(I don't ever pick tracks where the riffs are missin'!)
Why you always gotta pick RiffTrax?
(Only RiffTrax picks are the tracks worth riffin'!)"
Seven years after Mystery Science Theater 3000 went off the air, head writer/star/novelist Michael J. Nelson decided to try profiting off 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 and fellow MST3K alumni Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett (aka the second voices of Tom Servo and Crow) 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 the snarky commentary. RiffTrax also releases riffs of educational shorts from the public domain, and lately have been featuring more B-movies (public domain and licensed) with pre-synced audio.
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 is ahead.
Nelson started RiffTrax solo being joined by Murphy and Corbett soon after. Occasionally, they're joined by such guest stars as Neil Patrick Harris, Chad Vader, "Weird Al" Yankovic and Rich "Lowtax" Kyanka. Disembaudio will also chime in now and then to crack a joke. Users are also allowed to send in their jokes; RiffTrax then sells them and shares the money with the users. This program is called iRiffs; notables 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 (then owner of the MST3K franchisenote ) delaying release alongside MST3K DVDs and budget costs in comparison to RiffTrax torpedoed that project, but RiffTrax lives on and even inspired original MST3K host and series creator Joel Hodgson to get in on the act and create his own spin-off, Cinematic Titanicnote . Eventually Cinematic Titanic / MST cast members Mary Jo Pehl and Bridget Jones Nelson began riffing shorts and movies together for RiffTrax.
The site can be found here. RiffTrax also started Kickstarter drives, to legally license films for their live shows, first for Twilight; while they didn't succeed in getting the rights to Twilightnote , they snagged the 1997 sci-fi cult classic Starship Troopers. Another Kickstarter was successful enough to not only pick up the notorious American adaptation of Godzilla, but also reached the crew's stretch goal of obtaining Anaconda. A third garnered enough funds to create "The Crappening", netting four terrible movies to riff, including a redo of the infamous The Room.
On April 1, 2014, the crew held a special on National Geographic channel, where they targeted on classic NatGeo programming. Titled "Total Riff Off", this was the trio's first appearance on cable TV in over 15 years since MST3K was canceled. The NatGeo special was later released as a video-on-demand title on the website. Another ran in December 2014.
On March 8, 2016, a Kickstarter was announced for a live show to commemorate RiffTrax' tenth anniversary. The show, held in Minneapolis on June 28, was highlighted by an MST3K reunion, with Nelson, Murphy and Corbett joined by fellow alumni Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Pehl and Jones Nelson (and new MST3K host Jonah Ray) for a night of shorts-riffing. The Kickstarter drive, which funded a live riff of MST3K favorite Time Chasers in May as well as the reunion show, took just four days to meet its base goal.
On February 21, 2017, a second Kickstarter was launched for three RiffTrax Live shows, featuring Samurai Cop, Summer Shorts Beach Party, which will reunite many of the old MST3K cast once again and a mystery film, which was revealed on March 27, 2017, to be The Five Doctors.
A video game tie-in was released on 5 May, 2022, using a similar structure to The Jackbox Party Pack, with players entering a room code and submitting riffs as the punchline to short clips, then voting on which line is funniest. Much like Use Your Words, which also has a clip-captioning exercise, there's a decoy answer from "Riff Bot" in the mix; however, all player lines are voiced by surprisingly good text-to-speech while Riff Bot's lines were recorded by Mike, Bill and Kevin.
RiffTrax has examples of:
- AcCENT upon the Wrong SylLABle: Bill spends a good minute mocking the odd way John Malkovich said "Sins of the father" in Beowulf.Bill: Sins of THE faTHER! SINS of THE father! Sins OF the FAther!
- Acceptable Breaks from Reality: The riffers clearly subscribe to the theory that a movie is entertaining first and realistic second.
- From Over the Top: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.
- From Over the Top:
- Acceptable Targets:
- Nick. Nolte. They do NOT let him and his rather colored past off for a moment, and any given riff has about a 60% chance of including at least one Nolte gag.
- Furries (and Bronies).
- Rip Torn's alcoholism.
- Rosie O'Donnell is another, such as this gem from The Dark Knight, after Commissioner Loeb drinks acid.Mike (as Loeb): I just thought of Rosie O'Donnell. [vomits blood]
- They are also prone to mocking Arby's, Denny's, The View, Baconators, the 2006 film Firewall (riffs involving Harrison Ford are especially subject to this), the sitcom According to Jim (at least during its run), Daniel Snyder, Shia LaBeouf, Randy Quaid, and the driving skills of Kelsey Grammer.
- Expect there to be at least one The Room reference per riff.
- There are plenty of references to Film/Birdemic, too.
- It's tapered off as of late, but older riffs would invariably fire off a shot at Phil Spector.
- Comic-Con and its attendees. For the example, from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull:[Dozens of small monkeys crawl over Spalko in a speeding jeep]
Bill: This is what Neil Gaiman feels like at Comic-Con.
- On a (very slightly) more serious note, the trio has an evident contempt for bigotry either on-screen (i.e. the various examples of Uncle Tomfoolery they see on a semi-regular basis, or the jawdropping misogyny on display in The Wicker Man) or off-screen (they lash out a few times at Anita Bryant for her homophobia during a short she narrated) which usually results in them making jokes or comments noticeably more insulting towards the offending party.
- Their contempt for Woody Allen has carried over from MST3K, and if anything has become even more venomous. Epitomized by this quip from Return of the King.Bill: [Just after Shelob introduces herself] Think if Woody Allen was here, he'd say "there's a spider the size of a Buick in this cave" ... aaand then he would take nude pictures of his daughter, applaud Roman Polański's child rape, and call for an Obama dictatorship.
Kevin: [chuckling sarcastically] Ah, that Woody.
- A few months after the child-rape accusations against Allen himself returned to the public eye, they obliquely referenced this as well in Godzilla by suggesting a destroyed church was what happened when Allen went to confession.
- For whatever reason, Delta Airlines gets regularly savaged, along with their stewardesses.
- Conspiracy theorists who believe in the existence of Lizard People also get mocked.
- In another MST3K holdover, the crew aren't big fans of Clamato. They also show disdain for Zima and Bud American Ale.
- In some early episodes, whenever a machine malfunctioned or something was poorly made, Mike would suggest that the Korean car company Kia made it.
- Bill regularly takes digs at the Golden Corral chain of buffet restaurants. These jokes often include references to being a regular customer. Arby's is also the butt of many a joke.
- In the early years, jokes at the expense of transpeople, mainly transwomen. These died off due to negative fan feedback and in particular after an incident where Bill had made a trans joke on Twitter, later making a sincere and heartfelt apology and a promise to do better. The jokes stopped after this.
- A lot of earlier riffs mocked obesity, which hit a peak in the Birdemic studio riff, where the team went nonstop on Nathalie's mom for her entire single scene. Fan feedback was rather negative of this instance in particular, leading to the live replacing these with a different set of jokes (all mocking the riffers themselves for telling a fat joke).
- However, it didn't stop with Nathalie's mom. A later scene has them refer to an average-sized teenage boy as a "fat white kid".
- 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.Mike: [during The Bourne Identity] Maybe we'll get lucky and he'll do his taxes in front of us.
- Actually Pretty Funny:
- In 300.
- Batman & Robin has this gem:Mike: 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 franchise, 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.
- They briefly gush about the Balrog's entrance in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
- Adaptation Explanation Extrication: Played for laughs in their edited-for-public-domain version of It's a Wonderful Life. Due to trimming around all the copyrighted material from the short story, the film suddenly cuts from George asking Clarence, "Y' don't happen to have eight thousand bucks on ya?" to George running ecstatically down the street. Bill is forced to conclude that, yeah, Clarence came down from heaven and just gave him the money."This story is a LOT different than I remember, guys!"
- Added Alliterative Appeal: Bill has pulled off a few of these, usually involving the letter W. An example from The Room: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 okay till "Wheat Thins".
Bill: Watermelon better?
Mike: No. You got greedy, Bill.
- Affectionate Parody:
- The jury's still out on what they DO like but 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.
- Zigzagged with Star Wars. While the original trilogy contain several nerdy references and the prequels full of nasty jabs that seem to be out of disgust, these are not mutually exclusive to either trilogy. Additionally, the end of A New Hope contained a rather brutal rant from Bill while Mike has expressed immense dislike towards Luke and taken potshots at the franchise in real life.
- Their love for Lord of the Rings is pronounced and heartfelt, with dozens of extremely detailed references to The Hobbit and The Silmarillion and practically zero real insults in all three films. However, this doesn't stop them from turning every serious scene into a farce.
- In general, the riffs are pretty good-natured as opposed to simply ripping the target to shreds. (Not that it doesn't happen occasionally... especially with more low-grade movies)
- 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:
- All Men Are Perverts: One of their running gags. A sufficiently attractive woman 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 and sound editing were all really, really terrible.
Kevin: Yeah, it is pretty great, isn't it?!
- All Anime Is Naughty Tentacles: An MST3K holdover; anything set in/makes reference to Japan will more often than not invite a comment about tentacle pornography.
- Alternate Character Interpretation: Frequently done, Played for Laughs.
- During The Lord of the Rings, they turn Gandalf into a hippie/pothead (abusing the well known "pipeweed is marijuana" misconception), and Aragorn into a crappy poet.
- 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.
- From Return of the King:
- 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. He is also extremely bigoted towards students with muggle parents to boot.
- Lucius Malfoy is actually very Affably Evil, being both very polite and considerate of others. The problem is that his Obviously Evil appearance leads people to assume that that he is being facetious when he is actually being sincere.
- During The Lord of the Rings, they turn Gandalf into a hippie/pothead (abusing the well known "pipeweed is marijuana" misconception), and Aragorn into a crappy poet.
- 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 '90s.
- In the site description for one of the Batman serials, they state that these shorts are all the information we have about these now-unknown characters.
- A real example: in Iron Man, they joke about the zany investment show Pepper is watching, saying that the real threat to suspension of disbelief is the idea of such an obnoxious show really existing. Mad Money is in fact a real investment show, and the host was playing a caricature of his TV persona. Though the way the joke is phrased seems to suggest the riffers know it's a real show, and they were just mocking Jim Kramer.
- Ambiguous Syntax: In the Live show of Jack the Giant Killer, they have fun with the title: It sounds like Jack is himself a giant killer rather than a regular-sized man who kills giants.
- Anachronism Stew: Lampshaded in Shrunken Heads: The movie has elements of both the '50s (the greaser street gang) and the '90s (some of the architecture; the comic book styles), prompting many jokes about the "'50s/'90s" from the group.
- Animated Credits Opening: Introduced in 2014. Animated by Harry Partridge and featuring Jonathan Coulton's Expository Theme Tune. Watch it here.
- Annoying Laugh:
- In Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny, Bill does a "Hurr hurr hurr" laugh every time the titular Ice Cream Bunny is on screen. Also, pretty much any time someone in a bunny costume appears in any movie.
- In Tooth Truth with Harv and Marv, Kevin spends the entire ending credits imitating Marv's "Huh-hee huh-hee heeeee-huh-hee" laugh.
- Arbitrary Skepticism: From Nightmare at Noon, as horses are riding out to weird music.Bill: Music's got me psyched for the horse karate Training Montage.
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...
Mike: Horses can't ski, Kevin.
Kevin: [sputters] They can't do karate! They can't paint!
Bill: Yeah, just. Drop it, man.
- Artistic License Biology: Averted by Kevin during Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He stops in the middle of making a joke about the turtles pooping themselves to look up whether turtles actually poop.
- Artistic License Paleontology: In Yor: The Hunter from the Future, Kevin makes a dinosaur's dying wish into "Tell paleontologists I had feathers, just to mess with them."
- Artistic License Physics: They like pointing this out in action movies. Often by yelling "Go to Hell, physics!"
- 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, Rock and Trevor the toad.
- 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 Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
- This is taken to its logical extreme in one scene of Breaking Dawn, Part 1, where they spend an ENTIRE scene discussing a painting of a dog face in Bella's room (it's even revisited about 20 minutes later).
- And then there's the wonderful Gabe from the Batman and Robin (Serial) episodes.
- Especially in earlier riffs, Bonesaw from Spider-Man would be frequently referenced.
- Asian Drivers: In The Empire Strikes Back:
- 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: I should really confront the filmmakers for being in conjunction with the drug industry for this film.
Mike: What are you talking about?
Bill: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stoned?
Mike: That's it. Take your mike off and get out of here.
Bill: Fine! I will!
Mike: 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!").
- A Wizard Did It: In Harry Potter, Voldemort being Crazy-Prepared is a common explanation for why a character can't use an obvious solution to a problem.Kevin: Okay, so cast the water spell directly into Dumbledore's mouth.
Bill: [as Dumbledore] Yes, uh, well, Voldemort made it so that we couldn't.
- 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?"
- 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!
- Bears Are Bad News: During a period in 2016, several consecutive riffs featured a bear attack in some way, briefly causing the guys to joke that there was a weird theme going on and hope for yet another bear to appear in every movie (or, as Bill put it, "keep the streak alive!").
- Berserk Button: Nothing seems to upset the riffers as much as Jar-Jar Binks from the Star Wars prequel trilogy. While they make scornful remarks about a lot of characters, most of the time, they don't even bother to make jokes about Jar-Jar, they simply pile hatred on him.
- Betty and Veronica: Gets brought up during 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.
- Big-Lipped Alligator Moment:
- The combined "Why Doesn't Cathy Eat Breakfast?"/"Petaluma Chickens" short. The first part never answers the question, and the second provides no context for what the hell is going on (as related by an impression of Foghorn Leghorn at the end). It's entirely possible that the two shorts were released together because both were too short to release on their own. They share a breakfast theme but nothing else.
- "Join Hands, Let Go", as well as "Let's Pretend: Magic Sneakers" as both, especially the former, had no context and leave the audience and the riffers baffled. The riffers even attempt to join the madness during "Join Hands" but end up hurting themselves in the recording booth due to the lack of space.
- Big "NO!": For bonus points, the riffers often imitate Darth Vader's Big "NO!" from Revenge of the Sith.
- Black Comedy Rape: In Beowulf, the riffers joke about a king being violated by a dragon.
- Bookends: At the end of The Force Awakens, the guys joke that Jar-Jar is the hooded figure who greets Rey on Ach-To. Fast forward to the end of The Rise of Skywalker, Jar-Jar is once again the figure who meets Rey, this time as a Force Ghost.
- Brain Bleach: This happens a lot.
- Attack of the Clones: Kevin tells Mike during the Greasy Spoon scene regarding slovenly cook Dexter, "Mike, I invite you to think about his underpants." Mike understandably reacts in horror and cries out, "WHY, Kevin?!" Kevin subverts the trope by telling him that as long as he's thinking about Dexter's underpants, he's forgetting the rest of the movie. Mike sighs happily, "You're right. Ah, his underpants..."
- Similarly, their reactions to Jar Jar whenever he appears tend to be either disgusted and bitter insults or flat out retching and groaning.
- The Room: Every sex scene is greeted with horror, and Kevin's reaction to Tommy Wiseau's pasty white rear end is priceless.Kevin: DISCONNECT! [electric shock] DISCONNECT! [electric shock] DISCONNECT! [electric shock]
- Willy Wonka apparently keeps nude photos of Larry King in one of his rooms.
- In the House on Haunted Hill live, the audience cheers at the sight of Carol Ohmart in a flimsy nightgown. Mike informs them that she's still alive, and in her 80s, so they should calm down.
- During the MST3K Reunion Special, Kevin revealed one of his memories indelibly etched on his brain from MST was catching "Mr. B. Natural" making out with "Jack Perkins".note
- Star Trek: Generations: When a shot of the Duras Sisters makes Kevin wonder if they were seeing the only hairless part of their breasts through the window of their clothes, Mike screams in horror.
- Supersonic Man: The guys are quite horrified at the almost nude body of our hero with Kevin describing it as him wearing "a super-tiny thong and a gimp mask".
- The guys are just as grossed out as the rest of us by the reveal that Rey is Palpatine's granddaughter, meaning he had sex at one point.note
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: In "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:
- Revenge of the Sith:Mike: [as the dying Padme] Tell... Luke... I loved him... best.
- 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!
- Three feature length riffs later in Return of the Jedi, as he is leaving Leia after revealing he's her brother:
- The ongoing Running Gag throughout the riffing of the Original Trilogy where Han Solo/Harrison Ford is psyched to be filming Firewall....ending with old Han in The Force Awakens lamenting that he was in Firewall.
- In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, really early on in the beginning, there is an owl onscreen with a floating letter next to it.Mike: It's time for Letter and the Owl, rockin' your drive to work!
- More than an hour later, Harry turns 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!
- More than an hour later, Harry turns on the radio.
- 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 shows later, the answer—yes, corn is grass—was given in a title card at the Jack the Giant Killer live. The audience was very appreciative.
- 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. The guys comment on the poor man's "coconut head". Later on, 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 riff, and then deliver a follow up at the end.
- Revenge of the Sith:
- Hawkeye takes a lot of abuse during The Avengers, thanks to being massively Overshadowed by Awesome. Ron Weasley 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 superheroes from that point on and Ron becoming synonymous with general lameness or failure. Poor guys.
- Among the crew, Bill is usually the target of verbal abuse, while Kevin usually suffers physical abuse.
- Call-Back: In Julie and Jack, one of the riffs was "Solpanels", a reference to Birdemic.
- Captain Obvious: A running gag. Usually it's Kevin.
- 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 is a "sexy kitten" in their Halloween costume sketch during the House on Haunted Hill live. Played in a comically halfhearted fashion 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.
- Catchphrase: Mike's nasal "Hey!" whenever another riffer sneaks a joke past him. (This is continued from MST3K.)
- Bill has said "Go so to hell" more than once to the other riffers in response to terrible puns. He went one step further during R.O.T.O.R., when he exploded, "I'LL KILL YOU WHERE YOU STAND, MURPHY!"
- Chewing the Scenery: In Hawk the Slayer, Mike asks Jack Palance how the scenery tastes.
- Christmas Episode: Have a Mary Jo Christmas and Bridget New Year! (and its sequel); Christmas Shorts-stravaganza!, plus a bunch of Christmas-themed movies and shorts released on their own.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Both Bill and Mike deliver one of these at the end of Birdemic. Kevin's singing helps calm Bill, but not so much Mike.
- Comically Missing the Point: 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.They've officially taken the activity out of Paranormal Activity.
- This trope is a major component of their comic style. Many, many jokes are made in each riff that hinge on them misreading the situation.
- Continuity Nod: The guys like to reference movies that they've already riffed. Usually when something happens that reminds them of a previous target, or if an actor is in both movies.
- 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 utterly breaks when Mike drops into a Scooby-Doo impression during the live Night of the Living Dead.
- *Cough* Snark *Cough*: While Qui-Gon is explaining midichlorians, Kevin says things like, "(cough)load of crap(cough)", or "(cough)bullshit(cough)".
- Creator Provincialism: The guys take several shots at their home state of Minnesota, particularly its frigid winters and former governor Jesse Ventura. Other cities in the Midwest also get jokes made at their expense, particularly Chicago.
- Cyanide Pill: Bill gets so bored during Psycho II that he tries to take one. Kevin wrestles it out of his hand, and then tries to take it himself.
- Damned by Faint Praise: In an effort to say something positive about The Phantom Menace, 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."
- Dancing Bear: Gets paraphrased in Point Break.Disembaudio: The miracle is not that Keanu Reeves acts well, the miracle is that he acts at all.
- 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.
- The series in general is a lot edgier than MST3K; not only is there often strong language in the movies themselves, but occasional nudity as well. And the riffs can veer into edgy territory as well.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: A popular gag, as it was with MST3K. 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 original purpose have mostly been eliminated (as well as him being The Scrappy to many fans), he's pretty much relegated to once-an-episode drop-ins and singing (badly) over the end credits of whatever movie they're tackling.
- Department of Redundancy Department: The theme song points out that RiffTrax has "professional jokes by professional comedy professionals".
- Distracted by the Sexy: The trio razzes Replica something fierce, but one scene starts with Evelyn in a bikini:Mike: On the other hand, maybe we've been too hard on this movie. I dunno. There are a lot of positive points.
- Don't Explain the Joke: In Clash of the Titans, they comment that there are no jobs in Greece. Mike follows it up with:Mike: It's funny because their economy is currently much worse than ours.
Bill: My God, Dr. Seuss' The Zax had more action than this!
- Expertly inverted during a particularly slow scene in Mesa of Lost Women.
Mike: Ladies and gentlemen, Bill Corbett has just made a reference to an obscure work by Dr. Seuss entitled "The Zax", included in the book, The Sneetches and Other Stories. It describes two creatures who become stuck when they stubbornly refuse to get out of each others' way. By implying that a book with a protagonist who refused to move over the course of many months has more action than the past seven minutes of Mesa of Lost Women, Bill has disparaged the film in an over-the-top manner. This message paid for by Dr. Seuss Explanatory Footnote Council. Member FDIC.
- Double Meaning: A subtle one. At the beginning of the live 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 MST3K.note He then follows up with the punchline "Oh right, it's video from my vacation in Hell!"
- Driven to Suicide: Attempted suicide, at least. Kevin and Bill have tried to kill themselves more than once due to the awfulness of the movie they're watching. See Cyanide Pill above for one example.
- 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, mostly Bill asking Mike what he was thinking when he decided to make fun of this movie, implying that 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 in Star Trek: Generations when Picard reveals that his family was killed in a fire.
- The Super Mario Bros. VOD edits out a brief shot of the World Trade Center disintegrating.
- The gang nervously (and sarcastically) claims they're getting tired of goofy, light-hearted summer blockbusters while watching Two-Face tearing Gordon's crying son from his equally terrified mother and sister to kill him while Gordon screams for Two-Face to leave him alone.
- Discussed and lampshaded during Deathly Hallows Part 2, in a brutal scene of the cast grieving their losses (including Mrs. Weasley weeping over her son Fred and stroking his hair).Kevin: Hey guys, when beloved characters like these die, maybe out of respect, we should just knock off on the jokes.
Mike: Sure, Kevin. Just out of curiosity, can you name these beloved characters, Kevin?
Kevin: [regarding Remus and Tonks] Oh this is... Meatloaf and his wife, Mrs. Meatloaf?
- Played for Laughs in Jurassic World, when Zara is grabbed and fought over by pterosaurs, dropped in a deep lagoon, then grabbed and dunked into the water like an Oreo, and finally gobbled alongside a pterosaur by the Mosasaurus and almost certainly doomed to be digested alive if she didn't get shredded by the beast's second pair of teeth in its throat. The guys wonder what the hell she did to deserve such a death.
- The guys are seriously disturbed by the talk of children being killed in car accidents in "Seat Belts: The Life Saving Habit". They're particularly angry with the parents who object to buying safety seats:Bill: [sighs] Listen and weep as the announcer begs the parents to love their children.
- Some people people feel this way about Titanic, due to being filled to the brim with Black Comedy.
- To some, this joke about the late Richard Harris in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.[During one of Dumbledore's pauses] I think he just died right there.
- An entirely accidental case in Swamp of the Ravens is when they riff an autopsy scene in the usual manner ... clearly not knowing said scene was an ACTUAL autopsy that was put into the movie, which makes all the riffs rather disturbing.
- A mutual example of this between the audience and the riffers occurs in the live Christmas Shorts-stravaganza after a mild joke about the little girl in "A Visit to Santa's Toyshop" is her father's favorite from Kevin draws groans of horror and disgust from the audience, who clearly think he is joking about something else, which then draws a highly disturbed rebuke from Mike that the audience would think this.
- The Sword and the Sorcerer: The trio are legitimately disgusted by the joking treatment of an attempted gang-rape, and the "hero's" attempts to use saving the heroine from said gang rape to coerce her into sex.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: A running gag throughout Harry Potter, 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.
- Dung Fu: Anytime there's a simian onscreen. Especially One Got Fat.Kevin: It's what they do, Mike! You're living in denial!
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- The first live show had Veronica Belmont hosting, musical numbers from Johnathan Coulton, and random commercials. None of those were received very well and all of the lives since have been pretty much about riffing the shorts and feature films.
- A common Running Gag is taking venomous potshots at According to Jim. An early riff, Firewall, Kevin shows some general knowledge of the show, admits to finding it fairly entertaining and even recommends it to Mike. One has to wonder what soured the hell out of that relationship.
- Eldritch Abomination: How they interpret Renesmee Cullen from Breaking Dawn Part 1, with Kevin flat-out screaming "CTHULHU!" when he sees her during the birth scene.
- Especially in 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."
- Their reaction to the shot of an Asian swamp eel slithering for no reason at all is to dub it "Cthulhu's dick".
- Elevator Floor Announcement: Mocked in the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix riff:Elevator: Department of Mysteries.
Mike: Also hardware, lady's lingerie and blatant traps for idiot children.
- Ending Fatigue: Invoked and discussed. Several jokes were made regarding this in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Others have gotten this treatment too, but considering Return of the King appeared to end roughly four times, it got hit harder than others.Kevin [after being wrong about Eragon ending]: I never get that right.
- Ensemble Dark Horse: A frequent gag. They often 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 shorts.
- The Avengers: The cellist Agent Phil Coulson misses a date with. They must have been on to something with this one, she actually appeared in an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..
- Titanic: They spend more time than you'd expect reflecting on the misfortune of Sven, the guy Jack wins his Titanic tickets from.
- By far their favorite character in the Batman and Robin serial is the Wizard's rarely-seen henchman, Gabe (and, to a lesser extent throughout the series, his other equally unfortunately-named goons — Neil, Jason, Ives, etc.).
- Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory: As in MST3K, they occasionally espouse the theory that they've died and whatever they're watching is Hell. Subverted in that they think being dead is preferable.Bill: Well, the good news is that we're probably not dead.
Mike: You think that's good news?!
Bill: [sighing] Point taken.
- Everyone Has Standards: During the riff of Thor, Mike and Kevin, who are in the middle of mocking the Ice Giants, make Bill apologize for comparing them to the cast of Jersey Shore.
- Evil-Detecting Dog: Rebel the dog's incessant barking at the Ice Cream Bunny does not go unnoticed.Mike: [as Rebel] It is a thing of evil! We animals can sense such things!
Bill: [as Rebel] Evil! Evil! It must be destroyed with the Daggers of Megiddo!
- Face of a Thug: The guys like taking obviously thuggish characters and stating that they're really highly-educated and/or humanitarians. The Running Gags page has specific examples.
- Fauxlosophic Narration: 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 A New Hope, they decry 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.
- Fictional Country: Discussed during Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.
- Flanderization: When they don't engage in Alternate Character Interpretation, they often go this route. As a rule of thumb, if a character, especially a minor one, has some noticeable trait or feature, the guys will exaggerate the hell out of it.
- The Dark Knight: They actually make 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.
- Throughout Star Wars, they make Luke singularly obsessed with power converters, and give Anakin/Vader a pathological hatred of sand (see Running Gag below).note
- 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 Rod from Birdemic and Sam Worthington sound about as intelligent as a strain of bacteria, as well.
- Breaking Dawn Part 1: 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's response?"In his defense, I kinda forced that one on him."
- And then there's Hawkeye, who devolves 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.
- Ron Weasley is hit with this so often that if you go by the riffs you'd be amazed he can even walk and chew gum.
- In general, they like to make characters sound a lot more stupid/pathetic/bland than they actually are.
- The Dark Knight: They actually make The Joker even crazier.
- Flat Character: They love pointing out and mocking these kinds of characters. Rod from Birdemic and Bella of Twilight are of special note.
- While watching Frankenstein Island, Kevin states that the four male leads could change their names each time they introduce themselves, and he wouldn't even notice.
- 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 briefly thinks that Wings is yelling at him.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: The Satellite of Love can briefly be seen in the Animated Credits Opening.
- 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)
- To some extent, they maintain their roles from MST3KA.
- Fridge Brilliance: Sarcastic In-Universe example; jettisoning the Death Star plans to Tatooine in A New Hope to hide them from Vader is an act of brilliance; he hates sand.
- Full-Name Ultimatum:Frodo: Smeagol?
Bill: [as Frodo] Smeagol Thomas Peterson, you come out here right now!
- Funny Background Event: A staple of their humor. Since the guys have to watch anything they riff many, many times, they tend to notice details which a casual viewer would miss and remark or obsess on them. Examples include:
- In "Making Sense with Sentences", Mike notices a monkey in the background and will not let it go.
- Kevin points out an obviously flat tire in the Samurai Cop live.
- A tissue caught in a car's windshield wipers drives Mike to a bit of Sanity Slippage in Sharknado.
- In the live Night of the Living Dead:Ben: I've boarded up this place pretty good.
Kevin: Window right behind me notwithstanding.
- Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Happens often, especially if the target in question is particularly tedious. 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 Bill slap him.
- A God Is He:
- Godwin's Law: During Jurassic Park, while Ian Malcolm is arguing with John Hammond, Mike comments that if this was an online forum, Malcolm would have called Hammond "Hitler" by now.
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: Their typical variation of this gag is to state that they were in such and such band."Weird Al" Yankovic: Can you actually play bass, Mike?
Mike: [Beat] Not a lick.
- Have a Gay Old Time: Comes up a lot in many of the older shorts, perhaps most notably Fun in Balloon Land.
- Hey, That's My Line!:
- They're all put out by Tony Stark's endless supply of quips in The Avengers. Bill himself is especially miffed when he starts to say a riff, only for Tony to interrupt him with the same joke.
- During Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they get upset when Michaelangelo makes a joke about leaning on an injured, prostrate person's vital organs, since they make the same joke at every opportunity.
- Hilariously Abusive Childhood:
- 300 provides the abusive childhood, the guys provide the hilarity.
- Bill likes to depict his upbringing as this, with a big part of the joke being that they're framed as treasured childhood memories.
- Hollywood Pudgy: Parodied during Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, where there's a Running Gag about how fat the slim Keira Knightley is. On the other hand, they also make cracks about her flat chest, but the guys are never above contradicting themselves to make a joke.
- 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 gets his shield the entire team stops taking any precautions and just runs into enemy strongholds without taking cover.
- Hotter and Sexier: Unlike MST, many VOD movies will keep the nudity intact. Sex/rape scenes are still edited, though (see Final Justice), unless, of course, you're The Room.
- Hurricane of Puns: A staple of the riffs by Matthew J. Elliott and Ian Potter, where the traditional one-joke-at-a-time format is thrown out in favor of rapid-fire, escalating, very silly wordplay.
- Hypocritical Humor:
- At least once per track, they will make fun of themselves.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. From Twilight:Kevin: And all those stupid ads for downloadable commentaries!
Mike: Uh, Kevin?
Kevin: [beat] I love those things!
- The Matrix:Mr. Rhinehart: You have a problem with authority—
Kevin (as Neo): No, I don't! Go to hell!
- The Matrix Reloaded:The Merovingian: Choice is an illusion created between those with power and those without.
Mike: I choose to think of it that way anyhow.
- Star Trek:Sarek: [to young Spock] Emotions run deep within our race.
Bill: No, they don't — GO TO HELL, Dad!
- Battlefield Earth: Mike states that he finds it undignified for a grown man to ever wear a jumpsuit, even for an acting role.
- Mike points out in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that it's utterly rich for Moody to claim that Sirius following them in dog form might "blow the entire operation" when they're surrounded by Muggles.Mike: Yes, the dog might attract attention, you staff-toting one-eyed goon.
- At least once per track, they will make fun of themselves.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy:
- Insistent Terminology: A Running Gag during The Wicker Man has 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:Mike: Boy, that 60 Minutes show will never last.
- Joke and Receive: In The Guy from Harlem, when Al is talking about keeping Wanda safe before meeting up with her father the next day, Mike jokes that they can hide out at Al's girlfriend's place, which he did earlier in the movie (to her chagrin). A few minutes later, they show the interior of her place, and Mike says "They actually went there!? I was kidding!"
- Keet: Kevin will sometimes descend into childishness. Bill will usually be the one to threaten bodily harm when he does.
- Kill It with Fire: Bill shouts the trope name when he gets a look at Ricky's teacher in "Danger Keep Out!"
- Large Ham: Kevin. Perhaps to an even greater extent, Bill.
- Latex Perfection: Referenced. When Red Skull rips off his perfect latex mask:Mike: If that's Tom Cruise under that mask, I'm leaving.
- Laughing Mad: Mike, Bill and Kevin finally lose it during the end credits of Roller Gator, cackling madly while engaging in a shooting spree.
- Let Me Get This Straight...: The guys use this trope sometimes to point out the more ludicrous elements of a film's plot.Kevin: And all this is supposed to make us somehow feel good about Scientology?
Mike: Sure, in the same way that Birth of a Nation endeared us all to the Klan.Bill: Did this make more sense in 3D?
Mike: Well, the script was written in 1D.
- Let Us Never Speak of This Again: Mike after the attempted sing-along during one of the sex scenes in The Room.
- In the intro to Thor, Mike states that he asked the guys to come up with fresh ideas for the movie. Both ideas are awful; Bill's is pretty much Product Placement so he can get a discount on plumbing services, and Kevin's involves mocking a movie about racism. He ends the intro by warning the two of them not to speak of their ideas again.
- 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.
- Lighter and Softer: Bridget and Mary Jo tend to be less mean-spirited than their male counterparts. On top of that, they even show genuine fondness for some of their targets.
- Machine Monotone: The text-to-speech in Rifftrax: The Game has this problem, since while it's very good at getting the words right (even, as demonstrated by Outside Xbox, out-of-the-box stuff like the names of Game of Thrones characters), it would be virtually impossible to program it to be able to infer things like tone and timing. This also tends to make the Riff Bot line stand out, since the recordings by Mike, Kevin and Bill do have regular human cadences and a sense of comic timing.
- 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!"
- A Running Gag in the short "Sentinels of Safety", where the trio keep pretending everything causes an explosion, even things that aren't flammable.
- Mad Libs Catch Phrase:
- "[Noun] ain't gonna [verb] [pronoun]self!" is said exactly once in every movie.
- "I'm gonna [verb] the hell outta that [noun]!", carried over from MST3K, is said almost as frequently.
- 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.
- Memetic Badass: Bonesaw!
- Mighty Whitey: They make sure to point this out in Avatar.
- Mondegreen Gag:
- The riffers make a lot of rather puerile (but very funny) gags about mishearing the word "bonus" as "boners" during Alien. Cue many references to "the boners situation".
- Batman & Robin: Mr. Freeze freezes Robin and quips, "Stay cool, bird boy." The riffers mishear it as "beard boy", thanks to Freeze's accent.
- The Empire Strikes Back: Kevin mishears Han's line "We'll soon be gone" as "bassoon beagle."
- Daredevil: When Elektra Natchios introduces herself.Kevin: Did she say "electric nachos"?
- High School Musical: Kevin mishears the lyric "breaking free" as "bacon free", and eagerly anticipates said free bacon. When nothing happens, cue machine gun sound effects and Kevin's maniacal rambling.
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: They mishear Bones' line "Genesis, I presume" as "Jim, this is Cypress Hill".
- Twilight:Charlie: I've known him goin' on thirty years.
Bill: I heard "om gom om thirty years". You guys?
Mike: Yep, "om gom om thirty years".
Edward: Do you regret going?
Mike: Yup. Jermabrigullen sure.
Bella: No. It was really great seeing my mum. Just really hard saying goodbye.
Bill: Well. Jermabrigullen.
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince:Bellatrix: You should be honored, Cissy. As should Draco.
Mike: You guys get that?
Kevin: "You should be on a sizhy azured dreickel", I think.
- Plan 9 from Outer Space: The line "I really do love you, darling," is mumbled so badly that the riffers hear it as "I'mma go to Levytown."
- The Sons of Hercules: They think one of the lines in the theme song is "The mighty sons of Hercules / As men as men could be."note Several times throughout, they question how "men" the main character is.
- Mood Dissonance: The riffers will gleefully destroy the mood of any and all dramatic scenes in a movie. Even death/funeral scenes are not safe from their constant joking.
- 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:
- X-Men opens with a caption stating that the film is set in "The not too distant future", prompting one of the guys to remark that something about that seems familiar somehow.
- 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 Cap to 1960s readers, Kirby originally created the character with Joe Simon.
- Nausea Fuel: Invoked many times during This Is Hormel, a short that gets unusually explicit about every stage of red meat processing (minus the slaughterhouse), and features minutes upon minutes of unappetizing stock footage.Mike: Each pig foot a stunning work of art.
Bill: [as clumps of strained white gelatin run over a conveyor belt] Wait, sorry, these are the tapeworms we pulled from the pigs. Eat Hormel!
Kevin: And little Brad and Greg just can't stop puking.
- 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."
- Noodle Incident:
- Bill once had to watch Robert Mitchum take a whizz, but not on screen. He just had to.
- Invoked during Highlander. In one scene, Bill mentions something (an implied sex act) called a "Kentucky Wedding". He keeps trying to get the others to ask him what a Kentucky Wedding is, but they refuse to take the bait.note
- The Empire Strikes Back: Kevin states that he once had to carry Robin Williams on his back for a week. He says it was court ordered, and he doesn't want to get into it.
- No OSHA Compliance: One thing they riff on, particularly in science-fiction and fantasy pieces, is how these worlds don't have basic safety measures like guard rails. Hogwarts gets hit particularly hard in these.Kevin: (in regards to the Quidditch scene in Prisoner of Azkaban) So you need parental permission to go on a field trip to the toffee shop, but with Quidditch, the less parents know the better.
- Not What It Looks Like: Disembaudio has a tendency to wander in during a sex scene, causing him to come to the conclusion that the guys put on smut whenever he leaves the room.
- "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: During the The Five Doctors live, Bill, as The Brigadier, laments that no one calls him by name, saying that it's Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. He immediately tells the audience to Google it if they don't believe him.
- Not So Above It All: In The Rise of Skywalker, when Rey meets a bunch of baby aliens who are played up to be adorable, Bill snarks that Baby Yoda makes them all look like dog crap.
- The Nicknamer
- No Indoor Voice: The guys (especially Bill) like to Lampshade characters who do this by shouting nonsense. Mind you, Bill has a tendency to be overly loud in the live riffs...
- Obviously Evil:
- "Obadiah Stane? Did they consider naming him Menacing T. Badperson?"
- They will often have the bad guy (especially if he's hiding his intentions) blurt out things like "I'm not being evil!"
- Lucius Malfoy, in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Whenever he said something particularly menacing, one of the guys would say something like "I'm sorry, did that sound evil? I sincerely meant it!"
- Oddball in the Series: In Sketchfest 2019, Mike is absent. Also, Trace has a bad cold so he sounds incredibly hoarse- Kevin jokes Trace does the best Nick Nolte impression he's ever heard.
- Oh, Crap!: Occasionally shows up among the riffers. For instance, during "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.
- Oh No You Didn't!: When one of the characters in Braniac becomes mesmerized by the title character, Kevin comments that his face has become stuck in this position.
- Older Than They Think: [[Invoked]] in Clash of the Titans, when the riffers comment that Greek Mythology is such a rip-off of Star Wars.
- One-Scene Wonder: In-Universe. The guys really love this kind of character, usually heaping a disproportionate amount of praise on them. For instance, to listen to them, you'd think that Jek Porkins and Bonesaw were the real stars of the Star Wars and Spider-Man movies, respectively.
- 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 during Twilight when Mike starts to praise the plausibility of the love story only for Kevin to hit him with a phonebook.
- On the other hand, Kevin was greeted with praise for his minutes-long "Amway Sketch" during Avatar.
- 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 Firehead, 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.
- 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.
- Overly Narrow Superlative: In one of the Batman shorts, they refer to producer Sam Katzman as "the Orson Welles of stories about diamond-powered remote control magnetic science weapons."
- Padding: The guys are pretty merciless about pointing this out. This is especially true in their VODs, as those tend to be the kind of low budget B-movies that make frequent and painfully obvious use of padding.Kevin: [during a scene of a police car pulling up to a house in Curse of Bigfoot] No detail is left out ... in our goal of padding this super-thin plot out to feature length.
- The Password Is Always "Swordfish":
- Playing Gertrude: During The Bourne Identity, they keep joking that Julia Stiles' character looks far too young to be 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.
- In "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.
- The Last Airbender: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!
- Battlefield Earth:
- Breaking Dawn Part 2 after the big final battle is revealed to be a vision of Alice's.Bill: Wait, you're fucking kidding me.
- In the live Manos: The Hands of Fate, Kevin asked if the scene with the Master and his wives was "more of that Improv Everywhere bullshit."
- SF Sketchfest 2015, the "Writing Better Social Letters" short, regarding an invitation to a "Washington's Birthday Ball":Wally: Well I'll write out a formal answer that starts out like this
Bill: Dear George, go fuck yourself and your gross wooden teeth!
[with a bonus Call-Back later on]
- Super Mario Bros.: They give a Long List of the ways the big vehicle chase scene is inferior to Mario Kart...before concluding that at least there's no "f*cking Blue Shells".
- A great one in Christmas Circus with Whizzo the Clown!:Bill: Now they're just OPENLY laughing at him.
Kevin: Not even pity, it's just raw contempt.
Bill: [as kid] "Whizzo, you piece of shit!"
- The Guy from Harlem: After Al orders a well done New York strip steak and J&B Scotch:Bill: Hope you like really tough burnt meat and shitty scotch.
- Their tendency to avoid language the film doesn't use gets mentioned in "Behavior of Domestic Pigs", when Bill points out that since the narrator said "teats", he's now free to say it as much as he wants.
- Oblivion 2: Backlash: Mike gets unusually heated about his passions:Mike: Y'know, in Cockney rhyming slang, "sweeney" suggests "a pursuer of criminals"; it's, it's a subtle grace note from the writing team —
Kevin: Mike, for the millionth time, RiffTrax fans do NOT care about COCKNEY RHYMING SLANG!
Mike: WELL, MAYBE THEY SHOULD, GODDAMN IT!
- The Sword and the Sorcerer: Regarding the fairly ridiculous-looking King:Narrator: Ehdan had been transformed into a prospering, civilized nation, by the wise... and strong... King Richard.
Mike: Who, this asshole?
- In "The Red Hen", the following conversation takes place.
- 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: Well, I think he certainly proved that THIS! IS! SPARTA!
Mike: 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: 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: Or, 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!"
Mike: You pulled it off; nicely done!
Bill: Thank you very much.
- Later, there's "This! Is! Dinner!"
- And in Twilight, "THIS! IS! Forks High School: Home of the SPARTANS!"
- And in Revenge of the Sith: "THIS! IS! THE TEDDY BEAR PICNIC!"
- Mike and the other boys make fun of this trope, especially when they riff 300.
- Puny Earthlings: Inverted in Abraxas: Guardian of the Universe. When noting how much trouble the supposedly superhuman villain is having chasing down "a confused young woman in the snow", Bill comments that most of the species in the Universe are just sentient bowls of goop, so this is a bit of a challenge.
- 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.
- Retcon: They directly reference the term in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Psycho II.
- 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.
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: When Hermione turns to reveal she's accidentally turned herself into a Cat Girl, Mike mentions that a new type of slashfic has just been invented.
- Running the Asylum: Invoked; most of the jokes in Batman & Robin were submitted by fans, which sadly comes with a major dose of Ending Fatigue as the riffs become noticeably sparse during the climax. It's probably why they haven't done another fan written riff.
- Sanity Slippage: Roller Gator was already testing the crew's patience to start with, but the revelation that the manager of the amusement park in the film has an alligator head and the film ending with said manager biting someone's head are what really breaks them. They then spend the rest of the credits Laughing Mad and shooting with machine guns all over.
- Sarcasm Mode: Used a few times.Mike: The silver screen cannot contain the heated passion of Twilight!
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Joked about several times in various riffs. Perhaps the best example is when Bill flat-out sprints to get away from having to do Transformers: Dark of the Moon. He moves faster than a 50 year comedian has any right to.
- In the Octaman live, during a particularly long cave sequence, Bill quits RiffTrax and walks off stage. Kevin and Mike respond in indifference; Bill pops up a few minutes later and they warn he's on probation for pulling that.
- Mike and Kevin also quit in Fungicide, leaving Bill to riff by himself for a minute.
- Self-Deprecation: For professional snarkers, the guys direct a refreshingly large number of jokes at themselves (and 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.
Bill: I haven't been in such a terrible movie since Meet Dave! Ha ha, self burn!
- Taken to its logical conclusion when, after appearing on @midnight, the guys unflatteringly riff themselves.
- Bill, in the Film/Sharknado 2TheSecondOne live:
- Self-Referential Humor: A lot. But special mention goes to the Highlander opening where Bill and Kevin begin with a generic template of their normal dialog.
- Silly Simian:
- 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 in 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've 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 "Making Sense with 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.
- Skewed Priorities: Often, and played for laughs.Kevin: [as Neo 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!
- Return of the Jedi: This exchange takes place, as a jab at fanboys: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?
- Iron Man: While Stark is building his first suit IN A CAVE! WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS! The riffers can't stop lamenting the various stupid hats Stark is wearing.
- Return of the Jedi: This exchange takes place, as a jab at fanboys:
- Small Reference Pools: Discussed. When a character in Maniac explains that her son thinks he's a character from an Edgar Allan Poe story, the other riffers start mentioning other classic works like The Great Gatsby. Kevin, however, mentions a character from a random John Grisham novel. When Mike points out that Kevin's reference is pretty obscure, Kevin counters that he'd much rather read Grisham than Gatsby.
- The Snack Is More Interesting: They completely ignored what was happening onscreen during the Windu v. Palpatine fight in Revenge of the Sith in favor of listening to one of the gang explain his old family pate recipe.
- Sound-Effect Bleep: Whenever the riffs themselves contain "fuck" and "shit", they're bleeped.
- The presentations of the movies themselves have a strange inconsistency on whether harsher language is silenced or not. For example, "fuck" and "shit" is censored in Amanda and the Alien, but is left intact in The Last Slumber Party.
- The live shows sometimes have web addresses bleeped, accompanied by a textual message saying the offer they're describing is no longer valid.
- Special Effects Failure: Much as in MST3K days, the guys love pointing these out, especially in big budget Hollywood films.
- Kevin: Well, I didn't know there were digital wolves back in the days of Sparta.
- Special Person, Normal Name: The riffers are quick to point out that the evil queen in The Sons of Hercules is named...Melissa. On the other hand, they really enjoy giving characters hilariously mundane names.
- Spiritual Successor: To Mystery Science Theater 3000, of course, but more directly to The Film Crew, where Mike, Bill and Kevin played themselves, and did silhouette-less riffing on DVD films.
- Stealth Pun: In The Fifth Element, 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.
- Suddenly Shouting: Bill does this sometimes, usually when something in a movie pushes him over the edge. The usual format it takes is that he'll start asking for clarification on something happening in a movie, then say "or" like he's about to offer a second possibility, and then the shouting starts.
- Take That!:
- "Golden Corral's new slogan" has become a long-running joke, in relation to any lines involving garbage or fleeing from something.
- In Fantastic Four: "Wait, Nickelback's an actual band? All these years I thought it was just a derogatory term for a terrible band."
- In X-Men:Logan: This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard.
Mike: You haven't seen X-Men 3.
- Similarly, The Matrix:Neo: This is insane ...!
Kevin: No no, the next two movies are insane; this one was somewhat rational.
- The ENTIRETY of Twilight.
- While passing time during the Podrace scene in The Phantom Menace, Kevin starts reading from IMDb, to Mike's annoyance. One of his facts is about the poor box office results of Barb Wire, which Gramercy Pictures chose to promote over 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 and Gungans in general off-screen.Mike: Now eat your fried Gungan.
- The Hunger Games features quite a few vicious jabs at Lenny Kravitz.
- In Neutron the Atomic Superman:Kevin: So far, this has more laughs than Nacho Libre.
Bill: I don't think it's a comedy.
Kevin: I never said it was.
- Birdemic has them mention that people 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." Sebulba's hamming to the crowd is met with "Steve Buscemi, ladies and gentlemen, Steve Buscemi!"
- 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.
- In Planet of the Dinosaurs, Harvey gets brutally impaled by a centrosaurus.
- In "Courtesy: A Good Egg-sample", they portray an injured character as being severely brain damaged. One of the things he says is "Duuhhh, Jeff Dunham is very funny."
- The riffers like to take potshots at several stand-up commedians, especially Carrot Top, Carlos Mencia and Dane Cook. Though the Carrot Top jokes aren't quite as vicious as the others.
- In Radical Jack, they take a couple shots at Hummers and their owners. Such as saying that the arms dealing, woman beating, slimeball antagonist of the movie is the coolest person to ever own a Hummer.
- They love to insult The History Channel for having stupid reality shows instead of shows about history.
- 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.
- The Tape Knew You Would Say That: During Saw, one of the two characters trapped in a room turns on a tape recorder left by Jigsaw. Bill, as the recording of Jigsaw, says "Give this to the other guy, this is private." Probably meant to parody how Jigsaw seems to have planned for absolutely everything.
- This Is Gonna Suck:
- The day after Transformers: Dark of the Moon was released, the trio endlessly tweeted about how terrible it was — and they know they'll have to do a riff for it. Sucks for them, great for us. They even did a short video sketch about how much they were dreading it. "NO! I'M COMMUNING!".
- For Fun In Balloonland, Bill gasps, "Oh God" when the off-key singing begins.
- This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: In their riff on The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.Bill: Housekeeping, Bitch!
- This Is Reality: They will sometimes joke after watching a character suffer blunt force trauma about how they should be crippled or dead after that. A notable example is in the beginning Iron Man when Stark gets blown up and falls hundreds of feet.
- Three-Month-Old Newborn: Happens a lot, and always mocked — the baby in Ator, the Fighting Eagle is at least seven months old and super-chubby — but a rare aversion happens in, of all things, the Greydon Clark-directed Dark Future. Kevin even points out it looks like a preemie, and none of the guys seem comfortable with a baby girl so young being in a trashy movie like this.Kevin: [as the baby] "I'm deeply undernourished! Send help!"
- Trigger Happy: During Neutron the Atomic Superman, Kevin says that when he's home alone, he reacts to any noise by reaching for his gun. His examples include his wife announcing her return from a brief visit with her sister, and the police arriving to investigate all the recent shootings.
- Truncated Theme Tune: Many VODs begin the theme song at "Who're you going to get to riff those tracks?" instead of the beginning of the song.
- Turn in Your Badge: The riffers like peppering this dialogue into movies, usually when an authority figure is speaking to a subordinate. For added comedy value, the person being reprimanded generally isn't a Cowboy Cop, and often doesn't have any kind of badge to turn in.
- The Unintelligible:
- The kids in "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.
- Seamus Finnigan from Harry Potter is hit with this every time he opens his mouth.Kevin: Can we get some subtitles for this kid!?
- 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 makes a joke about Crossroads during Avatar, and Kevin says, "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: Should a person who doesn't know what "boil" means even be allowed near an open flame?
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Zig-zagged- the end credits scene for the live Christmas Shorts-stravaganza! has Kevin entering Mike's office wearing a skirt, stockings and high heels, causing both Mike and Bill to repeatedly vomit. It's shown, but the vomit itself is pixellated.
- 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: Hooray! 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?:
- "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 tries to do this at the end of Ocean's Eleven, but the epilogue cuts him off mid-sentence. Twice.
- They also do this at the end of "Lunchroom Manners": "And Senator Bungle is doing alright for himself."
- Wife Husbandry: In Breaking 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 being in love with a baby.
- With Lyrics:
- This is done often in the movies 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"]
Narrator: [singing] The Ferris wheel goes around and around
Around and around like the merry-go-round
Mike: It falls to the ground with a hideous sound,
And bodies are plummeting down, down, down.
- Their version of Edward's lullaby (0:00 - 0:40) is priceless.
- This is done often in the movies 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".
- Your Head Asplode: Mike, Bill and Kevin's heads literally explode during "The Calendar — How To Use It" — not because the short was bad, but because the calendar was too damn clever.
- You Keep Using That Word: They like to call out people in movies for misusing the word "ironic", usually referencing the infamous Alanis Morissette song of the same name while doing so.