RVOD068 Back to School With Joan Miller

(1950s-ish?, Educational/Short, color)


Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

In the end, there is nothing else. Only plaid. Well, plaid and taxes.

Rating: **1/2

In a Nutshell:

Young women model a lot of thick wool plaid.


Sing the praises of plaid!One of Rifftrax’s longest shorts (about nineteen minutes) is also one of its emptiest. Back to School with Joan Miller features three young women who alternate thick wool outfits as they lounge around college campuses, in convertibles, with kittens, next to trees, with kittens in convertibles next to trees on college campuses, and so on. Throughout, the narrator uses phrases such as “excitingly plaid” without the slightest trace of irony or sarcasm. Plaid! It’s what’s for dinner.


While I admit to owning a fair amount of plaid, it’s pretty much all hand-me-downs and gifts. Not that this makes me anti-plaid; “hand-me-downs and gifts” describes the entirety of my wardrobe. If there is such a thing as too much plaid, however, Joan Miller (who doesn’t appear in the film) crosses this line early and often, with outfits that wrap a woman neck to wrist to ankle in dense and creatively checkered wool. I hope these were meant to be winter outfits, but I suspect I’m wrong. I pity the well-dressed fifties woman who had to drape herself in thirty-eight layers of highly insulative fabric even at the height of summer.

Mike, Kevin and Bill have a lot to say on the subject of plaid as well. When the narrator claims that plaid can “slenderize” the wearer, Mike says, “I prefer the term ‘de-oinkify’”. At one point, Kevin speculates that the young women depicted are “attending Lumberjack University”. Bill caps off the short by shouting, “Plaid solves everything!” to which Kevin adds, “Except the problem of its own ugliness.” As a whole, Back to School with Joan Miller is reasonably entertaining and occasionally amusing. That may not seem like high praise, but when you consider the short’s length and one-note subject matter, it’s amazing the riffers made it watchable at all.