Learning Management Skills from 'Mystery Science Theater 3000'

  • The Minnesota-produced Mystery Science Theater 3000 was a kind of movie review comedy TV show. They also explored old educational short films that are a fascinating window into the past and are sometimes very informative.
  • One short that I learned a lot from was a training film for Chevrolet sales managers made in 1940. It's kind of silly, and MST3K's jokes are spot on. But, I also learned a lot about managing people.
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What is Mystery Science Theater 3000?

If you don't know, Mystery Science Theater 3000 was a TV show that started on KTMA-TV in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1988. It later moved to Comedy Central and then the SyFy Channel, ultimately airing 10 seasons of the show. Nowadays episodes of the show can be seen on several streaming services.

The most basic way to describe MST3K is it is a show about a man and two robot puppets that watch bad movies and make jokes while they do it. It is also much more. Think about the way your dad loves the Vikings or how your brother loves the Packers. That's the place MST3K holds in my life.

It's a staggering creation of beautiful comedy genius made by smart alack Midwesterners rolling their eyes at everything.

I've learned two important things from my years of MST3K devotion.

1) There has been plenty of crap produced over the entirety of movie history.

It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that all modern movies are dumb, and in the old days it was all classic cinema all the time. No, it's just that the good stuff lasts and the filler gets forgotten.

It's a reminder that nostalgia isn't reality. We naturally forget the bad times and hold on to the good.

2) I learned some real-life skills.

Learning Management Skills from Mystery Science Theater 3000

In addition to old movies, MST3K would show old educational and industrial short films. Shorts about personal hygiene, selling freezers, or buying musical instruments. These films are fascinating windows into the past and are often full of good information.

One that I learned a lot from is a training film for Chevrolet sales managers, made in 1940, called Hired! It's very silly, and MST3K's jokes are spot on. But, I also learned a lot about managing people.


I like that the ideas are laid out in straightforward, plain language without being condescending. The lessons are the basics of good leadership. Plus, it's really funny.

Best Brains/Shout Factory via YouTube
Best Brains/Shout Factory via YouTube
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Watch the two-part epic Hired! saga

In part one, the manager is frustrated with Jimmy the salesman. He takes refuge on his father's porch and drowns his sorrows in lemonade:

Then in part two, the film opens on the ice planet Hoth, where the rebels have a base hidden in the snow. The Empire finds them and, no spoilers, let's just say, it strikes back.

No, wait, that's Star Wars.

In part two of Hired! the sales manager learns how to be a good leader. Then gets his hand cut off. Nope, again, that's Star Wars:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ben Kuhns is just some guy on the internet. He is a wannabe writer whose wife thinks is funny. He writes for Results-Townsquare Media in Sioux Falls South Dakota.

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