About 5 minutes in to the episode, we were hooked.
It featured the juvenile delinquent epic "Daddy-O". We both were laughing so hard we probably missed half of the jokes.
We wanted more.
I flipped through the local TV listings magazine (this was before on-screen program guides and online listings, for you youngsters) and found that the next time the show aired was Saturday morning. Less than 24 hours from then we'd get to watch our new favorite show again.
The following morning we immediately ran to our basement and put on the show. I decided to tape it (again, old technology terminology) hoping it would be the same episode they showed the day before. It wasn't. What was shown was arguably one of the cornerstones of my humor loving life.
"Santa Claus Conquers the Martians". (MST3K episode #321 Original Airdate 12/21/91)
Part of what makes this my hands-down favorite MST3K episode of all time is the film itself. The other part is the rapid-fire banter of Joel (Sorry, I've always liked him WAY more than Mike Nelson) and bots Tom Servo and Crow. It's mostly "stream of consciousness" pop culture stuff that "Family Guy" has been popularized in the last decade. But this was 1991 and there was NOBODY around doing this stuff. As a kid, a decent handful of references flew right over my head but it didn't matter. The jokes that landed then still work now and this is going on 24 years (Christ, I'm old).
(Art via JB Warner)
It would be pointless to try and summarize the episode in written form. Like all great comedy it works better watching/experiencing it right in front of you. It would be like trying to explain really amazing, mind-blowing sex - you have to "be there" to really appreciate it. What I will tell you about is the tape of the episode itself. That Christmas, we watched it every day during our break (2 weeks). Over the years, it was viewed several times over non-holiday breaks as a pick-me-up and at least once at Christmas time. The clear plastic windows on both sides of the tape broke over the course of time leaving the magnetic magic beneath exposed. It was battered, dusty, and aged prematurely from heavy use. No other tape I've ever owned has been as cherished, shared with friends and loved ones, and there to brighten my mood when I get the "Holiday Blues" any time of the year. It's as much a Christmas tradition in my house as "It's a Wonderful Life" and is equally loved and appreciated (at least by me and a few others).
Shout Factory finally released the episode on DVD a few years back and, naturally, I bought it immediately. It's more convenient and easier to watch almost anywhere. But I still have that tape in a storage box in my garage and don't think I'll ever part with it, mostly for sentimental reasons. I still remember that Saturday morning 24 years ago sitting in our basement on Chicago's South Side with my brother carelessly laughing out asses off at something special. I remember the times I shared it with friends and family who aren't around any more - some gone far too soon. I remember sharing it with my wife on one our first dates (thank God we met in December or she probably would have thought I had a Christmas fetish and dumped me). I smile thinking about sharing it with my two daughters who are a bit too young to get the humor right now (though my 3 year old loves Tom Servo).
It's funny to think that one episode of a TV show from almost a quarter century ago featuring one of the lamest children's movies ever made could have such an impact on someone's life. But that's how things happen in life - by accident and when you least expect it. It happens with people we meet, songs we hear, laughs we share. If you watch it and like it, share the laughs - you'll remember that the rest of your life.
Stay-at-home Dad/Co-Owner RESISTANCE Pro wrestling