Monday, April 11, 2011

Joel vs. Mike: The Hosts of Mystery Science Theater 3000

Mystery Science Theater 3000 is perhaps the most iconic horrorhost television show ever made. Joel, Mike, and those zany bots Tom Servo and Crow spent 11 years making fun of gloriously bad movies, and with the inception and growth of the internet in the show's heyday, fansites sprang up by the hundreds. Of course, chatboards also sprang up, and with any good online discussion, a furious argument was soon born: "who's the better host?"

Gypsy was the most believable one.
I love beating a dead cyberhorse, so let's look at this sort-of scientifically. What did Joel Hodgson bring to the table? Well, he created the show, for one. That's a lot of points right there. In-universe, Joel (last name Robinson on the show, a reference to Lost In Space) was responsible for building Servo and Crow so that he'd have some friends to help him through the terrible movies that Dr. Forrester made him watch. Besides creating the bots, he was a gifted tinkerer, fixing things on the ship and participating in the weekly Invention Exchange with Forrester and TV's Frank. And he was savvy enough to escape the Satellite of Love, forcing the Mads to capture another specimen (Mike, of course).

As a host/riffer, Joel had a very sarcastic, dry quality to his jokes. Watching him struggle through certain movies, one gets the sense that he very nearly succumbed to Forrester's evil plan, but Servo and Crow's wisecracks continually brought him back. 

Mike Nelson is a different flavor of ice cream altogether. Long the head writer on the show, Mike stepped in when Joel left, with the story being that the Mads needed a new dope to torture in Robinson's absence. Mike quickly acclimates to the Satellite of Love and its strange mechanical inhabitants, countering Forrester's cinematic stink bombs with his own quips.

Nelson held the host position for a longer stretch of time than Joel, and so many fans grew up watching him. Beyond the nostalgia factor though is the fact that Mike has a more agreeable sense of humor. Most of his riffs can be appreciated without specific knowledge of the references contained, and he seemed to have more enthusiasm for life. Keep in mind that this is not a judgment call on Joel Hodgson, just Joel Robinson. And let's be fair, after almost having my mind turn to mush thanks to years of watching crappy movies, I'd be sarcastic and cynical too.

Hodgson gave us the gift of MST3K in the first place, and that cannot be underestimated. But this is not a site where I wuss out and say "both hosts have something to offer the viewer" true as that may be. This is a site with an opinion, and in my humble opinion, Mike is the better host. Agree? Disagree? Want to tear my head off and send it to Crow's evil twin Timmy? Let me hear it!


  1. I've got to agree with your assessment. I've seen both Joel and Mike's performances, and I found Mike to be a much more lively, engaging personality. Joel's drab deadpan style might have entertained others, but it put me off.

  2. Let's not get into the whole kirk/pichard thing guys

  3. I love both hosts and both have made me laugh hard enough to hurt.

    Having said that, I always liked Joel better. He interacted with the 'bots in a more affectionate way and the dryness of his humor was personally more appealing.

    Both guys are amazing though. Mike gets props for taking over from a beloved host and running with it in a way that did not alienate long time fans and drew new fans to the show.

    So peace out, they are both fantastic!!