Michael John Nelson (born October 11, 1964 in St. Charles, Illinois) is an American comedian, writer, musician and actor, who served as the head writer of the cult television series Mystery Science Theater 3000 from Season 2 through Season 10, and spent roughly half of that time playing the on-air host, Mike Nelson. Series creator and former host Joel Hodgson reportedly chose Nelson to be his replacement because he thought Nelson was a natural leader, a gifted comedian and musician, and simply looked good standing next to the show's puppets.
Michael Nelson was born in St. Charles, Illinois. His ancestry is Danish, German, and Irish. According to Nelson, his father was named Alfred and had no middle name. He lived in Geneva, Illinois, until the age of twelve, when his family moved to north-western Wisconsin. Nelson studied theatre and music at the University of Wisconsin–River Falls, but he left before graduating and moved to the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area.
Following the end of MST3K, Nelson continued to live in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. In 2006, he and his wife Bridget moved to San Diego, California. In 2014, they moved back to Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Involvement with MST3K
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Since the series ended, he has worked steadily as a writer, publishing several books. The first collected various columns, while he also published a novel, Mike Nelson's Death Rat. His other literary works include a series of pop culture humor books for Pop Ink.
He has provided humorous and informative commentary tracks for DVD releases of several films, including Reefer Madness, House on Haunted Hill, and Plan 9 from Outer Space. With his MST3K co-stars Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett, he was briefly part of a comedy team called "The Film Crew" which has created comedy segments for NPR. Four Film Crew DVDs were produced for Rhino Entertainment, but pressure from Best Brains, Inc. led to Rhino dropping the project. The episodes would later be released by Shout! Factory.
Nelson is a talented comedic actor who can portray both male and female characters, and is known for his goofy charm and classically Midwestern appearance (being tall, broad-shouldered and blond). He is married to fellow MST3K writer Bridget Nelson, and the pair have two sons.
In 2006, Nelson was appointed Chief Content Producer for Legend Films. He will be responsible for building and leading the company's creative content, providing on-going commentaries and developing other premium web-based programming. "I'm very excited. Legend Films is such a great fit for me -- talented people who consistently put out a great product. Plus there are Flaming Hot Cheetos in the lunch room vending machine. That made it an easy choice to join the team," enthused Nelson.
One of the projects put together by Nelson and Legend Films was RiffTrax, a website offering the purchase of downloadable audio commentaries. The first commentary made available through the service was for Road House. According to a September 2006 podcast interview, Nelson feels Rifftrax may be the closest thing to a reunion of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang.
In a 2006 podcast interview with SomethingAwful.com, Nelson was asked what he thought was the worst movie in general and Nelson replied that it was Star Wars- Episode I: The Phantom Menace due to finding the film to be a flat premise and not being a fan of the franchise or genre in general. Much of the RiffTrax crew have varied on their experiences riffing the movies as sometimes they end up actually enjoying them or loathed them but as long as it was a fun riffing experience, that's what counted to them. For instance, Mike  commented that he actually enjoyed Captain America: The First Avenger (which was later parodied by RiffTrax) and had fun riffing Thor.
In Mike's 2002 book Mike Nelson's Mind Over Matters, which was published by Harper Entertainment, Mike stated during a recount of attending a 1995 awards ceremony with wife Bridget that if he could meet two iconic people who he truly admired, that he would love to meet both comedian Jerry Seinfeld and actress Madeline Stowe.
In 2011, Mike wrote some amusing articles on home entertainment technology for Sound & Vision.com, as well as a column for the "lad's magazine" version of classic humor magazine Cracked. Mike also frequently comments on his Twitter and FaceBook pages.
- Isaac Asimov Literary Doomsday Device (voice) - Women of the Prehistoric Planet
- Valeria - Rocketship X-M
- JC - The Side Hackers'
- Imperialistic Alien 1 - Jungle Goddess
- Sorri Andropoli - Rocket Attack U.S.S.
- Hugh Beaumont - Lost Continent, The Human Duplicators
- Abe Vigoda (voice) - First Spaceship on Venus
- Mothra (voice) - Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster
- Gamera - Gamera
- Bruce the Gym Guy - Daddy-O
- Glenn Manning - The Amazing Colossal Man, War of the Colossal Beast
- Jack Perkins - Fugitive Alien, Turkey Day
- Michael Feinstein - Gamera vs. Guiron
- Custodian of the Seventh Galaxy - Earth vs the Spider
- Kenny - Gamera vs. Zigra
- Radio Announcer (voice) - The Giant Gila Monster
- Morrissey - City Limits
- Holo-clown - Being from Another Planet, Attack of the Giant Leeches
- Steve Reeves - Hercules Unchained
- Mike the Cop - The Indestructible Man
- Winky - Manhunt in Space
- Tony Travis (voice) - The Beatniks
- John Banner - Crash of Moons
- Larry Buchanan - Attack of the the Eye Creatures
- Torgo - Manos: The Hands of Fate, Operation Double 007, Village of the Giants, San Francisco International, Danger!! Death Ray, Samson vs. the Vampire Women
- Megaweapon (voice) - Warrior of the Lost World
- Baywatch characters (voices) - Swamp Diamonds
- Virtual Comedy crowd (voice) - Secret Agent Super Dragon
- Frank Sinatra (voice) - The Magic Voyage of Sinbad
- Deep 13 computer (voice) - Last of the Wild Horses
- Toblerone - Escape 2000
- An Observer - The Deadly Bees
- Buddy - Parts: The Clonus Horror, The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies
- Eddie Nelson - Time Chasers
- Lembach (voice) - The Projected Man
- Goosio (voice) - Final Justice
- Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese
- Mike Nelson's Mind Over Matters
- Mike Nelson's Death Rat!
- Happy Kitty Bunny Pony
- Love Sick
- Fluffy Humpy Poopy Puppy
- "At the time I was hired, I was a waiter-slash-comedian, and I was working at a TGIFriday’s so I could have a flexible schedule."
- "My stand-up was a little bit heady. I would do an impression of Robert Frost, which was tough in places like rural Wisconsin and Minnesota. People didn’t want experimental stuff. They wanted their dick jokes, and they wanted them now."
- "We rode a lot on the fact that critics really liked it. It was kind of like the way HBO makes its money on Real Sex, but then has a couple of prestige projects. We were like a prestige project, if you can call a comedy puppet show a prestige project."
- "We knew that people really had a fondness for the show, so we tried to make it as non-jarring as possible. We said, "Let’s just go slow here and not make any radical changes."
- "Well, I think more people DO it. Obviously, the internet opened it wide for anyone to mock movies. There’s a bunch of similar things, there’s people who do it live. Yeah, I think it’s just a broader base of appeal. You know, we used to be considered quite kitschy and cult-y; now with the internet we can reach those people more directly. I don’t know if it’s more popular but I think more people are doing it so it doesn’t appear strange anymore."
- (on getting the rights to riff Sony Pictures' movie releases Starship Troopers, Godzilla and Anaconda) "Well, when we first approached the studio, I think there was a lot of trepidation because they’d never done anything like it, but to their credit, Sony… You know, you walk up to anybody with a big enough check and they’re going to be interested. But I think they were a little nervous about it the first time around and then they saw, "Oh, hey, this is a fun event, and the sky didn’t fall, and these guys aren’t really mean to our movies." You know, we’re not tearing it down and slandering everyone involved with it, so they opened up their library and we went back again. They’ve been really great to work with; we’re not used to working with the big players."
- "We did Birdemic and the major cast members, if you can call them that, were watching in the theater and the female lead was kind of adorable in the movie and just does the role, but the guy was such a schlub, so her we kind of just gave praise to and him we tore a new one. I felt pretty bad about that, like he’s sitting next to her in the theater going, "Hey, I… come on, man!" But I don’t know what we’re supposed to do; his performance was… not quite there."
- (on RiffTrax communication with fan base) "Yeah, it’s great. People suggest things for us to do; we get immediate feedback as to if we did a good job. And, obviously, it sort of drives things like the Kickstarter and it kind of steers us in the direction we need to go. You know, we would endlessly do Stallone ’80s movies if let off of our leash. Or whatever; we might go our own way with little things that fascinate us, so it’s good to know what people want."
- (August 22, 2015 Facebook timeline comment) "I'm warning you: Rollergator is by a factor of at least ten the worst movie we have ever done. Here's how bad Rollergator is: it features a rapping alligator hand puppet AND Joe Estevez and despite that it is STILL the worst thing to happen to humanity since the wholesale use of mustard gas in WWI. The upside: it features one of the most surprising and insane endings in RiffTrax history."
- Nelson is the only host of MST3K to have used his real-life name for the character he portrayed on the show.
- Michael J. Nelson's Website
- Cracked.com Article by Nelson on the 5 Worst Comedies of All Time
- Michael J. Nelson at the Internet Movie Database
- BoingBoing.net 2012 interview with Mike and the RiffTrax revisiting of Manos: The Hands of Fate
- Film Crew Website
- WIRED Magazine|Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Definitive Oral History of a TV Masterpiece
- Mike's celebrity music playlist