RenFest — Can the MST3K Crew Work Their Magic Through Kickstarter for a New Show?

RenFest is a proposed television show by the crew of the cult classic Mystery Science Theater 3000. Their website describes RenFest as “a TV comedy that explores the office politics of putting on a Renaissance festival, and all the quirky personalities involved.” Huffington Post described it as follows.

“Think ‘The Office’ or ‘Parks and Recreation’ set amid the complex world of Renaissance festivals.”

The website TwinCities.com said the “sitcom is like The Office — but nerdier.” They interviewed Academy Award nominee Shawn Otto about the proposed show.

“Hollywood doesn’t know how to make TV comedies about nerds without mocking them. So a bunch of us industry pros that live in Minnesota decided to make a nerd comedy the right way, and to shoot it here, independently, so we can try to rebuild a little industry here.”

Who are the cast and crew of RenFest? They’re the people from Mystery Science Theater 3000, Freaks & Geeks, RiffTrax, and House of Sand and Fog.

  • Trace Beaulieu, actor, writer, producer
  • Mary Jo Pehl, writer, actress
  • Shawn Otto, screenwriter, producer, novelist, science advocate
  • Paul Sadeghi, producer
  • Joe Schaak, director, producer
  • Jeff Stonehouse, cinematographer
  • Frank Conniff, actor, writer

Mary Jo Pehl will be starring in RenFest as Elisabeth Crönk, the newly hired second assistant general manager. She wants to save American civilization by making the Renaissance festival educational and historically accurate. David “Gruber” Allen co-stars as Lloyd Gunderson, the general manager and entertainment director, who’s more interested in having the RenFest be fun and profitable than historically accurate. Trace Beaulieu plays The Viking, the philosophical voice of reason of RenFest. Jamal Farah plays Abdikadir Hassan, better known as AK, Elisabeth’s Somali-American assistant.

Episodes will cover such matters as arguing over the authenticity of the mermaid pool (mermaids don’t exist, but people believed in them during the Renaissance), a strike by the port-a-potty crew, jugglers who can’t tell jokes well, turkey legs, and jousting to settle a disagreement about whether or not to permit a sports bar on festival grounds.

RenFest is being funded through Kickstarter. The crew feels that this gives a more personal, direct relationship to their fans. It will also permit them more creative control over RenFest, allowing them to avoid corporate oversight by the big studios. This will permit RenFest to “be edgier and more exciting.” Right now, RenFest has a ten minute pilot, which is available for viewing by Kickstarter donors. There are prizes for donors, ranging from the right to become a member of the RenFest Super Secret Guild & Secret Society of People Who Back Cool Projects to DVDs and t-shirts to books and posters to having Shawn Otto do a Skype session with your book club to appearing on the show to masks to being listed as an executive producer in the credits of an episode of RenFest.

RenFest’s goal is to raise $365,000 by June 9. That will permit them to film a full pilot and market it. To produce twelve half-hour episodes for the first season, RenFest hopes to raise $3.7 million.

RenFest appeals to a broad audience through its humor and human insights. It draws from the tens of millions of fans of Renaissance Festivals, ComiCons, LARPing, gaming, Mystery Science Theater 3000, RiffTrax, Cinematic Titanic, and Sci Fi. Ultimately, the series will appeal to an even broader audience through its universal humor. Parks & Rec was not just for city government fans and Arrested Development was not just for fans of rich dysfunctional families. Similarly, anyone who has ever worked in an office or on a creative production with other people will recognize and enjoy RenFest‘s interactions.”

May 28, Saturday, 9:00 p.m. (PST) and May 29, Sunday, 4:00 pm (PST) on Krypton Radio’s show “The Event Horizon,” Gary Baum Wilkes, Gene Turnbow, and Susan Fox will interview Mary Jo Pehl.

Can Kickstarter bring RenFest to life?

[Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images]