Jonah Ray

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - SUNDAY MAGAZINE - ——— Reach John Berger at jberger@starad­ver­tiser.com.

Kailua-born Jonah Ray, 34, was in his early 20s when he left Hawaii in search of big­ger op­por­tu­ni­ties. Be­fore long he was com­pil­ing an im­pres­sive re­sume as a Los An­ge­les-based ac­tor, co­me­dian, writer and pro­ducer. Ray is one of the three hosts of “The Nerdist Pod­cast,” co-host of “The Melt­down With Jonah and Ku­mail” on Com­edy Cen­tral, and the host of “Hid­den Amer­ica With Jonah Ray,” a travel show par­ody se­ries on Seeso.

He is also the hu­man star of Joel Hodg­son’s re­boot of a cult TV se­ries, “Mys­tery Science Theater 3000: The Re­turn,” which was re­leased last month on Net­flix af­ter a record-break­ing Kick­starter cam­paign to fund the re­vival. Ray plays stranded space jan­i­tor Jonah He­ston, who be­comes the sub­ject of an ex­per­i­ment to test the lim­its of hu­man san­ity by watch­ing cheesy sci-fi and hor­ror flicks. The laughs come when Jonah and his ro­bot side­kicks riff on the movies to stay sane. Ray will be part of a live “MST3K” tour, start­ing July 6; no Honolulu shows are sched­uled. He was in­ter­viewed via email.

Word is that you didn’t have to au­di­tion for “MST3K” — they called you. How did Hodg­son find you and what was he look­ing for?

Joel was a guest on my pod­cast “The Nerdist” a while back.

We hit it off and be­came friends. The more he talked about bring­ing the show back, the more he talked about my in­volve­ment. It started as a writer, then di­rec­tor, pro­ducer. Then fi­nally he said, “You should be the guy.” I was speech­less.

I’ve read that you were a “su­per fan” of the orig­i­nal show. Did you ever think, “I could do that”?

I was ob­sessed with the show. I had T-shirts that I bought from a video store in Wind­ward Mall, posters on my walls. Watch­ing it made me think that I too could do some­thing in com­edy. But by the time I started do­ing com­edy, the show was gone, so I never thought I’d end up bring­ing it back.

What’s the best part of do­ing “MST3K?”

Get­ting to work with a bunch of my idols! Joel Hodg­son, Mark Hamill, Jerry Seinfeld, Pat­ton Oswalt — the list goes on. It is lit­er­ally a dream come true.

Was the ex­pe­ri­ence of shoot­ing an episode of “Hid­den Amer­ica With Jonah Ray” in Hawaii dif­fer­ent for you be­cause you grew up here?

It was a lot dif­fer­ent. I was very adamant about not show­ing the parts of Hawaii that are nor­mally seen on TV and in movies. The crew wanted to get B-roll shots of Waikiki, and I said “No! Ev­ery­body has al­ready seen that!” Then I gave them di­rec­tions to shoot in Kaimuki, Waimanalo and Wahi­awa. The whole thing was a real mind trip.

What do you ex­pect to be do­ing ca­reer­wise be­tween now and the end of the year?

What’s next for me is an “MST3K” 40-city bus tour, hope­fully writ­ing and shoot­ing a sec­ond sea­son of it, and prep­ping a fea­ture film based off the comic book “Li’l De­pressed Boy.”

PHOTO COUR­TESY DAR­REN MICHAELS, SMPSP

Jonah Ray plays space jan­i­tor Jonah He­ston in “Mys­tery Science Theater 3000: The Re­turn.”

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