Rifftrax's Kevin Murphy and Tommy Wiseau Talk The Room


Tonight, fans across the country can see Tommy Wiseau's notorious melodrama The Room in theaters thanks to Fathom Events...

...but you know that thing where the people in front of you just yap-yap-yap the whole time? Well, it is a Rifftrax production.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 veterans who have taken on a similar venture in the post-MST3K era, Rifftrax gives bad movies a run for their money...and occasionally they'll take it to theaters in live-by-satellite theatrical events.

Last year, The Room was so popular, they're bringing it back tonight. We spoke with Rifftrax artist Kevin Murphy (known to many as Tom Servo) and The Room writer/director/star Tommy Wiseau about the project.

So how did this partnership take shape?

Kevin Murphy: We saw the movie a long time ago and of course, like many people we fell in love with it and felt it would be perfect for the kind of thing that we do. It took a long time to get around to contacting Tommy because he's a very busy fellow, and when we did, we figured out how to make that work and we made it the subject of one of our live shows that we do three or four times a year, and it was a huge success and the audience loved it and it was great fun for us.

So when Fathom Entertainment, the folks who distribute our theatrical events, gave us a chance to do an encore show, of course we wanted to bring The Room out and show it to people who hadn't had a chance to see it the first time with our treatment on it.

This is the first time I've met Tommy -- on the phone here -- and he's a very charming man, so I'm very glad this has worked out as well as it has.

Tommy Wiseau: Yeah, with the Rifftrax, this is the second time you guys have done it, so clearly the audience had a good time and that's what matters. I always say, you can laugh, you can cry, you can express yourself, just please don't hurt each other.

You've said in the past that the movie is a black comedy that gets unfairly razzed as a bad drama. When you're watching something like a Rifftrax, do you worry about reinforcing that impression, or do you just sit back and have fun?

Wiseau: No, I don't worry at all. Like I said, you can laugh, you can cry, whatever.

What I learned in school when I was studying acting, et cetera, the more colors you have, the better. By that I mean, how do you define drama, you know? How do you define comedy? Comedy and drama, sometimes go together. So in the case of The Room, everything was done intentionally and as you guys know, sometimes people will say "Oh, it's an accident," this and that, but I don't think so. That's how we see The Room today.

Did you ever imagine so many people would see this film?

Wiseau: No. No, because my plan was striaghtforward, you know? I make a movie, then move on to the next project. And The Room came out slightly differently. We were still doing midnight screenings five years later, and it was pretty awkward but at the same time it was pretty good for the success of The Room, in that people like you know about it.

Kevin, through Mystery Science Theater 3000 and now Rifftrax, do you feel like your bringing movies into the cultural conversation has opened up some films to bigger audiences?

Murphy: I think that's partly true. It's sort of fun to have that effect, but I think that's more true with moveis like Manos, the Hands of Fate, that are just patently awful in every single aspect. But I have a feeling that even if we hadn't done Rifftrax, Tommy is such a whiz at promoting himself and his stuff that it found an audience before we ever got hold of it, and we were dying to do it as soon as we saw it.

In case of a movie like The Room, the movie speaks for itself and does a great job of entertaining people. As Tommy mentioned, those midnight screenings are always packed, and we were just happy to be on board.

To draw another parallel, both of you guys are being represented this year. Obviously we have a new Tom Servo coming in, and then we have James Franco playing Tommy in The Disaster Artist. Is that strange for you?

Wiseau: Well, it's slightly different because James Franco based his film on Greg Sistero's book The Disaster Artist, which is based on what was behind the scenes of The Room, so I think as far as I see it, he's doing a good job and this is a different type of content, production-wise. People don't expect that. It's "Why did they do a movie about the movie?" But I think it will be very entertaining, and that's what the kicker is.

And James Franco came to a midnight screening last month. We actually played football together. It was very cool, actually, but we'll see what he'll do.

Murphy: You played football with James Franco, Tommy? That's great!

Wiseau: Yeah, we tossed it outside the theater. He's a very cool guy, a very dedicated actor, and I think he has a big range as a character, et cetera. And his brother will play Greg Sistero. Whenever people ask me what I think about it, I say, we'll see how it comes out when it's finished.

How about you, Kevin? Obviously Rifftrax has been supportive of the new Mystery Science Theater 3000. Is it strange to you to think of a new Tom Servo?


Murphy: Not really. It's now been almost 17 years since I did that character, so it's been a long time. And it's a reboot. This is what happens when things are relaunched: a whole new group of people are brought in, and the show goes off in a new direction, and I think that's great.

It draws attention to what we're doing now because people are like "What are they doing now? Are they okay with this? Oh, they're doing Rifftrax." So in a way it's been nice because some of our old Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans who didn't even know we exist, will now know we're there. So we're getting in touch with a lot of audience members who didn't know about us before, and that's great.