Mary Jo Pehl (pronounced Peel) is an American actress and writer. She is best know for her portrayal of the sinister Mrs. Pearl Forrester, mother of Dr. Clayton Forrester on Mystery Science Theater 3000. She also served as one of the show's writers.


After pursuing a career in nursing, Pehl realized that she had made a "major bad career choice" and began pursuing a career in comedy.

Growing up in a family of five siblings in Circle Pines, Minnesota, provided Pehl with plenty of comedy fodder. She performed standup all around the Midwest from 1987 through 1991. She also worked for the Norrell Temporary Agency, where she earned the title of Temp of the Month for March 1990. She has been featured on VH-1's "Stand-Up Spotlight" and A & E's "Comedy on the Road."

In February 1992, Pehl joined the MST3K writing team after meeting Mike Nelson and Paul Chaplin on the comedy circuit in Minneapolis. She was drawn to the series partly because of her perverse fascination with really bad movies and partly because of the "ineptitude of the people who make them." [with minor editing] She is the only cast member from the series to actually sing in the theme; other actors were lip-syncing to the singer.

In fall of 2014, Pehl appeared in the DVD-music video comedy short The Frank along with other MST3k members.

In 2016, Pehl co-created the half-hour comedy series Renfest, which also featured Trace Beaulieu and Dave (Gruber) Allen.

At 2016's San Diego Comic-Con, it was announced that Mary Jo Pehl would reprise her role of Pearl Forrester for an appearance on the revived Mystery Science Theater 3000. It was also announced that she would contribute to the writing of several episodes as well. Ms. Pehl ultimately appeared as Pearl in 3 episodes of Season 11.

In 2018, Mary Jo Pehl began producing and starring in the webseries Ruth Larson Lives!, a parody of lifestyle vlogs.


Regular roles

Guest appearances

Personal quotes

  • "The atmosphere in the writers’ room was cacophonous. There was no pausing to say, “Let me add to that joke.” And the typist had to transcribe everything that he or she could catch. Sometimes we’d be stopped on a frame for a good 10, 15 minutes because there were so many jokes."
  • "That considerably reduced our movie pool. And they were also more attentive when it came to reviewing the scripts. They went through them for standards and practices. Somebody objected to our using the word putz."
  • "Around 2001, I went to a movie theater, and two people in front of me were talking. And the person in front of them turned around and asked them to shut up, and said, “This isn’t Mystery Science Theater, you know.” That was the first taste I got of the show’s lasting effect."
  • "The idea of riffing, of mocking, of commenting on things is very prevalent nowadays. Obviously, it was happening before Mystery Science Theater codified it. But it just seems to have pervaded a lot of the way comedy is done now—it’s its own genre now. The one thing that I do find a little disheartening—and I don’t know if we started the ball rolling on this—is that nothing is sacred anymore."

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