Riffing Frequently-Asked Questions
I've never actually heard of MST3K or the concept of riffing/MSTing/sporking before. What goes into it?
MSTing/sporking is the act of providing funny commentary while a movie or short (or in our case, a fanfic, spam or book chapter) is running. For some good examples of riffing in MST3K, we suggest watching these shorts:
Mr. B Natural
A Date With Your Family
A Case of Spring Fever
For examples of how it applies to fanfic, you can see some examples here.
This is so mean! How can you possibly make a game out of making fun of someone else's hard work?!
We only use material that has already been published, or has been volunteered by the fic author themselves. We do not troll fanfic sites specifically looking for authors to bash. Published work is always considered open for criticism or parody, since it is not just for hobby purposes.
You can still call us big meanies if you want, but if that is the case, then this game is not for you. All of the riffing and joking on stories done here is not in the interests of harming or berating an author, or to discourage them from writing, but simply to have fun.
Hey, I have an old bad fic that I'd like the game to use! Can I suggest it?
Absolutely. We are always looking for new material.
I have an old bad fic that I’d like the game to use, but I’m not a player in the game itself. Can I still suggest it?
Yes, you can. If you feel comfortable volunteering your work, we would greatly appreciate it. See the Riff Suggestion Page for more info on submissions.
I know of a really terrible book that I'd like to recommend! Can I do so?
Yes, you may do so on the Riff Suggestion Page. You can see further details on how to submit there.
How does riffing work?
At the start of each new week, the Mads will tell you what your new experiment is, and three subjects will be randomly drawn to view it. The experiment will always be a chapter from a bad story, or a chain letter/spam. If you signed your character up for riffing duty, you may be selected! The Mads will post the story title and who is riffing at the start of each week change.
The chapter will be posted as a google document in the mod email, and you and your partners will be given access to add to it. There, you will have the full game week (two real-time weeks) to write up your riffing. When you’re done, you need to alert the mods and let them know so that they can do proper color coding for it. When you finish, the experiment will be posted for the entire community to view, and morale points will be given as such.
What's the best way to do a group riffing?
You can do whatever is easiest for you. The easiest way may be to organize a group chat and do the entire chapter at once. We recommend doing this since you can schedule a time to do everything together and not rely on the tagging speed of your partners. However, since you can write your riffs directly into the google document, you have flexibility with your speed and can work off of each others’ jokes. Don’t feel like your are bound to doing everything at once, but do what is easiest and works best with your partners. You are not at all required to go in any sort of tagging order; just go where your funny bone tells you! Just be sure you check the Riff Format or just look at previous experiments to see how you should write in your jokes.
Wait...what’s a google document?
A google document is a feature of gmail, allowing the email user to upload a document and then allow any number of other users to view and edit the document. You can even have multiple people view and edit it at the same time, which makes it an ideal way to work your jokes together! If you’re selected for a riffing, you will get an email from the mods saying that a document has been shared with you, and that you are free to go and edit it. So don’t forget to check your email!
What do we do when we finish our riffing?
Alert the mods that you have completed the experiment, and they will be able to verify it by checking the google document. The mods will compile your jokes into one segment with proper color coding, and then post the completed experiment!
What if one of my riffing partners backs out or hiatuses during the experiment?
If one of your team has to leave in the middle of the experiment, you and your remaining partner can write them out of the riffing and continue on with just you two. If two partners back out on you, the mods will assign you a replacement.
What if we don't finish the whole chapter in time?
Then send what you have to the mods at the end of the week, and they'll compile what you've completed. However, the portion of the chapter that was not riffed on will be included, and your incompleteness may lower crew morale.
What if none of the chapter is completed?
Then the experiment will be scrapped and sent to the next crew. However, you will lose morale points and likely won't be given riffing duty again.
The fic/story being riffed is from my character's canon, and my character is signed up for riffing duty! Can I please be assigned this one?
We will consider assigning your character to a specific fic if it is from their canon and you ask. However, We will not have an entire riffing team be made up of characters from any one canon at a time.
The fic/story being riffed is from my character's canon, and my character is NOT signed up for riffing duty! Can I please be assigned this one?
No. You must be signed up to riff to be considered for riffing duty.
What are some tips you can offer for riffing?
Plenty! Here's just a few:
- Referencing is your friend! Lots of references to other things are great for quick and easy humor.
- Rule of funny comes first! Yes, even before being IC. If it's funny, even if the character won't necessarily get the reference in their canon, do it. You can also have your character just fail at riffing if you like...really, it’s up to you how you riff. Just keep the rule of funny in mind.
- That said, being IC should be your second rule. While you can get away with a lot more in the experiments than in the log or Cambot comms, don't go overboard. An innocent child character shouldn't be swearing like a sailor in the theater.
- Running jokes are always good for a laugh.
- Don't just TELL us that the fic is bad...that much is already obvious. Your job is to take this bad fic and make it funny.
- Keep bashing of the author to a minimum. You are not here to rip the author a new one, but to make fun of the story. Sometimes author jokes are too good to pass up, but do not stuff your riffing full of mocking the author.
- You are allowed to make religious or political jokes, but just keep in mind that your audience will include players with a wide variety of religious and political beliefs, and your jokes won’t be all that funny if they’re too offensive. Use caution and common sense when joking in these areas.
- If you’d like to try riffing but feel uncomfortable or unsure of your ability, contact the mods and we’ll set you up in an experiment with one of the mod characters or NPCs on the riff team. We’ll riff with you and do our best to show you the ropes and build your skills! Like any form of writing, good riffing just takes practice and observation.
Um, I’m not so certain about this Rule Of Funny before Rule Of IC business...
If you’re having trouble working around this, remember that there’s a strange magical field existing only in the theater wherein entering characters may or may not suddenly find themselves knowledgeable about a plethora of earth history and pop culture. No one can really explain this phenomena, and your characters are free to comment on this strangeness outside the theater. The point of it all is: go with whatever you think is funniest, and don’t feel too restricted by your character’s IC knowledge when they riff!
Is there anything that you do NOT allow in riffing?
Sexist, racist, homophobic, ableist or other offensive jokes are NOT allowed. Even if your character is a sexist, racist or homophobe ICly, that aspect is not permitted in the theater. If you use offensive jokes or derogatory language, such as "nigger," "cunt," "wetback" or "faggot," your jokes will be cut from the experiment, your riffing team will get no morale points and you will be given a warning. Whether or not a joke is considered offensive will be at the discretion of the mods. If you're unsure, err on the side of caution and don't do it.