Mary Jo Pehl wrote and played Pearl Forrester and Magic Voice as a regular on "Mystery Science Theatre 3000," and is currently a co-creator/writer/performer on the movie-riffing project Cinematic Titanic. She's also writing a compilation of essays and an upcoming comic book, Jailbait.
Doing conventions is part of my job, but I love my job, so I don't consider it "work." You should have such problems if, for your job, you get to have a lot of fun and meet the fans. I think it's a gas. This year at Dragon*Con, I'll be doing a couple of Cinematic Titanic panels [with my partners], and a "MST3K" "Mads" panel with Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett, about the mad scientist structure and paradigm of "Mystery Science Theatre."
At panels and Q&A sessions, we tend to get similar questions from fans every time. Still, every time, I'm caught flat-footed. So one of the things I do to prepare for conventions is to brush up on the work I've done. I want to be able to keep up with the rest of the guys, who are so fun, funny and quick on their feet. I don't want to seem like a dud up there. We usually get asked, "Where do you get your movies?" "What are your favorite episodes?" and "Are there any mainstream movies you'd like do do?" My answers are always changing based on the more movies I see, or the more familiar I become with our work.
The strangest question I've ever gotten came in response to the season of "MST3K" when I was chasing Mike [Nelson, "MST3K's" host and head writer] and the robots through space in my VW van. On one episode, Mike came over from the satellite and we sat and talked like neighbors, in space. I'll never forget this, but one time, someone started giving me a hard time about that: "That really couldn't happen!" And I was like, "We've got a VW van in space, but that scene's impossible for you?"
The autograph sessions can last an hour to two hours - I can't recall a time it's been longer. It's pretty mind-blowing. It's amazing that people respond to "MST3K" so much, 10 years after it's gone off the air. But it's difficult because you feel like you've got to keep the people moving. I like meeting them and making eye contact, and they're all so funny and smart - I wish it were a cocktail party situation, so we could stand around and talk a little more.
What struck me about Dragon*Con is its enormity. It's packed with people. I remember that last year, what should've been a three-minute walk became like 15-20 minutes, because it's so packed. I'm so embarrassed to admit this, but I often can't figure out the schedules. I like any costume event. I'm not terribly versed in the world of science fiction or graphic novels, so it gives me a chance to do a little research.
I'm not recognized very much, but I have seen people dressed up as Pearl Forrester, which is so great. Once a guy was dressed as Pearl. He definitely had the right body type. It was a thing of beauty.