Tag Archives: Star Wars

Join The Resistance

Speeches are meant to inspire. Donald Trump’s inaugural speech inspired me to resist Trump. His anger, his incompetence, his vision of America, his weird too-long tie fashion. All of it.

I’m glad the inauguration is over. I’m glad the peaceful transition of power has happened.

I believe we can hold multiple perspectives. I respect the office of the President. I have no respect for our new President.

I will not wait and see what he does, because he’s already repeatedly demonstrated who he is.

He thrives on ugly conflict, he blatantly lies with astounding regularity, he is at best guilty of laughing about sexual assault and quite possibly guilty of the actions themselves. He is riddled with conflicts of interest, he’s nominated a cabinet designed to tear apart the departments they’re supposed to lead, and he and/or his staff are currently under investigation for colluding with a foreign power.

Over the years, I’ve tried to be relatively gentle about politics as I make my way through my life and career as a weird little comedy person. I value being open-minded and hearing other perspectives.

I’ve been open-minded. I’ve heard Trump’s perspective and I reject it.

I think it’s important to speak and act. And I think it’s all valuable. Petitions, protests, marches, calling legislators, sharing legitimate news, making jokes, and even posting dumb pop culture memes.

I value the right of self-expression. I’m a comedy guy who likes pop culture. We tell stories not just for entertainment but for inspiration on how to approach the challenges of the real world.

For my personal self-expression, this Star Wars sticker on my calendar represents my plans for 2017.

I hope for the best, I attempt to remain positive, keep a sense of humor, listen to the voices of the people most threatened by the actions of the new administration, and when necessary, join the resistance.

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Stuff I Did and Stuff I’m Doing May 2016

Hello, kind humans who are reading this!

I’m trying to post the occasional update on creative stuff I’ve been doing and upcoming shows!

Creative stuffs I’ve been up to!

I’m having a lot of fun being a contributing writer for RiffTrax. Basically, I get assigned a chunk of the movie and write the jokes for that chunk. In the past few months, I worked on a short starring a pedantic talking dog called The Value of Teamwork and an obscure little indie film called The Force Awakens.

I also made a new comedy video called Adult Storytime, featuring artwork by Alex Robinson, the co-host of the great podcast Star Wars Minute. If it goes well, I might make more. You can watch it right here!

I’ve been doing a lot of Star Wars talking! I was thrilled to be a guest on Collider Jedi Council, a very popular YouTube show and podcast covering all things Star Wars.

My own Star Wars podcast feed that I run with Screen Junkies’ producer Ken Napzok and awesome indie artist Jennifer Landa is going strong. We’re putting on a minimum of two episodes a week. You can check out our latest episode involving Ewoks and fire right here!

Finally, Obsessed is continuing to grow thanks to all the listeners and the kind support of my Patreon backers!  We’re just wrapping up our fourth month of weekly episodes. Your support is great, Feral Audio (the podcast network Obsessed is on) has a lot of big plans, but I still want to grow the podcast more. If you enjoy an episode, please SHOUT IT TO TO THE DIGITAL ROOFTOPS! A personal tweet or post with a link to a specific episode helps us out massively! This month’s topics were Your Mom, Hamilton, Snapchat, and the X-Men. You can catch up on them all here!

I’ve also got some exciting writing projects brewing in Hollywoodland. Hopefully, there will be more to report there soon!

Shows!

This Monday, May 30th I’m doing a live recording of Obsessed podast about selfies with Angela Webber of the The Doubleclicks and Molly Lewis. Full info is here.

Then, back in LA on Friday June 3rd, it’s my new monthly comedy game show with Hal Lublin called HEADCAN(N)ON! This month’s guests are J. Elvis Weinstein, Allegra Ringo, Allie Goertz, and Wil Wheaton. You can get tickets here!

Stand-up in LA! I’ve been doing more sets here in Los Angeles. In March, I did my first set on The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail and on June 7th, I’ll be on Put Your Hands Together with Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher. Tickets for that show will be available soon here!

On June 22nd, I’m visiting San Francisco for a double-bill of a new stand-up show I’m working on (called Joseph Scrimshaw Versus Reality) and another live Obsessed podcast. This one’s about NETFLIX with special guests Rebecca Watson and Bonnie Burton. Sadly, you can’t stream the show from your home, but you can get tickets here!

Then over the Fourth of July weekend, I’ll be back home in Minnesota to be a Guest of Honor at the great convention CONvergence. They’re always on top of their game so my whole schedule is already available here.

That’s it for now! Thank you so much for your time and your support!

Obsessively,

Joseph

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A Certain Point of View

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Today is May, 4th. Also known as Star Wars Day because of the dumb pun “may the fourth be with you.” I hate puns. But I love Star Wars more so I’m thrilled to embrace the celebration. And, clearly, I’m not alone in my love of that brilliant, weird, dark, goofy galaxy far, far away.

But, of course, when something makes a lot of people happy on the internet, it pisses other people off. During the build-up to The Force Awakens, I read a Telegraph article with the clickbaity title “Star Wars fans: for God’s sake, get a grip, it’s only a movie.” The article was the typical vitriol arguing that liking Star Wars was fine, but why would grown adults cry about it?

I understand the perspective. I have always loved Star Wars both sincerely and ironically. On my Star Wars themed comedy album Rebel Scum (recorded before the release of The Force Awakens) I defined Star Wars like this:

“It’s a series of movies, books, video games, etc. that tells the story of a bunch of space wizards who keep cutting each other’s hands off with laser swords. It’s been a dominant force in our culture for almost forty years even though we all pretty much agree only one of the movies is actually good.”

That sounds dismissive, but I mean that as a compliment. From the day of its release, Star Wars has been more than a movie. It’s a phenomenon. Star Wars is like a huge plate of nachos. Ultimately, the movies themselves are like the chips. They’re solid and delicious but they are a delivery system for cheese, guacamole, salsa, memories, relationships, old friends long gone, etc.

Last year, right after the trailer was released for The Force Awakens, I went to the Star Wars Celebration convention in Anaheim, California. I’ve attended a lot of conventions. When I first approached the convention center, I was uneasy. I was concerned it would feel like San Diego Comic-Con. I was afraid it would be hot and packed, filled with people who are having fun, but are also desperate to get the next thing: an autograph, an exclusive action figure, a spot in a panel, a toilet stall to themselves so they can figure out how to urinate through their Steampunk Boba Fett costume.

My concerns were almost immediately assuaged.

Seconds after I walked into the convention center I saw my favorite cosplay I’ve ever seen. I immediately asked the person if I could take their picture. I’ve never done that before.

The cosplay was this: a person dressed as the action figure version of a character known as Hammerhead.

Here’s a little background on Hammerhead. He was one of the most bizarre and truly alien aliens featured in the Cantina scene of A New Hope.

He was one of the four “cantina creatures” made into action figures by Kenner. Because this was the wild halcyon days of movie tie-in merchandise, Kenner just used the film’s loose production names for characters as the names of the action figures.

As a result, a lot of the original Star Wars action figures have names that now sound like horrible slurs: Hammerhead, Walrus Man, Prune Face, etc.

Of course, the character once known as Hammerhead has been fleshed out a bit in all the expanded fiction since then. He’s an Ithorian named Momaw Nadon. He was actually the High Priest of Tafanda Bay on his home planet of Ithor, but he was banished after revealing agricultural secrets to the Empire in a desperate attempt to save his planet’s jungle from being decimated by turbolasers. So, he ended up on Tatooine, day-drinking in Chalmun’s Cantina while listening to Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes play some good old jizz-wailing music. (All of this can be verified on Wookieepedia.)

But we didn’t know or care about any of that back in the day. He was just a super freakish, super cool brown alien with long fingers and big feet wearing a blue onesie that looked strangely similar to James Bond’s terrycloth bathrobe from Goldfinger.

And we loved him. He was technically my brother’s action figure so while I got to play with him, I never truly owned Hammerhead. I just coveted him.

I still remember the day my brother bought him. We were moving across the country from Minnesota to Oregon. We stopped at a Children’s Palace toy store along the way. Our parents said we were behaving well on the cross country trip so we could each buy an action figure. We decided to both get cantina creatures. My brother picked out Hammerhead and I got Walrus Man.

We played with those action figures for years. One day, we decided to simulate an action packed battle between all the bounty hunters and day-drinking Cantina scum. We set up our figures all across our room and took turns firing at one another’s characters by shooting rubber bands to blast them off their perch.

My brother had knocked over most of my figures, but Bossk was still standing. The reptilian bounty hunter aimed his laser rifle carefully and took a shot at Hammerhead who was perched high on the top post of our bunk beds.

The rubber band blaster bolt grazed Hammerhead’s arm. He spun around and he teetered for a moment then suddenly toppled over, his weird alien legs kicking in the air.

As a comedian and a fan of comedy, I can say, in that moment, Hammerhead performed one of the best pratfalls I’ve ever seen.

My brother and I laughed and laughed and then retrieved Hammerhead from the pillow we’d placed beneath the bed to break his fall.

Many years later, I walked into the Anaheim Convention Center, and saw that action figure walking around.

Within five seconds of seeing the Hammerhead Action Figure cosplayer, all of those memories flooded into my head. All of the ridiculously detailed Star Wars factoids, the smell of the plastic, the details on his blaster, the image of those brown alien legs flailing in comedic majesty and falling off my bunk bed.

All of it.

So while I understand how absolutely ridiculous Star Wars is, the one thing I can never agree with is that it’s just a movie.

So, thanks, wonderful weird human who decided to dress up as an action figure of a character with two seconds of screen time in a decades-old movie and walk around a convention center spreading joy.

You made me very happy and I’m sure you made Momaw Nadon proud.

May the Force be with you, Hammerhead.

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A version of this article was originally published on the great Alice Lee’s essay site The Yearbook Office. Thanks, Alice! If you’d like to hear more of Joseph’s thoughts on Star Wars, you can check out his podcast Force Center and follow him on twitter.

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To Done List March 2016

Hello, kind people who are reading this!

I’m going to try to update my blog every month with the creative stuff I’ve been doing so it’s all in one place.

Last month, I started to release my comedy podcast, Obsessed, once a week, every Thursday. Recent episodes include Jordan Morris on NOFX, Matt Belknap, Riley Silverman, & Clarke Wolfe on THE FORCE AWAKENS, Allie Goertz & Will Weldon on TINDER, and Mike Black on ACTION FIGURES. You can catch up on past episodes and subscribe to the podcast here!

I’m also releasing a once-a-month-bonus, patrons only episode. The first episode is a lively discussion of SPOILERS with screenwriter, Josh A. Cagan. You can get access to that episode and help Obsessed continue to grow by pledging a buck or two a month on Patreon.

I wrote another episode of James Urbaniak’s great comedy podcast, Getting On With James Urbaniak and it got a great review on The AV Club’s podmass. You can listen to the episode here and read the review here.

I also wrote an essay about the comedy theory behind Munchkin for this book celebrating the popular card game. There’s even a new Munchkin card based on my essay. It’s available now on Amazon!

I’ve been doing some writing for RiffTrax, too. Two of the shorts I co-wrote are available now. Tremble before the might of The Litter Monster and learn more than you would ever want to know about The Shapes We Live With.

I was recently a guest at the big Doctor Who convention in Los Angeles, Gallifrey One. I got the chance to be on my friend comic book writer, novelist, and Doctor Who TV show scribe, Paul Cornell’s great podcast, The Cornell Collective. Hear me say funny, weird, and deeply emotional things about Doctor Who here.

I’ve also been hosting a series of Star Wars podcast with my friend and Screen Junkies’ producer, Ken Napzok. It’s multiple shows all under the umbrella of Force Center. You can check out the podcast feed here.

Ken and I have also been nominated as hosts for the Star Wars podcast awards so you can vote for us here!

Finally, I’ve got a bunch of shows coming up in Los Angeles and I’ll be at Wizard World in Las Vegas in March. PLUS, my pal, Hal Lublin and I are putting together a new comedy game show that will debut at Nerdist Showroom on Friday, April 1st. More info soon. You can always find show info right here on my live shows page!

Thanks for your reading time!

Obsessively,
Joseph

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What did you do in 2015, Joseph, what did you do?

Thngs I Did in 2015

Every year I post a bunch of stuff I did that year. I do this because no matter how much work I do, I beat myself up that I haven’t accomplished enough.

At the beginning of 2015, I made a list of 9 concrete goals. I only accomplished 2 of them. My instinct is to feel real, real bad about that and beat myself up. But then I look at this list of all the cool things I’ve been lucky enough to do and all the amazing humans I get to be around.

For 2016, I think I’ll make another list of goals. One of them will be TREAT YOURSELF NICE, ASSHOLE.

Anyway, here’s some fun stuff I did in 2015. WARNING: Includes deep gazes at my navel and a multitude of links to podcasts, albums, videos, blogs, and more!

RIFFTRAX!

I was thrilled to become an official contributing writer for RiffTrax! If you’re not familiar with RiffTrax, check out one of the movies I wrote jokes for: The truly bizarre Nintendo commerical/trainwreck that is The Wizard!

TABLETOP!

I appeared on Geek & Sundry’s awesome tabletop gaming show playing the game CONCEPT with my friend Wil Wheaton and YouTube superstars, Rhett and Link. It was a super fun collaborative game where I mostly had to battle my own SHAME.

OBSESSED ON FERAL AUDIO!

My comedy podcast Obsessed got picked up by the awesome podcast collective, Feral Audio! Feral is run by Dustin Marshall who works tirelessly at making Feral great and also has a very impressive Instagram account. Some of my favorite episodes since joining Feral include Matt Gourley on Quicksand, James Urbaniak on Actors, and a live episode about Game of Thrones with Tim Wick and Rebecca Watson. I’ve got a lot of plans for Obsessed in 2016, so follow us on Feral or you can subscribe on iTunes here!

JEDI ALLIANCE and FORCE CENTER!

I started a totally unplanned new part of my career: Star Wars Talking Guy. My friend Ken Napzok invited me to be a guest on his YouTube show/podcast Jedi Alliance. It was great fun so I kept doing guest appearances, then Ken left the show due to his new job as a producer for Screen Junkies so I started co-hosting Jedi Alliance with Mark Donica. BUT THAT WASN’T ENOUGH TALKING ABOUT STAR WARS. Ken and I missed working together so we started The Force Center podcast. Last week, the TFA review/discussion episodes of both shows were in the top 50 of iTunes TV & Film category. You can check out Jedi Alliance here and Force Center here. A huge thanks to Ken for introducing me to a ton of new friends, fans, opportunities, and giving me an excuse to buy Star Wars toys and write them off on my taxes.

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OTHER COOL PODCASTS!

I got to be a guest on a bunch of cool podcasts including, but not limited to, Maximum Fun’s Jordan Jesse Go, Bryan Cook and Nerdist’s Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction (performing a filthy story about Harry Potter), I had strong Doctor Who opinions with Geek Girl Authority and Dave Foley, I fought on Screen Junkies Plus’ TV Fights (you can watch with a free trial subscription), and I did five episodes of deep Return of the Jedi analysis with my friends at Star Wars Minute.

TOURING WITH THE DOUBLECLICKS and MOLLY LEWIS!

I did two #NerdNightOut tours with The Doubleclicks. We did one on the West Coast in the Spring and one on the East Coast in the Fall. Molly Lewis was a guest for some of the West Coast shows and with us the whole time for the East Coast tour. We all worked together creatively on putting together a weird, geek comedy/music/variety show, but The Doubleclicks did the lion’s share of making the tours happen and I’m extremely grateful. The shows couldn’t have possibly been more rewarding and Angela, Aubrey, and Molly are all awesome humans that I’m thrilled to be friends with.

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COMEDY DREAM TIME!

I’ve done a bunch of guest bits in various stand-up and comedy shows in LA, but I spent most of my energy on my own monthly show called Comedy Dream Time. The idea of the show is I ask people to give me a character they’ve always wanted to play and I write a sketch for them. Phil LaMarr played an 80s super cop, Matthew Mercer played a He-Man knockoff, Superego’s Jeremy Carter played Indiana Jones (you can read that sketch here), and a ton more. We also had lots of great comedians and special thanks to Allie Goertz and Ariana Lenarsky who both closed the shows with improvised songs based on audience suggestions.

BIG OL’ POP CULTURE CONVENTIONS!

I did a bunch of performing at conventions this year. I was a guest or performer at CONvergence in Minnesota, Dragon Con in Atlanta, Comikaze in Los Angeles, Wizard World in Las Vegas, the BAMF festival at San Diego Comic-Con, and more. I was also thrilled to perform at a Doctor Who convention called CONsole Room and get a chance to interview the 6th Doctor, Colin Baker.

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REBEL SCUM and IT’S A VERY HOLIDAY THING!

I recorded and released two comedy albums. The first, Rebel Scum, is about Star Wars and social justice. It was recorded live at CONvergence in July and then we got it all edited, mixed, mastered, and produced in time for me to bring on tour in September. The second album is a short collection of holiday bits featuring music by Tony Thaxton and Marc Doty. It’s called A Very Holiday Thing. Both albums are available on bandcamp here. I put “releasing two albums” in the category of things I need to remind myself about when I feel like I’m being too lazy.

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PAID OFF MY STUDENT LOANS!

On my birthday, August 17th, I paid off my student loans. I paid a lot of money (and interest) to get my liberal arts degree so allow me to say I enjoyed this crepuscular moment of my loans, however it was a Pyrrhic victory as I still have copious sundry debts. That said, I asked my wife to take this celebratory and symbolic photo right after I hit send on the last payment.

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PATREON and BLOGS!

I continue to be extremely lucky to have fans and friends supporting me on Patreon. As an independent creative type, it’s amazing to have a steady, monthly source of income. My Patreon makes it possible for me to keep putting out episodes of Obsessed and writing a monthly comedy blog post. One of my favorite blog posts this year was Underwear That’s Fun To Wear in which I modeled some adult underwear.

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WTFark – RIP!

I haven’t even been in LA for two full years and already my favorite bar is gone and a couple of awesome shows have gone on to that great internet in the sky. My friend Mike Rylander hosted this awesome weird news show, WTFark, for OraTV. When Mike was away, I got to write and host some episodes. Here’s one of my favorites about a shipping company that made a billboard that was just a giant cat head you can pet. Thanks and, sadly, goodbye, WTFark!

SOCIAL MEDIA!

As always, I spent an insane amount of time on social media. On twitter, I passed 10K followers largely because of this one insanely popular tweet.

I also spent a bunch of time on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, five seconds on Periscope, and on tour Molly Lewis taught me to use Snapchat. Look upon my snaps ye mighty and despair.

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You can find me on any social media by searching my clever username: Joseph Scrimshaw.

TV AND MOVIES!

While I did not write or star in any, I sure watched the hell out of them. To name a few, I enjoyed the hell out of Peter Capaldi on Doctor Who, Arrow, The Flash, Don Draper doing yoga, Jessica Jones, and I binge watched all of The Walking Dead in two weeks and spent the next week thinking about the best place in Los Angeles to survive a zombie apocalypse. (Hint: It’s the Dunkin’ Donuts that just opened by my home.) Most importantly, I saw The Force Awakens four times and I have tickets for another showing in the new year. If you have some concerns about the movie, I even wrote a blog post to try to help you out.

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THE FUTURE!

I haven’t done the future yet, but I’m going to. As I write this, I’m working on my final hurrah of 2015–a big New Year’s Eve show with my pal, Hal Lublin. I’ve got a lot of fun stuff coming up in 2016 including being a guest of honor at CONvergence, doing an hour long stand-up show about Doctor Who at Gallifrey One, more stand-up shows in Los Angeles, more podcasts, recording another comedy album, and of course, lots of selfies of me drinking something.

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Thanks again–
Joseph

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How To Talk To Your Family About The Force Awakens

HowToTalkToYourFamilyAboutTheForceAwakens

WARNING: THIS BLOG CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE THAT HAS BROKEN EVERY BOX OFFICE RECORD KNOWN TO HUMANITY SO IF YOU’RE READING THIS AND HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE, THAT’S REALLY WEIRD. LIKE, ALMOST, STATISTICALLY WEIRD, THAT YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE BUT MADE THE CHOICE TO CLICK THE LINK. ANYWAY, THERE ARE SPOILERS.

In these tense holiday times, many sensitive subjects come up when we gather with our families. For example, someone you know–a loved family member even–might say something stupid about Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

Here’s a list of 7 common complaints and how to handle them using your choice of the dark side or the light.

1) “I don’t even get the whole Star Wars thing.”

The Dark Side:
I’m sorry you hate joy. I bet you also dislike music and laughter. Those are both totally overrated, too. Why don’t you write a think piece about how much ice cream doesn’t even really taste that good, jump on your hoverboard, and roll the fuck out?

The Light Side:
I understand Star Wars isn’t for everyone and everyone’s entitled to their subjective opinion. That said, there are reasons it’s hugely popular with millions of people and has been for multiple decades. On its surface, it’s fun. It’s an epic saga about space wizards who cut each other’s arms off with laser swords. That’s just fun. But it’s constructed on deep themes of isolation, longing, free will versus destiny, individual agency in the face of institutionalized oppression, and lots of bad parenting. It speaks to essential challenges of humanity but also the aliens look cool. Go ahead and critique it or dislike it, but, at this point, what is there to not get?

2) “There were too many action scenes in it.”

The Dark Side:
It’s called Star Wars, you dumb moof-milker, not Star Talk About Our Feelings.

The Light Side:
Star Wars was inspired by old Saturday Morning Serials. The movies are designed to be thrilling by having lots of different action scenes. That said, they usually do a great job of not only advancing the plot through the action scenes, but also advancing individual characters’ journeys and relationships. For example, in The Force Awakens, when the rathtars are released, the action serves to strengthen the bond between Finn and Rey. During the First Order’s attack on Maz Kanata’s castle, Finn isn’t just using Luke’s old lightsaber to fight a cool Riot Stormtrooper; he’s making the choice not to run away from his fears. Also, saying there were too many action scenes in a Star Wars movie is like saying there are too many repressed emotions in a Jane Austen movie.

3) “It seemed like a reboot of that first Star Wars movie.”

The Dark Side:
*push glasses up the bridge of your nose with the power of the force*
The first movie is called A New Hope, asshole.

The Light Side:
Yes, it uses similar thematic elements, but it should. The goal of this film was to honor the old characters and stories while introducing us to new ones. The idea of mashing-up the very old and the very new is at the core of the franchise. It’s ancient hero myths but now there are aliens who look like big stressed-out fish. That’s Star Wars in a nutshell. While The Force Awakens played with our familiarity, it also introduced plenty of new things to the Star Wars galaxy. We’ve never had characters like Rey, Finn, Poe, and BB-8. They are not carbon copies of Luke, Han, Leia, and R2-D2. They are unique, new creations. Besides, Star Wars has always had a deep sense of nostalgia. From the very beginning, Luke wants to be a Jedi to follow in the steps of his father. There’s always been a generational theme. The movies have always been about adventures that happened “a long time ago.” And at this point, that deep connection to the past that was introduced in A New Hope is now an actual connection to our shared cultural experience in real life. We share Finn and Rey’s amazement because Han Solo is a legend we met a long time ago both in the story AND in reality. There’s no way to tell this story that isn’t deeply, deeply nostalgic.

4) “Okay, but why did there have to be another Death Star thing?”

The Dark Side:
It’s called Starkiller Base. Also, come up with a better plot device under the same amount of pressure, then make it the bestselling movie ever. I’ll wait.

The Light Side:
The movie is a big tentpole blockbuster with multiple plates to spin. By all means, say you don’t like those kind of movies, but get used to saying that a lot because those are the movies that exist now and their storytelling needs are different than It’s A Wonderful Life. The Force Awakens is trying to tell a big story about the state of the galaxy, but they couldn’t have too many political scenes or everyone would have yelled at them for doing “that prequel shit.” They also wanted to keep the focus on the interpersonal relationships. The Starkiller Base served a bunch of narrative functions: it wiped out the Senate and the Republic’s fleet by destroying the Hosnian System, created a ticking clock, a specific point of rivalry between Hux and Kylo Ren, and the opportunity for multiple characters to have heroic moments. When you’re already spinning that many plates, why not use something the audience is familiar with and makes sense in universe?

5) “Kylo Ren was too whiny.”

The Dark Side:
Your brain is very small. It’s worth one quarter portion.

The Light Side:
Kylo Ren is a great new Star Wars character–he’s petulant, insecure, and desperate. This is so much more interesting than a confident, monologuing mad man. And yet, we know by how much maintenance his hair must take, that deep inside there is still patience. He still cares. There is still a possibility for redemption.

6) “Han died for no reason.”

The Dark Side:
You didn’t actually watch the movie, did you?

The Light Side:
The movie resets Han’s hero’s journey. We meet him as a washed-up smuggler who is running away from his responsibilities. By the end of the movie, he makes the choice to go back and plant the explosives on the thermal oscillator because, as he says, “the galaxy is depending on us.” That decision opens the hole that Poe Dameron flies through. On top of that, Han has no desire to face his son. He’d rather write him off as gone, having too much Vader in him. But Han makes the brave choice of facing his fears and trying to get through to his son. He could have walked away–instead, Han talks first.

7) “Rey learns to use the Force too fast. She’s kind of a Mary Sue.”

The Dark Side:
If someone says this at dinner, just force throw a plate of ham into this guy’s face. Because it’s probably a guy who said this.

The Light Side:
First, google Mary Sue because you’re probably using it incorrectly. Then, take a good hard look in the mirror and make sure you’re not just upset about a female protagonist. If you haven’t rage quit this blog then we can move on to super nerdy force power discussion. Strap yourselves in.

Yes, Rey develops her abilities in a different way than we’ve seen other Jedi–which is cool–because see above about the mix of the old and the new.

Rey discovers her power step-by-step. Her abilities first “awaken” when she’s piloting the Falcon off of Jakku. She explicitly says to Finn she’s flown before, but she didn’t know how she did it so well.

Next, she fires a blaster. She has a slight look of surprise like she’s aware of her own increased accuracy.

Next, she’s captured by Kylo Ren and his beautiful hair. She discovers she can not only resist his attempts to use the force to read/invade her mind, she can do it back to him. At this point, we know Rey has heard tales of Luke Skywalker and the Jedi. It’s not surprising that she would’ve heard of the old Jedi Mind Trick. Also, Kylo Ren just tried to invade her mind. Then she does what we’ve seen many Jedi do, she concentrates, believes in her ability, and successfully mind tricks Daniel Craig dressed as a stormtrooper thus fulfilling someone’s slash fic bingo card somewhere.

Finally, the big lightsaber battle. It’s not a shock that Rey would be able to call the lightsaber to her, since the lightsaber itself was calling to her at Maz Kanata’s castle. She has a connection to it that Ren apparently doesn’t. Even with that, for the first half of her battle with Ren, Rey is just keeping alive. She’s slashing and running. We know she’s good at that because we’ve seen her do it with her staff back on Jakku. But then Kylo Ren mentions the force and she does exactly what Maz Kanata had told her to do: Close her eyes, let the light in, and it will guide you.

We were told way back in A New Hope by Obi-Wan Kenobi that the force obeys your commands, but it can also guide your actions.

What Rey lacks in training, she makes up in her connection with the force. Also, Kylo Ren is massively wounded, tormented about killing his father, insecure about this new force user, and probably still worried about his hair.

From a certain point of view

So those are a few thoughts you can share with your grumpy aunt, sexist uncle, or hipster cousin over the dinner table about the true power of The Force Awakens.

Just memorize all of this and repeat it verbatim to your family. They will ask you where you read that and then they’ll worry for my sanity.

Because, as Qui-Gon Jinn taught us, our focus determines our reality. So maybe this is a light, funny blog about a space movie. Or a thoughtful analysis of a film with deep themes and emotional resonance. Or the ravings of a crazy guy who saw the same movie four times opening weekend and can’t wait for a Rey action figure that comes with a lightsaber to be released.

All of those things are true from a certain point of view.

Happy holidays and may the force be with you.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoy you can help make more blog posts possible by supporting me on Patreon. You can also check out Ken Napzok and I discussing some of these same issues on our podcast Force Center. Finally, I made a whole album of Star Wars comedy called Rebel Scum that you can listen to with your ears should you choose.

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Indiana Jones and The Death of Mystery

TheDeathofMystery

It is November 2015. As I write this sentence, Disney has released 18 more sneak peek shots of The Force Awakens. The Captain America: Civil War trailer is being analyzed frame by frame. Obsessive editors are busily scrubbing the Wikipedia entry for John Stamos to be deadly accurate. We live in a culture where KNOWING everything is the goal. I found myself thinking about how that affects us as a culture. And, specifically, how it affects something that leans toward the mysterious. How would it affect the rumored Indiana Jones reboot? I didn’t want to wonder. I WANTED TO KNOW. So I wrote this trailer for a new Indiana Jones movie, a movie called Indiana Jones and The Curse of the Reboot! Enjoy!

DEEP VOICE GUY
This summer, a legend is reborn. A beloved hero from the past returns. A hero who previously said cool lines like–

INDIANA JONES:
Nazis. I hate those guys.

DEEP VOICE GUY:
And—

INDIANA JONES:
It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage.

DEEP VOICE GUY:
And of course—

INDIANA JONES:
Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?

DEEP VOICE GUY:
And since we own the rights to this one, why not throw it in, too?

INDIANA JONES:
Never tell me the odds!

DEEP VOICE GUY:
Yes, Indiana Jones is back to say all the same cool things for a new generation in a brand new adventure set in our crazy modern times. You’ll hear him says things like–

INDIANA JONES:
YouTube Commenters. I hate those guys.

DEEP VOICE GUY:
And—

INDIANA JONES:
It’s not the years, honey, it’s my Klout score.

DEEP VOICE GUY:
And of course–

INDIANA JONES:
Emojis of snakes. Why’d it have to be emojis of snakes?

DEEP VOICE GUY:
And let’s not forget–

INDIANA JONES:
Never tell me the full text of the iTunes User Agreement!

DEEP VOICE GUY:
Yes, it’s Indiana Jones and the Curse of the Reboot! Thrill to the exploits of this daring hero as he easily looks up the location of mysterious artifacts on Google Maps!

INDIANA JONES:
You want me to go after the Rod of Methuselah? You mean the ancient staff that gives the holder eternal life and a four hour erection? Well, according to my Samsung Galaxy, it’s in Canada.

DEEP VOICE GUY:
Yes, it’s a globe-trotting thrill ride of exotic locations recreated with CGI and greenscreen! All of which have been filmed in Canada!

INDIANA JONES:
Vancouver. Why’d it have to be Vancouver?

DEEP VOICE GUY:
But Indy isn’t on this Canadian rollercoaster ride alone! He’s got a young sidekick who’s going to scream his name throughout the entire film!

KID:
Indy!

INDIANA JONES:
What?

KID:
Indy!

INDIANA JONES:
What?

KID:
Indy!

INDIANA JONES:
What?

KID:
Why haven’t you accepted my invitation to connect on LinkedIn?

DEEP VOICE GUY:
BAM! Right in the four quadrant demographics! But that’s not all! Indiana Jones also has a love interest. She’s smart, tough, and at the very least a decade younger than Indiana Jones. And yes, that is despicable gender and age politics, but you keep coming to these movies so why should we stop making them like this? Anyway, she says–

KRISTEN:
So, Mr. Jones, is this all you ever do? Run around attacking people with a whip? Don’t you ever relax? Just sit back and watch Scandal on Netflix?

INDIANA JONES:
The only thing I got time to binge is adventure.

DEEP VOICE GUY:
Ohhhh! Did you hear that last thing Indiana Jones said? It’s the best line in the movie. We know because we’ve screen tested the shit out of it. That line is the one projected to become iconic to males with an emotional age of 12 to 16. Here it is again:

INDIANA JONES:
The only thing I got time to binge is adventure.

DEEP VOICE GUY:
But it’s not all fun and games! Indiana Jones must also have a lot of cool fistfights with a big henchman played by Dave Bautista whose character is also named Dave Bautista.

DAVE BAUTISTA:
I’m Dave Bautista! Time to die, Indiana Jones!

INDIANA JONES:
This looks like a job for punching!

DEEP VOICE GUY:
Wow! What a fight that will be! But don’t worry! Indiana Jones will win. Here’s a slight spoiler. He drives over Dave Bautista’s legs with a Prius, then throws him off the Golden Gate Bridge! And, yes, when that happens, there is a Wilhelm Scream:

DAVE BAUTISTA:
Awwwwuuuuaaagghhhaaa!

DEEP VOICE GUY:
But Indiana Jones’ troubles aren’t over yet! Because he still needs to face the big villain: Baron Cruel Von Ambiguously European!

BARON:
You know, Mr. Jones, we’re not so different, you and I.

DEEP VOICE GUY:
YES, WE ARE! YOU’RE A NAZI!

BARON:
Observant as ever, Mr. Jones! Release the angry birds!

DEEP VOICE GUY:
Yes, Indy and his friends are attacked by a literal pack of angry birds! Like actual pissed off animals with wings! But our heroes escape in a ludicrous, scientifically impossible way!

INDIANA JONES:
Quickly! Everyone use the pressurized oxygen inside your vape pens to propel your segways faster! It’s the only way to escape the angry birds!

DEEP VOICE GUY:
Yes, that’s sure to piss off Neil DeGrasse Tyson! Hopefully, he’ll write a blog about it and give us a bunch of free publicity. But of course, the beating heart of any good Indiana Jones movie is the thing he’s after.

INDIANA JONES:
Baron! Don’t touch the Rod of Methuselah with your bare hands, you fool!

DEEP VOICE GUY:
But of course he totally does! And then this happens–

INDIANA JONES:
Everyone! Close your eyes! A thousand vengeful bible ghosts just shot out of the tip of the staff and now they’re biting the nazis’ dicks off and lecturing them about family values!

DEEP VOICE GUY:
It’s social commentary but funny and irreverent because he said dicks! What more could you want? HOW ABOUT A BIG THIRD ACT TWIST? Turns out, the Nazi wasn’t the real villain after all. It was a giant, sentient boulder. It goes rolling after Indiana Jones while he yells this cool line–

INDIANA JONES:
It’s not a repetition, honey, it’s an homage!

DEEP VOICE GUY:
And then off course, Indiana Jones outsmarts the boulder by, well, just jumping out of its way. But there are STILL more surprises, like in the final shot of the movie, where you see a close-up of the Rod of Methuselah and a spider crawls out of it and you realize, holy crap, this whole thing was a set-up for the next Spider-Man movie!

INDIANA JONES:
My god…it’s all one big shared universe.

DEEP VOICE GUY:
That’s right, we just showed you the actual very last shot and line of the movie. I bet you think there’s nothing else to reveal? WRONG AGAIN, DUMB AUDIENCE! Here’s the surprise post-credits scene where Indiana Jones loses his shit, turns directly to the camera, and goes on an angry, post-modern rant about the quality of his own movie.

INDIANA JONES:
This is horrible! It’s all horrible! Not only is the movie awful, but you saw every beat of it in the goddamn trailer!

Look, I love knowledge. I’m an archeologist who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of the unknown. But that’s the point–the pursuit!

I used to go spelunking in volcanoes to discover hidden societies! Now the most exciting thing I do is try to drive to Santa Monica without using Waze!

Look, every waking moment is mapped, planned, previewed, reviewed, and post-mortemed. Well, here’s a hot take for you, sweetheart: if you buy a new iPhone, you don’t need to watch an unboxing video first. Thrill to the adventure of opening the damn box yourself!

You know that scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark where I have to close my eyes to avoid the horrific power of the Ark? That’s the way you should treat the fucking internet sometimes!

Yes, pursue knowledge and truth, but every once in a while, for God’s sake, just close your eyes and revel in the beautiful mystery of the UNKNOWN.

It’s like nothing you’ve ever gone after before.

DEEP VOICE GUY:
OH YEAH! Classic line said by a different character! Yes, it’s Indiana Jones and the Death of Mystery. That’s right, we just changed the title based on some polls conducted during this trailer. So get out your phones and plan your EXACT route, because Indiana Jones and the Death of Mystery is coming soon to a theater near you whether you like it or not.

INDIANA JONES:
The 21st Century. Why’d it have to be the 21st Century?

*whip crack*
*massive explosion*

Thanks for reading. If you enjoy these comedy posts, you can make more happen by supporting me on Patreon!

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THE CONSUMER AWAKENS

TheConsumerAwakens

This is the story of going to Target to buy two things:
A Star Wars action figure and a bottle of booze.

These are two items I’ve bought a lot in my life. I overindulged in both in my youth, but now that I’m an adult man-child, I’ve learned to enjoy them both in moderation. Buying them together would be a dream come true.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve coveted Star Wars action figures. When I was six years old, a friend of my parents visited. He showed me a five dollar bill and a little bottle of blowing bubbles. He said if I could catch a bubble and bring it back to him, I could have the five dollar bill. That bill wasn’t money to me. It was a coupon for the Hoth Luke I’d recently seen at Target. I didn’t stop to think whether or not catching a bubble was possible. SPOILER: I got a lot of exercise but I didn’t catch a bubble.

This story is a little snapshot of my relationship with action figures which probably explains why I like having a drink every now and again. I spent most of my life living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Targets do NOT sell hard liquor in Minnesota. Liquor stores aren’t even open on Sundays. Now that I live in Los Angeles, I can stroll into a Target on a Sunday afternoon and buy a massive bottle of booze. The first time I did it, I was shocked I didn’t get struck by lightning.

Since I knew I could get alcohol without being smited, I figured why not go to Target and buy a new The Force Awakens action figure and a bottle of booze at the same time? And why not do it ON A SUNDAY? What could possibly go wrong? How much disgust and shame can one Target cashier have in their eyes at one time?

LET’S FIND OUT.

As I began my adventure, I was very excited.

IMG_7047

I drove to the Target closest to my home in Hollywood. This particular Target is located in the beautiful mall known as the Glendale Galleria. I consider it a historically significant mall since this is where Arnold Schwarzenegger first fights the T-1000 in Terminator 2. This is my “I’ll be back” face.

IMG_7052

As I walked into Target, I was excited to look at The Force Awakens display. I didn’t expect to find a good action figure. I thought maybe there would be a First Order Stormtrooper or a bunch of the new Resistance Fighters. As a kid, I remembered the dire days as Star Wars‘ popularity waned and the shelves were nothing but a bunch of Sad Lobots. I expected that. What I got was LITERALLY NOTHING.

IMG_7055

There were no action figures. I should specify there were no 3 3/4 action figures. AND YET THE AISLE STILL HAD A BUNCH OF STUFF.

IMG_7064

I instantly became grumpy about this. (SIDE-NOTE: Once when I was grumpy, my wife, Sara, asked: “Who put a nickel in your grandpa pants?”) There was definitely a nickel in my grandpa pants. I mean, I’m happy there’s a wide variety of Star Wars toys, but, to me the 3 3/4 action figures is the main feature of the toy aisle. A full toy aisle with no 3 3/4 action figures is like a gin and tonic with no actual gin in it. TERRIFYING.

Still, there was plenty of stuff. Disney has merchandised the living shit out of Star Wars which was already one of the most merchandised things ever. I felt if I stood still in the toy aisle too long, a Disney employee would walk in, put a Star Wars label on me, and sell me for five bucks. There was Star Wars Monopoly, Chess, remote control ships, a basketball hoop.

IMG_7084

A BASKETBALL HOOP SO YOU CAN RELIVE ALL THOSE GREAT FATHER AND SON BASKETBALL GAMES VADER AND LUKE PLAYED IN STAR WARS EPISODE THAT NEVER HAPPENED. There was miniature game from some strange but intriguing alternate universe where Han Solo was played by Rick Moranis.

IMG_6275

They had a whatever the fuck this is.

IMG_7085

Still, I was on a mission and failure was not an option. I had to find some bit of fun Star Wars merchandise. Something that would pair well with a bottle of booze. I found something.

IMG_7062

The mask worn by Kylo Ren, the new big bad in The Force Awakens. The mask was for children but it totally fit my tiny adult man-head. I decided to take one more look around and see if I could find something more action figure like. I kind of did.

IMG_7067

A Kylo Ren Funko Pop Vinyl. It’s a Target exclusive because this Kylo Ren’s head bobbles. Because nothing says evil dark Force warrior like a bobblehead. Still, I like the Funko Pops. Particularly the villainous ones because I feel like if Darth Maul knew he was a cute little bobblehead it would feed his rage and only make his connection to the Dark Side of the Force stronger.

I grabbed my mask and Funko Pop and went to the liquor aisle. I was happy to be there.

IMG_7073

Seeing a liquor aisle in a Target still feels impossible–like riding a unicorn or catching a bubble. I put my Kylo Ren items down to peruse the liquor. A child approached and I growled at them like a wolf protecting their young and felt some actual, no-joke shame. I decided to keep Kylo safe.

IMG_7074

Unlike the toy aisle, the booze was well-stocked. I found an old friend.

IMG_7076It was time to head to the cash register. The moment of truth. Would I be judged? Would I be mocked? Was this too weird? Would someone perform a citizen’s arrest? I put the items down in a pleasing, still life type tableau and took a picture.

IMG_7078

At first, the tired young cashier wasn’t paying much attention. She saw the Jameson’s and asked for my ID. I handed it to her. She looked quickly and handed it back.

She looked down and took in the mask and the toy. She picked them both up and said, “Oh, I get it. You can wear the mask and then this guy will be like mini-you.”

Amazing. There was no judgment. In fact, she started to create some head-canon about how I was going to play with these items. Then she said, “Do you want a brown paper bag?”

“For the Jameson’s?” I asked.

“For all of it,” she said. “So no one sees,” she added.

“Sure,” I said.

She packed up my bottle of booze, my child’s mask, and my cute toy of an evil wizard and said, “Well…have fun.”

“Don’t worry,” I said, “I have a plan.”

I wasn’t sure what I meant by that as I said it. “It’s kind of for a blog” seemed worse. Regardless, “I have a plan” appeared to assuage her concerns for my mental health.

“Well, good,” she said. “What can go wrong when you have a plan?”

I smiled and nodded, grabbed my brown paper bag of booze and toys and headed out of the store. The sun was just starting to set. The clouds were a blaze of of orange and pink. It looked like Cloud City should be hanging in the sky.

I didn’t get the action figure I was looking for, but in exchange I got something different, something even stranger. No matter how much Star Wars content there is in the world, I’ll always think of Luke Skywalker staring off into the sunset, thinking about his destiny. No matter how old of a man-child I am, I will always relate to that. I will always be chasing that bubble.

And I will have fun doing it. I got home and asked for my wife’s help for my last photo. My mask fit perfectly.

KyloJameson

I was thrilled with both my booze and my Star Wars toy.

But I’ll only be taking one of them out of the package.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoy, you can make more weird comedy posts like this possible by supporting me on Patreon. And you can check out my new Star Wars comedy album Rebel Scum here!

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Underwear That’s Fun To Wear

UnderwearThatsFunToWear

One of the reward levels on my Patreon is suggesting a topic for a blog post. I was thrilled a few months back when a kind patron suggested “Underoos” as a topic. This patron was shocked and amused that the underwear line was being relaunched for adults. He told me he’d like me to address this question: “Why? I mean, just why?”

For anyone who isn’t familiar with Underoos, they were extremely popular character-based underwear sets that were around from the late ’70s to the early ’90s. They featured a t-shirt and tight little underpants depicting superheroes, Star Wars characters, and more. The packaging declared Underoos were “underwear that’s fun to wear.” In the 1980s, it would go without saying that these are for children. Now, not so much.

As a child, I had Superman Underoos and they made me bitter every time I wore them. I desperately wanted Robin, The Boy Wonder, Underoos. I vividly remember standing in the shopping mall, feverishly pawing through the display looking for Robin Underoos. But the city bus was coming to take us home and it was Superman or nothing.

So I settled.

“Well, I won’t have to settle now,” I thought when I heard Underoos for adults were being released by Hot Topic.

Just a few days after the blog suggestion came in, I was out walking with a friend. We happened to pass a Hot Topic so I checked out my Underoos options.

It was my turn to be shocked and amused. It’s always interesting to revisit things from your childhood because you notice stuff you didn’t as a kid.

For example, I tweeted this.

I mean, I understand Skeletor is a self-involved megalomaniac, but he’s just standing there dreaming, “What if there were underwear of my naked, ripped purple chest and dark, foreboding underwear of my loin-cloth area? AND what if they were available in men’s large?”

Every single fucking thing about it was absurd.

I loved it.

I knew I wanted to get a pair when it was time to write the blog post.

A few weeks later, I added a new milestone goal to my patreon. If I reached the goal, I’d add photos of myself wearing Underoos to this blog post. It was unlocked faster than I thought.

I went back to Hot Topic. All the Skeletor Underoos were gone. Most of the Underoos were gone. I asked the cashier about it. She said they hadn’t been selling very well, but suggested I call some other locations.

After I processed my shock, I, an adult man, called a Hot Topic and said, “Hello. I’m wondering if you have any Skeletor Underoos?”

And the voice on the other end of the phone said, “Oh, sir. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry, but we’re all out of Skeletor Underoos.”

She waited a moment. I think to see if I started crying.

Then she continued, “And…and I don’t think we’re getting any more. But I know we still have some superheroes on our online store!”

I couldn’t believe it had happened again. I was truly reliving my childhood in the worst way possible: I COULDN’T GET THE UNDEROOS I WANTED.

It was weird, as an adult geek, to be denied something. I’ve become used to our obsession with nostalgia and the huge popularity of everything I loved as a kid. I can buy an ice cube tray shaped like Han Solo’s face, for fuck’s sake. I can have anything, right?

I was determined not to let the bitterness seep in like it had when I was a kid. I couldn’t have Skeletor, but there would still be other good options.

I went online and picked out two of my favorite superheroes as an adult: Batman and Captain America. Sorry, Superman.

I was excited. I found myself legitimately asking the same question my patron had posed: Why?

Why was I, an adult man, excited to order novelty superhero underwear from the internet?

So many things lose their sense of magic and fun as you grow older. It’s easy to get bitter and complacent. Who cares about underwear? Putting them on is just one more damn thing you have to do in the morning.

As an adult, people only have two feelings about other people seeing their underwear: acceptance or hope.

You’re going to be in a horrible car accident or your date is going to go well. Either way, you just want to feel presentable.

I’m happily married, so for me, every day is a date that goes well.

But I don’t think Underoos are about what other people think. They’re not like wearing a t-shirt that says “I Frakking Love Battlestar Galactica.” They’re not about broadcasting a message to other people.

They’re about trying to make a busy, cranky adult support their secret belief that underneath it all they’re a noble hero.

Eventually, my Underoos arrived. First, I tried them on to see what I had really got myself into. The shirts were awesome and comfortable. The colorful extremely tight underpants were, uh, mildly alarming. I briefly regretted the decision to share photos.

But real heroes don’t feel shame. They strap that ridiculous shit on and own it. And then take pictures to put on the internet.

My wife and I had a fun photo shoot.

I felt very heroic as Captain America.

CapPatriotic

I did some brooding as Batman.

BatBrooding

I reflected on the current state of democracy.

CapReflecting

Eventually, I got sleepy.

BatSleepy

All in all, the packaging was right. They were fun to wear.

Thanks,
Joseph

P.S. I am well aware that I can buy Skeletor Underoos for grossly inflated prices on eBay. There aren’t a lot of lines I won’t cross, but buying used underwear from strangers on the internet is one of them.

Thanks again for reading! If you enjoyed this, you can help make more comedy possible by supporting me on Patreon here!

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The 7 Maybe Best Tabletop Games Ever

The7MaybeBestTabletopGamesEver

I was honored to be a guest on an episode of my friend Wil Wheaton’s awesome show, Tabletop. I played the game CONCEPT with Wil and the great comedy duo Rhett & Link. Here’s a fun screenshot!

JosephTabletopShame

Huge thanks to co-producer of the show Boyan Radakovich and everyone at Geek & Sundry. It was an incredibly fun experience!

I’ve always been a fan of tabletop games, but after I recorded the episode, I thought about how much tabletop games have walked through my life with me. I realized I wasn’t thinking about the BEST games but rather the BEST moments and memories. So here’s my top 7 tabletop memories. Enjoy!

1) DEATH STAR ESCAPE

My first tabletop experience was playing the very early Star Wars board game, Death Star Escape. To my foggy recollection, it was not technically a good game. It was mostly random luck based on the whims of a cheap cardboard spinner. It was sort of like Candy Land, but with more space and death. My parents bought it for my older brother and me, but my brother had little interest in playing it. So I found a more willing partner–my teddy bear. His name was Chocolate. When it came to playing Death Star Escape, he was a cunning warrior. I would take turns spinning for myself and spinning for Chocolate. For some reason, my teddy bear almost always defeated me. This infuriated me. I realize now my teddy bear, Chocolate is clearly a Stih Lord. I still own both Death Star Escape and my teddy bear. Soon there will be a re-match. Chocolate will pay.

2) TRIVIAL PURSUIT

I’ve always loved the title Trivial Pursuit because it sounds like they could have called the game Shit That Doesn’t Matter But You’re Going To Take It Too Seriously Anyway. I was introduced when my Grandmother bought it for us one Christmas. We played it. My Grandmother lost. Mostly because my brother and I could answer all of the comic book and sci-fi questions. The next night, I got up in the middle of the night and discovered my grandmother sitting in the darkness hunched over the Trivial Pursuit cards. Lit only by the demon glow of her Virginia Slim cigarette, she was furiously memorizing the answers to every question. The next day, we played again and she defeated her young grandchildren handily. Well played, Grandma, well played. (She was also a Sith Lord. Always, two there are.)

3) CHEZ GEEK

Eventually, I found better people to game with than my invincible teddy bear and cheating Grandmother. After I graduated from college, I was lucky to stumble into a friend group that was close-knit and family-like. We played many games and we drank many beers and we yelled many things. One of our favorite games was Chez Geek. One of the cards in, I believe, the original deck became my role model. The card was for Mr. Enthusiastic. In the illustration, he wore a t-shirt that read “Liev Schreiber Rules!” It was a happy time in my life and much like Mr. Enthusiastic, I was always up for one more game, one more beer, one more yelling. I had a penchant for being excited about things like poor, maligned Liev Schreiber who was really quite good in the Scream movies. Back then I had no idea I’d later become friends and creative partners with the man who drew Mr. Enthusiastic. Someday, I’ll get a t-shirt that reads “John Kovalic Rules!”

4) THE HILLS RISE WILD

This is my favorite tabletop game ever made. The Hills Rise Wild is bizarre and beautiful. The game has a goal, but the main point is for a bunch of Lovecraft-inspired hillbilly characters to run around shooting each other in the back with shotguns and magic balls of death. The best tactic to survive this game is to just hide in a shack. One game, a friend got upset and yelled that we were all just sitting on our porches drinking lemonade. The next game this was shortened to “Stop drinking Countrytime!” The next game after that it was just, “Stop Countrytiming.” After that it was just an insulting mime routine of an old person swirling a straw in lemonade. I love how even a game about evil cultist hillbillies murdering each other for no reason can create new forms of communication.

5) FURY OF DRACULA

I only played Fury of Dracula a couple of times, but it stands out in my mind because the friend running the game would insist on creating a spooky mood by shoving cheap plastic vampire teeth in his mouth. This would make his speech warped and cute like he was a big, evil baby. There was also a lot of sucking noises as he tried to keep the teeth in place and not drool. That friend is now the VP of a major gaming company. If he really wants to make an impact, I hope he wears his vampire teeth at important meetings.

6) STAR WARS MONOPOLY

About two years ago, some friends bought me a copy of Star Wars Monopoly for Christmas. So I got them together and played it. The fools. Star Wars Monopoly is like any other game of Monopoly, except there’s extra stress because you don’t want Luke Skywalker’s little pewter lightsaber to get bent. I hadn’t played Monopoly in YEARS. We played with the typical house rules where a player can randomly win a bunch of the community chest money back. Of course when you play the game that way, it’s like The Simpsons, it will go on so long you get confused and frightened and you don’t even understand reality anymore. After playing for roughly 27 hours, we agreed to revert to the more basic rules where the rich get richer and the poor are utterly screwed. No bail-outs. No lucky breaks. In almost seconds, Darth Vader totally destroyed everyone. It was a great reminder of the true power of the dark side of capitalism.

7) BRITISH RAILS

I’ve had many gaming partners over the years. Teddy bears, grandmas, drinking buddies, comedy pals, and more. But my favorite partner in recent years has been my wife, Sara. Everyone I know is a ridiculously busy adult and it makes it hard to find time for a gaming night. So for our anniversary a few years ago, my wife and I bought ourselves a two-player game: British Rails! We spent a few months living in the UK and my wife (having worked at the James J. Hill House in St. Paul, Minnesota) is a big fan of locomotive history. The goal of the game is to build a train empire by delivering goods to different cities. It is a nice, slow, calm game that pairs well with a Sunday evening and a giant glass of smokey whisky. But like all tabletop games I’ve ever played, it also pairs well with yelling. And so it was, one peaceful night of gaming, I repeatedly yelled at my wife, “I JUST WANT TO BRING RUBBER TO MOTHERFUCKING CARDIFF.”

Of all the things I’ve yelled while playing Tabletop Games, that might be my favorite. I love tabletop games. They don’t even have to be great games, they just need to create the opportunity to build memories and to accomplish something. I think humans are often at their happiest when they’re striving to do something. There’s a joy in getting lost in the pursuit of a task: escaping the Death Star, defeating your grandchildren, defending the honor of Liev Schreiber, murdering a Lovecraft hobo, spitting through your Dracula teeth, sending Obi-Wan Kenobi to the poor house, or just bringing the rubber to Cardiff.

Wil’s tagline for Tabletop is “Play more games.”

Whenever I hear that, I add in my mind “and bring the rubber to Cardiff.”

Thanks for reading. Thanks for watching the episode. Enjoy your games. Enjoy all the memories they create. Don’t cheat like my grandmother.

Play more games.

Bring the rubber to Cardiff.

If you enjoy my posts, you can help make more happen by supporting me on Patreon. My next post will be about Adult Underoos and thanks to an unlocked Patreon goal it will include photos of me in my underoos. You’re welcome and I’m sorry.

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