fun at the blatant plot holes and Fridge Logic in the fics.
Topless Robot's Fan Fiction Friday feature does this for fanfic. It moved to io9 with creator Rob Bricken, but similarly to the Fanfiction.net example did not last long due in part to the "disrespect" issue.
WeHeartFanfics, an MST Youtube channel created by independent game developer Banov and some of his college friends.
The Satellite of Hate is an interesting inversion of the usual MST - here, Joel is an evil villain who is imprisoned on the Satellite of Hate, and forced to read well written fanfiction in an attempt to rehabilitate him.
The Livejournal pages heartless_fics and snakesonasora are dedicated to the MSTing of Kingdom Hearts fics. The two most famous fics are "Naga Eyes", AKA "Snakes on a Sora", which has a naga Riku horribly raping Sora, and "Immortality In Fickle Affection", AKA the Kooshball Penis Hydra Fic. More information on both here.
Project AFTER is a site dedicated to ridding the world of terrible fanfiction by MSTing it. However, instead of using a cast of characters, it is just the author of the MST commenting on the work. Its forum also includes a section where fans can post their own MSTs.
A special version of the Jimmy Neutron movie called, "Genius, Sheenius or Inbetweenius" had Jimmy, Carl and Sheen rifting the film in the exact way MST does.
Back in the day there was a well-regarded series called Mystery Puff/Ruff Theater 3000 by BoomerReborn (the current writer of Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi) which featured the Rowdyruff Boys and Powerpuff girls as riffers, but it was lost to the FFN purge.
Examples of MSTs and riffs targeting other media:
The DVD Commentary track for the anime Bakemonogatari consists of the characters MSTing their own show, with dialogue written by the original author.
The Bongo Comics Simpsons series had a B-story where Bart and his friends turn up for the latest in the Space Mutants franchise, only for the movie to put on an old Troy Mc Clure film called Gladys the Groovy Mule. Bart and friends even cast distinctive silhouettes in the first row while they snark.
The Marvel Comics UK reprint of the comic book adaptation of the 'Transformers'' episode "The Big Broadcast of 2006!" had a Simon Furman framing device in which the Quintessons denied it ever happened.
The Ghostbusters DVD commentary even goes as far as adding silhouettes of the actors at the bottom of the screen.
Hellzapoppin': The protagonists get a glimpse of the film they are about to star in themselves. They watch it and deliver sarcastic commentary. This is probably the earliest example of riffing on film.
In Roughing It, Twain gives The Book of Mormon the same treatment after he is given a copy when he is travelling through Utah.
He does a devastating critique of Christian Science which, along with taking apart its medical and religious principles, just plain mocks Mary Baker Eddy's writing in Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures.
Jeff Vandermeer's novel Shriek: An Afterword features the story's protagonist snarkily commenting on the narrator's work.
The Polish Speculative Fiction e-zine Fahrenheit has an occasional section named Zakużona Planeta (lit. "The Duzty Planet"), for sporking particularly bad submissions. It's a literature journal, so the comments focus mainly on explaining the flaws in writing, as opposed to simple mockery. They still tend to be hilarious, however.
A proto-form of this kind of critique in Poland might be the writer Feliks Kres, who, in his magazine column "Galeria Złamanych Piór" ("Gallery of Broken Quills") once or twice published fragments of particularly bad reader-submitted stories, and commented on them this way. Kres quickly decided it was pointless, but many subsequent Polish sporkers cite him as an inspiration.
In Community Abed and Troy apparently have a tradition of doing this to horrendous B-movies; Shirley, Pierce, and Seńor Chang show up, too. (And yet Jeff, played by the one cast member who had guest starred on RiffTrax, does NOT show up.)
Pierce attempts to compensate for his lack of ability at this by writing his jokes with a team of writers beforehand, like the actual Mystery Science Theater 3000 did after its first season.
The DVD Commentary by the cast for Farscape often features the cast riffing on the action or dialog. Especially Ben Browder and Claudia Black. Their commentary together on the season one episode "Throne For A Loss" is particularly hilarious.
Game Show Network's original series Faux Pause screened obscure, short-lived game shows, paused them at certain points, and riffed on them.
FlirtyFroggy wrote a series of commentaries/reviews of Hornblower. Writing and characters are praised very often, but mocked mercilessly when it's deserved. As the author put it: "I mock because I care." It's very snarky, but also includes gushing about Archie Kennedy, because in the author's opinion, he's the cutest and coolest character on the show, and needless to say, this view is mirrored by many fans.
The Glitterdome is an archive of MSTs for dozens of TV shows, done by taking screenshots and adding captions. It's mostly sci-fi and supernatural shows such as Buffy and Doctor Who.
Hipsoda's Caption Crack is another captioning site, where cappers (as they call themselves) can choose from an assortment of shows, movies, commercials, etc. and even "fave" captions.
Some of the DVD Commentary tracks for Mad Men feature the actors riffing on the episodes. It happens pretty much any time Vincent Kartheiser (Pete Campbell) and/or John Slattery (Roger Sterling) are on the commentary, and there are a few episodes where they're together.
Mash did this a few times in its early years when home movies were being screened. Used to its funniest as Hawkeye, Trapper, Klinger, Radar and Henry were watching Frank's home movie of his wedding.
Hawkeye: (as movie first shows line of wedding guests) I've invited you here today as I'm ready to name the murderer.
The fivers over at Fiveminute.net have some elements of an MST combined with an Abridged Series. It's a bit complicated; read the examples at the works page.
Comic SJ Perelman would often mock plays or entire novels. He even had a special prefix for the times he mocked a book he had read as a child; "Cloudland Revisited".
In a speech before the Reichstag on April 28, 1939, Adolf Hitler went point-by-point through a series of demands addressed to him by Franklin D. Roosevelt. The German dictator paused after reading each item to give his snarky/sarcastic answer, prompting his rubber-stamp parliament to roar with laughter. That's right, MSTing is something Hitler did.
Although short-lived, Lynxara's Mystery Wrestling Theater 3000 was a fun series geared towards wrestling fans. Its two best (and most memorable) entries are its longest: "Coming of Munihausen", and the even worse(!) "A sorcerer, a demon, and Emeralds".
William Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream ends with a bumbling theatre troupe that plans to perform a version of "Pyramus and Thisbe" for Duke Theseus, his new wife Hippolyta the Queen of the Amazons, and some guests. The play is an extreme example of So Bad, It's Good; meanwhile, the royal couple and their guests mercilessly riff on it. (It should be mentioned that it wasn't taboo to talk during the play in Shakespeare's time; and also that "Pyramus and Thisbe" had been adapted for the stage several times, always poorly.)
Given the precedence, authors MSTing Shakespeare fanfics often use Theseus and Hippolyta.
In the Commedia dell'Arte, there was a character called the Capo or Capocomico, ostensibly a narrator, but in some shows he would join the action, complain to the audience, and sometimes even freeze the action and physically move the actors.
Just a few years after the Shakespeare example, it was included in Francis Beaumont's The Knight Of The Burning Pestle in the form of a loud middle-class couple that's supposed to be part of the audience. They decide they have a better view of the show if they sit on stage, then get in an argument with the guy reading the prologue, and soon berate him into changing the play so it focuses on the middle class—which, remember, was a pretty new class at the time—and also into making up a new character and subplot so that their servant-boy can be in the show. They never do shut up, occasionally interrupting the action to complain.
Broken Pixels was a series on 1UP.com where three guys would play bad video games for comedic value. Featured Seanbaby.
Broken Pixels received a spiritual successor of sorts called Shame Night, a live Ustream show shown every Friday. Unfortunately, that's now gone as well, due to co-host Scott Sharkey being laid off under mysterious circumstances.
Any given Let's Play might be this, depending on the player's opinion of the game and the overall tone of their LPs. Pokecapn and his crew (whether it's all four guys together or just any combination thereof) tend to choose games that are ripe for this sort of treatment, so naturally it's going to happen.
Two notable examples are BrainScratch Commentaries and Hellfire Commentaries. Hellfirecomms mostly only has two or three commentators (Except in the recent Sonic comms, which have NTom, FTA, Skyler and SonicMovies) but Brainscratch can have anywhere between four to six due to having a main cast of four members.
They also did a "Two Best Friends Watch" with their friend Woolie of Metroid: Other M through the in-game Theater mode.
In Homestuck, Dirk MSTs a Pony Pals book. As the story goes on, he starts going Off the Rails, blacking out and rewriting entire chapters, keeping only the chapter titles. According to Jane, it becomes "a tough, emotionally draining read. But it's cathartic, in all the worst ways possible."
Tough The Gutters usually is content with criticizing the comics industry by the way of parody and satire, in this twoparter they emulate the MST3K style, taking a shot at a controversial real life speech, with the creators playing the parts of the MST3K crew.
When the Powerpuff Girls were reluctantly forced by the Professor to watch an old silent film in an old revival theater, they began to spout wisecracks and make fun of of the movie. They even sit in the same position at the same silhouette angle of MST3K.