My Minnesota: MST3K's Mike Nelson is back in town

  • Updated: April 5, 2014 - 9:03 PM

Mike Nelson, 49 St. Louis Park humorist and movie-improver

You might know Mike Nelson from Mystery Science Theater 3000, Minnesota’s greatest contribution to comedy. Mike still does MST3K-style japery with RiffTrax, a project of ongoing mockery with MST alums Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett. Like good Minnesotans, they stayed when the show ended. But Mr. Big Britches Mike, he had to move to San Diego in 2006.

Now he’s back! And happy to be here. What was it like to come home?

“Madre Dios. It was quite shocking. When we moved back, it was like being dropped in an Amish community; we were glowing for the simplest things. It’s Uptown, dear! Remember Uptown? Then winter hit.” (sighs)

Hey, here’s a tough and unique question: What did you notice that was different from California?

“People don’t communicate in the same ways. If you pass someone on the street and say ‘hi,’ they’ll think hey, what happened? Why are you talking to me? Have the sirens gone off? Should I take shelter? They’re so mellow and self-actualized that self-deprecating Midwestern humor doesn’t work at all. No, no, you’re OK, really! they say.”

White Christmas: How’d that work? “It was heavenly. It was difficult for my family out there at Christmas. My youngest son is a nostalgist; he wants Mathis 24 hours a day, Currier and Ives at all times, so the beating, relentless sun bothered him. He would go into the garage and cut up pieces of cardboard to block out the infernal sun to create the mood.”

Adjusting to the culture shock has been easy, but Mike admits what he called “a rookie mistake.”

“I made it a point to walk every day,” he said, “and I decided to get out for a stroll during the cold snap — at 10 at night. I thought, well, I’ll just bundle up. I walked to Cedar Lake, and halfway across the ice it’s 25 below, and I’m in the middle of the lake, thinking, I’ve made a terrible mistake. This isn’t funny. There’s a chance I will perish.” (laughs) “It’s not like I was delivering insulin to shut-ins during a blizzard.”

But he survived, and looks forward to summer. “In San Diego the sunshine is so unrelenting. To a Minnesotan, when there’s sun, you’re compelled to get outside, even though I feel like sitting in the house and watching a movie. If the sun gets behind a cloud and you panic — GET OUTSIDE! ENJOY IT!”

Well, welcome back, and hope the winter wasn’t too hard.

“Oh, this winter drove me out. We’re moving.” He laughs. “This place is a hell hole!”

Well, be it ever so hell hole, there’s no place like home.

James Lileks

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