Kevin Wagner Murphy (born November 3, 1956) is a former Mystery Science Theater 3000 writer, actor, director, and puppeteer. He is known to Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans as the second (yet primary) voice of Tom Servo and for portraying Professor Bobo.
After graduating University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.A. in Journalism and an M.A. in Directing for the Stage and Screen, Murphy took a position at local station KTMA. While there he also did production work on Jim Mallon's 1986 Troma film Blood Hook. The relationship with Mallon led to his working on MST3k from its inception.
Mystery Science Theater 3000
From the start of MST3k Murphy worked behind the scenes as a writer. He also occasionally appeared on screen in a variety of guest roles, and was responsible for the lighting and camerawork in the KTMA season and the first Comedy Central season.
Beginning in 1990 Murphy took up the role of Tom Servo following the departure of original puppeteer and voice Josh Weinstein. He first appeared in the second (national) season's debut episode Rocketship X-M. Starting in season 8 he also appeared on-screen as the masked character Professor Bobo, appearing from the season's first episode Revenge of the Creature. He continued both roles until the final episode of the series, Diabolik.
Notably, upon taking up the voice of Tom Servo he was anonymously mailed a six foot long banner reading simply "I hate Tom Servo's new voice", which he then displayed in his office.
After the cancellation of the series Murphy took up a project to see a movie a day in 2001. He completed the task–seeing over 400 movies on four continents–and wrote about the experience in the book A Year at the Movies: One Man's Filmgoing Odyssey. A television series based on the premise was planned by an unknown network, but abandoned.
In 2007, Murphy joined Michael J. Nelson and Bill Corbett as part of the straight-to-DVD riff series The Film Crew. The group fizzled after releasing just four movies. He was also a part of the short lived Timmy Big Hands online webzine.
He can currently be heard as a part of Mike Nelson's audio commentary service RiffTrax. Originally appearing as a "guest riffer" for a number of movies, both he and Bill Corbett became full time members of the show with Mike around 2007.
Murphy continues to reside in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area with his wife, Jane. Kevin considers himself an Angry Centrist
When asked in 2008 about any possible animosity between Murphy and the rest of the original cast of Mystery Science Theater, Joel Hodgson said; "I can't really speak for him. We saw him at ComicCon, and we did the Mystery Science Theater 20th Anniversary panel, and he seemed totally happy to be there, willing to be there, but he's doing Cinematic Titanic."
Kevin's least favorite movie that he's riffed on MST3k to date is Red Zone Cuba and he had fun riffing films on the show like Space Mutiny and had a blast riffing Mutant for RiffTrax. Kevin also admits to loving some of the harmless movies featured such as Jack Frost, Rocketship X-M and The Magic Voyage of Sinbad. Murphy is also a confessed fan of William Shatner (a man whose acting he admires and loves to riff) and Adam West (a man who can take anything that's simply not funny and have the ability to make it funny).
- Robert Plant - The Amazing Colossal Man, Turkey Day '91
- Jerry the Mole Man (credited as "Roadie") - Gamera vs. Zigra
- Patches the Leech - Attack of the Giant Leeches
- Officer Kevin - The Indestructible Man
- William Conrad - The Human Duplicators
- Harry Carey (voice) - The Painted Hills
- Santa Claus - Santa Claus (under the name of Krusher Kringle), San Francisco International (under the name of K. Kringle)
- Abe from Illinois (voice) - The Dead Talk Back
- Kitten with a Whip - Kitten with a Whip, Turkey Day '95
- Ilya Murametz - The Sword and the Dragon
- Ted - The Amazing Transparent Man
- Wade the Nanite (voice) - Revenge of the Creature, The Leech Woman, The She-Creature
- Emperor Hadrian - The Thing That Couldn't Die
- Digger Smolken (voice) - The Undead
- Space Mother (voice) - The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies
- Callipygeas - Prince of Space, The Horror of Party Beach, Devil Doll, Invasion of the Neptune Men
- Roger Whitaker - The Pumaman
- Fortinbras - Hamlet
- "We started seeking out people in the community who could be on TV, and one of them was Joel Hodgson."
- "There was one submission called Demon Rugsuckers From Mars, or maybe just Rugsuckers From Mars. [WIRED Magazine's Editor's note: It’s actually titled Over-Sexed Rugsuckers From Mars.] It’s about vacuum cleaners. And there was a scene with this dorky bearded fellow making graphic love to a vacuum cleaner. That was the one time I thought, what the hell am I doing with my life?"
- "We always encouraged people to share tapes of the show with each other. But the online thing was born of itself. The whole newsgroup that started was self-generated. We didn’t have anything to do with it."
- "When you have something successful, it starts to look like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Jim Mallon and Joel ran the show, and I don’t think they liked each other at all."
- "It began getting difficult when USA Network started exercising more control over the Sci-Fi Channel. And then we picked up these fucking production executives from the network. We had these bitter, dry, humorless trolls in charge of our show. And they were giving us notes. And they were insisting on our having a story arc. What the hell do you want with a story arc? This is a puppet show."
- (remarking on the success of the RiffTrax Live events and upcoming riff of 1998's Godzilla) "There’s an element of it that the show is LIVE; once we start the train rolling downhill, we can’t stop. We have to get through this thing, so the energy is put towards that and have as much fun as we can along the way. So, the live aspect for me is really adrenaline that makes it more of a high-wire act."
- (on which recent 2014 blockbuster they could riff in the future) "Yeah, Lucy I think is the one we’ll really be able to tear into because Luc Besson is not a subtle man. That’s definitely one that we could tower over."
- (on getting offered to do Total Riff Off for the National Geographic Channel) "I think they’re a network that’s trying to break out of the mold they’ve had for a while... Like a lot of these channels they’ve gone from what they started with to a lot of shows about Chunky Guys with Dangerous Jobs. But this is sort of an odd privilege. It’s like walking into the Smithsonian and making fun of dinosaurs."
- (on how much television he watches nowadays) "Precious little. I consume very little local TV anymore. I pretty much stay in my [cultural] neighborhood. But when I do go local I go micro-local and watch cable access. But almost everything I watch I pre-record. Because it works. I’m a Netflix junkie and an Apple TV junkie. Streaming works. The only appointment television I do are things I think are fun to see on an episodic level. “Cosmos,” I’m really liking. The BBC “Sherlock.” “Game of Thrones.” “Downtown Abbey.” But I don’t binge. That’s sick. That’s like eating a whole pizza all at once. I did it on that political porn thing on Netflix, “House of Cards.” I watched six episodes one after another. But when it got to the one where he has a three-way with his bodyguard I said, “OK, I’m going to push away from the table. I’m full now.”"
- (on local TV's appeal) "I really don’t know. I was involved with “Wits” for a while, the radio show. I listen to a lot more radio than I do television. Radio just seems more alive now. Podcasts I think have brought radio back to life. A lot of really good radio shows have attendant podcasts. I would never have found out about WFMU in New York if it weren’t for podcasts. I doubt many people would have heard about “Wits” if it wasn’t for podcasts. Television, at least network and cable, hasn’t been resuscitated in the same way. Although I do love Zach Galifianakis’ “Between Two Ferns.” There are real-life reactions there. It’s like what Martin Short did with Jiminy Glick. I loved Jiminy Glick! But I don’t listen to commercial radio at all. And you want to know why? It’s the [bleeping] commercials! A half hour of programming is 20 minutes of commercials. It drives me crazy."
- (on how ripe cable is for satire) "No kidding. It’s mayhem. Everything is more toxic and more dangerous, sexier and more atrocious than you could ever see in your real life. But it’s the formula of so much of it that drives me up wall. For example: A person does something. Then that person talks about what they just did. Then they talk about what they’re going to do. Then they do the thing and talk about what they just did. You do your life, then you talk about your life and they edit the two together as though they’re both happening in real time. “Survivor” is guilty of that. I can’t watch that stuff anymore. Even The History Channel, which was the Rock of Gibralter for the longest time. Nazis! In black and white! It was the all-Hitler channel. Way back, (Jim Mallon) and I pitched a show to them. Fake history. And they said, “Oh no. We can’t do that. People depend on us to give them the truth.” Now enter, “Ancient Aliens.” The guy with the bad hair and the thick tie and the funny accent saying, “Could George Washington’s wooden teeth be the result of … aliens?”"
- (on the popularity of redneck type reality shows) "I have no idea. But I think it’s become such an isolated and limited part of the population that it’s a curiosity. In Japan these would be the WWII soldiers still living up in the hills who don’t know the war is over. We’ve always had this perverse fascination with “people who are not us, and thank god for that.” But conversely there’s this satisfaction in seeing people like that who have always been looked down on who are now successful. “Duck Dynasty.” They were millionaires before they came on TV. Sure, they wear camouflage tuxedos … but they’re wearing … tuxedos. But yeah, they’re all over the place. There are at least a dozen. Plus the really peripheral channels. One reason is they’re so cheap to do. It’s two camera crews and an editor who can work fast. HGTV does the same thing with home renovation. It’s “Do it and talk about it.” Has there been one of those set in a morgue? “Corpse[bleepers]”! Excuse me, I have to make a note to myself. I know a guy at the Discovery Channel."
- (on how over-the-top he gets with riffing) "I kind of operate on the same standard Jerry Seinfeld uses. He’s said, “I’m not going to do anything I wouldn’t want my mother to hear.” That’s the way I think, too. And Seinfeld’s done OK. We try to stay PG-13, because we want young people to like our stuff. Simply because we liked this kind of thing when we were 12 and 13. Also because, let’s be real, Hollywood is totally tailored to the 12 year-old boy. But then there are some movies we’d never do, because they just wouldn’t work. We wouldn’t do Amistad. We wouldn’t do Schindler’s List. It just wouldn’t work. But we did do Casablanca. Basically, though, we try not to personally insult a person … unless it’s totally unavoidable. For example, we pick on Nick Nolte because … he asks for it. If you’re caught waking up under the seats at an airport … you’re asking for it. Living down and out in Beverly Hills will get you that treatment. But basically we try not to pick on people who can’t take it. We do have to catch ourselves sometimes, though. But really, what Hollywood gives us doesn’t require a dark take. The stuff is funny as it is. I mean, the Twilight movies. Those have been gold for us. Gold! They are our Holy Grail, our Golden Fleece. They are our Margaret Dumont. They take themselves so seriously, and they present themselves in such a stentorian fashion, it’s impossible for me to take a minute of those things seriously. We started with the first one and, well, they were like candy. We couldn’t stop."
- (On his favorite movies- good or bad) "See, this changes all the time for me, and people tend to latch onto favorites lists, so I’m not keen on them. That said, “Young Frankenstein” is still one of my favorites, as is “Dr. Strangelove.” “Local Hero” is one I can watch over and over again. As for a bad film I love, right now it’s “The Wicker Man.” Really, damn near anything with Nicolas Cage in it." 
- (On working on Jim Mallon's campy film Blood Hook) "I was working at WHA, the public TV station, and I’d run into Jim at shoots and parties. We seemed to share a warped sense of humor, and at that time I was taking any job I could get that paid and seemed fun, so I was hired on as a grip. After the DP was canned, I was promoted to Key Grip. I learned on the job how to work a camera dolly and hang lights over water for night boat-to-boat shooting. Damn near killed myself a half-dozen times, but that shoot was the most fun I’ve ever had on a movie set." 
- (Noting more about how he worked as a location production assistant on the film Mrs. Soffel in 1983 and witnessed star Mel Gibson puking on the steps of a train caboose.) "Sure, but there’s really not much to say. Mel came to up Baraboo, WI for the shoot, started drinking immediately, partied all night,. I was working as a grunt PA, and my pal Harry was in charge of “handling” Mel – he never told any tales. But as I was stringing cables for the first shot of the day, Mel came out of the caboose of the train we were lighting, crouched on the steps and let fly. Say what you want, he was on time for his call and worked all day." 
- (Remarking on how amazed he is about the cult appeal between generations) "It still amazes me. Our audience seems to be getting older and younger at the same time. it’s as if MST has spanned generations, and come around to being cool again." 
- (On critics who don't get the show's comedic intentions) "Fuck ‘em." 
- (On his favorite aspect of working on the show) "I loved writing sketches and songs, but I loved the shoot days the most, the camaraderie, the focus, the improvisations and colorings which would turn something funny to something DAMN funny. Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time, in every cast combination, we all worked together splendidly, no ego battles, no prima donna fits, none of that jazz. just fun and puppets and low-tech wizardry." 
- (On films he wished they could've roasted on the show) "We came close to acquiring the Lily Tomlin – John Travolta movie “Moment by Moment,” but I think somebody realized what we had in mind and pulled the license. Same thing happened with the Elvis Presley movie “Charro.”" 
- (Letter to his fans courtesy of all of his social network accounts on July 17, 2014)
"So here we are, two hundred feature films riffed. Haven’t counted the shorts, but man. Our nine-year anniversary and our seventeenth live show are coming up.
I mentioned in our last live show that we’ve now riffed more features than we did on Mystery Science Theater 3000. This is in no way meant to diminish the wonderfulness of MST3K or my time with it - on the contrary, it’s meant to honor it. It’s humbling, because MST was such a part of my life for so long, and still is in a lot of ways. I was involved with every single episode of the show, from pilot to finale. It comes up one way or another every day. It’s in my blood. And Hell, MY blood is in IT - if you bought a piece of the set when we finished, you may very well have a drop or two of my blood on your chunk.
It’s humbling because I’m still riffing, two decades along, I love to see MSTie parents come to our shows with their kids,carrying home-built ‘bots and wearing Tommy Wiseau shirts. As MST is in my blood, so is Rifftrax. I guess riffing is in my DNA. It’s humbling, sure, and baffling, and joyful and life-giving.
So I find myself at this strange milestone overflowing with gratitude for my opportunities, for all the talented souls I have and continue to work with, but mostly I’m grateful for you, the people who watch, who laugh, who share, who reach out to me to say thank you, or even to say “Hey, I think you can do better.”
And whether you prefer MST to Rifftrax or Joel to Mike or Picard to Kirk or Gary Busey to Nick Nolte, whether you like all of it or some of it or none of it, it’s your preference and your preference is always totally cool. I’m immensely proud and thankful for it all, and it’s wonderful to me that you have liked, and continue to like, what it is we do.
So thanks, from deep within my heart, for allowing me to say funny things to bad movies for your entertainment. Stick around because we have a helluva lot of fun stuff coming. And I hope you enjoy our latest release, Julie and Jack, which features a woman trapped in a virtual reality program and the marble-mouthed computer chip salesman who loves him.
See, the great thing about my job? We’ll never run short of supply.