Crow T. Robot is one of two robotic co-hosts built by Joel Robinson to help him stave off insanity while forced to watch terrible films by the Mads on Mystery Science Theater 3000. He is the most easy-going and naïve of Joel's robot companions, yet somehow, during the movies, he's always the one to deliver the most sarcastic remarks. Crow's middle initial stands for "The", making his full name "Crow The Robot."
According to the MST3K storyline, Crow, like his fellow robots Tom Servo, Gypsy, and Cambot, was built by Gizmonic Institute janitor Joel Robinson, who created them to help him withstand the torment of watching bad movies on the Satellite of Love, where Joel was trapped by mad scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester and his assistants. Crow's frame is made of advanced materials such as molybdenum (which is used for armor and aircraft parts; something that would have been found on a ship made by Gizmonics), and high-density Kevlar. On occasions when he has to wear formal attire (such as Joel's attempt at having a family photo), Crow has been known to have his net on backwards and upside down, to give the impression of slicked-back hair; he also occasionally does this when donning some sort of head-gear, such as a helmet.
Originally, Crow was more adolescent than Tom Servo, although their relative maturity occasionally changed to suit the host segments; both robots regarded Joel as a father figure, while Mike was more of an older brother type. Crow was often depicted as an unathletic nerd, epitomized by his putting himself in a double jock lock. After Crow's original voice actor and puppeteer Trace Beaulieu left, the Crow voiced and manipulated by Bill Corbett underwent a personality change. Corbett's Crow was noticeably more irritable, bitter, and impatient with the movies than Beaulieu's Crow had been. This was explained in the show as a result of being left on the SOL for several hundred years while the rest of the crew became pure energy, although this was admittedly Crow's own fault for returning to the SOL so soon after getting bored at the edge of the universe.
Crow is easy-going, but snarky, quick-witted and opinionated. He often delivers the most sarcastic remarks and is the most frequent quipper on the show.
Crow describes himself as using cyber-based bubble memory, working off UNIX and could use a variety of operating systems, underwent a complex personal evolution wherein painful confusion had given way to what he liked to think of as some degree of wisdom culminating in his current Zarasthustrian sense of self, often panics when making sandwiches, smells conspiracy in everything and doesn't know what he means most of the time.
At the end of Master Ninja II, Crow named Kafka's The Castle as his favorite movie, but it is unclear if he meant the 1964 Danish version or the 1968 West German version. This confuses Tom, who had thought that Crow's favorite movie was Zardoz. Crow also expressed fondness for the film Willow.
Crow's accomplishments during the show's run include writing several screenplays, including Earth vs. Soup (his seminal work), Peter Graves at the University of Minnesota, The Spy Who Hugged Me, Chocolate Jones and the Temple of Funk, and World War Space. He also wrote a teleplay inspired by Crash of Moons, and a satirical political stage musical revue called Supercalafragalisticexpiala-wacky!. During the Sci-Fi years, his interests turned towards making documentaries. Among his output on this front were Crow T. Robot's Bram Stoker's The Civil War (the bulk of which consisted of credits) and Let's Talk Women (which presented the gentler sex as akin to a mysterious and elusive cryptid).
Crow holds the distinction of being the only Bot who ever visited Deep 13 (although Tom Servo and Gypsy once visited the alternate-earth version). In Kitten with a Whip, he slid down the Umbilicus in an attempt to bring the SOL back to Earth, but he retreated back up to the satellite after being caught by Dr. Forrester, who then had Frank put a giant mousetrap beneath the Umbilicus—only to accidentally set off the trap on himself. In the "Turkey Day" version of Night of the Blood Beast, Crow also visited when attending the Forrester Thanksgiving dinner alongside such guests as Mr. B. Natural, Pitch the Devil, and others. A second Crow may still be living in Wisconsin working at a cheese factory, due to a time paradox created during the Time Chasers experiment.
During Fire Maidens of Outer Space, Crow acquired a double named "Timmy", whom the trio quickly took a liking to; however, the double began playing tricks on Tom Servo and Joel, who blamed Crow for the actions. He eventually joined them in the theater during the movie and attacked Tom, cocooning him in a matter identical to the xenomorph from Alien, forcing Joel and Crow to stuff him into an airlock and blast him out of the ship and into space. Timmy's appearance was a parody of the evil twin concept. In reality, Timmy is the black-painted Crow used for the Shadowrama during the Theater segments.
Crow doesn't fall hard in love the same way that Tom Servo does, but he has developed crushes every now and then. In the Season 4 episode City Limits, he becomes attracted to Kim Cattrall. He later became infatuated with Estelle Winwood during the episode The Magic Sword. He was also enamored of the cigarette-smoking Mrs. Hargrove in The Deadly Bees. It has also been implied that Crow may to be attracted to Servo, having dreamed of a salacious Servo in a nurse's outfit in Bride of the Monster. In Racket Girls, Crow is inspired by the short Are You Ready for Marriage? to ask Mike for Tom Servo's hand in marriage. During the wedding ceremony, everyone starts wrestling, prompting them all to forget the whole affair.
Crow is somewhat prone to injury, as he gets blown up, attacked, set on fire, or falls from great heights quite often during the series' host segments. He has also suffered bouts of vertigo, as he experienced nausea and dizziness from the unusual layout of the credits for Warrior of the Lost World and Beginning of the End.
Crow's name also lent itself to a number of host segment punchlines. In the aforementioned Hangar 18, one of the early KTMA episodes, Joel performs maintenance on Crow's RAM chips, and shows what he claims is Crow's first memory. In this "flashback" scene, Joel explains that Crow's name is an acronym for "Cybernetic Remotely Operated Woman". Back in the present, Crow is shocked to discover that he's a woman, and instantly starts worrying about the dishes and watching Thirtysomething. Joel chuckles and explains, "Take it easy, Crow. It's all just a real elaborate joke... I basically invented you to put that memory in and pull that joke you." Crow calms down: "So my life has been one big setup for a punchline? Boy, I feel like Morey Amsterdam."
Crow is also sometimes called "Art," primarily by late-series antagonist Pearl Forrester. This arose from a gag in Jungle Goddess, in which Joel introduces the bots as Jackie Gleason did with his fellow cast members at the end of every episode of The Honeymooners, calling each one out individually to take a bow. During this, Joel refers to Crow as "Art Crow!", a reference to the enthusiastic way that Gleason would introduce his long-time partner Art Carney. Later, Best Brains received a letter from a child named Shanon who had evidently missed the cultural reference and labeled a drawing of Crow as "Art". The letter was read in The Giant Gila Monster, and the writers were so taken with it that it became a recurring joke. In The Touch of Satan, "babysitter" Steffi calls him "Cow". And the joke has outlived MST3K itself: Trace Beaulieu was part of the Paul Feig-created comedy Other Space, which premiered in 2015, voicing a robot named Art opposite Joel Hodgson.
Crow is the most likely of the four movie-riffers to make off-color, cruel or lewd comments during the film, and receives frequent scoldings from Joel, Mike, and occasionally Tom because of this habit (see Crow Syndrome). In earlier seasons, Joel will sometimes get frustrated and tear off and fling away Crow's arms during the theater or one of the host segments, much to Crow's annoyance.
During the Sci-Fi Channel years, another running gag was established that involved Crow falling from great heights.
Behind the Scenes
Crow is a gold-colored puppet composed of, among other things, a split bowling pin mouth (an Empire Plastics Toy "e" style Bowling Pin), a hockey face guard "net" (Cooper XL7 FG),
A vacu-formed Soap dish for an eye-socket (Schwartz Bros), Ping-Pong ball eyes painted Krylon Fluorescent Yellow,
a Tuppercraft (Floralier) body with black 4-inch drainage tubing glued between the two trays, arms
made from two incredibly rare Wallace Leisure Products "Alpha" or "Genie" fluorescent swing-arm type desk lamps with foam pipe insulation around the outer-parts of the lamp arm, and Italian Fanny Pinchers for hands.
During the KTMA season, he only had one floralier tray, his arms were made from PVC pipe with pipe insulation tied to the tray, and his eyes were glued to an entire Schwartz Bros. soap dish, which didn't include a separate eye movement mechanism, leaving them with a bulgier appearance. He is painted with Testors Gold Metalflake paint, which looks basically gold, and highlighted with flat black spray paint. in the KTMA season he is painted with cheap gold paint. Another version of Crow is used for the theater segments. This version is painted flat black and instead of Italian fanny pinchers for hands, he has claw parts from a Toysmith Robot Claw toy. This flat black version was also used as his Doppelganger "Timmy" in the Fire Maidens of Outer Space episode.
His appearance slightly changed over the series. In between the Comedy Central and Sci-Fi Channel episodes, his beak was a shorter "crown" style Empire Bowling pin (As Joel observed in Soultaker "You changed your bowling pin"), he became noticeably smaller and his eyes went from light pastel yellow to a luminescent neon yellow. Crow also has seldom-seen legs made from swing-arm type desk lamps and Toysmith robot claws or 1/2 inch 45 degree and elbow 1/2" CPVC couplings.
For Season 11, Crow's limbs and hands were changed. The arms and legs are now made from two desk lamps per limb while the hands are scaled up versions of the old ones. With the arms now utilizing control rods, Crow's arms are now articulated at the shoulders, elbow, and hands.
During shots of Crow where the legs are seen, they now use two desk lamps per leg, with the feet being filled in and scaled up versions of the hands. Crow now has a larger waist, being made from a cut floralier piece with tubing on top of it, attaching to the bottom of the lower floralier. The legs now also have knee caps cut from bowling pins.
For the Cheesy Movie Circus Tour, Crow's lower body was altered further. He could now freely move around the stage (which he did via unicycle and pogo stick) due to the bunraku style of puppetry. He was shown to have three prominent toes. During a scene in which Crow performed as a weight-lifter, his lower legs were a string of balls. A new ball-spring joint mechanism was built into his neck to allow him to look up and down.
Trace Beaulieu operated Crow in the initial KTMA pilot and throughout most of the KTMA season. He continued in the role during the entirety of the Comedy Channel/Comedy Central years as well as in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie. During KTMA and season 1, Trace slowly refined Crow's voice. Originally, it was somewhat babyish, but by season two, Crow's voice had become more sharp.
Upon Trace's departure, Bill Corbett took over Crow's operation and thus his voice became rougher, though Corbett's voice began to settle in and became more natural in episode 804, The Deadly Mantis. The in-story explanation for Crow's voice change is that it developed during his 500+ years of solitude on the Satellite of Love while Mike and the other SOL inhabitants played at the edge of the universe as pure essences. Joel wryly noted when he dropped in during Soultaker that Crow had "changed his bowling pin," thus altering his voice. The show's writers later made a joke of the change in episode 904, Werewolf, by suggesting that Crow's inherent characteristics included a change of voice every seven years.
Another noticeable difference between the two performances is that Trace's Crow is more animated, often "interacting" with the film (such as listening to train tracks in Last Clear Chance or eating chicken feed in The Chicken of Tomorrow), and almost always leaning forward to look at something, moving his mouth or eyes slightly, and turning his head slightly. Corbett attributes this to Trace being a more skilled puppeteer, and on some occasions has jokingly justified the change by claiming Crow had a stroke some time during his isolation.
Beaulieu returned to voice Crow in a special feature on the DVD for The Giant Gila Monster and in a cameo along with Joel on Season 4 of Netflix's Arrested Development.
Crow made a brief cameo (along with Tom Servo) at the end of the online Turkey Day '13 Marathon, joining Joel at the dinner table. Neither of them were shown speaking and the puppeteers are unknown.
During the Turkey Day '14 online show, Trace returned once again as the voice of Crow alongside Josh Weinstein as the voice of Tom Servo. Crow commented on the change, claiming to "miss my other voice...". During these segments, the Crow puppet was operated by puppeteer Grant Baciocco. Trace and Baciocco also performed Crow for the concurrently released Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Turkey Day Collection DVD set.
The new voice of Crow for the MST3K revival was Hampton Yount, who first provided Crow's voice for the Bring Back MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 campaign. Baciocco continued to serve as Crow's puppeteer, and Yount operated Crow's mouth with additional/back-up operation by Carla Rudy. Yount voiced and operated Crow during the Watch Out for Snakes live tour.
After the announcement that no new episodes would be produced for Netflix, it was not clear what involvement Yount and/or Baciocco would have in any future projects.
It was originally announced that Nate Begle would perform Crow for the first half of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live - The Great Cheesy Movie Circus Tour with Baciocco taking over for the second half, but it was later announced that Begle would stay on throughout the length of the tour. Begle also performed Crow in segments recorded during the tour for Turkey Day '19.
Begle continued to perform as Crow in promos for Pluto TV, and for the 2020 Live Riff-Along streaming event. He later performed Crow during the bumper segments of the2nd Annual Puppet Camp Livestream, while Bill Corbett returned to the role to riff two shorts.
Many first-time viewers of the series are confused by Crow's appearance during the movie segments. Only the outline of his head can be seen, and (due to multistable perception) it can appear as if Crow is facing toward the viewer. Best Brains have compared this to a Necker Cube.
- A silhouette of a robot resembling Crow also appeared in the Futurama episode "Raging Bender" . The robot was in the audience of a movie theater alongside a robot that resembled Tom, shushing Fry and ironically telling him that it's not polite to talk while a movie is playing.
The evolution of the Crow T. Robot puppet.
- MST3K FAQ: What is this MST3K Thing, Anyway?
- MST3K FAQ: "This is my Bot! There Are Many Others Like It..."
|Primary Residents||Joel Robinson • Mike Nelson • Jonah Heston • Crow T. Robot • Gypsy • Cambot • Tom Servo|
|Minor/Other Residents||Magic Voice • Timmy • Mike's Robot • Clayton Forrester (mirror) • TV's Frank (mirror) • Eddie Nelson (alternate universe) • Nanites • Mike Nelson (robot) • Winston • M. Waverly • Matt Claude Van Damme • Growler • Emily Crenshaw|
|Visitors||Enoch • Demon Dogs • Nuveena • Gypsy (mirror) • Tom Servo (mirror) • Monad • Observers • Finnegan • Lydia • Ortega • Phantom of Krankor • Henry Kissinger • Delivery Man • Goosio • Mikey the Mike sprite • Brain Guy • Pearl Forrester • Professor Bobo|
|Terminology||Airlock • Deus ex Machina • Hexfield Viewscreen • Hyper-warp escape ships • Jet Screen • Manipulator arms • Movie sign • Rocket Number 9 • The Tube • Umbilicus • Whirlpool|
|Locations||Bridge • Crow's Room • Joel's room • Kitchen • Mike's room • Mystery Science Theater • Theater hallway • Tom's room|