rifftrax total riff off bill corbett interview national geographic RiffTrax's Bill Corbett finds humor in everything    even National Geographic specials

Bill Corbett of RiffTrax would like you to know that he and his colleagues do not dislike nature. Even if the RiffTrax crew will be bringing their hilarious commentary to a handful of National Geographic specials on Tuesday (April 1), it all comes from a place of love.

And let’s face it — some parts of nature are as weird as any of the bad movies usually spoofed by RiffTrax and by “Mystery Science Theater 3000” before it.

Zap2it spoke to Corbett about this new RiffTrax project, “Total Riff Off,” and it’s definitely something you do not want to miss.

Zap2i: How did this partnership with National Geographic happen, and what are you planning to do to them?
Bill Corbett: We’re taking some of the programming that they already had. We left that sort of up to them — they gave us a bunch of stuff that we could choose from. But I think most of it is either not on the air or recently went off the air. And we’re doing what we usually do, which is just a sort of running commentary on it.

And why we’re doing it? Because they asked. Somebody at National Geographic is a RiffTrax fan, and he got in touch with us and said, “Here’s something you can try on April Fools’ Day, if you want to give it a shot.”

How were the specific shows chosen for the RiffTrax treatment?
We did have to winnow down our choices from a bunch of stuff he sent. There were a lot of animal shows which were mostly focused on animals, but we tried to get some variety even within that. Some of them fall more into the category of “big dudes doing rough jobs,” and some of them are more nature programming with weird animals.

What sort of format are we going to see?
It won’t be that fancy. It’ll be a pretty short introduction, and we won’t even be on-screen — I think there might be a still-shot of us, to let people know what’s going on. We’ll be in the title and everything. But beyond that, it’ll be just like a director’s commentary on a movie. I’m sure some people will tune in and wonder what the heck is going on. They’ll think they’re hallucinating, and that’s always good.

Since this isn’t the normal type of production RiffTrax usually tackles, how did you go about mocking nature?
That’s a good observation, because some of our usual bags of tricks were not available to us when there were no human beings on-screen, and it stretches you to look in different places for your humor.

We have done little animal short films before — we do a bunch of old short films as part of our regular offerings, as well as the feature-length stuff we do. A lot of it, I’ve observed, consists of imposing human motives onto the animals and also giving them human voices. We joke about how “The Flinstones” kind of set the palate for that. Unless specified otherwise, all the animals have these kind of Brooklyn-y voices. Which is great for me, since I’m from Brooklyn.

Is it harder to make fun of something that you like or that’s objectively good?
What we’re always looking to do with a movie because it’s bad or because it’s cheesy — what we’re always looking to do is be funny. That’s the one and only thing, it’s comedy. We have done RiffTrax commentaries on movies we like quite a bit. In fact we did “Casablanca” a couple of years ago, just to challenge ourselves. And we’ve done the “Lord of the Rings” movies and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and stuff that we like. You do use different gears for those movies. You’re not so much making fun of the movie itself, as just trying to find a funny point of view moment-to-moment. So I think we were relying on that more with the animals. We don’t dislike nature!

Is this a one-time deal with National Geographic, or will RiffTrax be back?
I think there are hopes. There are no plans yet. I think we are all looking at this as an experiment — RiffTrax and National Geographic both — to see how it does and see what the reception is. And then we’ll take it from there. But it’s fun to get out of our usual gear for a little bit — and it’s great to be back on TV after hanging around in people’s computers for so long.

The RiffTraxing of National Geographic, “Total Riff Off,” will air Tuesday, April 1 (no joke) from 8 to 11 p.m. ET.

Posted by:Laurel Brown