Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Dragon Con 2016 – My Passion

Be sure to join this year's Facebook Event Page for all the latest news on The Dirty Dirty Con Con Game Game Show Show at Dragon Con 2016!

We are roughly one month out from my favorite event of the entire year – Dragon Con. Normally I would have posted my summary of the Progress Report by now, but I haven’t been able to get my hands on one. Instead, I’m going to share something with you. I’m going to tell you about my game show and how it came to be and how it’s one of the most important things in my life.

I have always wanted to perform. I won’t get into the story of why it took me so long to start doing it. It’s sad and a whole other post. But ever since I was a little kid watching cartoons, The Muppet Show, and later Late Night with David Letterman, I have wanted to do something. Voice acting was and still is a dream of mine. I love interviewing people. I have a passion for stand up comedy, but it’s not something I’m interested in for myself.

I just love having a mic in my hand and using whatever talent I have to effect people. It’s the only “job” I’ve ever enjoyed.

Several years ago I discovered fan fiction or slash fic or whatever you want to call it on Topless Robot in a feature called “Fan Fiction Friday” or “FFF”. I had no idea such things were going on and I certainly didn’t know that people were sharing it all over the internet. I sent one particularly hilarious piece of nerdy filthy filth to a friend of mine and he – being much more internet savvy than I – said, “Oh, yeah. I’ve seen that.”

It was at that point that I had the idea to have a bunch of friends sit around at Dragon Con and get drunk and attempt to read slash fic to one another. I doubt my friend even realizes he was there for the inception of The Dirty Dirty Con Con Game Game Show Show. He’d probably take a shower if he did.

I didn’t follow up on that idea because at the time my nights at Con involved drinking as much alcohol as I possibly could and wandering around until there was literally nothing left to do but go back to my hotel room and pray that I wouldn’t be hung over when I woke up four or five hours later. Most of my friends prefer that activity as well, so trying to organize anyone for anything would have been a futile effort.

Trying to organize anyone for anything is a futile effort” could go on my tombstone.
I kept following along with Fan Fiction Friday basically until Rob Bricken stopped doing it. But the idea of entertaining people with it never left me. It was something guaranteed to generate a visceral reaction and a way to bring people together. A weird way, to be sure, but if you can find the right group of people with shared interests and the right tolerance for insane filth, they’re all going to share similar responses to the subject matter and an awkward, hilarious time will be had by all.

In 2012 I was on my first Dragon Con panel for the American Sci-Fi Classics Track, thanks to my relationship with the ESO Network. It went very well. I had a blast, people liked me, and I was asked to do more the next year. I had gotten my foot in the door of performing at Dragon Con and a taste of being the entertainer rather than just the entertained.

Around the same time I started working as regularly as I could for a wrestling promotion called Monstrosity Championship Wrestling. This afforded me the opportunity to work with a huge variety of talented entertainers – including the amazing Ghouella DeVille – in a live, constantly changing environment. It was chaos, but I learned many valuable things there.

Both of those events are extremely important, but also require posts of their own. The point is that I was finally getting to do things in front of people and I was loving it. And very good at it. I’m not saying I’m the bomb dot com or anything. I won’t ever stop learning and improving. But I don’t think that anyone would deny that I have a strong stage presence and a talent for… whatever it is that I do.

After two years of good relations with Gary and Joe – who are the heads of the Classics Track and the wind beneath my wings; also a whole other post – and a very successful Needless Things Toy Panel, I wanted to do a thing. A weird thing. A thing that nobody in their right mind would approve.

But first I needed a partner. Because as big as my ego had become at that point, I still didn’t have the balls to attempt this thing on my own.

I had gotten to know Dana Swanson, aka Miss Lady Flex of the Sexxxiest Band in the Whole Muthafuckin’ World, Le Sexoflex as an acquaintance through live shows and an interview with the band on the podcast. She’s brilliant and strong and hilarious and quickly became one of my personal heroes.

Dana had always been incredibly nice and friendly, but to this day I don’t know what gave me the gall to text her and ask if she wanted to co-host a dirty game show with me. Much to my surprise and relief, she was not just interested, but excited.

I wish that I had taken better notes about how we came up with what we did that first year. The basis of the show was that she and I were the co-hosts and that we would have contestants pulled from the audience read pieces of slash fic that I had pulled from the internet in various competitive ways. It would be silly and over-the-top in every way. When I thought of us as a team, I used Thomas Lennon and Kerri Kenney’s duo from Viva Variety as a point of reference. Not their actual characters or relationship, just the chemistry that they had.

Once Dana was on board, I pitched it to Gary and Joe. I’m not gonna lie – I was shocked when they gave me the green light. I had done my best to emphasize how filthy and potentially offensive it was going to be, but they had faith in me and my ability to entertain. And in the fact that it would be happening late at night, when all of the craziest stuff that happens at Con occurs. If anyone did show up, they would probably be just the kind of inebriated freaks we wanted to entertain.

Dana and I had a lot of conversations about what we wanted to do. I might have sparked this whole thing, but we are partners. A big part of the reason that I had wanted her involved was her background in entertainment – voice acting, improv, comedy writing. I hadn’t done any of that (aside from the amount of improvisation required to fill large, unintended gaps between matches in MCW) and no matter how much natural aptitude I might have, I had little experience. I knew I needed that element in order to pull off a show that I could be proud of.

A bit about my idea of performing – I believe that the audience has invested their time and/or money in watching you do what you’re doing. While you need to enjoy what you’re doing, you can’t ever forget that you have a responsibility to them. Nothing is more valuable than time and it’s an honor when someone gifts you with theirs. Whether you’re the highest tier of celebrity sitting on a panel in front of hundreds of people or a street performer playing to one person, your audience deserves the best you can give them. That means you look the part, you give it your all, and you plan, plan, plan, and plan some more in advance to have the tightest show possible and anticipate potential problems. Problems are going to happen (and have both years so far), but if you’ve got your shit together, you can handle them.

As they say, they show must go on. And if you’re committed enough, the audience will stay with you.

All in all, that first year was simple. It was called Whose EFF Is It Anyway?, which isn’t the best name or too indicative of what we were doing. It’s just something that stuck initially. “EFF” was supposed to stand for “Erotic Fan Fiction” and the title was obviously a reference to Whose Line Is It Anyway?, a show that I adored. It turns out “EFF” is widely known to stand for “Electronic Frontier Foundation” and that even though erotic fan fiction is a thing, nobody calls it that.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Red Light Café for allowing us to put on a sort of rehearsal show there. Dana recruited our version of Johnny Blue Jeans – Sexy Wolverine – in her friend Rueben, who is a wonderful powerhouse of entertainment. The three of us had a great chemistry and learned how to work with each other that night. It was invaluable training for the Dragon Con performance.

Whose EFF was simply me and Dana giving stories to people to read in different formats, and Sexy Wolverine being sexy and hilarious. It was a lot of fun and we had some amazing contestants. The room was packed – standing room only – and we received very high ratings in the Dragon Con app.

It was one of the most incredible and satisfying moments of my life. I had made this thing happen. I had a ton of help and support, but this thing had come out of my brain and had happened and had entertained a large group of people at the biggest event of the year. I had never been so fulfilled by a “job”.

I quickly demanded assurances that we would be allowed to do it again the next year and that we would have a bigger room. Assurances were assured.

Whose EFF was, unsurprisingly, not without controversy. Some Twittiots got upset about some things. There were things that I can understand and some that I can’t. Some of those things influenced how we changed the show. Primarily in the fact that from that point on we would write all of the slash fic ourselves.

One of the basics of the show is that as dirty as it might get, we are never mean-spirited. If someone feels that we are and is reasonably justified, we’ll look at the problem.

There were other lessons that didn’t come from outrage junkies on social media. We felt that the reliance on slash fic was too strong ad that a variety of filth would be better. And the name had to go. Dana came up with the overly-long and absurd The Dirty Dirty Con Con Game Game Show Show and I never would have gone along with it if I’d thought about how many times I’d have to type that shit out. But it is perfect and wonderful and now we’re getting it on t-shirts. More on that later.

My idea of what the show should be was evolving, and Dana shared my vision. I suspect that she had loftier ideas from the start, but you have to begin somewhere.

We both wanted actual games. Not people reading things the whole time. We kept the crowd happy with Whose EFF, but we both agreed that we could do better. If the scope of the show was going to grow, then we were going to have to recruit more personnel. There were disastrous A/V issues with that first year and we decided that we needed a person specifically for that. This is where Rad Ranger came in. We also wanted props and actual logos and stuff. That’s where Oz came in.

Believe it or not, I started planning for last year’s The Dirty Dirty Con Con Game Game Show Show in February. I knew the second year had to be bigger, better, and dirtier to justify not only the name change, but the changes I had asked for. It was important for me that we put on a show that rivaled anything else that might be happening at Dragon Con. That even if we were just a panel in a track room in the book, we would provide entertainment on the same level as any band or puppet show or performance. My determination was to be so fucking good and so fucking outrageous that somebody somewhere would have no choice but to put us in a big room. We would demand recognition.

A quick aside – speaking of puppets, Beau Brown is possibly the most wonderful human being I have ever met. His support and encouragement has been absolutely vital to all of this. I can never repay all of the things he doesn’t even realize he does, let alone the ones he is conscious of.

Over the course of the year everything came together. We brainstormed ridiculous new games and Rad Ranger made them happen. Oz fabricated the Crown of Dicks and donned the mantle of Popeye the Sailor Moon Pie or whatever we ended up calling him. Reuben was unavailable, but through a wacky series of events we were gifted with a new Sexy Wolverine. She had been a co-worker of mine years ago and was good friends with Dana. The five of us essentially formed like a goofy, dirty Voltron and immediately were on the same page.

Not everything I wanted to do came to fruition, but that’s the nature of being ambitious beyond your means. Someday I’ll have those means.

At the pre-show meeting we made our last-minute preparations, but overall I felt very good. Whether or not anyone showed up, we were ready and were going to be fantastic.

I wrote extensively about the game show and the adventures of Sexy Wolverine in a recap last year, so I won’t go over it again now, but despite some of the exact same issues cropping up that had plagued us in 2014, the show was a massive success. We packed the room again and turned away nearly 200 people. The feedback from the Dragon Con app was once again stellar. We had put on a bigger, better show and succeeded.

Once again I quickly demanded assurances that we would be allowed to do it again the next year and that we would have a bigger room. Assurances were, once again, assured.

I am not comfortable asking people for things and I am certainly not comfortable demanding things, but The Dirty Dirty Con Con Game Game Show Show means so much to me and has become such an invaluable part of my creative life that I asked many people to help with the effort to get it into a bigger room.

Asking people for things is a constant struggle and one that I am not well equipped for. Whether it’s sponsors, favors, people to take pictures, or whatever; I don’t handle that stress well. I don’t mind being told “no”, it’s the non-responders that tear at my soul. Or the ones that do respond initially, but then just fade out. That’s even worse.

But I keep working and trying and pushing because, truth be told, The Dirty Dirty Con Con Game Game Show Show is my favorite thing that I do. I love the podcast and the website has been an invaluable outlet over the years, but nothing provides the thrill that the game show does. I very badly want to travel it around to other cons or events, but it seems that “dirty pop culture game show” is not a niche most are looking to fill. I’ll keep trying, though.
That brings us to this year.

The powers that be came through and we have a ballroom. The Hyatt Regency V, to be precise. Follow me and The Dirty Dirty Con Con Game Game Show Show on Facebook to stay current on that. The location could change, but I sure hope it doesn’t. That ballroom has a legacy of greatness that I want to be a part of.

Well, I already am a part of it, but I want the game show to be part.

See, this is the ballroom where the very first Dragon Con Late Night Puppet Slam was held. It is also the ballroom where Puppet Improv has delighted fans two years in a row, including my unexpected performance last year. I want people to remember that The Dirty Dirty Con Con Game Game Show Show happened in that ballroom.

Unfortunately, our Sexy Wolverine has an opportunity elsewhere in the country the same weekend as Dragon Con. We hate to lose her, but these things happen. We will alter the show accordingly and continue on.

And that, Dirtymaniacs, is where the story ends for now. I guarantee you that this year’s show is going to be bigger, wilder, and more fun than anything we have done before. The last week has energized me in a way that I can’t believe and I can’t wait to share this magic with you at Dragon Con. Of course, there are ways that we can share magic right now.

I have ordered a run of The Dirty Dirty Con Con Game Game Show Show t-shirts. I funded them with the proceeds from my Patreon, which is the only real source of income for the game show or for anything else that I do creatively (Amazon and Google Ads don’t pay jack squat). If you’re so inclined, join or share.

As for the t-shirts, they are available in Boastful Blue and a very special limited run Passion Pink. The pink ones are going fast. If you want to be sure to get the size you want, preorder now from the Needless Things Store. They will ship out by August 19th and will be in your homes in time for you to wash cold with like-colored items and tumble dry low. Do not iron.
To sum up, here are the important links you need:

No comments:

Post a Comment