The Frank Zappa Connection

What’s the MST3K-Zappa connection all about?

View the Zappa references made on MST3K episodes.I asked the Brains one time which of them are the big Frank Zappa fans. Trace and Kevin said in unison they all are! (for more proof of this, watch the closing credits and stinger to episode 523) This connection explains my ability to create The Cheepnis List of MST3K Zappa References below.

Frank Zappa was also a big fan of MST3K and of cheesy monster movies in general. A transcript of his intro explanation and lyrics to his song Cheepnis can be seen here. It explains it all. Another example of his love for sci-fi cheese can be found on the album The Man From Utopia, in the song lyrics of The Radio Is Broken. How many MST3K episodes are referenced in these two songs? More than a few!

Then there’s this article from Total TV Online dated November 1, 1997:

“MST3K… made the late Frank Zappa an instant convert when he channel surfed into “this guy wearing a clown nose and a beanie copter roasting a puppet over an open fire.” The clown was now-departed (and much beloved) Founding Father Joel Hodgson; the roasted puppet was plucky Tom Servo; and Zappa was equally bemused by the cinematic turkeys being roasted for the main course. “He just loved crummy old science fiction movies,” says writer and voice of Servo Kevin Murphy, who thought “Frank Zappa on line one” was a joke until he picked up the phone. And though Zappa died before fulfilling plans to collaborate with Best Brains on a giant spider movie “told from the spider’s point of view,” the Mothers of Invention mastermind would have had a field day digging through the moldy vaults now at MST’s disposal.”

From my own vault of MST memorabilia comes a 1993 BBI memo which mentions a former Zappa band musician visiting to watch taping:

Visitors to BBIIf you wish to get even more obscure, witness that Simpson’s creator Matt Groening is both a big MSTie and a Zappa fanatic. His homage to MST3K shows up on both The Simpsons’Who Shot Mr. Burns Part 1” and Futurama’sRaging Bender“. Aside from his often-admitted love for Zappa’s music, I have a home video tape of Matt showing up at Franks’s house on Matt’s 39th birthday in 1993.

For a yet far more subtle connection, consider that in the 1970s, Zappa sometimes introduced himself on stage as Rondo Hatton (star of episode 702 – The Brute Man) and I even have an FZ bootleg called “The Rondo Hatton Band”.

Finally, as Frank said in a 1981 interview, “I’m a monster movie fanatic.”

What more needs to be said than that?

Frank Zappa References in MST3K Episodes

Compiled by Michael Slusher

Based on my long-held theory that there is, on average, at least one Frank Zappa reference per episode, I have begun tracking the occurrences as I run across them. Enjoy! Some nitty-gritty:

  • At the end of each entry are brackets in the format: <Song – ALBUM INITIALS> These contain the first commercially released version of the Zappa material that is associated with the reference. Since Zappa had running gags (“Conceptual Continuity”) throughout all his albums/concerts/movies, I stuck with the first place that the material is found in your Centerville Public Library Catalog Of Album Releases, even if it has been heard someplace more obscure at a prior date.
  • I try to list the approximate time when the reference is made in the scene (hour:min) but where I haven’t verified the reported occurance, I show the time as 0:00. The times are based on the tapes in my library and are not meant to be exact, given the fact that some people prefer to keep Mentos ads and some edit them out (I, for one, LIKE them . . . but I digress…).
  • “Centerville” references are frequent and deserve some explanation. In the movie 200 Motels, Zappa presented a surreal expression of how Touring Can Make You Crazy: A couple of our heroes, Flo and Eddie, take a walk in one of the boring-little-midwest-type-of-beer-swilling-conservative-and-sealed-up towns that they so often had a performance in. A sign says, “Centerville – A real nice place to raise your kids up” and during the song Centerville, our heroes reel in the scary drunken PTA po-jama plasticity of it all. It represented your basic little bedroom community on a neat little doily and made a great reference tag for that kind of town when used by Joel/Mike and the ‘bots.
  • I haven’t thoroughly scoured seasons 9 and 10 yet, but I think I have collected all the references to be found in all seasons K through 8. There are many possible Zappa refs that I have not included here because to me, they seemed to be a stretch. For example, just mentioning Magic Fingers in a motel bed is something MST and Zappa have done, but without more of a reference to connect the two (such as taking pocket change from a groupie in order to run the device), I let it be. There are many more examples; debate me, won’t you? 🙂
K00-The Green Slime Unknown
K01- Invaders from the Deep Unknown
K02- Revenge of the Mysterons Unknown
K03- Star Force – Fugitive Alien II Unknown
K19- Hangar 18 1:22 – (After General Morrison is warned about his actions) Joel sings: “His career will take a thud” – Servo sings: “Unless he sits and drinks a bud” (The real line Tom is quoting would not be allowed on TV) <Yo Cats – FZMTMOP>
201- Rocketship X-M A great many elements of this movie are referenced in Zappa’s “The Radio Is Broken” – In fact, about half of the song seems to be about this movie in particular. <The Radio Is Broken – TMFU> Ironically, no Zappa references by Joel or the ‘bots were identified.
203- Jungle Goddess 0:30 – (Regarding the fact a bad movie follows the short) Dr. Forrester: “Well, as you know Joel, the torture never stops around here” <The Torture Never Stops – ZA>
206- Ring of Terror 0:07 – (Reading a sign) Joel: “Hey! look at that, Tom! it says…” – Joel and Tom in unison: “Centerville, a real great place to raise your kids up” <Centerville – 200 Motels>
208- Lost Continent 0:00 – Dr. Forrester sports a Zappa mustache
209- The Hellcats 0:00 – (Upon seeing two bikers) Crow: “Look, it’s Flo and Eddie.” <Names Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan took after leaving The Turtles and joining The Mothers>
213- Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster 0:26 – (Regarding background music) Crow: “Gotta find that rhythm combo; sounds like the Mothers of Invention.”
301- Cave Dwellers 0:20 – (Regarding the character Thong) Servo: “Played here by Jimmy Carl Black of the Mothers of Invention.”
310- Fugitive Alien 1:25 – (Regarding an alien) Tom: “Hey, it’s Jimmy Carl Black, the indian of the group.” – Joel: “Yeah, from the Mothers” <Are You Hung Up? – WOIIFTM>
311- It Conquered the World The definitive MST-Zappa cross-over movie, since Zappa discusses its cheesiness at length in the song Cheepnis. Ironically, no refs by Joel ‘n bots were Identified. <Cheepnis – RAE>
312- Gamera vs. Guiron 1:13 – (While Akiyo’s head is being shaved) Servo and Crow in unison: “Weasels ripped my flesh! Rzzzzzz!” <WRMF – cover art>
313- Earth vs. the Spider The giant spider is referenced in Frank Zappa’s “Cheepnis” and in “The Radio Is Broken” <RAE and TMFU, respectively> No Zappa references by Joel and the ‘bots were identified, however.
315- Teenage Caveman 0:02 – (While watching a lightning storm) Joel : “Must be about 2 miles… Right over Centerville.” <Centerville – 200 Motels>
0:47 – Caveman: “Age is not always truth” – Servo: “And truth is not always beauty” <Packard Goose – JG>
317- Viking Women and the Sea Serpent 0:17 – (As the characters examine clothing) Crow : “Is that a real poncho or a Sears poncho?” <Cosmik Debris – A> – Joel: “Watch those huskies…” <Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow – A>
323- Castle of Fu Manchu 0:45 – (As Fu’s daughter) Crow: “Dad, like, I’m almost sure! Gag me!” <Valley Girl – SATLTSADW>
324- Master Ninja II 0:45 – (upon appearance of similar-looking character) Joel: “It’s Jimmy Carl Black”
402- The Giant Gila Monster 0:33 – (As a hip teen) Tom: “Hungry freaks, daddy!” <Hungry Freaks, Daddy – FO>
404- Teenagers from Outer Space 0:26 – (at the house of Betty) Tom: “This looks like a nice place to bring your kids up.” <Centerville – 200 Motels>
405- Being from Another Planet 1:39 – (As Suzy runs away from mummy) Servo: “Suzy Creamcheese, what’s got into you?” <The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet – FO>
406- Attack of the Giant Leeches 1:19 – (regarding the cheesy costumes) Servo: “The leeches are just guys in fancy ponchos” – Joel: “They’re Sears ponchos”. <Cosmik Debris – A>
407- The Killer Shrews 1:14 – (As a shrew bites somebody) Crow: “Weasels ripped my flesh!” – Joel: “Rzzzzzz!” <WRMF – cover art>
409- The Indestructible Man 0:08 – (during the intro of Anga Khan) Tom: “Actually, he looks like Jimmy Carl Black, doesn’t he?” – Crow: “the Indian of the group” <Are You Hung Up? – WOIIFTM>
0:22 – (While viewing LA) Joel: “Whoa, Centerville, a real nice place to bring your kids up in” <Centerville – 200 Motels>
1:39 – (While looking at old car) Crow: “We could crash in my Nash” – Tom: “Cruising for burgers” <The Air – UM; Cruising For Burgers – UM>
410- Hercules Against the Moon Men During the “Super Freak Out” Invention Exchange on the “Poopie!” outtakes video, Servo sings “Kansas Kansas – doo-doo-doo” . <It Can’t Happen Here – FO>
412- Hercules and the Captive Women 0:52 – (During dance scene) Crow: “Hey, they’re dancing to Uncle Meat by Frank Zappa!” – Servo: “Sounds like Dog Breath in the Year of the Plague – (singing) Cucuroo carucha, Chevy ’39” <Dog Breath in the Year of the Plague – UM>
414- Tormented 1:56 – Joel (while bemoaning film darkness and discussing how to wipe away the dark smelly images that are…: “…knirping for moisture” <Penguin In Bondage – RAE>
417- Crash of Moons 0:26 – (While drawing a diagram) Rocky: “Now assume this is the space station” – Joel: “and assume this is a ship arriving too late to save a drowning witch.” <SATLTSADW>
418- Attack of the the Eye Creatures 1:24 – Servo singing while wacky music plays: “fuzzy dice and bongos, fuzzy dice! La la la la la!” <Dog Breath – UM>
419- The Rebel Set 0:37 – (Upons seeing Bikel’s name on sign) Joel: “Theo Bikel? Must be ‘200 Motels” <200 Motels>
1:14 – (Regarding vibes on the soundtrack) Tom: “Tell Zappa to turn the music down; Ruth Underwood wants her vibes back”.
422- The Day the Earth Froze 1:40 – (during blizzard) Crow: “Watch out where the Huskies go, and don’t you eat that yellow snow” <Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow – A>
423- Bride of the Monster 1:02 – (Upon seeing old car) Servo (singing): “We can crash, in my Nash” <The Air – UM>
424- “Manos”, the Hands of Fate 0:23 – (Upon seeing pet poodle) Servo: “Hey look! Poodle bites, poodle chews” <Dirty Love – OS>
0:42 – (Regarding the painting of The Master) Servo: “It’s a Frank Frazzetta of Frank Zappa”
506- Eegah! 0:10 – (Upon seeing the mummy’s clothes during the opening credits) Crow: “Is that a real poncho or a Sears poncho?” <Cosmik Debris – A>
0:00- Arch Hall Jr: “Roxy!” – Servo: “…and Elsewhere!” <RAE>
508- Operation Double 007 1:06 – (Upon mention of a dynamo) Joel: “Dinah Moe Hum.” <Dinah Moe Hum – OS>
514- Teenage Strangler 0:34 – Girl: “Did you hear something?” – Crow: “Sounds like Ruth Underwood.”
518- Atomic Brain 0:00 – (Regarding soundtrack) Mike: “Do I hear Ruth Underwood?”
0:00 – (Regarding soundtrack) Mike: “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask” <Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask – WRMF>
522- Teenage Crimewave Movie is set in Antelope Valley, CA where Zappa went to high school (Antelope Valley High)
523- Village of the Giants Ending credit song tribute (shared w/ TV’s Frank) and FZ RIP memorial screen for the stinger.
601- Girls Town 0:10 – (While man attacks woman) Crow: “A weasel ripped my dress…. Rzzzzzz!” <Weasels Ripped My Flesh – cover art>
0:15 – (To lyrics in song during movie opening credits) Crow: “Why does it hurt when I P & Q?” <Why Does It Hurt When I Pee? – JG>
610- The Violent Years 1:20 – (During a pojama party) Crow: “Po-jama party people” <Po-Jama People – OSFA>
616- Racket Girls 0:39 – (Upon seeing character Peaches) Servo: “Peaches EN Regalia!” <Peaches En Regalia – HR>
621- The Beast of Yucca Flats 0:30 – (During first Host Segment) Servo (singing): “Fuzzy dice, bongos in the back…” <Dog Breath – UM>
622- Angels’ Revenge 0:00 – (Upon seeing limo) Crow: “You and your date will be chauffeured to lovely Centerville, MN” <Centerville – 200 Motels>
0:00 – (To similar soundtrack) Servo (singing) “Fuzzy dice and bongos” <Dog Breath – UM> – Servo: “Frank Zappa” – Mike: “Yes, I know”
1:15 – (Regarding villian’s clothes) Crow: “Is he wearing a Sears 12-piece suit, or is that from the Johnny Carson collection?” <Cosmic Debris – A>
702- The Brute Man In the mid-1970’s, Zappa would occasionally introduce himself onstage as Rondo Hatton.
704- The Incredible Melting Man 0:00 – (In response to soundtrack) Crow (singing): “Fuzzy dice and bongos, fuzzy dice” – Servo: “La la la la” <Dog Breath – UM>
801- Revenge of the Creature The creature is referred to in Zappa’s “Cheepnis” <RAE> No Zappa references by Mike and the ‘bots are identified, however.
802- The Leech Woman 0:39 – (In response to the soundtrack) Tom (singing): “Moving to Montana soon, gonna be a mental flossed tycoon” <Montana – OS>
808- The She Creature 0:00 – (When hypnotist offers substance) Crow: “My Zappa boots” <Stinkfoot(?) – A>
901- The Projected Man 1:17 – (Upon Steiner removing his glove) Crow: “Smell the Glove” <Be In My Video – TOU>
904- Werewolf 1:08 – (Upon seeing wound on victims shoulder) Mike: “Wow! Weasels ripped my flesh again!” <Weasels Ripped My Flesh – WRMF>
1001- SoulTaker 0:27 – (As main characters are driving away from the park) Mike: “Well, let’s go to Centerville’s Summer Fest.” <Centerville – 200 Motels>

A big Thank You goes to the following contributers: Michael Shannon, Andrew Smith, Ian Miller, Chad, Clay Urquhart, Robert Isaacson – Additional material mined from the list compiled by Bob Eichler, referred to me by Rich Kegarise.