Category Archives: Comedy Trip

CONvergence 2014: Rubber Chicken Lightsaber and Schedule

This weekend, I’m headed back to Minneapolis for my “home convention” CONvergence. I’ll be doing a bunch of comedy panels, an episode of my podcast Obsessed, and a new stand-up show called FUTURE HOLE. You can find my whole schedule here or below.

When I think of CONvergence, I sometimes think of this photo which I call “WORST DALEK INVASION EVER.”

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This photo wasn’t even taken at CONvergence, but it sums up a lot of what I love about the convention. It’s got Daleks, absurdity, a sense of excitement, perhaps alcohol was involved, and most importantly it’s a great big party with a sense of humor about it.

I’ve been involved with CONvergence for a long time. Recently, when I moved to Los Angeles, I found this old photo from an early performance on mainstage. It’s from a sketch called POWER OF THE FUNNY in which Jedi Knights had rubber chickens for lightsabers. See above, re: absurdity.

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The sketch was a parody of Star Wars which recast Jedi as vaudevillians and Sith as crass stand-up comedians. “Master Yoda,” Luke asked. “Are dick and butt jokes more powerful?”

“No,” responded Yoda. “Quicker, easier, more seductive.”

Years later, I don’t have the same chip on my shoulder about stand-up. I’ve happily turned to the dark side and take pride in trying to create (hopefully) intelligent, fun, pro-social dick and butt jokes.

Last year, I did a stand-up show about superheroes which included the made-up character Professor Ass Lightning. The next day someone dressed up as the character and another awesome person named Stephanie Brown gave me this drawing of the character.

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Ass jokes for the win!

This year I’ll be doing a brand new stand-up comedy show called FUTURE HOLE. It’s a show about where we are and where we’re going. Topics include but are not limited to Netflix, jet packs, Benedict Cumberbatch, autocorrect, gender equality, and butts. It’s Friday at 7 pm on Mainstage. I’ll be recording the show for possible release as an album. I HOPE I GET MORE DRAWINGS!

I’m also recording a live episode of my comedy podcast OBSESSED. The topic is a super-important but often overlooked geek obsession–CATS. The animal, not the musical. My cat obsessed guests are Tim Wick and Rebecca Watson.

If you’re a fan of my book Comedy of Doom and my Patreon comedy blog posts on this very site, I’ll be doing a a reading and playing a quick round of my made-up nerd-friendly sport, Competitive Hugging.

I’ll be doing a signing on Sunday afternoon. I’ll have copies of my book Comedy of Doom and my comedy albums, Verbing the Noun and Flaw Fest. PLUS a very few flasks with my squirrel coat of arms.

While I’m in Minneapolis, I’ll also be doing Rebecca Watson’s Quiz-O-Tron at my ancestral comedy home of Bryant-Lake Bowl on Wednesday, July 2nd! Info and tickets are available here!

The rest of my time at the convention will be spent doing more comedy panels, sleeping, drinking, or all three of those things at the same time.

Full schedule here and below as well.

Thanks! My comedy Dalek plunger and rubber chicken lightsaber look forward to seeing you at CONvergence!

FULL CONVERGENCE SCHEDULE:

Thursday, July 3rd

8:30 pm – Smackdown: A heated, comedy debate about which magic-using character would win in a fight

Friday, July 4th

2 pm – Power Point Karaoke: Joseph is one of the presenters for this Power Point Presentation Smackdown!

3:30 pm – One on One with Amy Berg: Joseph interviews his pal, CONvergence Guest of Honor, Amy Berg

7 pm – FUTURE HOLE! Joseph’s stand-up comedy show about Netflix, jet packs, swearing, and more!

11:30 pm – Killer B’s Improv Movie Show: Funny Make-Em Ups to horrible B movies!

Saturday, July 5th

3:30 pm – Reading! Joseph reads from his book, his blog, and plays a round of Competitive Hugging!

5 pm – Worst of Harry Potter! Lets bitch about the films AND the books!

8:30 pm – Obsessed: A podcast about CATS with Joseph, Tim Wick, and Rebecca Watson!

10 pm – Drinking With Geeks: Exactly what the title says, but even funnier.

11:30 pm – Hypothetical Who: Joseph is a contestant in Paul Cornell’s brutal Doctor Who trivia show!

Sunday, July 6th

12:30 pm – Signing: Joseph signs and sells his book, comedy albums, and a FLASK!

Cheers,
Joseph

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LET IT BURN!

This comedy blog post was made possible by Patreon. One of the rewards for becoming a Patreon backer is suggesting a topic for the blog. Two different patrons, Jen Manna and Jim Crider, suggested discussing the Midwestern perspective of Los Angeles. Jim wondered about how I would adjust as a  Minnesotan. Would I be treated as a “fish out of water?” Jen expressed valid concerns about “Asshole Weather Updates” bragging about the sun and lack of snow. This is a frequent problem when a midwestern person moves to my new home, Los Angeles. Here’s a story that sums up a deep misunderstanding of both my old and new homes! Enjoy!

Let It Burn

My wife and I moved to Los Angeles primarily for career reasons. But on top of that, I was personally incredibly done with winter and the snow.

Here are the some of the jokes I posted on twitter to try to cope with the winter:

  • Snowflakes are falling. They are all unique. And yet they are all assholes.
  • Did you know Minnesotans have over 72 different swear words for snow?
  • My wife is RAKING snow off of our roof. Where’s your damn song dreaming about that, Bing Crosby???

I had to move, if no other reason, because I was running out of ways to express my personally being done with the winter.

When I posted that I was moving to Los Angeles, I was lucky enough to receive mostly positive, supportive feedback. Although there were some nasty things said about both the Midwest and Los Angeles.

But a couple of people said something that struck me as very odd. I’m paraphrasing, but they said, “Okay. You might be escaping the snow by moving to Los Angeles, but you’re just trading it…FOR FIRE.”

I understand it gets very dry and fires are a real concern in Southern California. But comparing fire to SNOW to a person from MINNESOTA made something break in my brain.

Having now lived in both the Midwest and Southern California, I’ve noticed there are several CRUCIAL differences between fire and snow.

I’m pretty sure that here in LA, the sky is not going to RAIN FIRE ON ME FROM ABOVE for six to seven months of the year.

I’m  probably not going to make plans with friends and then be unable to get there because my car got stuck in the fire. Sorry, guys! I tried to push it out but the tires exploded.

Since I moved to Los Angeles, I have spent exactly ZERO MINUTES of my life scraping an inferno off of my car’s windshield.

I don’t have to put on layers and layers of flame retardant hats, coats, scarves, boots, and mittens every time I step out of my home.

You don’t hear people in Los Angeles say, “You know the fire is so beautiful when it first comes. You know, right around Christmas, you look outside and your neighbor’s house is just engulfed in flames? So beautiful! And the kids are outside throwing fireballs like they’re Super Mario? And the little ones are inside singing that great Disney power ballad LET IT BURN over and over again! It’s all so romantic! But then around March, you’re just like GO AWAY FIRE! YOU’VE BURNED EVERYTHING I’VE EVER KNOWN AND LOVED AND I WANT TO GO TO TRADER JOE’S WITHOUT IMMOLATING MYSELF!”

In fact, did you know that native Angelenos have over 72 different words for fire?

Fire, flames, heat curtain, infernonado, super hot juice cleanse, the REAL burning man. The list goes on and on.

Anyway, I have not yet burst into flames in Los Angeles. I’ve enjoyed the weather, but I’ve enjoyed it in the spirit of the Midwest–quietly, calmly, and without posting asshole comments to my friends back in Minnesota.

And so far, all the Angelenos I’ve met have been welcoming and kind to a newbie from the Midwest. Even the guy who decided to hit on me at 11 pm on Sunset Boulevard.

A man who like me was wearing a jacket (thus being grossly overdressed for LA) approached me. I thought maybe he was a fellow Midwestern human. Before he could reach me, the wave of alcohol hit me like advance troops storming the beach. He started to say something and I said, “I’m sorry. I’m not interested.”

I turned to walk away and he yelled something else. I thought there was no way I could have heard it right so I turned back and asked, “What?”

He repeated himself. He yelled, “It’s okay! You can trust me! I’m a presidential candidate!”

This was funny to me on a minimum of two levels.

I laughed to myself and continued down Sunset to walk back to my new home in Los Angeles. A home that I knew was not buried in eight feet of fire.

The man yelled one more thing.

“I REALLY LIKE YOUR JACKET.”

Maybe he was from the Midwest after all.

If you enjoyed the post, check out my Patreon page! Thank you!

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A FUN THING FOR HUMANS TO DO

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I once again sailed on JoCoCruiseCrazy and I once again had a great time performing as well as doing other human things that I would normally do on land but instead doing them on a boat.

If, like my mother, your first reaction is “What’s a JoCo and why are people cruising on it?” here are the basics: Jonathan Coulton is a talented, kind, funny human who sings songs. For the last four years, he’s gathered other talented, kind, funny humans to sing songs and tell jokes on a cruise ship. You should go next year.

This year, the cruise was on a ship that I believe was designed by aliens. More on that later.

Here’s some cool stuff about the Jonathan Coulton part of the cruise:

The attendees call themselves Sea Monkeys. After four years, the Sea Monkeys have formed a community that exists on the sea, the land, the internet, and sometimes even the air if you go parasailing during the cruise.

For example, a nice Sea Monkey named Laura dressed her stuffed monkey up as Batman and then gave it a taco just for me. Things like this constitute fairly normal interactions on the cruise.

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The Sea Monkeys are also a great audience. I had over a million metric tons of fun performing in the ship’s Goth Club in the middle of a Monday afternoon. The club had a strange, sexy Beefeater theme so this statue was my co-star.

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Paul F. Tompkins  kindly performed the controversial piece Cats Versus Dinosaurs  with me and Molly Lewis  was my co-host for my nerd-friendly sport Competitive Hugging. The Sea Monkey volunteers came, they saw, they hugged the shit out of each other.

I also played a role in the boat edition of Thrilling Adventure Hour. Peter Sagal and I portrayed angry people from the Midwest. It was easy to get into character.

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And I served as communications officer for “Drunk Celebrity Artemis” in which Grant Imahara flew our spaceship backwards through asteroids. This was not an actual command given by our Captain, Angela Webber of The Doubleclicks, but it was very entertaining.

All that said, the actual cruise part of the cruise seemed even stranger to me than normal.

Cruises are meant to evoke elegance and luxury, but with the glut of cruise problems in the last year there’s also the mental image of being lost at sea, defecating in a bag, while rats infested with the norovirus stare at you in judgment until you wash up on the island from Lord of the Flies.

Perhaps because of these thoughts I was more aware of the cruise ship as a floating contradiction. I spent a few extra minutes on my balcony staring at the endless sea and the vast sky–realties of the physical world that remind you of your tiny insignificant nature and the absurdity of our civilization. All of that just a few feet away from an angry lady from Iowa screaming BINGO and spilling a little bit of her strawberry-mocha margarita out of the commemorative plastic cup that is ringed with chunks of salt and small edible conflict diamonds.

Adding to the contradiction pile, our ship was called the Independence of the Seas and I for one felt INCREDIBLY INDEPENDENT as other humans cleaned my room and made me martinis.

There were many things about the Independence of the Seas that were almost right, but not really, leading me to the inevitable conclusion that this particular cruise ship was designed by aliens with only a loose grasp of human culture.

Each level of the elegant three story main dining room was named after a Shakespeare play. In particular, a Shakespearean tragedy. This led to a delightful moment of hearing a man with a heavy southern drawl loudly and repeatedly asking a steward, “Where is Macbeth? Where’s Macbeth? I can’t find Macbeth!”

Dining rooms named after Shakespearean tragedies is the set-up to a choose-your-own-punchline-adventure joke. Turn to page 57 for “at least they didn’t choose The Tempest.” Turn to page 163 for “I hope the dining room isn’t named after Titus Andronicus.” Turn to page 269 for “WHY DON’T THEY JUST CALL THE SHIP THE TITANIC?”

The ship was also lousy with challenging art. I don’t mean challenging as in thought provoking, I mean most of the artwork was so aggressively weird I felt like it was actually challenging me to a fistfight.

There was the picture of a deer looking at its own mounted head.

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There was an elegant print you could buy of a famous human named Jack Nicholson farting.

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There was a photograph that I believe was called “Buff-Man in the Shadows” or “Child of Light with Huge Pecs” or “Terrifying Live-Action Family Circus.”

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There was an illustration of spaceships from Star Wars sinking naval ships.

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Here you can truly see the aliens trying. They know a lot of humans like Star Wars so, hey, why not some pictures from Star Wars? How about some ships? How about two of the most obscure ships only seen in Return of the Jedi? Yes, that sounds good. We’ll have a picture of TIE-interceptors and A-Wings. What should they be doing? How about destroying something? Sounds good, but let’s make it relatable. What if they were sinking other ships?

YES! The spaceships should be sinking naval ships–VERY MUCH LIKE THE ONE THE HUMANS ARE FLOATING ON RIGHT NOW! I think the humans would enjoy that! Alien high-five! Or high-seven depending on their anatomy!

The ship also had a promenade or mall in the center as if commerce itself could keep us afloat. One of the storefronts was a pizza place called Sorrento’s which I choose to believe is Italian for “Sorry, humans.”

Many of us went there to get late night pizza. The pizza was available all day, but this pizza is like a great jazz club, a vampire, or texting your ex. It belongs to the night.

The pizza is not good. It’s also not bad. It’s almost pizza but not quite. It’s like eating the Uncanny Valley.

I could go on and on about the strange cruise.

I could tell you the aliens also chose a ridiculous name for our toilet paper.

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Heavenly Choice. So much wrong packed into just two words. The act is almost as completely opposite of heavenly as you can get and, hopefully, there’s not a lot of choice involved. It’s not shopping for a new car, it’s basic cleanliness. Come on, aliens.

I could also tell you how the aliens took a part of Haiti and renamed it Labadee and then used it to exactly recreate an island from the Nintendo Gamecube era video game Super Mario Sunshine.

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Seriously, try saying LABADEE in Mario’s voice and it all comes together.

The point is my whole time on the ship I was overwhelmed by this idea, this sensation of aliens struggling to make sense of normal human culture.

By the last day I realized I was enjoying the cruise even more because of that. Normal human culture is weird. Normal human culture on a cruise ship is weirder STILL.

But everything makes more sense when you’re inside it.

It’s only when you pull back and look at it from a distance that you can see the absurdity and often the joy of how not normal what you’re doing is.

On the last day of the cruise, I thought I was in a room with a bunch of awesome people listening to my friend Molly Lewis sing some songs.

Then I let myself drift back and see it from the outside. I was standing in a fake goth club on a cruise ship listening to Molly sing a song about a detachable, flying vagina with a man dressed as Super Mario.

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And it was great.

So thanks to Jonathan, the Sea Monkeys, the skies, the seas, the aliens, the night pizza, and all the weirdness in our vast universe for another fun week on a boat.

This post was made possible by Patreon! If you enjoy my work, you can keep more coming by pledging a few bucks per blog post!

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The Riddler Has Nothing To Prove

I’ve recently returned from the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con–a swarming, heaving mass of geeky humanity.

During the convention, I got to spend time with a lot of pals including Angela and Aubrey Webber a.k.a The Doubleclicks. They are, of course, charming and talented and smart and good at all of the instruments ever. I’ve been lucky to tour with them a bit, they’re writing a song for my upcoming comedy and music album Flaw Fest, they appear on one of my favorite episodes of Obsessed, and they’re good friends.

During w00tstock, they premiered the video for their song “Nothing to Prove.” It’s a response to the rabid fear of the so-called Fake Geek Girl. (If you have no idea what a Fake Geek Girl is, here’s a thing I wrote on tumblr trying to explain the concept to a theater person.)

The video was co-conceived by another pal–the talented screenwriter and raconteur Josh Cagan. It features testimonials from geek girls and a few geek guys (some assholes named Wheaton, Savage, Scrimshaw, etc.) about the strange trend in some pockets of geek culture toward exclusion.

Here’s the video:

I thought a lot about geek culture during Comic-Con this year. One of the most obvious expressions of geekdom is cosplay. Dressing up as a character you like, or in many cases, just a character you find aesthetically pleasing.

I love watching cosplay. For the joy of those in costume and those who are thrilled when they see their favorite character walk by. But I’m also fascinated with the mash-up between the fantasy of the character and the reality of being a human at a convention.

I posted on Twitter and Facebook that all I wanted out of the convention was seeing one guy dressed as Batman eating a taco. I even followed a couple of Batmen, but they walked right past the taco stands.

I got a close second, though. In the middle of a business meeting, the Joker sat down next to me and ate a hot dog. He didn’t even eat it. He devoured it in two bites. I saw the Joker deep throat a hot dog. (When I posted about this on Twitter, it autocorrected to “derp throat” which would be a great geeky porn parody.)

I saw a guy in a really great Green Lantern costume standing against the wall on the crowded convention floor, charging his iPhone. It was sad and funny to see Green Lantern having to use a common power outlet to charge his phone instead of using his ring.

I saw several men dressed as Slave Leia.

Another friend saw all of the Avengers. But the Avengers were also dressed as Slave Leia.

Comic-Con runs shuttles from all the hotels to the convention center. The shuttle is a great place to watch superheroes confront the limits of the physical world. A guy in a great Iron Man costume got on the bus, lifted his helmet, and said, “Oh, man. I forgot I can’t sit down.” It was a double-decker bus so someone said, “Why don’t you go upstairs? There’s more room up there.” Iron Man’s friend said, “Bad idea. He doesn’t do stairs well.” So Iron Man just sort of squatted in the area normally reserved for wheelchairs while happily telling people how he made his awesome costume.

But my favorite overheard conversation was from a dude dressed as the Batman villain, the Riddler. He sat down next to me on the shuttle and started chatting with Cyborg and Green Arrow. He said he didn’t really read Batman comics or watch Batman movies. He just liked the costume. I laughed to myself. Then he said, “I picked this costume to match my friends. And I like green. But I didn’t want to be a DC character, I wanted to be Bane.”

I was unable to stop myself from leaning over to my wife and whispering, “Bane IS a DC character.” My wife hadn’t been listening to the Riddler’s conversation so she thought I was having a sudden attack of aphasia.

I whispered, “It’s funny because this guy dressed as the Riddler is a Fake Geek Guy.”

The Riddler was what all these judgmental dudes are so afraid of from women. That people will just appropriate geek knowledge and credentials. That they’ll wear the mask of the Riddler on their face but not in their hearts. And this will somehow rip a hole in the very fabric of the geek continuum.

I continued to listen to the Riddler. The topic changed from costumes to something very close to Riddler’s heart: tax laws as they relate to the legalization of marijuana.

The Riddler had a lot to say on this topic. Turns out, he was a huge geek. What he lacked in knowledge or passion in Batman’s rogue’s gallery, he more than made up for in pedantic pot tax lore.

He was absolutely not a fake geek. He was just a guy having fun wearing a costume with friends. Next year, I hope he fully embraces his inner geekdom and dresses up as Captain Pot Tax Laws.

It’s been said many times (and particularly effectively in The Doubleclick’s song and video) but one of the strengths of the geek community at this point is its spirit of inclusion.

There is too much “geek content” for geekdom to be based solely on your knowledge. No one recognizes every costume at an event as large as Comic-Con. What we recognize is the passion. And what makes the event positive is the moments of feeling like a part of a community no matter how odd or obscure your passion is.

My passion at Comic-Con this year was to see someone dressed as Batman eat a taco.

And a community rose up to support me. On Saturday afternoon many people tweeted at me, saying they had spotted a Batman in the vicinity of a taco stand. @SemiEvolved on Twitter then sent me this photo.

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And it was good. Thanks, @SemiEvolved! This particular Batman was found at my pal Marian Call’s ninja gig behind the Convention Center. So he has good taste in tacos and music.

But since I’m a geek and I want to collect them all, I will be on the hunt for a sighting of Batman eating a taco with his cowl up.

That’s all you need to be a geek: follow your passion. Follow them down a street and take pictures of them eating tacos.

Next year, Comic-Con, next year.

If you enjoy my work, you can sign up for my fan list here and make more comedy possible by buying a book, a comedy album, or a script here.

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Professor Ass Lightning: Best of CONvergence 2013

On the last day of CONvergence 2013, I lost my badge. I believe it fell off while I was being a back-up dancer for a karaoke performance of Skyfall. These things happen.

As I entered the main stage for the closing ceremonies, I had my ID out and my schedule of events to prove who I was. When I reached the volunteer at the front of the line, I started saying, “I understand if I can’t get in, I lost my badge and didn’t realize in time to get a new one, but–“

The volunteer stopped me and said, “I know who you are.”

I have a strong sense of constant guilt so I always expect “I know who you are” to be immediately followed by “And I know what you did.”

Instead the volunteer said, “Go ahead, Mr. Scrimshaw. I’ll see if someone can get you a martini.”

This is a short way to say, CONvergence 2013 was a great experience. I saw many great costumes including an adorable pink Dalek and a guy dressed as the Hulk trying to twerk. Some demons accidentally threw one of their prosthetic horns into my wife’s wine cup. They invented demon wine pong. They also agreed to buy my wife a new cup of wine. For demons, they were very reasonable.

I did 15 panels and shows with many awesome friends and collaborators. Highlights include, but are not limited to, recording a Doctor Who episode of my podcast Obsessed with Paul Cornell, Molly Glover, and C. Robert Cargill; the organized chaos of Drinking With Geeks; Comedy on the Internet (I finally got to do a panel with Rebecca Watson of the Skepchicks and as a fan of her work I was thrilled); My Monster (a one act play written and performed by myself and Bill Corbett, you can buy a copy of the script here), and an interview with Paul Cornell. The interview was planned as a One on One about Paul’s career, but Paul has a great policy to always have some amount of gender equity on his panels. So my wife, Sara, joined us for a great Two on One and the conversation was much richer for it.

It would take me another entire four day convention to describe everything that was great about this year’s CONvergence, so I want to focus on this: Professor Ass Lightning.

On Friday night, I recorded a new stand-up comedy show about superheroes called SUPER ISSUES. During the show, I described a new superhero named Professor Ass Lightning–a yoga instructor who developed the strange ability to shoot lightning out of his or her ass. I say “his or her” because both a male and female version of the character are featured in the show.

The character came about because I made a note on my smartphone that “all superhero names are better if you just add lightning.” But autocorrect apparently thinks “add” is a typo for “ass” and thus a hero was born. I used the idea of this ridiculous hero to poke fun at some of the tropes of grim, serious heroes.

I liked the idea and hoped others would, too. The laughs during the show indicated Professor Ass Lightning had made some fans. Indeed, the Professor did.

The next day, after a panel, I was delighted to discover that some industrious cosplayers had taken the time to create a Professor Ass Lightning costume based on the description in the show complete with yoga mat cape.

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And here’s the back view with the titular bolt.

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That was extremely cool. The panel after that, an artist brought me their awesome interpretation of Professor Ass Lightning.

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Beautiful, haunting, and features the correct ass lightning sound effect from the show. ZWAPFFFT!

It was really exciting to get the immediate feedback that the show and the character had a true impact on the audience. SUPER ISSUES (featuring the adventures of Professor Ass Lightning) was recorded and if all went well, we’ll be releasing it as a comedy album a few months from now.

It was all personally gratifying but also a great example of why I love CONvergence. There’s such a spirit of adventure, excitement, and plain old absurdity that an idea can come falling out of someone’s mouth on Friday night and by Saturday afternoon the idea is on a piece of paper and on a human being and literally walking around the convention.

Alas, CONvergence is over, and all that’s left is to go untag photos on Facebook. BUT convention season is in full swing!

Next weekend, I’ll be doing stand-up and recording an episode of Obsessed with Paul and Storm at ConnectiCon. The weekend after that, I’ll be an attending pro at San Diego Comic-Con. Then a few weeks of this strange thing called the real world before heading off to Dragon*Con for a slew of panels and performances.

Until then, here’s a picture of Professor Ass Lightning shooting me in the face. Enjoy! If you can!

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ZWAPFFFT!

If you enjoy my work, you can sign up for my fan list here and make more comedy possible by buying a book, a comedy album, or a script here.

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CONvergence 2013: Schedules and Plunger Memories

“Uhhh, hi. I’m the guy who bought all your toilet plungers yesterday, but we lost one. And I think we broke another one. Do you have more toilet plungers? In the back? It’s an emergency. I know this sounds weird, but it’s okay. It’s for a comedy show.”

This is just one of the many awkward conversations I had with the employees of the convenience store across from my old apartment.

In this particular case, I was shopping for plungers to do a big comedy sketch about these obscure aliens called Daleks from this British TV show that had been canceled for a while called Doctor Who. I was going to be doing this sketch at the only place people would understand it: a science fiction convention in Minnesota called CONvergence.

Oh, how times have changed.

Doctor Who is back and then some. CONvergence has grown into a massive, fan-run convention. Back then, I couldn’t even attempt to explain Daleks to the guy behind the counter. Now I might be afraid to mention Daleks because I wouldn’t have time to get into a long David Tennant versus Matt Smith debate with the Whovian fanatic who probably works there.

CONvergence has been a big part of my life and my career as a comedy human for many years. I’ve met a lot of friends, fans, creative partners, and unfortunate little plastic vials full of what I was told was vodka with food coloring in it.

I’ve been performing at a lot of conventions in the last few years, but CONvergence will always be my “home convention.” It’s one giant, intelligent party.

Last year, I saw a guy in a really great Captain America costume. He was standing in the bathroom reminding tipsy Boba Fetts and 10th Doctors to wash their hands. I thought, “Wow. That’s some really accurate Captain America cosplay.”

In a strange way, it’s also a nice snapshot of CONvergence: absurd, charming, smart, boozy yet responsible.

Over the years, my career has dovetailed with the growth of geekdom and, as a result, I’ll be busier than ever at this year’s CONvergence.

You can check out my full schedule here or at the bottom of the post. Some highlights include:

I’ll be doing a signing at 2 pm on Friday. In an effort to justify the thousands of dollars I spent on a degree in visual art, I’ve decided to do a free sketch with each purchase or signature. My book Comedy of Doom and my comedy album Verbing The Noun will be for sale both at the signing and all weekend long at the CON’s official merch area on the 2nd floor. I’m particularly excited for people to get their hands on Verbing The Noun since it was recorded live at CONvergence last year.

Friday night on the mainstage, I’m doing a brand new stand-up show about superheroes called Joseph Scrimshaw’s SUPER ISSUES. It’s a brooding, action-packed hour of comedy about horrible origin stories, the best super power ever, strong feelings about Batman, life lessons learned from the Hulk’s pants, and more. Truth! Justice! Massive, horrible property damage! We’ll be recording the show and if all goes well, eventually we’ll release it as an album.

Saturday at 5 pm, Bill Corbett and I will be doing our one-act comedy play/lecture thing called My Monster. Bill plays a egomaniacal Hollywood screenwriter and I play the character he creates before the audience’s eyes. It’s Frankenstein’s Monster meets David Mamet, but funnier. We originally wrote the show for the San Francisco SketchFest and then performed it on the first Jonathan Coulton Cruise. We’re thrilled to finally do it at CONvergence!

Saturday at 7 pm, I’ll be doing a very special episode of the Obsessed podcast. The subject is Doctor Who. The guests included Paul Cornell (a Doctor Who writer, a novelist, and a friend I’m happy to have met at CONvergence), Molly Glover (a super funny writer and performer and fan of New Who), and C. Robert Cargill (a film critic, screenwriter of the horror movie Sinister, novelist, and also a friend I’m happy to have met at CONvergence.) The podcast will address burning questions about the show, the fandom, time travel itself, and whether the 10th Doctor cried too much or just enough.

The rest of my time at the convention will be spent doing more comedy panels, sleeping, drinking, or all three of those things at the same time.

And, of course, washing my hands like Captain America told me to.

I hope to see many of you at the convention, but if not you can catch up with my adventures by following me on twitter. The official hashtag for the con is #cvg2013.

Thanks and let me know if you find any plungers in the back I can use for comedy.

FULL CONVERGENCE SCHEDULE:

Thursday, July 4th

5:30 pm – Rockstar Storytellers: Joseph will read a comedy story from his book Comedy of Doom

9 pm – Super Spy Smackdown: A heated, comedy debate about which spy would win in a fight

Friday, July 5th

2 pm – Signing: Buy a copy of Joseph’s book, CD, or Geek-A-Week card or get a signature. Joseph will also draw a picture for you!

5 pm – Comedy on the Internet: A panel about the joys and perils of making the humor times on the internet

7 pm – You’re Making That Up! Joseph hosts the comedy quiz show developed by Bill Stiteler and Neil Gaiman!

8:30 pm – SUPER ISSUES: Joseph’s brand new stand-up show about superheroes

Saturday, July 6th

11 am – The Worst of Bond: Let’s all bitch about James Bond!

12:30 pm – Kickstart Me Up: A panel on the joys and perils of running a successful Kickstarter project!

2 pm – Power Point Karaoke: Joseph is one of the judges for this Power Point Presentation Smackdown!

5 pm – My Monster: Joseph and Bill Corbett’s one act play about screenwriting, monsters, and sparkling wine!

7 pm – Obsessed: A Doctor Who episode of Joseph’s comedy podcast with Paul Cornell, Cargill, and Molly Glover!

8:30 pm – Drinking With Geeks: Exactly what the title says, but even funnier.

11:30 pm – Killer B’s Improv Movie Show: Funny Make-Em Ups to horrible B movies!

Sunday, July 7th

9:30 am – Hungover With Geeks: Come watch us be punished for having done Drinking With Geeks the night before.

3:30 pm – One on One with Paul Cornell: Joseph interviews Mr. Cornell for the CONvergence DVD!

Cheers,
Joseph

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MONKEYS ON A BOAT 2013

I recently returned from spending a week in a giant hotel that floated around the Caribbean. The floating hotel was filled with awesome performers, friends, fans, and employees who wanted to aggressively sell me booze every waking moment.

All of this awesomeness was because of Jonathan Coulton’s JoCoCruiseCrazy.

Everything about the cruise was great. The other performers, the attendees (they self-identify as Sea Monkeys), and all of the events both official and unofficial. Even the things that weren’t necessarily great were amusing. (The staff really did want to sell you more stuff at all times. I’m surprised they don’t have staff members with mini-bars in each individual bathroom stall. It would be efficient.)

I did a brand new show on the mainstage that went really well. It was a light comedy show about all of my flaws as a human being. Stylistically, it’s a Frankenstein’s monster made out of parts of stand-up comedy, storytelling, theater, and drinking beer with friends. I’ve done a lot of different kinds of comedy performance, but this particular beast is the kind of show I want to be doing, so the warm reception was very gratifying. Hopefully, I’ll be doing more performances of the show and eventually recording it.

I also got to record an episode of my podcast Obsessed with my pals Molly Lewis, Mike Phirman, and Wil Wheaton. They were hilarious, insightful, and all-around perfect guests for the podcast, so go check out the beer and pro-tools episode and rate the hell out of the podcast on iTunes.

The kind Sea Monkeys also bought up all the copies of my book and comedy album that I brought on the boat. I performed a live riff with Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy. I played a starship simulator video game called Artemis live on stage. I danced to the mad DJ skillz of David Rees and John Hodgman. I decided Paul (of Paul and Storm) could use some interpretive dance (aka mime humping) during his rockin’ karaoke version of “Wanted Dead Or Alive.” I accidentally walked past the door to my stateroom while entirely sober and the steward pointed and laughed for a full thirty seconds. My lovely wife, Sara, did an amazing job helping the shows run smoothly backstage. Sara and I also had a nice romantic moment when we were terrified by the infamous hanging monkey towel animal.

MonekyofDoom

I could go on and on about the cruise, but strangely the event that gave me the most perspective happened on the way home. (For more on the cruise itself, I suggest watching Greg Benson’s hilarious videos, reading Jonathan’s wrap up or Sea Monkey Alice’s blog post.)

The Sea Monkeys have a kind habit of applauding the performers when they enter the ship’s dining room. When Sara and I walked down the aisle of our packed plane home, two Sea Monkeys quietly, lightly applauded. We had a brief chat about accepting our transition back into the real world.

“We want to yell the thing, but we can’t,” said the Sea Monkeys. The thing was an ongoing joke to yell “SEX PARTY!” during performances. Definitely not the thing to yell on a crowded plane.

But it was a lovely moment to share. The mood on the cruise is very supportive and intense like we’re all members of a kindness cult.

Strangely, the man I sat next to on the plane turned out to actually be a member of a cult.

He was very friendly and not wearing robes or waving a dagger or anything. Let’s say his name was Ed. He was probably in his 50s, he smiled a lot, and told me he owned a feed mill in Amsterdam. He didn’t make any jokes about milling pot for animals. I didn’t either.

After the normal small talk, he told me that he had been in Orlando for a week to learn about approaching the world with kindness.

“That’s nice,” I thought. “I’ve been on a floating hotel doing a comedy/music convention that spent a lot of time celebrating kindness. Maybe I should have an open mind.”

Then he gave me a card for Avatar, the Compassion Project. I looked up Avatar. It’s been described as Scientology-Lite. It was founded by a guy who got sued by the Church of Scientology for ripping off their materials, so he went rogue. To review, this organization was formed by a man who was too morally bankrupt to be a Scientologist.

Ed told me the program had taught him to mill feed for animals in a manner that exposed rabbits to their inner happiness. I am not making this up. Ed wanted me to read a passage from his new Avatar book. It had blown his mind.

Around the same time, a child in the seat in front of us started yelling about how to spell Mickey Mouse. The child insisted that there is no “e.” That it’s spelled M-I-C-K-Y. (Much like Scottish Whisky has no e, so she must be a fan of single malt Scottish cartoon mice.) The child decided to prove she was right by repeatedly yelling “KY!”

I tried to focus on the passage in an effort to be friendly toward the smiling man who believed a bastardized version of Scientology can make bunnies reach their full potential. I was pretty sure I would think the passage was manipulative bullshit, but I might as well be friendly.

This was the greatly paraphrased gist of the passage:

Any text that spreads the message of kindness (like this one) is holy. Anyone who speaks against a holy message is a monster. Therefore, anyone who disagrees with what this book says about kindness is a horrible, evil person.

I finished reading and said, “Okay.”

Ed smiled and said, “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

The child screamed, “KY!”

“That passage changed my life,” Ed said.

“Huh,” I answered.

“KY!”

I decided the best form of kindness I could show Ed and myself was to not go on a rant about how awful and disturbing I found his life changing passage.

Instead, I turned and chatted with Sara for a few minutes. Ed got lost in his book again. The child still screamed “KY!” long after her parents had agreed, “Yeah, sure, that’s how you spell Mickey. Please stop screaming KY.”

A lot of the performers and the Sea Monkeys had spent a week on JoCoCruiseCrazy pushing themselves to try new things. New songs, new jokes, new games, new drinks, new people, new experiences, new and inappropriate times and places to yell “SEX PARTY!”

There was a significant amount of discussion that people felt safe to try new things during the cruise because there was an almost surreal level of support, encouragement, and kindness.

Real, simple kindness. Like, “Hey, you should try karaoke. All we ask is that you try hard and have fun and we will applaud. We won’t lie to you and tell you you’re great if you’re not, but we sure as hell won’t laugh at you or throw things.”

If there is a passage about karaoke in the Avatar books I’m sure it’s vile and manipulative stuff teaching the important lesson that ONLY AVATAR CAN SHOW YOU THE WAY TO TRUE KARAOKE AND ONLY IF YOU PAY US A LOT OF MONEY AND HARSHLY JUDGE ALL WHO QUESTION THE ONE TRUE KARAOKE.

And I have a horrible feeling that the ONE TRUE AVATAR KARAOKE SONG is probably “Free Bird.”

In short, I’m very happy to have gone to my own week long seminar on kindness. One that happened organically and honestly without an agenda. One that happened simply because people felt safe to say, “Hey, is it cool if I try something new?”

And the only response they got from the rest of the Sea Monkeys was a resounding, “Yes!”

Usually followed by a resounding “SEX PARTY!”

Thanks, friends.

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On being a Lady (of Ragnarok)

I was thrilled to be a special guest performer and honorary lady on the Ladies of Ragnarok tour. The titular ladies are singer/songwriters Molly Lewis, The Doubleclicks, and tour manager Dammit Liz.

I joined the ladies for shows in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Madison. What follows is a behind-the-scenes peek at the insanity.

When I met up with the ladies, the first thing they did was buy some uppers on the streets of Chicago.

Then we went for a ride in their van. They had a lot of duct tape in the back. It was like they wanted to kidnap people, but keep it lighthearted and fun.

They took me to visit a giant reflective statue that is meant to symbolize successful grant applications and tourism. It also looks like a giant space guy dropped his space burrito.

The function of the space burrito seems to be primarily photo taking. It emits a hypnotic suggestion convincing humans to take awkward bathroom mirror MySpace photos with half of Chicago in the background. I have no memory of taking this photo.

Then we met up with Bill Corbett and did a fun show. I told jokes about Star Wars, condoms, and poetry. I sold copies of my book Comedy of Doom. A man dressed as a pirate paid me with fifteen shiny dollar coins. He said nice things as well as “aaarr.”


Later, in my hotel room, I was disturbed by the CLEAN REMOTE. I couldn’t sleep because I was wondering how many businessmen had ordered dirty adult films using the clean remote.

We went to Minneapolis and did a show. I told jokes about James Bond, haunted smartphones, and mortality. We were joined by Kevin Murphy and a Velociraptor. (Kevin Murphy not pictured.)

Then, the ladies were guests on my podcast OBSESSED which will be out in a few weeks. After that we went to Madison and did a show with Dr.Noise. I told jokes about superheroes and bears and chatted with the audience about tacos. The show was held in a gaming room attached to a game store. The store had very severe rules.

We obeyed the rules and everyone was happy. There was also a man named Benjamin on the tour who had the job of dealing with all of the Velociraptor’s needs.

The photos above represent some of the finest photos I have ever taken. Like I’m probably going to take that big frame off the wall and swap out my wedding photos for these.

Thanks to the Ladies of Ragnarok for the fun shows, fun times, and, of course, the Velociraptor photo opportunities.

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All You Can Feel Buffet

For many years, I’ve been involved in a performing arts festival called The Minnesota Fringe Festival. There are many Fringe Festivals across the globe and while my plays have been produced at other festivals many times, I’ve never personally experienced another festival.

On twitter, I recently described the Minnesota Fringe Festival as a mash-up of vaudeville and an all you can eat buffet, but better.

The vaudeville aspect is easy to define. There’s comedy, dance, music, drama, storytelling, stand-up, and strange hybrids. Some year, I will attempt to combine every possible style of performing arts with a show called Mein Kampf: The Musical. It will have singing, dancing, storytelling, probably some mime, and it will be a comedy with moments of dramatic relief.*

The all you can eat buffet is a more bizarre comparison, but more accurate. The festival embodies all that I think is good, and a few necessary evils, in live performing arts.

There are something like 800 performances of over 100 shows. It’s impossible to devour it all. But that whole buffet is spread out in front of you, so you feel like you should keep loading up your plate. Some of the shows will be the best thing you ever tasted, others will be amazing delicacies that are not for you, and just a few will be food poisoning covered in a light Hollandaise sauce.

The sickness inducing plays are one of the absolute best things about the festival. Because the festival is non-juried, anyone can put up a show. A lot of the shows that are difficult to sit through are by young, inexperienced performers. The Fringe offers them a place to learn so the world can later have more awesome, experienced performers.

The first show I did at the festival was far from polished. I got cut in the face with a plastic battle axe while wearing a propeller beanie. I got blood on my hand and when I went to toss a fellow performer a rubber chicken, it stuck to my hand because of the band-aid I had sloppily slapped on my fingers backstage. It was not as entertaining as that makes it sound.

Early on, it was also not the most organized festival. One year, I got my cut of the box office directly from the festival producer. He handed me cash in Loring Park. If you are not from Minnesota know this: At the time, it was not unusual for an older man to hand a younger man cash in Loring Park. It was just not usually for doing a comedy show.

The festival is a well organized buffet now. Audiences stand in line for the beef stroganoff, passionately debating whether or not the macaroni n’ cheese needed sausage or if the meat just made the dish too flamboyant.

The performers and the audiences mingle as they rush from show to show and hang out at bars and restaurants. There is a sense of community, energy, and even urgency. After most theater performances, audiences shuffle quickly out of the theater to go hug their televisions and tell them they were missed. The direct connection between artist and audience at the festival is a powerful experience of the “live” part of “live performance.”

The festival has also had great success getting audience members to write online reviews. The vast majority of them are full of passion and excitement to share new discoveries and old favorites. Some are bitter debates. “It’s called MACARONI N’ CHEESE why is there f**king SAUSAGE in it?” A few are posted by straight-up internet trolls. Artists will find themselves chastised by people who don’t use their real names. We thank you for your incredibly strong, often factually inaccurate, and safely anonymous opinions, Butthead 27 and Theatre Luber.**

Again, the reviews are like a buffet. Some of them are delicious. Others are hard to digest but there’s no way for an artist to learn to stomach a coleslaw stuffed turkey dog without the practice.

The festival has been a big part of my life as a writer, performer, and comedian. It’s given me a place to experiment, succeed, fail, and succeed again. I’ve had a chance to interact directly with the audience, both onstage and off. I’ve met hundreds of other artists. I’ve drank thousands of beers with them. And a huge amount of my name recognition and success in Minnesota (and nationally as a playwright) is because of my performances at the Fringe Festival.

My show this year is a comedy about fear called Nightmare Without Pants. Over the years of doing the festival, I’ve learned what dishes I like to create as a writer and performer. It’s a comedy, but there is meat to it. It’s chocolate with chunks of bacon in it.

If you live in or near Minnesota, and that sounds intriguing to your palate, come check it out. And see as many shows as you can before the festival ends on Sunday, August 12th.

Gorge yourself until you are stuffed full of art, entertainment, and opinions about all of it.

Stay out so late drinking beer and/or pepto-bismol that your television starts to wonder where the hell you are.

Thanks.

 

*This is a joke. I will never do this. Hitler doesn’t deserve the press.

**These are not, to my knowledge, real reviewer names. I changed the fake names of people to other fake names to protect the probably not very innocent.

 

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Batman and The Popular Arts

I saw a lot of odd and awesome things at the San Diego Comic-Con. My favorite was this:

Batman taking a walk.*

There were many people cosplaying Batman, but this guy was the best. He was a full-on, bad-ass, Christopher Nolan-films Batman with an iron jaw and cold blue eyes peering out of the darkness of his grim mask.

And he was walking down the sun-drenched marina boulevard.

The boulevard is behind the convention center. Not that many Comic-Con attendees are out there. They came to San Diego to buy exclusive My Little Pony toys and perhaps catch a glimpse of Joss Whedon eating a taco.** They did not come for the sun and ocean. So the boulevard is a mix of Comic-Con attendees and people who just, like, live in San Diego or something.

Almost everyone who passed the Dark Knight felt compelled to say out loud, “It’s Batman!” There are a few phrases in our culture we compulsively say out loud regardless of how obvious the statement might be:

“It’s hot.”

“It’s cold.”

“It’s Batman.”

Some tipsy dudes who were not with Comic-Con exchanged fist bumps with Batman. Still overcome with the need to share the obvious, one dude said, “Dude, we just fist-bumped Batman!”

A small child approached Batman. His father bent down, his Comic-Con badge proudly displayed, and said, “If you’re going to take a picture with Batman you better put a smile on your face.”

And he did.

This is my second year going to Comic-Con. Before I went the first time people warned me about it like I was headed to a war zone. Bring your own food! Carry an oxygen tank! Tape your wallet to your flesh so you can feel it being ripped off of your body! Wrap your soul in protective armor to defend from the giant corporate monster that is Comic-Con!

I recognize a lot of the snark is accurate. It is crowded, expensive, corporate, and there’s nothing quite as depressingly ironic as watching a dude dressed as Hawkeye entirely miss the urinal then leave the bathroom without washing his hands.

But I like it.

Both years I’ve attended the convention, the streets of downtown San Diego have been covered with signs proclaiming that Comic-Con is “Celebrating the Popular Arts.”

The first year, I thought this was smooth marketing speak to say, “Yes, it started out as a comic book convention, but now there are panels with LL Cool J about NCIS: Los Angeles. They’re both popular. Just let it be.”

This year, when I saw the signs saying “Celebrating the Popular Arts” I was elated by the word “popular.”

I started my career as a writer and a comedian writing comedy sketches and plays within the confines of the world of traditional theater.

There are many things I love about traditional theater.

The attitude toward the concept of popularity is not one of them. Theater tends to retain a disgust with the “popular” back from the days when almost everything on television was a crappy, repetitive sitcom. Popularity often brings with it the implied suggestion that you are dumbing your art down to the lowest common denominator to get butts in the seats. Of course, all theater productions want to get butts in the seats. So, particularly in small to mid-size theater, the dangerous word “popular” gets translated into “important,” “relevant,” or “Shakespeare.”

So when I saw the word “popular” proudly plastered all over the town, I started thinking about what it actually meant to Comic-Con–both my personal experience of the event and the event itself.

Over the last few years, I’ve been branching out to do a hybrid of storytelling and stand-up comedy around the country. I’ve been writing spec scripts for TV shows and movies and web series. I wrote a book about the wide world of geekdom. It’s the work that has brought me to Comic-Con to frolic in the sun with Stormtroopers of all shapes and sizes.

This year, I performed at the comedy and music geekstravaganza, w00tstock starring Paul and Storm, Wil Wheaton, and Adam Savage. The audience for this show is a big pack of self proclaimed nerds. I did one piece aimed at the target demographic about Star Wars told as a collection of tweets. I’ve also noticed that geeks don’t need every piece of entertainment to be geeky. So I took a risk and performed a story about a time I did some commercials with a bear.

Here’s the story. Here’s the commercial. It went well.

The vibe in the room for w00tstock is incredibly accepting. It’s an audience that is happy to celebrate new people and new ideas. For example, the awesome Bonnie Burton and Anne Wheaton did a presentation about putting googly eyes on things.

Even within the traditional world of geek, things are changing. I went to exactly two Comic-Con panels. One was Geek Girl Fashion. The other was Old White Guy With Strong Opinions About Star Trek. Again, there’s quite a spectrum.

I had meetings about writing for two specific properties. One is based on a comic book about superheroes. One is based on a web comic about a charming dude who likes to have fun and makes the occasional Lord of the Rings reference.

The artists I’m meeting with believe in their art and want it to be good. The business people want the art to be good so it will be popular so they can make money. They are not in the least bit subtle about this and it’s very refreshing from my perspective.

Trying to see it from a bigger perspective, Comic-Con is a huge mash-up of artistic interests, corporate interests, cosplayers, fans, famous people, fans trying to see famous people eat tacos, and people trying to make it in any of the many industries represented at the Con.

It’s all tied together by the idea of popularity. Everyone at Comic-Con is interested in what people like. This brings us back to Batman.

Batman walks down the street and everyone wants to take his picture, shout his name, and bump his fist. They know him. They know his story. He is a part of their lives. Geeks, drunks, kids, grandmothers, even birds seemed to screech like they recognized him. All of his incarnations, all of his stories have had a profound impact on a lot of people for a long time.

Batman is popular.

To put it another way, this dark brooding man who dresses up like a bat to fight crime has made a lot of people happy.

What the hell is wrong with that?

Good job, Batman, good job.

 

*My second favorite costume was Lazy Obi-Wan Kenobi. He had a lightsaber, a Jedi robe, blue jeans, and some ketchup stains.

**I did not see Joss Whedon eating a taco. I did see Matt Smith drinking beer. At last call, someone bought him another beer. He only took one sip of the beer and put it down. After he left, I was very tempted to go drink the rest of The Doctor’s beer. I am not proud.

 

 

 

 

 

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