Master Pancake Theater

Guests for Everyone's Favorite Game Show, Master Pancake Theater

This is it. The closing night of the 2014 Austin Sketch Fest. We’re going out in style with two amazing and very different shows. At 8:30pm we have Everyone’s Favorite Game Show From UCB New York. The guest comedy contestants on that show will be Ithamar Enriquez and ColdTowne’s own Cody Dearing (tickets here).
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Then at 10pm the hit Alamo Drafthouse show, Master Pancake Theater will go up. They’ll be turning their movie mocking skills on an episode of Law & Order: SVU. Joining Master Pancake’s John Erler, will be guests Kath Barbadoro (who crushed it on Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction) and STAG Comedy’s Mac Blake (tickets here).

See ya there!

ASF Hot Seat: Master Pancake Theater

At this point, I think it’s safe to call Master Pancake Theater an Austin Comedy institution. The vast majority of their shows at the Alamo Drafthouse shows sell out, they’ve won “Best Comedy Troupe” in the Austin Chronicle Readers poll six years running. They’ve done shows with Mystery Science Theater 3000’s Joel Hodgson, Doug Benson, Elijah Wood and more. We’re super excited to have them close-out the fest Sunday night. We talked to head pancake John Erler.
How’s 2014 been treating you so far?

John Erler: Great. We’ve been taking the show on the road a lot. We perform at Alamo Drafthouses in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio on a monthly basis. We’ve got some fun new shows on the horizon in Austin, including a mock of Space Jam for the NBA Finals, and an overnight slumber party where we watch all five Twilight movies back-to-back. We’ll start at sundown and go to sun-up so that we can call it “From Twilight til Breaking Dawn“. Get it? Look for it probably in August.

Last year for Austin Sketch Fest you mocked an episode of Law & Order. This year, it’s the spicy cousin SVU. Do you have a favorite?

Erler: Between SVU and Original? No. Each has its merits. I like Jerry Orbach a lot. I also like Ice T and sex crimes. For me what matters most is that the story is ripped from today’s headlines. And as long as it’s got unbelievably glib dialogue concerning gruesome events, punctuated by the “chu-chung” sound effect and a graphic of the current location, that’s really all I need.

You seem to genuinely like the movies you make fun of, or at least grow to like them. Is there a movie you grew to hate, the more you watched it?

Erler: No. Strangely, it’s really hard to like something LESS the more I watch it. Doing a full run of a movie (weeks and weeks of it) is always a discovery process. I see new things each time. Or an audience member will point something out that I haven’t seen. Or I’ll grow attached to certain characters. I’ve developed a strong case of Stockholm Syndrome for the Twilight movies. I get a little choked up whenever I watch Bella and Edward’s wedding in BDp1.

What are you looking forward to at ASF?

Erler: So many things, most of which I won’t be able to see because we’re doing shows at the Alamo simultaneously: it kills me that I won’t get to see Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction, Ithamar Enriquez, Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting. BUT I am super excited I’ll get to see to see the new STAG Comedy show on Thursday.

Master Pancake Theater performs Sunday May 25th, 10pm at the Spider House Ballroom along with stand-up from Brian Gaar.

ASF Hot Seat: Master Pancake Theater

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Master Pancake Theater are easily Austin’s favorite movie mockers. Take THAT you and your friends talking over “Midnight Meat Train”. MPT has been talking over the best and worst Hollywood has to offer every weekend at the Alamo Drafthouse. This year we’re proud to welcome Master Pancake Theater to Austin Sketch Fest, where they’ll be holding down our Thursday night line-up at the SpiderHouse Ballroom (tickets here). We asked Master Pancake’s head honcho John Erler some sweet, sweet Qs.
For folks at home, what’s the Master Pancake writing process like?

JOHN ERLER: Fairly straightforward. We watch the movie over and over and over again. We watch it maybe 8 times during rehearsal, where we try out jokes on each other. Next, we do a Mystery Monday sneak preview of the movie where we charge very little ($3) and test our jokes out on a crowd. Here we find out the hard way what works and what doesn’t. Once it’s in shape, we’ll do a 3 or 4-weekend run of the movie. Since we do four shows per weekend, that means, all told, we’ll watch a movie up to twenty-four times by the end of the run.

There’s no substitute for learning the rhythms of a film. With enjoyable movies like The Matrix this can be a fun process. With movies like Twilight – repeated watching can lead to spiritual deadening. I did some math on it. We’ve mocked the first four installments of the Twilight Saga and I personally have been involved in all four of those mocks. That means I’ve easily watched one or another of the Twilight movies over 100 times. That means I’ve watched Twilight more than any super fan of the series. I’ve watched it more than the stars or the directors or the editors. At this point I am Twilight Jesus. I have died over and over again so that you may laugh.

You’ve teamed up with some pretty big names, and recently you mocked Zardoz with the man himself MST3K’s Joel Hodgson. How was that?

JE: A dream come true. I watched MST3K in the early 90’s and I identified with Joel’s humor the most – his deadpan delivery, his sleepy yet biting sense of humor. We had a blast doing Zardoz with him. He laid down some ground rules before we got together. One of them was: no cursing. We’re a pretty rated-R show, but we had no trouble with that request. So me, Joe Parsons, and Owen Egerton all agreed. We had this mini-rehearsal with him the morning before the show. We met him for the first time and then just started riffing on Zardoz to an empty theater. It was great. We gelled. Then Joel started dropping F-bombs and doing blue jokes. Me and Owen and Joe kind of looked at each other but didn’t say anything. After a few minutes of this, Joel turned to us and was like, “I guess I can see the advantages to this style of humor.” At which point the three of us high-fived each other. He’s a great guy.

What can we expect from your ASF show?

JE: We’re going to do an episode of Law & Order for ASF, which is very exciting for us. Aside from some Star Trek episodes, we haven’t done much television so this will be a chance to branch out from movies. Law & Order, in particular, seems RIPE for the picking. L&O is a good show, but it also takes itself very seriously, which is a great opportunity for wise-asses like us to step in and burst some balloons. Also, it’s iconic, which means everyone knows the formula and is ready to see a good parody/satire of it. John Mulaney has gotten some great mileage out of making fun of L&O’s tropes and stock characters (e.g. the guy who’s too busy loading boxes into a van to answer questions from a MURDER DETECTIVE). It’s going to be me, Joe Parsons (STAG) and Mac Blake (STAG, The Hustle Show). What a great team. We’ll be mocking an episode of L&O and doing one of our parody sketches about halfway through. We’re really excited about performing our Pancake-flavored send-up of the show.

What are some of your biggest comedy influences?

JE: Joel Hodgson and MST3K, of course, They did it first, they did it great, and they planted the seed in my mind that you could actually make a living by talking at movies. The Zucker Brothers and AIRPLANE! were a revelation to 12-year old me. Not only did they have the highest jokes-per-minute ratio I’d ever seen, but a high hit rate as well. Visual jokes, verbal jokes, smart jokes, dumb jokes. They all seemed to work. I couldn’t believe there was a movie so funny all the way through. In the back of my mind that’s always what I’m aiming for at a Master Pancake show: smart and relentless.

Chevy Chase, but only in Fletch. I love Fletch. After maybe my fifth viewing I developed this weird idea that Chevy Chase wasn’t acting in the movie, but making fun of it. From within. You had this boiler-plate, 80’s Beverly Hills Cop ripoff with everyone in it from the director on down taking it perfectly seriously and here was Chevy Chase who didn’t give a shit, mugging his way through with Groucho-like disdain for everyone around him, trying to sabotage it. I don’t know if that’s true, but that’s my fantasy of it.

What are you looking forward to at Austin Sketch Fest?

All of it! I love the Austin-based performers (STAG, Your Terrific Neighbors, The Hustle Show) but I’m also looking forward to seeing the out-of-towners like Beige and Ennis & Kaye. And who doesn’t like Paul F. Tompkins? Plus, I’m extra excited about maximizing my personal growth potential with LanceLife. Sketchfest has put together a stellar line-up.

Master Pancake Theater is performing at Thursday May 23, 10pm at the SpiderHouse Ballroom along with Ralph Hardesty.