Tag Archives: Jonathan Coulton



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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.”


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


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.


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.


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.


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!


Filed under Comedy Trip, Uncategorized


I’m a huge fan of Kickstarter. It made my book Comedy of Doom possible and more recently it made my comedy album Flaw Fest possible. One of the rewards for Flaw Fest was a short comedy video about any flaw you wanted. My pal, cartoonist and game designer, John Kovalic, suggested the flaw of Kickstarter Addiction. So I made the video below.

After making that video, I worry about my Kickstarter Karma so here are a few projects from friends and awesome humans that I think you should check out.

Singing funny humans, Paul & Storm, (who are featured on the Flaw Fest album) just launched a campaign for their new album Ball Pit!

If you’re a fan of Paul & Storm, you probably know about JoCoCruiseCrazy. Here’s a Kickstarter campaign to create a high-end animated trailer for the cruise.

My friend and partner-in-comedy-crime in Rockstar Storytellers, Courtney McLean, just launched a cool project for a 12 night tour that never leaves the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul!

Finally, Mary Jo Pehl, of MST3K and Cinematic Titanic and general awesomeness, wants to sing to you AND give you a recipe for tater tot hotdish.

My recipe for tater tot hotdish is take 2 or more ingredients of any kind then add enough CREAM to kill a small moose. Lovingly cover this gastronomical death trap with tater tots and enough SALT to make sure the dead moose’s body will never decay. That recipe is free, but I should probably do a Kickstarter campaign for a cookbook on how to murder friends and loved ones with food stuffs.

Thanks for all the support you Kickstarting sons of bitches!


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Filed under Comedy Real Life


FINAL UPDATE AT THE TOP BECAUSE IT’S IMPORTANT: Flaw Fest is funded. Live comedy shows, a new comedy album, an album of original songs by amazing musicians will all exist. Because you funded, you increased your funding, you promoted, you snorted hope-coke and flew like unicorns. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read below. The context will help a little tiny bit. There are no more words for it than: Thanks, unicorns.

Flaw Fest is a comedy show about all my flaws as a human being. Well, not all of them. The greatest hits of my horrible human flaws.

I performed the show in February of 2013 on Jonathan Coulton’s JoCoCruiseCrazy. You can read about the cruise experience here.

The show went very well. One of the conversations that came up on the cruise was how comedians, musicians, and artists in general generate new material.

The cruise left me thinking about creating new work and about how comedy and music interact.

I came up with the idea of not only recording the comedy show, but asking a bunch of my musician friends to write an album of original songs inspired by the comedy show.

The result is this kickstarter campaign called FLAW FEST.

The campaign ends this Friday, June 21st at 12:27 CDT. We’re pretty far from our goal of $26,007.

The goal is quite high.

Over half of the money is going to the musicians because I wanted them to be paid well for taking the time to write and record new songs. The rest of the money is going toward renting the theater, paying for rewards, and hiring pros to get a very high quality recording of the comedy show.

I knew the goal was quite high when I set it, but (as I joke about in the show) my flaws include being stubborn and, at times, foolishly optimistic.

The progress on the funding has been uneven. There have been some great things. The Kickstarter staff selected it as a Staff Pick and featured FLAW FEST on their home page as a Project of the Day. Still, some days, it’s lumbered along like a wounded buffalo. Other days, it’s raced forward like a crazy little squirrel hopped up on pixie stix.

If there’s any hope of making its goal by Friday, the funding will need to fly like a horde of unicorns jacked up on coke.

While the goal is still frustratingly far away, I know two things:

1) No one owes me anything. If you think the project looks interesting, I’m thrilled. If not, that’s fine, too. Not every project that sounds exciting to creators is going to find the right audience or a large enough audience to share that excitement. That’s just part of being a creative type.

2) The fans who have supported this project have supported the LIVING HELL OUT OF IT. Many people have increased their pledges, plugged the project, and sent kind words of encouragement. Many thanks to all the squirrel people hopped up on pixie stix who have given this project its forward movement.

Bottom line, I know the goal is quite high. I know the deadline is very close. But I’m going to be foolishly optimistic and ask you a favor:

If you think the project sounds exciting, please fund at whatever level you can. Please tell your friends who might be interested. Please be a unicorn. Strap on some wings, do a few lines of hope-coke with me and fly, fly, fly.

Or just enjoy the concept of drug addled fictional creatures. That’s appreciated, too.

Many thanks from a flawed creative type–

UPDATE: As of this writing, we have 24 hours left to fund FLAW FEST. Many of you have answered THE CALL OF THE HOPEFUL UNICORN and I deeply appreciate it. Thanks to you we’ve moved much closer to the goal and we’re now tantalizingly close to making this idea a reality. Keep flying, unicorns, keep snorting and flying. We’re almost there. Thank you.

UPDATE UPDATE: As of this writing, we have 4 hours left. Everyone who watches the TV show 24 knows that’s when THE EXCITING AND EXTRA RIDICULOUS THINGS HAPPEN. You hope-coked unicorns have been flying like crazy. We also got a nice plug from Jonathan Coulton and Greg Pak via their great graphic novel and music kickstarter. We saw a huge surge last night because of all that work. Just a few more hours and a few more dollars. Keep flying and thank you for helping FLAW FEST get this close to being a reality.


Filed under Comedy Real Life


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.


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.


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.


Filed under Comedy Trip

BEER and PRO-TOOLS: Obsessed Ep 21

Wil Wheaton loves beer! Mike Phirman loves Pro-Tools audio software! Molly Lewis plays the Obsessed theme live! A very special episode of Obsessed recorded live on a boat in the middle of the Caribbean sea for Jonathan Coulton’s JoCoCruiseCrazy! Find out the answer to the following questions and more: What is Wesley Crusher’s favorite beer? Could Mike Phirman kill a man with kindness? Why did Molly Lewis smash a pizza box with a ukulele? Plus, Wil and Mike make sex noises to advertise Joseph’s comedy album VERBING THE NOUN. (Also, if you’re a knitter, listen in the background to hear the clicking noises of the live audience’s crafting!)

AWOOGA! Obsessed is now a part of Feral Audio! Go to Feral now to listen to this episode and subscribe for new ones!

Listen, rate, review, and subscribe to OBSESSED on iTunes.


Filed under Obsessed, Podcast


On February 19th, 2012, a boat will leave Fort Lauderdale and sail out into the Caribbean Sea carrying with it the attendees of MURDER CRUISE 2012.

There are several inaccuracies in that sentence, so I will preemptively push my glasses up and correct myself.

Technically, it’s not a boat. It’s a ship. But come on, boat sounds more romantic. Also, it doesn’t sail. It moves under some other power than blowing. Nuclear reactors? Coal shoveling? Perhaps a flux-capacitor? I think it might be a combination of turbines and will power. It’s unknowable without looking it up on wikipedia.

And, no, it’s not actually called MURDER CRUISE 2012. That was a joke started by Paul F. Tompkins on the twitters. It’s actually called JoCoCruiseCrazy II. It’s a big floating geek concert/comedy festival hosted by Jonathan Coulton.

If you’re not sure who Jonathan Coulton is, it’s possible this is the first page you’ve looked at on the internets since 2003. All you really need to know is this: Jonathan Coulton is a nice man who sings songs and makes money doing it. After singing songs and making money on land for a while, he looked around and said, “What if I sang songs and made money in the middle of the Caribbean Sea?” And he did and it worked out, so now he’s doing it again.

The cruise is packed with talented entertainers and I’m honored to be doing a performance on this will-and-turbine-powered geek boat.

Right here and right now, I’m going to make seven predictions about what will happen on JoCoMurderCrazyCruise II and we’ll see how accurate they are.


There will be a MURDER. Not a sad real life murder involving consequences and human feelings, but a light, festive, Agatha Christie murder where some jackass no one likes gets drowned in a chocolate fountain when the lights go out on the Lido Deck and a bunch of colorful suspects with easy-to-remember names happen to be in the same room.


We will not sink. Though we will be attacked by a Kraken.

The Kraken will be easily defeated. A Kraken is basically a bully who lives in the sea. We will confront the Kraken about what is missing in his life that he has to attack a boat. He’ll say, “It’s not a boat, it’s a ship.” And we’ll say, “Don’t be pedantic, Kraken.” And we’ll make some quick and funny “It Gets Better, Kraken” parody videos and he’ll go away.


There is a possibility the owners of the cruise line will charge me extra if I look at the sea too often.


I will probably get full-on old man cranky about the use of the word “squee.”

There will be a lot of excitement on the boat and people will want a short, emphatic word to express that emotion. I’m all for that. The emotion, the expression. Just not the word choice.

When I hear the word “squee,” I picture a panel from a Star Wars comic book in which R2-D2 is farting. Big, block letters shooting from the little astromech droid’s backside.

So while I might enjoy the comedy of John Hodgman or the music of Paul and Storm or the stories of Wil Wheaton or the reasonably priced rum drinks at a pirate ship bar on a small island in the Bahamas, I can’t squee.

For me, it’s a matter of respect. I can’t bring myself to say, “I’m enjoying John Roderick’s song. I think I’ll use my mouth to fart like a robot.”

Perhaps this opinion will lead me to be the man that is drowned in the chocolate fountain.


I will foolishly attempt to define geek culture to an old woman from Arkansas.

The people on the cruise who are there for Jonathan Coulton and friends call themselves Sea Monkeys. Sea Monkeys are a fun, friendly, and inviting group of people.

There will be many people on the boat who are not Sea Monkeys. They will be confused and alarmed by all the excited people running around singing songs and saying “squee.”

They won’t even know that “squee” sounds like you’re imitating a Star Wars robot farting in a comic book. They think comic books still cost a dime and mostly feature Superman beating up nazis.

At least one of these people will gaze at me across the gaping cultural chasm and say, “Hey, you want to leap across the gorge and explain this to me?”

And I will try. And I will fail.

I will say words like “twitter” and “ukulele” and “bonhomie” and phrases like “no, we don’t all wear glasses, some of us have contacts” and “no, nerd isn’t really a negative term as we’ve made an effort to culturally appropriate the word and celebrate its positive aspects.”

And the perfectly nice woman from across the chasm will say things like “what?” and “huh?” and “so you’re all just getting together to sing songs about the Star Tracks?”

And I’ll use the word “filk” and she’ll think I’m swearing at her.

And I will go drown myself in the chocolate fountain.


Even though my name is Scrimshaw, I will fail to hunt and kill a whale, then carve a picture into its bones. I will drown my sorrows in whiskey and this will make my ancestors proud.


The cruise will be awesome. I will grossly overuse the word “awesome” and it will make me seem like a big hypocrite about the farting robot word.

After the cruise, I’ll do my best to let you know exactly how inaccurate my predictions were. Until then, I’m off to pack some shorts that I will not wear for fear of blinding my fellow Sea Monkeys with the pale white glow sticks that are my legs.



Filed under Comedy Trip