Alamo Drafthouse hates when people interrupt their movies, unless those people are with Master Pancake Theater (MPT). They can do just about anything they want.
Movie Mockery at Its Best
Master Pancake Theater started in 2000 under the puntiferic name, Mister Sinus Theater 3000. John Erler, Owen Egerton, Jeremy “Jerm” Pollet and their spoof of a spoof charmed Tim League and the crew at Alamo Drafthouse. Soon the show became a popular staple at Austin’s favorite movie theater.
The name changed to the Sinus Show in 2004 at the request of a similarly named and older Mystery Science Theater 3000. The show finally ended in 2006, but John Erler’s adventure was just beginning. He moved forward in 2007, rebranded the show as Master Pancake Theater, and promptly started winning awards (Austin Chronicle Best Comedy Troupe 2008-2014).
Spoofing movies isn’t new. As a kid, I remember some show on Nickelodeon on Sunday afternoons. The creators would take old movies and dub over the dialogue. Mystery Science Theater 3000 ran for about 11 seasons, mocking old B movies. They’re still on Netflix.
But Master Pancake Theater is innovative. This isn’t just a panel of people running a witty commentary on a feature. No. They also sing, do skits, dress up and act out scenes of each movie.
A key element to the success of Master Pancake Theater is the notion that nothing is sacred. While certain spoofs play it safe and only pick on B movies or notorious cinematic atrocities, Erler et al go after teenie bopper favorites like the Twilight series, box office hits like Forrest Gump and Jaws, and even pan-generational classics like The Breakfast Club and Say Anything.
Rotating Cast and Active Audience Add Depth
Most importantly, Master Pancake shows engage the audience. During one of their Breakfast Club events, they did an onstage bit during what’s dubbed the longest pan shot in history. As the camera slowly begins to pan for something like two minutes during Emilio Estevez’s monologue regarding the nature of his Saturday detention, John Erler and an audience member held their breath in a bucket of water. The goal: see whether or not they could last the length of the scene. If the audience member won, he got a t-shirt. Neither lasted the whole two minutes, but I’m sure the audience member is still enjoying the t-shirt he got anyway.
Sometimes Master Pancake Theater throws caution to the wind and lets the audience choose the movie. Not knowing which movies the fans will bring creates a very entertaining show, putting Erler and his cast’s improv skills to the test.
John Erler is the curator and only permanent member of the cast. But his old Sinus Show buddy Owen Ergerton frequently stops by to do shows, along with Joe Parsons, the closest thing to a co-host Erler has had.
Austin has a rich comedy depth chart for Master Pancake Theater to draw cast members from. 2013 Funniest Person in Austin winner Mac Blake and his STAG Comedy partner David Jara have both graced the stage with Erler and Parsons. Local comedian Kath Barbadoro has been added to their current show and Mary Jo Pehl (of MST3K fame) was a frequent cast member until her recent move from Austin. Even better, Master Pancake Theater has collaborated with the creator of MST3K, Joel Hodgson (he’s the dude who sits with the robots).
Erler carefully picks cast members in order to provide the audience the best and funniest experience they can possibly have.
Get Your Tickets
To those reading this, I know you’ve goofed on movies before. I also know you secretly wished you could do it in public. Don’t worry, Master Pancake Theater does it for you and the Alamo Drafthouse loves them for it.
Currently, Master Pancake is celebrating Halloween by sucking the drama out of Interview With a Vampire. You know, that movie with Kirsten Dunst in it? Tickets are available on the Alamo Drafthouse website.
What movie would you want Master Pancake Theater to riff on?
We always have unique content on the Austinot, and we love to give things away. You know, like CDs, event tickets and other cool stuff. We only send out our Best of the Austinot newsletter two times/month. It’s where we give you a recap of our best articles and give stuff away. Interested? Subscribe to Best of the Austinot here!