Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Mike at the Shadowbox!

Michael J. Nelson, the Shadowbox Cabaret, Columbus, Ohio 8/31/05

     I write this just after getting home from Mike Nelson's sold out show at the Shadowbox Cabaret in Columbus, Ohio. I've never seen Mike, or anyone from MST3K, live, either at a convention or a book signing or a performance, so forgive me if I gush.

     Even though a popular venue here in Columbus, this was my first time at Shadowbox. It is set up with two stages. On your left is the house band, who plays awesome covers of classic rock & roll songs while the props and all are being set up on the right stage. So the evening was music, then skit, then music, then skit…intermission…repeat.

     It held perhaps a couple hundred people. Everyone who worked there not only did singing, playing music, and comedy, but they were also your waiters and waitresses, the door man, the ticket woman, the merchandise vendor, etc. It was pleasantly surreal in that everyone who worked there was good looking and vivacious. I almost changed tables just to get this adorable waiter to bring me my beer all night (oh the tip I was going to give him!), but that's another story.

     As mentioned, the performance was a series of skits, interspersed with cover songs from the house band. During the welcome/intro from the club, Mike came out with the emcee to participate in a little banter, foreplay, if you will, with a brief punk-flavored cover of the MST3K theme song, with Mike on tambourine.

     The first skit was written by Mr. Nelson, "The Focus Group."  He played the interviewer of three others who were the focus group, and he was trying to get their impression of a new soft drink. "Well, I detect a note of urine…"  The remainder of the skits were Shadowbox originals, with Mike joining in the fun. The uber-geek friends trying to get Mike through a first date was priceless. "Do you want to stay in your basement playing with puppets your whole life?!"

     At one point, they spoiled us by having him come out and do very brief riffing on segments from a few movies, such as "Taxi Driver" and "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest." Mike responding to Travis Bickle, "Yeah, I'm talking to you! I just wanted to borrow a cup of sugar..."  Of course, this was sweet in more ways than one, but the excellent movie clips shown were just ironic icing on the proverbial cake.

     The last skit was a mock-up of a mystery radio program from, say, the 1930's or '40's. Mike was the hero in a flowing yellow cape, and it included a hunchback, puppets (huzzah!), and a stereotypical bubble-headed dame, who I'm sure every straight woman in the audience was envious of.

     The overall humor of the evening was ribald, to say the least, and frequent breast-grabbing (punctuated by horn-blows…kudos to the foley!) in the last skit elicited wolf whistles and catcalls galore. The performance ended with Mike joining the house band on a rousing rendition of "My Scifi Girl," dressed in a Star Trek jersey complete with big, geeky, emo glasses.

     After the show, we all lined up, event posters in hand, for autographs...

ME: Hi Mike, my name is Tina.
MIKE: Hello.
ME: I love you.
MIKE: Well, thank you. T-I-N-A? (signing the poster)
ME: Yes. For the last three days, I've had Crow's voice in my head saying "Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike...Mike...Mike."
MIKE: (laughing) Ah...well..yes...thank you for coming...

     If there is a God, Mike will never, ever remember that brief conversation. Likewise, I will never forget it. Even my friend who accompanied me had a great time, and she's never even seen a single MST3K episode. That is in the process of being rectified. So, if you ever get a chance to see Mikey doing stand-up and skits, don't miss it!  Likewise, if you're ever in Columbus, check out the Shadowbox Cabaret… the waiters are divine!

Tina Tompkins.