In The Omega Man, the main character played by Charlton Heston, survives an apocalyptic event, and in one scene, watches the movie Woodstock and interacts with the film. Joel Hodgson has said that The Omega Man provided an inspiration for the concept of the show that was a precursor to MST3K titled You Are Here—where Joel & his robot companion, Rex the Robot, would watch & comment on movies in a post-apocalyptic Earth setting.
Joel took the You Are Here concept and looked to make it a bit less dark. He pulled in some ideas from one of his favourite films, Silent Running, where a man stranded in space survives boredom with his cute robot friends (that appear to be made from found objects).
Joel: "Beanie and Cecil [sic] was the first cartoon I remember watching and I think there are analogies. The Satellite of Love is sort of like Leakin Lena. Joel is like Beanie. Servo is like Captain Huff-n-Puff. Gypsy is sorta like Cecil, and Dishonest John is like Dr. Forrester-- there's even a Crow that shows up occasionally in the Crow's nest!"
Joel: "The name Crow was inspired by a number of things. I thought it would be cool to have a robot with sort of a Native American feel to it. I had a friend a friend in college who had a friend named Tommy Crow he had all these adventures with. I always thought that was such a cool name. Also The Jim Carroll Band had a song called "Crow" on the album "Catholic Boy." If you listen to the song, it's easy to picture the character of Crow."
Servotron vending machine
Joel: "The name Servo came from a vending machine at the Southdale shopping center in Minneapolis. They had this great vending machine that was shaped like a robot called Servotron. I just pulled Servo from that. Then later, as the character developed at TV 23, Josh Weinstein (who performed the puppet) added the 'Tom.' Josh told me he thought of it sort of like those DJs on local radio shows who always had an on air nickname-- well Servo's on air nickname was 'Tom.'"
Gypsy the pet turtle
Joel: "Gypsy was the name my brother gave a pet turtle he had. I always thought it was so peculiar. I knew Gypsy was going to be big and slow, so Gypsy was the logical choice."
According to Joel, in his youth, he was in love with a show called The Children's Film Festival with Kukla, Fran and Ollie and cites it as an influence. Joel: "Basically, it was a show on CBS and I would guess it was on in the early seventies. Each week Kukla, Fran and Ollie would host a different international film and sort of talk about it along the way. I just think it's very close structurally -- a human host with puppets watching a movie."