Bradley J. Keely was the technical adviser as well as actor, editor and sound supervisor for MST3K.
Brad Keely's official title at Best Brains is Technical Supervisor, which seems to cover a lot of ground. On the day we called to interview him, he had recently been, he sheepishly reported, "trying to fix the brake lights on Mary Jo's car."
Why would you be doing that? we asked wonderingly.
"Well, they were broken...."
Keely, 33, joined Best Brains in 1992, as the series was beginning its fourth season. A graduate, with a bachelor of science degree, from Bemidji State, Keely says he got "a very hands-on experience" at the school, eventually working as the production manager and program director at the school's small TV station, which broadcast for six hours each day. "That included producing a nightly news broadcast and making all the programming decisions, including which reruns we scheduled," Keely says. "We ran a lot of "Mannix" reruns, I remember." (Editors' note: duh-dah duh-dah)
From there, Keely worked an internship at a local TV station in Minneapolis (not KTMA) and then got a job at Cable Value Network, a now-defunct cable-TV home shopping channel. It was there that he was approached by BBI staffer Tim Scott about working at Best Brains.
"He said he needed some help and I decided to take the job, though I went reluctantly," Brad recalls. "I was pretty comfortable in the job I was at."
At BBI he quickly found himself doing all the editing for the series. His job involves sending the movie (with Shadowrama and a time code) to the monitor which Mike, Kevin and Bill watch as they riff the movie. Indeed, when asked what the most aggravating part of his job is, Keely replied (with some weariness): "I have to watch all these terrible movies."
Keely, in fact, has the worst of both worlds: He is required to watch the bad movies along with Mike, Kevin and Bill, but unlike them, he doesn't get a chance to speak his mind about them.
"I make a lot of my own comments in the editing room, though," he says with a laugh.
Keely's picks for the worst movies he's had to endure are hardly surprising: "Manos, of course," he says without hesitating. "And Skydivers-- really anything by Coleman Francis. And the one we did this season, The Incredibly Strange Creatures. The visual quality was so bad in that one."
Keely's also there, recording, when they shoot the host segments and when all is completed it is Keely's job to put all the pieces together into a finished episode, and make last-minute changes. It's at this point that those eerie moments are created where you can see Crow's mouth moving but can't hear him saying anything.
"Those are called 'adds and deletes,'" he says. "Sometimes they'll flub a line, or sometimes a line just doesn't come out as funny as they thought it would be, so we'll re-record it or just cut it. It's no big deal for Mike and Servo, because you can't see their mouths move. But there's no hiding it with Crow."
Keely also downplays his role in the selection of the stingers -- the little clip of the movie shown at the very end of the show after the credits. In past public appearances, several of the cast members have given Keely much of the credit for their selection, but he denies it.
"I have suggested the stinger a few times. And once or twice I just changed it and by the time they found out, it was too late to change it back. I do have a lot of freedom in suggesting them. But they're only suggestions, and usually it's their choice."
During the long hiatus after Comedy Central cancelled the series, Keely found work as a freelance video editor. "I tried to get some experience on computer-based editing machines. Hopefully someday we'll get one here. The problem is that the show is so long that it takes a huge amount of hard drive space."
Such a machine was used in the making of "Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie" where Keely -- among other duties -- worked with the movie's editor as "something like a liaison between him and cast. I was there to help him understand the sensibilities of the show."
Asked how the new series compares to the Comedy Central-era show in terms of his job, he says things are "significantly different. It's a much more complicated show to edit. The show used to involve only one or two cuts. Now there's a lot interplay, and that makes it a lot more interesting to edit. Also, I think the shows are a lot funnier."
Still, it can be a stressful job, he reports, "especially when the equipment breaks down and you're scrambling to fix it while everybody is waiting for you."
But while his role is largely a technical one, fans of the series probably know him best for two instances. The first came in episode 507- I Accuse My Parents, when Keely played a cake-encrusted exotic dancer. Keely remembers it fondly.
"Joel came up to me one day and said, (and here Keely does a remarkably accurate impression of Joel's voice): 'You wanna be in the show?' I said: 'Sure!' Then he described what I had to do and since I'd already said I'd do it, I couldn't back out."
Later, Keely says, it came out that the reason he was chosen for the bit was "everybody thought I was the only one on the staff with a good enough body to play an exotic dancer. I do work out, but I thought that was kind of a sad testament about the condition of everybody else."
(Editor's note: To answer what will surely be the next question on the minds of some female readers, Keely is unmarried and Info Club Poobah Barbbb declares: "He really needs a bride.")
Keely's other moment of fame came in the closing credits of the feature film where Mike, riffing on Keely's credit, took on the tone of an ice hockey announcer, shouting: "Nice assist by Brad Keely!"
"Being a former hockey player, I especially liked it," he laughs.
Those two brief instances have been enough to create a small following among MSTies.
"At the last convention, people actually came up and asked me for my autograph," he says. "Nobody's ever done that before."
Fans who attended the last convention might also be interested to know that the marvelous video tribute to Trace Beaulieu that was shown was put together by Keely.
"It was really a labor of love for Brad, and he did such a great job on it!" Barbbb enthuses.
Keely fans will get another chance to cheer him soon: He's been tapped to appear in a host segment once again. In episode 815- Agent from H.A.R .M. he'll be appearing as "a little Amish boy. It was much harder than the first time," he admits. "This time I had dialog and I had to remember it while all these people were watching me."
Still, Keely says if he's asked to make another appearance some time, he'll do it.
"As long as it's three years apart," he says.