Category Archives: The Mads

Fish, Lions, Spaghetti, and the Mads

It’s been another crazy, busy week at work and home for the Johnson Family (fueled by avocado toast), but at the end of it, we finally have a car once again, which was a relief. I was able to use it for several errands, including a lunchtime rendezvous with Vivian, Grammy, and the kids.


On Friday, we had our second fish fry of the year, this time landing at our traditional haunt, St. John Vianney. Our kids braved a cold and windy evening to play on the playground as we waited for our friends the Mills to arrive. Then we braved a shorter-than-usual line to get our annual dinner of fish, French fries, grilled cheese, tomato, and pancakes. Guitar Guy was there, as usual, to lead us all in “bah bah baaing” along to Sweet Caroline. When the food was gone, there was still time for some silly photos, and even Frank stopped by to frighten everyone with a new profile picture.


On Saturday morning, Hannah had an appointment to “read” a book with a sweet therapy dog named Gillian at the Bellevue Public Library. Then we stuck around for a performance of martial arts and Chinese Lion dancing courtesy of the Jing Mo Tong Athletic Association (from Lincoln). I’d never seen a performance like this before, which involved throwing tangerines and lettuce at the audience, among other things. We hung around afterward so the kids could touch a few of the lion costumes before heading home.

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I took the kids out for some park time that afternoon. Then that evening, I dressed up went to see MST3K veterans Frank Conniff and Trace Beaulieu (AKA “the Mads“) once again for their third annual visit to the Alamo Theater. This was my third time seeing them riffing life, and my dad, brothers, and Richard Burney all came along as well. The movie of the evening was “The Creature Walks Among Us,” the third film in the “Creature form the Black Lagoon” trilogy, and the Mads’ riffing helped us get through some of the more tedious moments of the film, of which there were plenty (90% of them involving slow-moving boats).

Of course, I hung around afterward for the meet-and-greet, since getting a selfie with the villains from one of my favorite shows is always a thrill, even if I’d done it three times before.


Sunday night, Wildewood church had a fundraiser spaghetti dinner for a young lady named Lexi, who’s been diagnosed with stage four bone cancer. Many local businesses donated food for the event, and there seemed to be a fairly good turnout, as the food was nearly gone when it was time for us to go. Hannah got her face-painted like a dalmatian and then got in some running around afterward with Aaron. Our kids can have fun with just a big empty field and a tree, which is a happy break from video games — now that we have the weather for it (random blizzards up north notwithstanding).

The Mads Return and Apruary

Winter just doesn’t want to give up, does it? Yes, we got snow in the middle of April, as did much of the country over the weekend. It didn’t keep us from any of the fun we had on our schedule, but the kids did have to get creative having fun indoors.


On Friday night, Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff — the “Mads” from MST3K — paid a visit to the Alamo Drafthouse in Omaha for some movie riffing. This was the third time I’d met the Mads, having seen them previously at O Comic Con and last year at the Alamo. This was the first time, however, that my brothers Nathan and Jonathan joined me (and Richard) for the riffing. I donned my Mads T-shirt and got in line early to get a new one from Trace before the show started. Their movie of the night was the Vincent Price classic, “The Tingler,” which was a film about a spinal parasite that originally featured gimmicks like buzzing theater seats to surprise movie-goers.

We stuck around afterward to get a few pictures with the Mads and see some of the other devoted MSTies in the meet-and-greet line before calling it a night.


The next morning, I dropped by Jerzes Sports Bar to rub elbows with Taylor Royal, Don Bacon, and a few of the MAGA faithful with Nebraska Patriots for Trump. It seemed like an odd meet-and-greet event as it wasn’t hosted by either of the candidates present, but it was nice to be able to chat with both candidates. I talked with Don about current events such as the Syrian conflict (which had escalated the night before), and I chatted with Taylor a bit about his travels across Nebraska in his bid to be State Treasurer.

I had to take off a bit early so I could run some errands with Vivian and the kids, which included a trip to Costco. In case you hadn’t heard, a blizzard was moving across the state, but we were able to get our chores done and even squeeze in a trip to the Kroc Center before the snow and ice really started coming down.

IMG_9699Snow in April

We woke up the next morning to a Winter Wonderland. The roads had been cleared just fine, but it was still plenty weird to have to shovel the driveway in the middle of April. We still made it to church and then had our planned cookout with our friends the Lenarts, albeit inside on a George Foreman grill rather than on the deck as we’d planned.

Happy Apruary, everybody!

The Mads Are Back

We just had a massively fun Easter Weekend with the family here in Omaha, but I’ll set that aside for a separate update to bring you this important announcement: The Mads Are Back!

IMG_8771To recap: back between 1988 and 1999 there was a show called Mystery Science Theater 3000, where two guys (The “Mads”) would send a man in space and his robots various bad movies, which they would hilariously riff. The two Mads — Frank “TV’s Frank” Conniff and Trace “Dr. Forrester / Krow T. Robot” Beaulieu — are now back and touring the country to do live riffing for audiences. On Saturday night, they riffed Glen or Glenda for what looked like a sold-out theater full of MSTies. My buddy Richard and I got tickets in the front row for the show, and we wound up sitting in Frank and Trace’s seats by accident. (Who knew there was a “row zero?”)

IMG_8768I got to meet Frank and Trace back last summer at O Comic Con, but this experience was like none other. It was truly surreal to see Frank and Trace’s silhouettes right in front of me riffing the show just like Mike/Joel and the Bots did back in the day. Even cooler, the Mads stayed to meet and greet pretty much everyone who came to see them, signing autographs and having pictures taken with guests — quite patiently, I should add, as the guy I grabbed to get our picture couldn’t seem to find the button. (I resisted the temptation to say, “push the button, Frank.”) They had merch too, of course, so I made sure to get myself a snazzy T-shirt to commemorate the event.

IMG_8782They also had a Q&A session after the show, so I got to ask which comedians Frank and Trace liked best (Frank rattled off a list that included Greg Proops, Louis CK, and Patton Oswald, among others).

I also got to meet several fans of the show after the show and while waiting in line. One guy brought his own homemade Krow and Tom Servo to be autographed. A youngster next to me in the theater (who asked Frank about life in Second Banana Heaven) also reminded me how this show seems to be picking up fans in new generations who weren’t even born when it was cancelled back in 1999.

Of course, I also went to RiffTrax live with a few friends at the Twin Creek theater to see a live telecast riffing of Samurai Cop courtesy of Mike and “the Bots” in Nashville. Maybe one day I’ll get to see them live as well. In the meantime, there’s a whole new MST3K series on Netflix now that I’ve yet to watch. I might have to catch that Next Sunday A.D.

What do you think, sirs?

Macbeth and the Mads

I had a tremendously fun weekend here in Omaha, and I spent some of it bumping into famous people “in the neighborhood.” More on that in a second.


On Saturday, we got to see the final performance of Macbeth with a few of our friends at Shakespeare on the Green. We got to see a Q&A session with the cast, and the kids from Camp Shakespeare performed their own truncated version of the play. Director Vincent Carlson-Brown presented an award to the 500,000th Nebraska Shakespeare attendee, which was a girl a bit too young to take advantage of the free parking space her prize entailed (among other things). They also announced the retirement of the company’s long-time sound engineer Rande Ferguson, who received an award for his 30 years of service.

The show itself was wonderful, of course, with a great musical score and “slow motion” fight scenes that added to the drama. It was much cooler than Taming of the Shrew had been a few weeks ago, with no chance of rain this time, so the crowd was decidedly larger. Among the guests was Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, who we bumped into before the show started. There’s something unique about Nebraska, where you can bump into the governor like any normal person on a Saturday night.


Then on Sunday, I took a fun trip with my dad down to O Comic Con at the Mid-America Center across the river. I went specifically to see Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff, who played Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank (the “Mads”) on the movie-riffing show Mystery Science Theater 3000. They had a Q&A session for guests and plenty of time for autographs and pictures at their booth, and I thanked them both for all the laughs they’d given our family over the years.

Then I discovered, right across the aisle, were Bob McGrath and Emilio Delgado — AKA Bob and Luis from Sesame Street. I’d grown up watching both of these guys interact with Big Bird Oscar the Grouch as a kid, so I said hello and thanked them both for being a part of my childhood. I learned later that both “Bob and Luis” and “the Mads” had gone down to the Old Market to have ice cream at Ted & Wally’s. I only wish I’d been there to get a picture of THAT.