You heard his cackle as the Crypt Keeper on HBO's Tales from the Crypt series, and for his new project, Mystic Cosmic Patrol, actor John Kassir voices Martini-Bot, a robot who is supposed to help a Power Rangers-type team defend the galaxy, but has instead been re-programed to make great cocktails and say snappy Rat Pack-esque comments. With Mystic Cosmic Patrol premiering August 24th on Funny or Die, Daily Dead had the great pleasure of talking with Kassir about the new kaiju comedy web series, and he also discussed his hopes to reprise his iconic role as the Crypt Keeper on a potential new Tales from the Crypt series.
Congratulations on Mystic Cosmic Patrol. I had a chance to watch the first episode of your latest project and you play quite a character on the show. Martini-Bot should be the new Halloween costume of 2017.
John Kassir: For those who haven’t seen it yet, MCP as we like to call it, Mystic Cosmic Patrol is this team of humans who are from Earth, and they use their martial arts skills and their special powers and they have this giant robot called Gigantes 6, and they’re fighting Rutina the evil overlord, who sends her space monsters known as Powertrons and it’s done in a very comedic way. It’s parodying programs like Power Rangers and Voltron and Ultraman and Kamen Rider and Star Trek, even some of the characters remind of Star Wars characters. The costumes and the sets are done really well in that cheesy kind of way. I’m almost looking for the strings they had in Thunderbirds and that kind of thing, it almost feels like that.
It’s wound up on Funny or Die, which is the perfect place for it, and one of the alcoholic patrolman reprograms one of the robots to be pretty much useless except to make perfect martinis at cocktail hour, and he does have some other skills. He’s got opinions, but they’re all based in a Rat Pack point of view, and that’s Martini-Bot. That’s me.
I like how it’s a twist on the Alpha-5 character from Power Rangers. You expect him to be a super helpful robot, but he just gets everyone wasted.
John Kassir: Exactly. This is the kind of guy you would want to hang out with at Comic-Con, for sure.
Were you a fan of this genre of Super Sentai-type shows from the ’90s? Did you ever do voice work for any of those types of shows?
John Kassir: Not so much that, but some of the fully animated stuff over the years. It’s funny, I had my own kids’ show on USA Network a while back called Johnnytime, and I played all of the characters on it, including myself and I could pull the kids through the TV set and we would go on to some kind of magical place looking for their braces or whatever. Supporting the show around it, they had a bunch of Transformer cartoons and that kind of stuff. That was fun to work on.
When Power Rangers came out, I was already an adult, so I was sitting there going, “Oh my God, why am I watching this? This is not for me, but I can’t stop watching this.” It reminded me of stuff like Thunderbirds [Are Go] and Fireball XL5 and the things that were done with puppets earlier on, because they didn’t have inexpensive effects back then, until Star Trek, where somebody would take the transponder and they could come from the planet back onto the deck. We didn’t get to see that kind of thing.
I remember I had watched Star Trek as a kid, but really reacquainted myself with it in college because they were re-running it and I was like, “There is something really hysterically funny behind all of this even though it’s played completely seriously.” Even Tales from the Crypt and a lot of the stuff I have done over the years, most of it has had some level of tongue in cheek in it, and Mystic Cosmic Patrol has a huge amount of that in it. It really nails all the different aspects of what we grew up with—different generations, too. I can appreciate it just as much as someone watching it on the air now that’s younger. That’s why I think it’s such a great show in terms of that.
It’s funny how sometimes you’ll see a show that when they first come out, they have to be inventive because they don’t have the budget, so they have to create ways to make it look interesting and fun and it totally works and you buy it. And then all of a sudden they give them a bunch of money and they make all of these effects and stuff, and you’re like, “You know what, I’m just not buying it as much,” because the effects aren’t as good as the effects that keep evolving. I think that’s why everyone loves the Crypt Keeper as a puppet because it’s something that was timeless. It’s not going to go out of style. I think this show is like that. It’s very inventive and a lot of fun.
Because a lot of Daily Dead readers are fans of Tales from the Crypt, and recently they were going to do a new Tales from the Crypt on TNT, but the rights issues have held it up in limbo. A lot of people want to see the Crypt Keeper back. If you were approached to return to that role, would you be open to bringing back the cackle?
John Kassir: Oh yeah, for sure. I don’t think anybody’s been as active in keeping that franchise alive as me, just in the amount of conventions that I go to, to see the fans and to show appreciation. Who knew that kids were watching that show back in the day? We certainly didn’t. And there’s a bigger fan base for it now than there ever was. I remember saying to the producers, “We’ve got to do a live version of this for kids.” And they were like, “Nah, it’s a little too scary. We’re doing a cartoon version and we’re doing a game show and kids will get into it.” As it turns out, all of the kids were watching it, and most of the people come up to me and say, “This is the reason I got into horror. I love the Crypt Keeper.
Some of the episodes my parents thought were inappropriate for me or they scared me so I didn’t watch it, but I always loved the Crypt Keeper.” I kind of always thought of the Crypt Keeper as the roller coaster ride. He’s the rise to the top before it drops you down. That’s what made it unique amongst all of those different anthology series. So I would certainly love to be involved. It was never a show that made me rich, but it was certainly a show that helped develop and promote my voiceover career, and it was done by the best producers in the business, and it was one of the best shows on TV because of that, and attracted the best stars and directors. And HBO, which has become one of the top networks in the world. I remember sitting in the audience of a screening of Tales from the Crypt. And somebody in the audience went, "Wow, that's really great television." And somebody turned to them and said, "It's not television, it's HBO." And two executives went, "Ding!" That became their tagline for years, from something somebody said in the audience.
Where it would wind up if we did it again? I'm sure some people were sad because the rights fell through for TNT and M. Night Shyamalan, who had secured the rights from the Gaines family, who owned the comic book stories. But the fact that that didn't work out for them means that there's a possibility they may wind up in our lap again, which would include me and Kevin Yagher's puppet. We're excited about that. We're hoping that that works out.
Before I let you go, is there anything on deck that you want to share with your fans?
John Kassir: In The Emoji Movie, I'm the pizza [laughs]. I worked on the Planet of the Apes movie, which I just thought was incredible, doing ape voices and that kind of thing. I'm on the new Looney Tunes playing Pete Puma. [In his Pete Puma voice] "I know you!" The voiceover stuff is fun. I get to play a lot of characters I could never play on camera, so there's always a lot of opportunities for me in that. I'm grateful for the fans, too. I'll be out at a convention near you soon. You can also check me out on Twitter and on Facebook, and I post everything that I'm doing, including the conventions that I'm going to be at.
"Thursday August 24th the MYSTIC COSMIC PATROL launches their fight against intergalactic evil... and each other. The Kaiju-Comedy webseries, will debut on FunnyorDie.com August 24th with the release of a new episode every Thursday for the following month with more episodes coming later this year. Make sure to log on, watch, click FUNNY and Don't Be A Loser-Tron! Show page: http://www.funnyordie.com/mysticcosmic"