We don't make movies, we make them funny!
Years after Mystery Science Theater 3000
went off the air, show head writer/star/novelist Mike Nelson decided to try making money off of the franchise that made him famous via bringing back the whole concept of riffing on bad movies
— but with a twist. Using the format of a podcast, Nelson now riffs on big budget blockbusters that studios would never ever
let people like Mike make fun of. Hence RiffTrax was born.
RiffTrax is a website where you can buy (for $3-5 a file) audio MP3s of Mike Nelson (and occasionally others) making fun of big budget blockbusters such as Batman & Robin
and the Star Wars
Prequel Trilogy. Of course, you need to actually own or rent copies of the movies too, since the audio file only contains Mike's witty commentary on the films. (RiffTrax also releases riffs of educational shorts from the public domain, along with the occasional public domain feature; these include video files.)
Synchronizing the video to the riff is explained on the website in detail. There are generally two ways to go about it: either use the special Windows software to synchronize the riff with your DVD, or play the MP3
and DVD separately with whatever you have on hand. Throughout the riff, a robotic voice called Disembaudio, visually depicted as a robotic toaster as seen in the Trope Image, recites lines from the DVD for reference. If the DVD and Disembaudio say the line simultaneously, you're in sync. Otherwise, pause whichever one is ahead.
Since starting RiffTrax, Mike Nelson has been joined by several ex-MST3K loyalists (Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett, aka the second voices of Tom Servo and Crow on MST3K) in his business. Guest stars such as Neil Patrick Harris
, Chad Vader
, "Weird Al" Yankovic
, and Rich "Lowtax" Kyanka
have also appeared. Disembaudio will also chime in now and then to crack a joke. Users are also allowed to send in their riffs; RiffTraxs then sells them and shares the money with the users. This program is called iRiffs. Some notable iRiffs include Doug Walker
and his brother Rob riffing Batman Forever
The concept was preceded by a brief series called "The Film Crew", in which Mike, Kevin, and Bill played themselves
and were part of a Framing Device
similar to MST3K, but much more mundane: they were working in the industry and tasked by their boss, Bob Honcho, to provide commentary on bad movies. A combination of Jim Mallon (owner of the Mystery Science Theater 3000
franchise) delaying release alongside MST3K
DVDs and budget costs in comparison to RiffTrax torpedoed that project, but RiffTrax lives on and has even inspired original show host and series creator Joel Hodgson to get in on the act and create his own spin-off, Cinematic Titanic
The site can be found here
. RiffTrax also started Kickstarter
drives, first for Twilight
; while they didn't succeed in getting the rights to Twilightnote
, they snagged the 1997 sci-fi movie, Starship Troopers
. Another Kickstarter was successful enough to not only pick up Godzilla (1998)
, but also reached the crew's stretch goal of getting Anaconda
On April 1, 2014, the Rifftrax crew held a special on National Geographic
channel, where they riffed on classic Nat Geo programming. Titled "Total Riff Off", this was the trio's first appearance on cable TV in over 15 years since the cancellation of MST3K. The Nat Geo special was later released as a video-on-demand title on the website. Another ran in December 2014.
RiffTrax has examples of:
- Acceptable Breaks from Reality: The riffers clearly subscribe to the theory that a movie is entertaining first and realistic second.
Good thing they're showing the entire journey to the Colonel's office. Otherwise, I'd go crazy trying to figure out how he got there.
- Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: They often comment negatively on these, making sarcastic comments about how the action is just exploding across the screen, or similar.
<During The Bourne Identity
> Maybe we'll get lucky and he'll do his taxes in front of us.
- Actually Pretty Funny: In their 300 riff.
when he sits down to a meal of juice, toast, milk, and Trix cereal— Mike
: Uh-oh, where's he going with this? Bill
: And he looks at his bowl of Trix and he says, "THIS! IS! 'SPART OF A BALANCED BREAKFAST
: Wow! Mike
: Wow, you pulled it out! Nicely done!
:"Wait...so they're lingering on a shot of a
frieze before introducing Mr.
Freeze? Huh...that's actually pretty clever; maybe this won't be so bad...
- Despite their utter contempt and loathing for the Twilight movies, they find Michael Sheen genuinely amusing in his gloriously hammed up role, repeatedly collapsing into giggles when he gets particularly "enthusiastic". They also find Christopher Heyerdahl's Marcus near equally hilarious.
- "Actually pretty cool" variation: Kevin notes that the flamethrower-shotguns of Super Mario Bros. are actually a lot cooler than the fire flowers in the game.
- In Fist Of Fury, they occasionally pause to acknowledge how cool Bruce Lee's martial arts moves are.
Mike: Jokes aside, punching someone in the face when you're not even looking at him is pretty much the coolest thing anyone can do.
- Added Alliterative Appeal: Bill has pulled off a few of these, usually involving the letter W. An example from The Room riff:
Bill: His web woven, the wily Wiseau walks warily away from where his work went so wonderfully well, wondering about his wild wayward wife, wanting wheat... Thins.
Mike: You were Ok till "Wheat Thins."
Bill: Watermelon better?
Mike: No. You got greedy, Bill.
- Affectionate Parody:
- The jury's still out on which movies they DO like but the riffs of Road House and Casablanca (the riff of which was marketed as a "RiffTrax Challenge") certainly qualify.
- On the note of Road House, Mike went on record of calling it the "perfect bad movie", and that despite its flaws, he can't ever bring himself to hate it.
- The original Star Wars trilogy probably qualifies, too due to the amount of obscenely nerdy references and jokes they make (including ones aimed at the star wars EU). The amount of hatred that went into the making of the Riffs of the new trilogy (especially aimed at Hayden Christiansen and Jar Jar) seems to result from their love of the original, with them often noting how particular elements have "ruined the franchise" or just making quiet outburts of pure disgust over the more idiotic moments of the prequels.
- Unlikely, however, due to Mike Nelson's vocal hatred of Luke Skywalker (and occasional Star Wars bashing on his Twitter feed), and Bill Corbett's rant at the end of the riff for A New Hope.
Bill: So that... That thing that we just watched, that...
Kevin: Yes, that...
Bill: That thing we just watched, that was Star Wars? The Star Wars, the world shaping Star Wars I've heard so much about.
Mike: It is, yes.
Bill: No one snuck into the vault of 20th Century Fox and quietly replaced a film that deserves a Star Wars-like reputation with the thing we just witnessed? That?! That thing we just watched?
Kevin: No, that was Star Wars.
Bill: Well... I'll be a gut-shot womprat... There must not've been a lot going on in 1977 I guess.
- Though you can like the movie for what it is, while also thinking it's fairly silly and wondering how it ever inspired the massive devotion it received.
- Their A New Hope riff contained the most fanboyish griping of all of them, even over The Star Wars Holiday Special.
- Their love for the the Lord of the Rings franchise is even more pronounced and heartfelt, with dozens of extremely detailed references to the Hobbit and the Silmarilion and practically zero real insults in all three movies. This doesn't stop them from making every serious scene into a farce.
- In general, the riffs are pretty good-natured as opposed to simply ripping the movie to shreds. (Not that it doesn't happen occasionally...)
- Word of God holds that they're deliberately trying to do this more than they did in the TV days where the show's premise locked them more into ripping on bad movies.
- All According to Plan:
- Used in the 300 riff track to try to lampshade the fact that the Persians' only military strategy appears to be We Have Reserves.
- And in Avatar when Colonel Quarritch jumps from the flaming wreckage of an airship.
- All Men Are Perverts: One of their running gags. A sufficiently hot lady in a state of undress will have the riffers abruptly shift from mocking the movie to declaring it the best movie ever made.
Kevin: (seeing Nathalie in her underwear)
What were people's complaints about this movie again?
Bill: Well, that the acting, dialog, special effects, script, sound editing were all really, really terrible.
Kevin: Yeah, it is pretty great, isn't it?!
- Alternate Character Interpretation: Frequently done, Played for Laughs.
- From Return of the King:
Mike (As Shelob the Spider Queen after being mortally wounded): Why? Why? Tell my 800 children I loved them . . . I was so close to curing cancer, give my notes to the medical community... I forgive you, Sam, and I will pray for you.
- Dumbledore is portrayed as a senile and crazy alcoholic who doesn't care about his students' safety while also being an incompetent headmaster all around.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: Joked about. In their intro to RiffTrax Special: 90s Cyber Thrillers they said the internet was this thing that once existed in The Nineties.
- In the description on the website for one of the 1930 Batman serials, they state that these shorts are all we now know about these now-unknown characters.
- Arbitrary Skepticism: From Nightmare at Noon, as horses are riding out to weird music.
Mike: Feels more to me like the horses are going to paint the fences to save the lodge for one last summer.
Kevin: Naah! These horses are about to head to ski school.
Bill: Ski School? Really...
Kevin: (sputters) They can't do karate! They can't paint!
Bill: Yeah just. Drop it man.
- Ascended Extra: The riffers occasionally take time out (usually while something ostensibly important is happening onscreen) to ponder the fates of an obscure character, such as Porkins, Mr. Ditkovich, "Big Dead-Ass Guy" from the Matrix Revolutions, Rock from Battlefield Earth, Trevor the toad from Harry Potter.
- More indirectly, Disembaudio, who normally exists solely to ensure viewers have their audio and video synched, occasionally joins in for a brief riff and sings a few of the ending credit songs. He even became, more or less, the third riffer on the Willy Wonka track.
- This was taken to its logical extreme in one scene of the Breaking Dawn Part 1 riff, where they spent an ENTIRE scene discussing a painting of a dog face in Bella's room (it was even brought up again about 20 minutes later).
- Asian Drivers: In the Empire Strikes Back riff, Chad Vader (as R2-D2) tells Luke "You drive like a member of the Trade Federation. An elderly female member of the Trade Federation."
- Ask a Stupid Question...: Kevin has a real low tolerance for these, especially when the movie is tasking his patience to begin with. Often, if someone in a movie asks something like like "Is that X?" he'll yell "No, it's (something/someone bearing no relationship at all to X). Of course it's X!"
- Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: This exchange:
Bill Corbett: I should really confront the film makers for being in conjunction with the drug industry for this film.
Mike Nelson: What are you talking about?
Bill Corbett: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stoned?
Mike Nelson: That's it. Take your mike off and get out of here.
Bill Corbett: Fine! I will!
Mike Nelson: Get back here. You don't get off that easy.
- Author Appeal
- Mike is practically obsessed with Road House (once writing an entire book using it as the rubric for So Bad, It's Good) and film-related riffs often appear.
- All three are obsessed with beer and bacon, leading to shorts like "Three Magic Words", "As We Like It" and "Behavior of Domestic Pigs" (where at the end, they demand that the pigs "Be bacon now!").
- Bacon Addiction: A major Running Gag.
- Mike once went nearly an entire month eating nothing but bacon as a challenge, stopping only a couple of days short of his goal. He even lost weight doing it.
- Badass Mustache: Or not so badass, as the case may be, but every mustache that appears on screen brings comments of either admiration or scorn.
- Bald of Awesome / Bald of Evil: If a character is bald, they will remark on it repeatedly, pitying or making fun of him. If multiple characters are bald, they find it disturbing, as in The Fifth Element: "How many bald guys does one movie need?"
- Betty and Veronica: Gets brought up duing Neutron The Atomic Superman when Bill describes the bumbling attempts of the three male leads to get the only woman in the movie to tell them which one she's in love with.
This is like if you were to replace Betty, Veronica, and Archie all with Mr. Weatherbee
- Big "NO!". For bonus points, the riffers often imitate Darth Vader's Big "NO!" from Revenge of the Sith.
- Black Comedy Rape: In the Beowulf RiffTrax, the Riffers make a joke about a king being violated by a dragon.
- Bang Bang BANG: Mike on the first firing of Indy's pistol in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Mike: His pistol sounds like a deck gun on the Bismarck!
- Brain Bleach: This happens a lot.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: In the short, Welcome Back Norman:
Kevin: "Inside that briefcase: third-quarter sales figures, a well-thumbed issue of Penthouse, and, oddly enough, several ICBM launch codes."
- Brick Joke:
- In the riff of Revenge of the Sith
Mike (as the dying Padme): Tell... Luke... I loved him... best.
- Then three feature length riffs later in Return of the Jedi as he is leaving Leia after revealing he's her brother:
Kevin (as Luke): Oh and I remember mother loved me best. Bye!
- In the riff of Order of the Phoenix, really early on in the beginning there was an owl onscreen with a floating letter next to it.
Mike: It's time for Letter and the Owl, rockin' your drive to work!
- Then, more than an hour later, Harry turned on the radio:
Radio: ...notorious mass murderer Sirius Black.
Mike: So we're makin' "Sirius Black" the "Phrase that Pays" here on Letter and the Owl!
- At Your Fingertips: Grasses infamously posed and never answered the greatest question of our time: "Is corn grass?" Over a year and about three live RiffTrax later, the answer—yes, corn is grass—was given in a title card at the Jack The Giant Killer live riff. The audience was very appreciative.
- It gets revisited and Lampshaded in the live riff of "Manos" The Hands of Fate. In the intro to another "At Your Fingertips" short about cylinders, Kevin explains, for those who have been wondering for two years, that yes, corn is a type of grass. Then halfway through the skit, he wonders if cylinders are grass.
- Early in Batman & Robin, when one of the cops gets hit on the head, for some reason the movie produces a very cartoony "bonk" sound. Kevin, Mike, and Bill commented on the poor man's "coconut head." Much later on in the film, Kevin makes an Incredibly Lame Pun, and Mike smacks him on the head, producing the very same sound effect. Mike then apologizes to Kevin, saying that he forgot about his "coconut head."
- Often, they will make a joke during the opening of the Rifftrax, and then deliver a follow up at the end.
- Butt Monkey: Hawkeye takes a lot of abuse during The Avengers, thanks to being massively Overshadowed by Awesome. Ron Weasly also gets this reaction. Hell, Hawkeye and Ron get this treatment even when they aren't in the movie being riffed. It's basically devolved to Hawkeye being the low bar for super heroes from that point on and Ron becoming synonymous with general lameness or failure. Poor guys.
- Among the crew, Bill is usually the target of mental abuse, while Kevin usually suffers physical abuse.
- Captain Obvious: A running gag. Usually it's Kevin.
- The Cast Showoff: Usually inverted. Kevin Murphy and Mike Nelson can both sing but they usually get Disembaudio to sing (badly) during the closing credits. Sometimes they play it straight and let Kevin show off.
- Catapult Nightmare: Anytime a character does this, the guys will pretend they were dreaming about some bad movie the actor was in.
- Cat Boy: Bill Corbett is a "sexy kitten" in their halloween costume sketch during their live riff of House on Haunted Hill (1959). Played comically halfhearted by Bill in spite of applause and catcalls from the audience because he "doesn't want to overwhelm the poor audience".
- Cats Are Mean: Bill mentions in The Hunger Games that he doesn't trust kittens, because they start off all cute, then you turn your back, and BOOM! They turn into cats. Evil, evil cats.
- Catch Phrase: Mike's nasal "Hey!" whenever another riffer sneaks a joke past him. (This is continued from Mystery Science Theater 3000.)
- Bill has said "Go so to hell." more than once to the other riffers in response to terrible puns.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Both Bill and Mike deliver one of these at the end of the riff of "Birdemic". Kevin's singing helps calm Bill, but not so much Mike.
- Comically Missing the Point / Misaimed Hatedom: The riffers constantly trash Paranormal Activity for not being a thrill-a-minute horror flick, rather than the suspenseful buildup it was supposed to be. Then again, Rule of Funny is in effect, folks.
- Conversation Cut: Especially bad ones are mocked, such as when it seems like the characters have stopped their conversation mid sentence and flown to the other side of the country before resuming.
- Corpsing: More often than not, the guys are laughing along with their own riffs, especially if the material is bizarre. Bill Corbett utterly breaks when Mike drops into a Scooby-Doo impression in the Night of the Living Dead live riff.
- Creator Provincialism: The guys take several shots at their home State of Minnesota, particularly its frigid winters, and their former governor Jesse Ventura. Other cities in the Midwest also get jokes made at their expense, particularly Chicago.
- Damned by Faint Praise: In an effort to say something positive about Star Wars Episode I, Mike describes it as being "slightly preferable to having a sand burr in your eye." Kevin says he guesses he'd take the film over "having a hot needle stuck into my infected toenail."
- Darker and Edgier: If there's a happy, cheerful song in a short, its lyrics will be immediately changed to reflect death and horror. See the "County Fair" short for a great example.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: A popular gag, as it was with Mystery Science Theater 3000. For example, when Buzz in Mr. B Natural puts a record on his turntable to help him feel better, Bill quips, "Now to try some of this so-called 'race music'."
- Delusions of Eloquence: In the short "Patriotism", the riffers take exception to some indecipherable advice from host Bob Crane:
Bob Crane: If we learn to care for others, to respect others we'll learn how to care for, to respect our country.
Bill: Oh, well... huh?
Kevin: What the...?
Bill: [Wanna] diagram that sentence?
Mike: Is this fence patriotic? It is, because it respects the care for with respect will care for others our country.
- Demoted to Extra: As the syncing issues that were Disembaudio's origial purpose have pretty much been eliminated, he's pretty much relegated to once-a-show drop-ins and singing (badly) over the end credits of whatever movie they're tackling.
- Don't Explain the Joke: In the commentary for Clash of the Titans, they make a joke about there being no jobs in Greece. Mike follows it up with:
Mike: It's funny because their economy is currently much worse than ours.
- Double Meaning: A subtle one. At the beginning of the live riff of "Manos" The Hands of Fate, Kevin says "Hey, this looks familiar." Some audience members laugh, under the presumption that he's referring to when he riffed the movie for Mystery Science Theater 3000.note He then follows up with the punchline "Oh right, it's video from my vacation in Hell!"
- Dude, Not Funny!: "The jokes in Memento are pretty rare, folks, enjoy 'em while you can."
- Kevin takes the time to acknowledge that the flashback of Rosalie being raped in Eclipse is genuinely disturbing.
- The crew is practically silent for the beginning of X-Men, during the Holocaust scene, with the only comments being about how genuinely unsettling they find it.
- The few comments made are mostly Bill asking Mike what he was thinking when he decided to make fun of this movie, and heavily implies he thinks this is what the whole movie will be like.
- This is arguably in play/overlaps with Refuge in Audacity when they crack jokes about Will Smith killing his dog in I Am Legend.
- Their discomfort is palpable during the scene in Star Trek: Generations where Picard reveals that his family was killed in a fire.
- Their VOD version of Super Mario Bros. edits out a brief shot of the World Trade Center disintegrating.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: A running gag in their riffs of the Harry Potter series particularly with regard to the continued distrust of the boy that saves Hogwarts once a year.
Harry: I was only [using magic in front of muggles] to save [them.]
Bill (continuing as Harry): Also I've saved the school four times and have a flawless record of being on the side of truth and justice.
- Dull Surprise: The kids from "Drugs Are Like That"; their faces aren't seen often, but their voices are incredibly dull and lifeless.
Kevin: Someone ought to check this house for carbon monoxide.
- Ear Worm: Invoked by name from Bill Corbett.
- Eldritch Abomination: How they interpret Renesmee Cullen from Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 1, with Kevin flat out screaming "CTHULHU!" when he sees her during the birth scene.
- Especially in Breaking Dawn Part 2. When she goes to Charlie's for Christmas, they have Mustache Dad claim "That all the Christmas decorations turned to ash and the advent calender started weeping blood."
- Elevator Floor Announcement: Mocked in the Order of the Phoenix riff:
Elevator: Department of Mysteries.
Mike: Also hardware, lady's lingerie and blatant traps for idiot children.
- Ensemble Dark Horse: A gag used by the riffers. They often like to latch onto a character who is clearly not a focus of the story or even just has one or two lines and a memorable name. For example:
- In Star Wars, they pine for Porkins, or sometimes Biggs Darklighter.
- In Spider-Man (and beyond) they often reminisce about Bonesaw.
- In The Matrix Reloaded, they wax adoring of the Merovingian's unnamed bouncer, "Big-Dead-Ass-Guy".
- In several movies, when the camera focuses on the violent death of an extra, one or more of the riffers will start shouting "No! Not 'That Guy!' How could they kill 'That Guy?'"
- Mr. Bungle, the puppet who shows kids how not to behave in the lunchroom, becomes a veritable mascot for the RiffTrax shorts.
- The Avengers: The cellist Agent Phil Coulson misses a date with.
- In Titanic : They spend more time than you'd expect reflecting on the misfortune of Sven, the guy Jack Dawson wins his Titanic tickets from.
- By far their favorite character in the Batman and Robin serial is the Wizard's rarely-seen henchman Gabe.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: Discussed in several of their riffs. For example, when Odin hurls Thor's hammer to Earth, they want a monkey to find it.
- For the first ten minutes of Laser Mission, the guys keep asserting that the movie would be several times better if it were actually "Laser Chimps", as they randomly guessed at first.
- During the climactic arm-wrestling match at the end of Over the Top, Mike muses on how the film would have been vastly improved if Sylvester Stallone had been teamed with a chimp, rather than a boy. Amusing activities the chimp could have engaged in would have included pickpocketing Robert Loggia's wallet.
- Notably averted in One Got Fat. Bill is basically traumatized throughout the entire piece. Granted, those papier-mâché chimp masks did plunge pretty far down the Uncanny Valley.
- In a short about sentences they notice a live monkey randomly in the background at the beginning and for the rest of the riff they talk about all the cool things the monkey could be doing off-screen and lament the fact that the short didn't focus on it instead.
- Evil-Detecting Dog: Rebel the dog's incessant barking at the Ice Cream Bunny does not go unnoticed by the riffers.
Mike (as Rebel): It is a thing of evil! We animals can sense such things!
- Fauxlosophic Narration: It's present in some of the shorts, including "American Thrift", "What It Means To Be An American" and "Your Chance To Live".
- Felony Misdemeanor: While watching Star Wars: A New Hope, they decried the notorious changes to iconic scene of Han shooting Greedo as the foulest cinematic abortion of all time, comparing it to a mustache on the Mona Lisa.
- Flanderization: When they don't engage in Alternate Character Interpretation, they often go this route. In their The Dark Knight riff, they actually made The Joker even crazier.
Joker: You want to know why I use a knife?
Mike (as Joker): Because soup tastes better when it's difficult.
- In the Star Wars series, they made Luke singularly obsessed with power converters, and gave Anakin/Vader a pathological hatred of sand (See Running Gag below).
- They have a tendency to make hot women playing scientists or other brainy characters sound like completely shallow airheads. To be fair, they also make Sam Worthington sound about as intelligent as a strain of bacteria, as well.
- In Twilight Breaking Dawn Part One, Bill interprets one of Edward's many bizarre facial contortions as him trying and failing to fart. This starts up a running gag that culminates with Kevin enumerating Edward's flaws, ending with "you can't fart." Bill says "In his defense, I kinda forced that one on him."
- And then there's Hawkeye, who devolved from Badass Normal to Worst Superhero ever due to them interpreting him not having powers (and not being Scarlett Johansson) as him being a useless and ineffectual character.
- The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: During Batman & Robin, when Mr. Freeze quips that he hates it when people talk during the movie, Bill starts wondering if Freeze can hear them cracking jokes.
- In Mutant, Wings Hauser's character at one point looks off screen, and yells at his brother Mike to shut up. Mike Nelson briefly thinks that Wings is yelling at him.
- Freudian Trio:
- Id: Bill (always the first to chime in with a silly or crude joke, more prone to angrily lashing out)
- Super-Ego: Kevin (more measured and often more elaborate riffs)
- Ego: Mike (the leader, more or less, and a mixture of the two styles)
- Fridge Brilliance: Sarcastic In-Universe example: jettisoning the Death Star plans to Tatooine in A New Hope to hide them from Darth Vader was an act of brilliance; he hates sand.
- Full Name Ultimatum:
Bill (as Frodo): Smeagol Thomas Peterson, you come out here right now!
- Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: In "The Bermuda Triangle", a shot of nothing but the ocean gives Bill horrible Waterworld flashbacks. Kevin tells him to get a grip, a slap is heard... and Bill, feeling much better, thanks Kevin for letting him slap him.
- A God Is He: Mike, Kevin and Corbett ponder if Disembaudio really is God in Battlefield Earth.
- Kevin wonders if Mark from The Room is God based on the fact that he seems to be able to hear the movie's soundtrack.
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: Their typical variation of this gag is to state that they were in such and such band.
- Have a Gay Old Time: Comes up a lot in many of the older shorts.
- Hilariously Abusive Childhood: 300 provided the abusive childhood, Rifftrax provided the hilarity.
- Bill likes to depict his upbringing as this.
- Hollywood Pudgy: Parodied during the Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, where there's a Running Gag about how fat the slim Keira Knightly is.
- Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Whenever Disembaudio sings along to an end credits song, most notably in the Titanic riff.
- The guys mock a group of tone-deaf singers in "Coffeehouse Rendezvous" by singing "I harmonize badly" in set of truly horrible voices. They're otherwise pretty good singers, especially Kevin.
- Hollywood Tactics: They like to Lampshade this now and then, such as in New Moon where the vampires' and werewolves' tactics seemed to consist of "run directly at the enemy." Likewise with the battle at the end of Avatar, they would have Sully shout "Proceed with the plan!" and someone else would shout back "And what was the plan again?"
- This happens again during the montage in Captain America: The First Avenger, where they point out that after Cap got his shield the entire team stopped taking any precautions and just ran into enemy strongholds without taking cover.
- Hypocritical Humor. At least once per a riff track, they will make fun of RiffTrax.
Kevin: And I especially hate those stupid advertisements for sound tracks where people just make fun of perfectly good movies.
- It doesn't stop there, though.
: And all those stupid
ads for downloadable commentaries! Mike
: Uh, Kevin? Kevin
: *beat* I love
those things! Twilight Mr. Rhinehart
: You have a problem with authority, Mr. Anderson. Kevin Murphy
: No, I don't! Go to hell! The Matrix
- Similarily, from Star Trek:
Sarek: (to young Spock) Emotions run deep within our race.
Bill Corbett: No, they don't— GO TO HELL, Dad!
The Merovingian: Choice is an illusion created between those with power and those without.
Mike Nelson: I choose to think of it that way anyhow.
The Matrix Reloaded
- In the riff for Battlefield Earth, Mike Nelson states how he finds it undignified for a grown man to ever wear a jumpsuit, even for a acting role.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Gets Lampshaded by the guys a lot. Referred to almost by name in The Matrix Reloaded.
- Insistent Terminology: A Running Gag during the Riff of The Wicker Man's remake has Bill or Kevin referring to Nicolas Cage's outfit as a suit, whereupon Mike emphatically insists that it's a "SPORT COAT AND SLACKS."
- It Will Never Catch On: When a 1978 CBS network promo airs during The Star Wars Holiday Special:
- Kill It with Fire: Bill shouts the trope name when he gets a look at Ricky's teacher in the short "Danger Keep Out!"
- Large Ham: Kevin Murphy. Perhaps to an even greater extent, Bill Corbett.
- Latex Perfection: Referenced. When Red Skull rips off his perfect latex mask:
If that's Tom Cruise
under that mask, I'm leaving.
- Let Us Never Speak of This Again: Mike after the attempted sing-along during one of the sex scenes in The Room.
- Lie Back and Think of England: Kevin seems to be fond of saying this as a joke, he used it in The Matrix and The Room, and possibly others.
- Made of Explodium: Mike likes Lampshading this. When something explodes for no good reason, he's likely to shout something like "No! Not my collection of antique kerosene lanterns!"
- Madness Mantra: Some of the shorts provide their own, including "Quality freshness and flavor" (Three Magic Words), "Give George some more beans" (Each Child Is Different) and "Mr Bungle!" (Lunchroom Manners).
- Magic Countdown: In The Hunger Games, while Katniss is waiting to get put into the Games, a voice over the PA announces "Thirty seconds." Mike starts counting down, and gets all the way to ten before the announcer comes back and says "twenty seconds." Mike immediately revises his count back up to 20. Especially odd since it wasn't even a Race Against the Clock situation, so there wasn't really any need to stretch time.
- Mondegreen: In-universe and invoked. The riffers make a lot of rather puerile (but very funny) gags about mishearing the word "bonus" as "boners" in their Alien riff. Cue many references to "the boners situation".
- In Batman & Robin, Mr. Freeze freezes Robin and quips, "Stay cool, bird boy." The riffers mishear it as "beard boy", thanks to Freeze's accent.
- In The Empire Strikes Back, Kevin mishears Han's line "We'll soon be gone" as "bassoon beagle."
- Mundane Made Awesome: Mike levels an accusation of this during Predator. He says that the tense music being played during an otherwise boring scene of Arnold walking through the jungle could be used to make anything sound epic, such as going to the store for milk or discovering you might be able to pay off your car sooner than you thought.
- Mundane Utility: Exaggerated after Hermione reveals she's been using Time Travel to pack more classes into her schedule.
Bill: That's the nerdiest use of time travel since I went back in time to post "first" on a message board.
- Mythology Gag: In Captain America: The First Avenger. They deliberately mistake Stan Lee for Jack Kirby during the Creator Cameo. While Lee was in part responsible for reintroducing the character to 1960's readers, Kirby originally created the character.
- Noodle Implements: In the short Welcome Back, Norman, Mike states "The contents of those two briefcases would shock even the most jaded sex trade worker."
- Not What It Looks Like: Disembaudio has a tendency to wander in during a sex scene in the movie, causing him to come to the conclusion that the guys put on smut whenever he leaves the room.
- Notable Original Music: The DVD menu for Swing Parade of 1946 has Kevin singing a soft rock ballad called "Larry's Fine", a love song about Larry of The Three Stooges
- The Nicknamer
- No Indoor Voice: The guys (especially Bill) like to Lampshade characters who do this by shouting nonsense.
- Obviously Evil: "Obadiah Stane? Was the name Menacing T. Badperson already taken?"
- They will often have the bad guy (especially if he's hiding his intentions) blurt out things like "I'm not being evil!"
- Oh, Crap: Occasionally shows up among the riffers. For instance, during the short Live and Learn, in which even the most innocuous activities (such as cutting out paper dolls) turn out horribly for the children involved, we cut to two kids with a rifle:
Mike: Oh, this isn't going to end well.
- Overly Long Gag: Kevin has a really bad (almost intentional) tendency to do jokes that run on for several minutes. They only stop when someone actually stops him.
Bill: (after Kevin has been making annoying siren noises in Highway Mania) Kevin? Don't take this the wrong way, but I will murder you and smile doing it.
- A callback to his tendency to do so as Tom Servo in MST3K, most notably in Manos: The Hands of Fate when he single-handedly delivers the single longest riff in the entire series.
- Subverted on the Twilight commentary when Mike starts to praise the plausibility of the love story only for Kevin to hit him with a phonebook.
- On the other hand, he was greeted with praise for his minutes-long "Amway Sketch" during Avatar. Granted, it was Actually Pretty Funny.
- Later on in the same film, Mike comments that Kevin "covered three city blocks" in setting up a joke about the Kansas City Royals baseball team.
- During the Firehead riff, Kevin does a really long "singing along to the music" gag for an entire scene. In this case, the length of the gag is meant to call attention to how long and pointless the scene itself is.
- Playing Gertrude: During The Bourne Identity, they keep joking that Julia Stiles' character looks far too young to be playing a CIA operative.
- Precision F-Strike: In general, the guys keep their commentary clean. They usually don't use language the film itself avoids. However, there are a few exceptions.
- On the short The Red Hen, the following conversation takes place.
Kevin: I think it was really important to focus on the Red hen. The subtle differences between how the Red Hen and the speckled hen would handle this situation really elevates this short to a new level.
Bill: What level is that, Kevin?
Kevin: Complete dogshit.
Sokka: My grandmother would say, "why is your hair white, young lady, you look so strange!"
Yue: I would say...
Bill: F**k off, Granny!
While listening to an Info Dump from a Mr. Exposition Mike:
All right, this is good, this is... Kevin:
This is horseshit. Mike: [Beat]
Bill: Wait, you're fucking kidding me.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: They like to call movies out on this. For instance, during the Paris chase scene in The Bourne Identity, they made comments about how millions of euros in property damage were inflicted, dozens of lives endangered, and how years of therapy would be needed to pieces people's shattered lives back together, but that's all OK, because Matt Damon and his girlfriend are safe.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Mike and the other boys make fun of this trope, especially when they riff 300.
Bill Corbett: Well, I think he certainly proved that THIS! IS! SPARTA!
Mike Nelson: Yeah, his kids make fun of him cause when he's handing out stuff on the 4th of July he insists on saying, "THIS! IS! A SPARKLER!"
Kevin Murphy: Or, when he's giving his car a tune-up and his kid asks, "Hey Dad, what's that small white thing with the metal at each end?" he always replies "THIS! IS! A SPARKPLUG!"
Bill Corbett: Or, when he sits down to a meal of juice, toast, milk, and Trix cereal...
Mike Nelson: Uh-oh, where's he going with this?
Bill Corbett: And he looks at his bowl of Trix and he says, "THIS! IS! SPART OF A BALANCED BREAKFAST!"
Kevin Murphy: Wow!
Mike Nelson: You pulled it off; nicely done!
Bill Corbett: Thank you very much.
- Later, there's "This! Is! Dinner!"
- And in the Twilight RiffTrax, "THIS! IS! Forks High School: Home of the SPARTANS!"
- And in Revenge of the Sith: "THIS! IS! THE TEDDY BEAR PICNIC!"
- The Quisling: In Reign of Fire Kevin suggests that the characters should switch to the side of the dragons, and makes it clear that if a dragon attack like that ever happened in the real world, he'll do just that.
- Rimshot: Kevin makes the sound about six or seven times in the Rifftrax for Casino Royale during some witty flirting. Mike asks at one point if he can go get Kevin a snare drum and a cymbal.
- He also fires off a couple during 300.
- Robot Buddy: Disembaudio.
- Rule 34: Mentioned during the "Being On Time Game" short when a dad eats a banana during an overcranked sequence. Mike and Kevin have to physically restrain Bill from looking it up.
- Running the Asylum: INVOKED - Most of the jokes in their Batman & Robin riff were submitted by fans.
- Which sadly comes with a major dose of Ending Fatigue as the riffs become noticeably sparse during the climax of the film.
- Sarcasm Mode: Used a few times.
"The silver screen cannot contain the heated passion of Twilight
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Joked about several times in various shorts and movies. The best example is when Bill just flat out sprints to get away from having to do Transformers 3. He moves faster than a 50 year comedian has any right too.
- Self-Deprecation: For professional snarkers, the guys direct a refreshingly large number of jokes at themselves (or each other) for being overweight, nerdy, incapable of holding their drink etc. This sportingness probably contributes to the fact that their riffs never sound truly mean-spirited.
- Self-Referential Humor: A lot. But special mention goes to the opening of their Highlander riff where Bill and Kevin begin with a generic template of their normal dialog.
- Skewed Priorities - Often, and played for laughs.
discards his empty weapon during the climactic lobby shootout
) "Ugh, you know what message that sends to the young people out there? That it's okay to just go ahead and throw their semi-automatic rifles on the floor like he just did. Well, shame on you sir!"
Bill: I think they should have stuck with their original title, Revenge of the Jedi.
Mike: Bold stance, Bill. And what's you opinion on the atrocities occurring in Darfur?
Bill: Darfur? Is that in the Dagobah System?
- Spiritual Successor - To MST3K.
- Stealth Pun - In the The Fifth Element Riff, Mike points out that the fifth element on the Periodic Table is actually Boron, and hopes that's not what the movie's about, since Boron is not a very interesting element.note
- It also functions as a Shout-Out to their second MST3K summer blockbuster special.
- Take That -
- In their Riff of Fantastic Four: "Wait, Nickelback's an actual band? All these years I thought it was just a derogatory term for a terrible band."
- In their Riff of X-Men...
This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Mike:
You haven't seen X-Men 3
- The ENTIRE Twilight commentary.
- While passing time during the Pod Race scene in The Phantom Menace, Kevin starts reading from IMDB, to Mike's annoyance. One of the facts Kevin reads off was about the poor box office showing of Barb Wire, which Gramercy Pictures chose to promote instead of MST3K: The Movie over a decade earlier.
- Lots of take thats at Jar Jar during the first two movies (he wasn't on the screen much for the third). And then in the original trilogy riffs, all kinds of horrible things happen to Jar-Jar off screen and Gungans in general.
Mike: Now eat your fried Gungan.
- They completely ignored what was happening onscreen during the Mace Windu vs Palpatine fight in Revenge of the Sith in favor of listening to one of the gang explain his old family pate recipe.
- The Hunger Games features quite a few vicious jabs at Lenny Kravitz.
- In the Riff of Neutron the Atomic Superman:
Bill: I don't think it's a comedy.
Kevin: I never said it was.
- The Birdemic riff has them mention that the guys flailing their arms around trying to hit some birds with coat hangers look like they're playing Kinect, except more dignified.
- In The Phantom Menace, when Jabba comes out to announce the start of the race, "Now here's Roseanne Barr to sing the National Anthem."
- In response to the reaction of some fans after it was announced that ''Starship Troopers'' would get riffed, the ensuing live show (and some later riffs, as well) contained many jokes at the expense of fans who considered Starship Troopers a "brilliant satire"
Johnny Rico: It looks like something sucked his brains out.
Mike: And then he wrote an essay on the brilliance of Starship Troopers' satire.
- Take That Me: Combined with Hypocritical Humor. During Battlefield Earth, Mike comments that it's demeaning for a grown man to wear a jumpsuit, even for an acting role.
- Technology Marches On: Extrapolated backwards in Captain America with a giant metal disc that holds ten thousand bits of information.
- The Password Is Always Swordfish: Bill Corbett in the Casino Royale RiffTrax said that M "should use a better password than 'password'" when she was alarmed that James Bond used her password.
- Kevin invokes this trope by name when Barbara is trying to guess Alfred's password in Batman & Robin.
- This Is Gonna Suck: The day after Transformers: Dark of the Moon was released, Mike, Bill and Kevin endlessly tweeted about how terrible it was - and they know they'll have to do a RiffTrax for it. Sucks for them, great for us.
- This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: In their riff on The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.
- The Unintelligible: The kids in the short "A Visit From Santa." They are described as "speaking in tongues," and a little bit later as though they're speaking an "obscure Carpathian dialect."
- The gas station owner in Birdemic. The riffers treat his incomprehensible speech a bit more kindly than the children in "A Visit From Santa," possibly because the guy is clearly a foreigner and just as clearly not an actor.
- Values Dissonance: Frequently addressed by the riffers, especially when it comes to women and having a personality.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: As with MST3K, the guys like to make very obscure jokes, things that only a handful of the fans can be expected to get. Sometimes they Lampshade it, like when Mike made a joke about Crossroads during Avatar, and Kevin said "The 0.1% of the audience who got that joke thank you, Mike."
- Viewers Are Morons: The audience that many of the shorts were originally created for. Some of these include how to draw a rectangle and how to boil water.
Bill Corbett: Should a person who doesn't know what boil means even be allowed near an open flame?
- What Measure Is a Mook?: Frequently Lampshaded. When the hero is wiping out a room full of Mooks, sometimes one of the guys will call out something like "I work in the cafeteria! I was just getting some more napkins!"
Mike Nelson: Horray! She murdered a whole bunch of guys with wives and families who have children who will be wondering if Dad is coming home! Hurrah!
- What the Hell, Hero?: Generally called out with a "Our heroes, ladies and gentlemen."
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Mike does one at the end of Road House, except it's about all the characters dying in various ways — he even includes such characters as "the man who wanted to try Dalton" and "the man who encouraged fellow patrons to grope his wife". Afterwards he claims he was joking and in fact everybody lived Happily Ever After...except Tinker.
- Mike tried to do this at the end of Ocean's Eleven, but the epilogue cut him off mid-sentence. Twice.
- They also do this at the end of the Lunchroom Manners short: "And Senator Bungle is doing alright for himself."
- Wife Husbandry: In Dawn Part 2, once it's revealed that Jacob and Renesme have imprinted, the guys don't let up on him for a second. This is not an exaggeration, literally every single joke about Jake from that moment on is about his imprinting on a baby.
- With Lyrics: This is done often in the movie but constantly during the shorts, almost to the point of Once an Episode. Usually the lyrics are Darker and Edgier too. For instance, singing "probably going to die" to the tune of the theme music for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban or Bill's anti-monkey lyrics from "Monkey See, Monkey Do: Verbs".
From the short "County Fair"
Singing Narrator: The ferris wheel goes around and around
Around and around like the merry-go-round
Mike Nelson: It falls to the ground with a hideous sound,
And bodies are plummeting down, down, down.
- Your Head Asplode: Mike, Bill and Kevin's heads literally explode during the The Calendar - How To Use It short—not because the short was bad, but because the calendar was too damn clever.