A type of satire performed by adding humorousnote
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 terms MST
). The practice originally used the cast of the show verbatim (extremely dedicated writers even included The Mads and the Invention Exchange), but eventually branched out to alternate casts (typically the person doing the MST, characters from the material on which the fanfiction was based, or wholly original characters) 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 tends to run as follows:
- Don't ever make an MST to spite an author (or because you don't like them personally). If you want to do one for this reason, do everyone a favor and don't write it.
- Ask for permission to make the MST — or at least make an attempt to. If the person doesn't respond, it's probably okay to go ahead (just be careful). If they say yes, go ahead. If they say no, respect their wishes. (Most authors will agree to it given the next rule, 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 the fic sucks, it is 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.
Compare Alternate DVD Commentary
, The Abridged Series
and The Heckler
MSTers with their own pages:
open/close all folders
Examples of MSTs targeting fan-fiction (divided by medium of original work):
- A Total Waste of 6 Min 35 Sec is a deliberately awful Anime Music Video that has pop-up dialogue making fun of itself.
- Card Captor Science Theater 3000, by CardCaptor Schlueter (aka Syaoran-kun). It mostly focuses on anime fanfics, with the riffers being Sakura, Syaoran, Tomoyo, and Kero, and Eriol and his guardians replacing the Mads. Features many running gags, a semi-coherent story, and tons of living plushies. One tip: stay away from the tea!
- 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 sadly now-deleted The Dramatic Readings of Professor Oak had a somewhat Nonindicative Name, as it was actually the characters from the Pokémon anime (and not just Professor Oak) riffing on various fanfics. Several of the fics mocked are technically well-written, but full of Canon Defilement or just character bashing.
- Elmer Studios, which has original characters riffing on bad anime fanfiction (Please note that the site is a mirror, since Geocites collapsed). Recently revived.
- While not done in classic fanfic MST format, the unimaginatively-named Review of Sailor Moon V by Horosha (NSFW) holds to the spirit of the trope by portraying the Sailor Senshi sitting around Hikawa Shrine one night reading copies of Troy "Silver" Stanton's fanfic series Sailor Moon V: The Dark Adventures of the Sailor Scouts. Unusually for this trope, the source material is actually really good, and the girls are rather impressed by Troy's work.
- On The Satellite of Revolution, the cast of Revolutionary Girl Utena gets snarky on horrible Utena fanfic. Also, Mikage as the mad professor is several kinds of great.
- Yuugiou Mystery Card Game Theatre has original characters tearing into stories for all four series of the franchise.
- 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.
- The spinoff-of-a-spinoff-of-a-spinoff MPT3K involves MSTing done by alternative Fan Fic versions of a number of companions and related characters from Doctor Who and it's Expanded Universe, as well as fan-created characters. It gets a bit complicated...
- 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 (formerly "Shinji's Vault of Anime MSTings", or "SVAM" for short) contains lots of MSTings from various series and authors. The site — which is still one of the largest MSTing repositories on the 'Net — went into archive mode in 2008 and no longer accepts new submissions.
- 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.
- supercomputer276 brings you the Game Over MST, starring his Game Over series characters riffing ideas that could have turned out great if only they had a decent writer, ranging from Happy Tree Friends to Klonoa.
- It Came From English 101! does this with the MSTer's own English essays, as well as fanfics.
- The Lardpirates' Heckles section, which covers particularly bad webcomics (mostly Gonterman) to especially offensive fan fiction of One Piece, Final Fantasy and Phantom Brave. More are sure to come!
- The blog Library of the Damned riffs on fanfics from a variety of fandoms, ranging from video games to children's TV shows.
- Bennett the Sage on That Guy with the Glasses does Masterpiece Fanfic Theatre where he brings "the very best of the very worst of fanfiction" by reading horrible, usually NSFW, fanfic aloud, while every now and then white text pops up over the video as a snide comment in an MST fashion.
- The MSTing Mine is an effort to archive every MSTs ever posted to the MST3K Usenet groups.
- There is the relatively new Pocket Dimension of Horrible Fanfiction, that covers such fics as My Inner Life, The Quest for the Holey Grail, and a couple of Kingdom Hearts fics in production or finished.
- The forum Refia is dedicated to writing up new and fresh MSTings of both recent and classic fanfics, mostly of The Lord of the Rings and Doctor Who canon.
- 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.
- So What Colour Is Your Toothbrush, handling everything from Detective Conan and Harry Potter to Warrior Cats and Axis Powers Hetalia.
- The Stephen Ratliff MSTing Archives include pretty much every Stephen Ratliff-based MSTing ever written. Also the MSTings of the infamous Peter Guerin Daria fanfics, such as The Misery Senshi Neo Zero Double Blitzkrieg Debacle.
- 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.
- MSTings have also been done in webcomic form.
- The Polish blog Niezatapialna Armada Kolonasa Waazona focuses mostly on fanfiction (much of it for Harry Potter) and on Real Person Fic (most of them about singers and boy-bands), though they've also reviewed published literature.
- 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.
- Originally rt_rocket, and still featuring riffs from when it was hosted there, Kurousu's Lair MSTs takes on fanfic from various videogame franchises, including Sonic the Hedgehog, EarthBound, and Kingdom Hearts. Riffers include canon characters, fan characters, and occasionally the people behind the MSTs themselves. Feel free to skip over any MSTs before Dragon Tails (with the exception of Lost Melodies, which is actually good). Updates rarely.
- A 14 hour long MST riff of Hv HMUGEN, an infamous fanfic created with the MUGEN fighting game engine courtesy of two MUGEN content creators can be found here. And that's just one of the arcs!
- What can basically be described as the My Immortal of Portal fanfics has an MST here, performed by GLaDOS and the other characters from the franchise.
- MSTs are the main attraction on the blog The Half-World.
- 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.
- The End of Ends, from the creator of My Little Unicorn: Here are some for the videos, the fic and the sequel!
- 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.
- Lyoko Fan Fic Gems is a tumblr blog that MS Ts through the weirdest Code Lyoko fanficton, including the author's own.
- My Immortal gets riffed by ponies. Obscenites (except for misspells and "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING YOU MOTHERFUKERS"), and the sex scenes are removed.
- The infamous MLPFIM Hate Fic/Fix Fic My Little Unicorn has received plenty of them.
- Mystery Fiction Theater N has riffed Faithful Hearts by legendary Suethor DisneyFan01.
- The Ponyriffs archive is a relatively new MST archive that collects various riffings of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfics, including ones from Fan/fic/ Theater 3000 and the now-defunct Mystery Pinkie Pie Theater 3000. Visitors can also submit riffs of their own to the archive for safekeeping.
- The MSTing of the Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers Fan Fic Under The Bridge is quite an unusual one. Not only is a very good and famous story MSTed, but one of the two writers of the MSTing is also the author of the story itself.
- 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:
- Deadpool's text boxes have shifted from mere thought boxes to this role in the later years.
- For Mister Kitty Stupid Comics the format is:
> Panel from comic book
- 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 Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God DVD commentary is done by three actors portraying three iconic characters from D&D; Krusk, Lidda, and Jozan.
- 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.
- Brendan Fraser does this throughout his commentary track on The Mummy DVD.
- Robert Benchley in Road to Utopia interrupts the film a few times for Lampshade Hanging and sarcastic commentary.
- The intro and menus for This Is Spinal Tap DVD feature the original actors, in their Spinal Tap personas, commenting on the credits.
- Dragons Lexicon Triumvirate has received one right here, which can also be found on ImpishIdea along with another one that appears to have ended prematurely.
- Older Than Radio: In Charles Dickens's Great Expectations, narrator Pip and several other crowd members riff on a particuarly bad performance of Hamlet. "The ghost appeared to have died with a bad cough which he carried with him to the tomb."
- John Nowak and Matt Plotecher's MSTing of Tom Swift's War Tank tears into the original series' hallmarks of Patriotic Fervor, Ethnic Scrappies, Canon Sues and the magnificent colossus of all-consuming stupidity that is Ned Newton.
- Kippurbird has done sporkings of every book in the Inheritance Cycle, as well as shorter ones of various other books.
- Mark Twain:
- Fenimore Coopers Literary Offences is some sort of proto-MST.
- 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.
- ImpishIdea, contains several sporkings including one for Maradonia Saga.
- 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.
- 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. Instead of using the Bots and the Mads, Lynxara used well-known WWE and WCW stars as the riffers with Vince Mc Mahon and The Rock serving as their captors. While it did riff wrestling-related fics, MWT3K's two longest (and most memorable) entries have nothing to do with wrestling: the horrific "Coming of Munihausen" (a crossover between Sailor Moon and Overfiend), and the even-worse(!) "A sorcerer, a demon, and Emeralds" (a Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic).
- 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.
- Two Best Friends Play from theswitcher features two best friends playing games with their insult-exchanging commentary over it.
- 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 two parter they emulate the MST3K style, taking a shot at a controversial real life speech, with the creators playing the parts of the MST3K crew.
- The Annotated Series does this to many So Bad, It's Good videos, mostly targeting video game cartoons.
- The Comics Curmudgeon is basically this style of commentary with Newspaper Comics as the target. Though usually in the form of an unaltered comic strip, followed by comments, sometimes it splits the comic into multiple parts for the sake of comedic timing, posts a side-by-side comparison to another strip (usually when they feature the same joke), or the like.
- Feeding The Trolls does this with YouTube Trolls.
- Machinima Commentaries does this for machinima, although the MSTers are not assuming characters.
- The Annoying Orange gang does this with movie trailers (and the Five Nights at Freddy's 3 trailer, though that was probably because it was requested so much).
- The Whateley Universe has a story "Tales of the MCO", in which the students are watching the aforesaid anti-mutant show and MSTing it the whole time.
- An old document named Doom Insanity, a collection of humorous e-mails and Usenet posts about Doom, contains also a MSTing of a (perhaps fictional) Usenet posting which claims that Doom is an evil game which opens you to demonic influence. The characters here are the Doom marine and two monsters from the game.
- The Family Guy episode "New Kidney in Town" has Peter, Quagmire, and Joe watching Charles In Charge on a TV at the Drunken Clam and riffing over the show's intro in this manner.
Quagmire: I heard the show's sweater budget was like $200,000.
- The 1988 Mighty Mouse episode "Mighty's Tone Poem" had the hero making four of his arch-foes watch his home movies of clips from first season episodes. As the film rolls, they make commentary on it:
Oil Can Harry: I'd walk out of this movie on an airplane!
Petey Pate: I've seen detergents that left a better film than this!
The Cow: If this were any more of a dog, it'd have fleas!
- The episode "Scrappy's Playhouse" has Scrappy going to a theater showing old Terrytoons and doing commentary. He's eventually thrown out talking too much.
- MSTF is an annual event at Botcon, a big Transformers convention, which involves giving the MST3K treatment to Transformers: The Movie, and in later years various other episodes of Transformers.
- Mystery Brony Theater 4000 is four bronies riffing on My Little Pony G1 and G3.
- 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.