This is one of Anne’s very favorite dad jokes.
In other news, I think I figured out how to make fonts look snazzy in GIMP.
So I was talking with my friend Max Temkin …
And this happened:
I. Freaking. LOVE. Dad jokes, and every single Rick Grimes Dad Joke meme I’ve seen has made me laugh harder than I thought it would. So I thought about this dumb dad joke tonight, and decided that I’d make a Rick Grimes Dad Joke of my own.
I suck at Photoshop (or, in my case, GIMP), so the font isn’t as clear as I wanted it to be, but this still makes me laugh:
It’s good to be easily amused, kids.
“My point is, there was a time when I thought I would never get out of Wesley Crusher’s shadow, but now that’s just a small part of a pretty great life, and it’s a part that I’m glad is there.”
The interstate highways in Texas go on forever, it seems, between major cities. For hundreds of miles, there’s not much to see but other cars, the occasional water tower, a few cows, and a ribbon of concrete that cuts across the vast, flat landscape.
A few months ago, I was in a van with Paul and Storm and Anne as we drove between Houston and Dallas down one of those endless highways. Anne was asleep in the chair next to me, as Paul drove and Storm navigated. I played Carcassonne on my iPad as we left Houston behind us and never seemed to get any closer to Dallas.
As I was losing yet another game (it turns out that it’s much easier to win in a three player game than it is in a four player game, regardless of your opponents’ skill level, due to the additional randomness inherent in the draw) my cellphone played the original Star Trek communicator sound in my pocket. I pulled it out and read a text message from my friend Steve Molaro, who is the show runner on The Big Bang Theory. “Do you have a few minutes to talk?” He asked.
“I have all the time in the world,” I replied, “because I’m in a van on a highway in Texas and I think I’m going to be on this road for another decade before we get to Dallas.”
“I’ll call you in a little while,” he replied. I went back to losing my game.
A little while later, the Doctor Who theme came out of my pocket.
“Hey, it’s Steve.”
“Hey! How are you?”
“Really good. Listen, we’re writing a scene for you and I wanted your input on it.”
I was taken aback. It’s such an honor and a privilege to work on The Big Bang Theory at all, but to be asked to provide some input into how my scenes are written, especially when the writers there are so goddamned good at what they do, was pretty amazing.
“Sure,” I said. “I am at your service.”
Steve told me about the story arc they were doing with Sheldon accidentally discovering a new element, and how Sheldon was unhappy about it. “We thought it would be nice for Amy to bring you in, to try and cheer him up,” he said, “so I wondered if there was ever anything in your life that you regretted or felt bad about at the time, but you came to accept as a good part of your life.”
Oh, you mean my entire teenage years and my early twenties? I thought.
“Yeah,” I said. “When I was younger, people gave me such a hard time about Wesley Crusher, there was a time in my late teens and early twenties when I resented Star Trek. It felt so unfair that people who had never met me were so cruel and hateful toward me as a person because they didn’t like a character I played on a TV show, I wanted to put Star Trek behind me and forget that it was ever part of my life.
“But as I got older and started to meet more people who were also kids when Next Generation was in its first run, I started to hear these stories from people, about how they had nothing in common with their parents except for Star Trek, and they wouldn’t have watched Star Trek together if Wesley hadn’t been on the show. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve met who are now doctors and engineers and scientists because they were inspired by Wesley and Geordi the way our parents’ generation was inspired by Scotty.”
“That’s wonderful,” Steve said.
“Yeah, it’s really great. You know, my favorite episode of Next Generation is Tapestry, because I fully believe that our lives are a complex tapestry, woven from all our experiences — positive and negative — we have in our lives. There was a time when I really resented Wesley Crusher, but I just love my life now, and instead of feeling like I had to get out of his shadow, I feel like I’m standing proudly on his shoulders.”
“This is exactly what I was hoping for,” he said. “This is going to be such a great scene.”
“If there’s anything I can do, just pick up the phone,” I said.
“I’ll get in touch when we have the scene finished, and I’ll see you in a couple weeks!”
“Awesome. Thanks, man.” I hung up my phone, and looked out at the endless Texas landscape, unchanged in any meaningful way during the phone call.
“Who was that?” Anne asked, waking up from her nap.
“Molaro. He had questions for me for the Big Bang I’m doing when we get home.”
“Can you tell me about it?”
“No, not yet,” I said.
“You’re no fun,” she said.
“I know. I’m the worst.”
I went back to losing my game, Anne looked at her phone, and the van pushed ever onward toward Dallas.
A few weeks later, I got the script for the episode. As always, it arrived late in the evening, the day before the table read. I signed for it, thanked the courier, and ran into my office.
I sat on my couch, tore open the manilla envelope, and began to read. When I got to the scene with Sheldon, Amy, and Wil Wheaton, I read it as an actor: I kept my emotions neutral, and let the characters talk to me. Then, I read it as a fan of the show: I heard the individual voices, and I laughed at the jokes. Then, I read it one final time, as The Guy Who Played Wesley Crusher: I realized that I was going to be on one of the most popular shows in the English-speaking world, saying to anyone who cared to listen, “I’m an author now. I do public speaking, and I have my own web series about boardgames … there was a time when I thought I would never get out of Wesley Crusher’s shadow, but now that’s just a small part of a pretty great life, and it’s a part that I’m glad is there.”
That’s when the tears sprung into my eyes, and the weird mix of joy and something else that wasn’t quite sadness, but had its roots there bloomed in my chest.
I read the rest of the script, and, like I always do, felt like a kid the night before Christmas or his birthday, impatiently waiting for the morning to come.
When I went to the table read the next morning, I was greeted warmly and welcomed by everyone there. When we got to the scene with Sheldon, Amy, and Wil Wheaton, Mayim said Amy’s line, “We’re, uh, trying to cheer him up, so …” and the room exploded into laughter, myself included. Mayim was sitting across from me, and she looked up from her script and said to me, “I’m so sorry. I want you to know that I do not share Amy’s opinion here.” The entire room laughed, again. “I know, it’s okay,” I said. We read the rest of the script, and took a break before we began rehearsal. I found Steve and Bill Prady and some of the other producers, and walked over to them.
“Great job,” Steve said to me.
“I’m not gonna lie,” I said, “I got a little weepy when I read it.” I paused for a second. “Thank you for this.”
“No, thank you for being here.” He said.
“Can I pitch you a joke?” I said.
“Would it be too meta if Wil Wheaton says something about how he gets to guest star on a popular series, but Sheldon doesn’t know what that show is?”
“We thought about something like that,” he said, “but we worried that it may confuse the audience and take them out of the moment. That’s why there’s no reference to you being on Eureka or Leverage or anything like that. We thought it would be simpler and cleaner if our Wil Wheaton doesn’t have the same television acting career that you have.”
“That makes sense,” I said. “And, once again, can I just observe how weird and hilarious it is that there’s your Wil Wheaton, and Wil Wheaton Prime, and they look the same but are very different and I’m both of them?”
We all laughed, and they went back to the writer’s building to do their thing, while I went to the set to do mine.
Over the week of rehearsals, the words never changed in that scene, but my performance did. It was Chuck Lorre who pointed out to me that the sentiment may be very emotional to me, it’s more matter-of-fact to Wil Wheaton the character. When he gave me that perspective, the performance settled into what you saw in the episode.
Like Wil Wheaton said to Sheldon, there was a time when I felt like I’d never get out of Wesley’s shadow, but now I truly am grateful that Wesley Crusher and Star Trek are a part of my life.
Their Wil Wheaton couldn’t say it, but my Wil Wheaton can: Big Bang Theory is a very important part of my personal and professional life, and is one of the reasons I can stand on the shoulders of Star Trek in a way that I thought — well, feared is more accurate — I never would, and I’m incredibly grateful that it’s there. I’m grateful for the friendships I’ve made among the cast, crew, and writers, and I’m grateful for the opportunities it’s given me to work in comedy. Every time I’m there, I learn a little bit more about comedic acting, acting in front of an audience, and acting in a sitcom.
I don’t know what the future of my career holds, but I know that whatever is over the horizon, the road I’ve traveled to get here is like those Interstates in Texas: everything can look the same, and it can feel like you’re not going anywhere, until you suddenly get where you’re going and realize that you’ve been traveling for a long time.
Today’s new Tabletop features two wonderful, fast, easy to learn games that are perfect for family gatherings: Qwirkle and 12 Days.
I love this episode because I got to play with my childhood friend, Meredith Salenger, and my stepson, Nolan. Oh, and Kelly Hu played with us, too, and look at how cool I play it that she was there.
Sweet, Wheaton. You really rocked the cool there. Nicely done.
I just found out about the latest Bundle of Holding, which is a collection of amazing RPGs that you can play with your kids. This is the perfect way to introduce your children to roleplaying games, and you can do it for about five bucks.
Check it out:
Adventurer! The fellowship of Friends and Family brings you a large assortment of tabletop roleplaying games especially designed to introduce young players to the joys of roleplaying. With these .PDF ebooks, parents can teach these introductory games to their kids, and the kids can learn and play some of these games all by themselves. For just US$5.95, you get all the rulebooks in our core collection as DRM-free .PDFs:
- Hero Kids: An ideal introduction to fantasy roleplaying for children aged 4 to 10.
- Mermaid Adventures: Exciting undersea adventures and strange mysteries. (Ages 6-11.)
- The Princes’ Kingdom: Young heirs to the throne of Islandia, visiting the citizens of their land and solving problems. This bundle is the first .PDF version of The Princes’ Kingdom sold anywhere! (Ages 5+, plus an adult.)
- Happy Birthday, Robot!: The charming storytelling game by Daniel Solis for families or classrooms. (Ages 9+ — and especially good for grownups.)
And if you pay more than the threshold price of $13.06, you’ll level up and receive our entire collection of bonus games:
Adventures in Oz – Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road: A loving journey into the lands of L. Frank Baum. (Ages 8+.)
Camp Myth: The RPG: Third Eye’s adaptation of the Chris Lewis Carter YA novel series about mythic creatures at summer camp. (Ages 8-13.)
Project Ninja Panda Taco: Jennifer (Jennisodes) Steen’s game of competing Masterminds and their biddable Minions. (Ages 8+.)
School Daze: It’s high school the way you wish it could be. (Ages 13+.)
The Zorcerer of Zo: Chad Underkoffler’s classic game of fairy tales set in the Zantabulous Land of Zo. (Ages 5+.)
There’s just about 20 hours left on the sale, so get on this while the getting’s good, as they say in those old movies.
I’ve been busy recording audiobooks, including a few of my own. Today, I complete the audio trifecta of Original Wil Wheaton Works Read By Me, Wil Wheaton, with the release of The Happiest Days of Our Lives: The Deluxe Audio Edition.
The text is taken from the special deluxe edition that Subterranean Press published in 2009, and includes several new stories that were not included in the original release, plus introductions to each chapter that provide some additional context and interesting background information.
Here’s how we describe the book, in super-fantastic marketing speak:
Readers of Wil Wheaton’s website know that he is a masterful teller of elegant stories about his life. Building on the critical success of Dancing Barefoot and Just A Geek, he has collected more of his own favorite stories in his third book, The Happiest Days of Our Lives.
These are the stories Wil loves to tell, because they are the closest to his heart: stories about being a huge geek, passing his geeky hobbies and values along to his own children, and vividly painting what it meant to grow up in the ’70s and come of age in the ’80s as part of the video game/D&D/BBS/Star Wars figures generation.
Within the pages of The Happiest Days of Our Lives, you will find:
- “The Butterfly Tree”: how one Back to School night continues to shape Wil’s sense of social justice, thirty years later;
- “Blue Light Special”: the greatest challenge a ten year-old could face in 1982: save his allowance, or buy Star Wars figures?
- “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Geek”: why fantasy role-playing games are such an important part of Wil’s past – and his present;
- “The Big Goodbye”: a visit to Paramount gives Wheaton a second chance to say farewell to Star Trek . . . properly, this time;
- “Let Go”: a moving eulogy for a beloved friend.
In all of these tales, Wheaton brings the reader into the raw heart of the story, holding nothing back, and you are invited to join him on a journey through The Happiest Days of Our Lives.
Pretty swell, right? Yeeeaahhh.
As with Dancing Barefoot and Just A Geek, you can stream the entire book from the website.
Okay, so here’s the thing that’s kind of cool, I think: Bandcamp makes it very easy for me to sell merchandise, in addition to audio files, and because I have some copies of the Special Deluxe Edition in my home office, I’m going to offer a very limited number of them for sale.
There are 20 signed and numbered copies available, and 30 signed and not numbered copies available, so if that’s something you or someone you know would like, grab whatever you want while it’s there. If you get your order placed in the next 24 hours, it should get to you in time for Christmas (in the US, I don’t know about the rest of the world — which I’ve just realized is one of the most cliche American things I could ever say.)
When I was little, like, really little, before my brother was born in 1976, my parents were really into Elton John. One of my earliest childhood memories is sitting in the living room of our tiny house in the valley (where it was still all farmland), listening to Captain Fantastic and Goodbye Yellowbrick Road and Madman Across The Water while I sat on the yellow shag carpeting, and my parents sat on the black and white checkered couch.
When I was that little, I didn’t know the words, or what they meant, or anything, really (I was 4, after all), but sometimes, I play those albums, and Caribou and Honky Chateau, and I have this sense memory that feels like a security blanket that I can’t see, or touch, but is there nevertheless.
Tonight’s been one of those nights.
When I was writing my first book, Just A Geek, I ended up with a lot of stories that just didn’t fit within the narrative. I didn’t know what to do with them, until my friend and editor, Andrew, said, “Why don’t you put them in their own book?”
I was hesitant, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was a very good idea, so that’s what I did. I asked my friend Ben to draw some illustrations to keep the stories company, and I published it all on my own, before Just A Geek was even completely finished. The book is called Dancing Barefoot.
After I released the audio versions of Just a Geek and The Happiest Days of Our Lives, a lot of people asked me when I was going to do an audio version of Dancing Barefoot, to round out what I’ve just decided to call a trilogy. The truth is, I never intended to do an audio version of it, because I felt like I’d grown as a writer since it was published, and it would sound and feel strange to revisit that book without wanting to rewrite the whole thing.
But something really changed in me when I turned 40 last year, and I stopped worrying so much about things like that. I accepted that it was the best I could do then, and even if it’s a little rough around the edges, it’s because I made it that way.
So about a month ago, I booked some studio time with my favorite audiobook producers, and finally recorded an audio version of Dancing Barefoot.
It felt a little strange to record something I wrote over a decade ago, as I was entering my thirties, and looking into my past in order to understand my future. It was written during a tumultuous and uncertain time, when I was struggling so much just to make it month to month. Reading it now, knowing what my future actually held, both wonderful and terrible, made it a more emotional experience than I expected.
I had this weird sense of nostalgia as I read it, like nesting dolls: I remembered the stories that I told, I remembered writing them down on my blog for the first time, then editing them into Dancing Barefoot for the first time, and then shipping thousands of books around the world, out of my living room. I remembered how excited I felt when Anne and I opened the first box of books when they were delivered from the printer, and how happy it still makes me feel when someone hands me one of those books to sign for them.
Real quick, before I get to the link for the album, I want to say something to those of you who have been here for a decade, especially those of you who bought Dancing Barefoot so long ago: Thank you. Without your support then, I wouldn’t be here now. There’s a straight line between you buying that book from me, and me working on Eureka, Big Bang Theory, Leverage, and everything else. There’s an even shorter, straighter line between me shipping that book to you from my living room floor, to me writing all my other books, magazine columns, and posts of varying quality on this blog.
F. Scott Fitzgerald is credited with declaring that “there are no second acts in American lives,” and before I began this journey a little over a decade ago, I believed him. But because I people like you kept coming back to read my blog, kept coming to see me perform on stage, and bought my books when I published them, I feel like I may be one of the exceptions to that rule.
I’m incredibly grateful for the life that I have now, the life that I worked so hard to build. Every single day, I’m afraid that I’m going to wake up and discover that it’s just a dream, or a cruel trick in some episode of The Twilight Zone. I worked really hard for what I have now, but I didn’t do it alone. People I’ll never meet took a chance on me and made it possible for me to do what I’m doing now, and I can’t thank you enough.
Okay, I’m rambling, so I’ll just get out of the way. Here’s the product information:
It’s available now on my Bandcamp page, you can listen to the entire thing there for free, or you can buy it for $10 though the weekend, before it goes up to $20 next week. It includes a digital booklet with all the illustrations Ben did, scanned by me from my original author’s copy of the book.
Here’s the description:
Available for the first time in audio, read by the author.
In this wonderful Freshman effort, actor and author Wil Wheaton shares five short-but-true stories about life in the so-called Space Age:
Houses in Motion – Memories fill the emptiness left within a childhood home, and saying goodbye brings them to life.
Ready Or Not Here I Come – A game of hide-n-seek with the kids works as a time machine, taking Wil on a tour of the hiding and seeking of years gone by.
Inferno – Two 15-year-olds pass in the night leaving behind pleasant memories and a perfumed Car Wars Deluxe Edition Box Set.
We Close Our Eyes – A few beautiful moments spent dancing in the rain.
The Saga of SpongeBob VegasPants – A story of love, hate, laughter and the acceptance of all things Trek.
I recently worked on an upcoming video game from Double Fine, called Broken Age. I got to play a really fun character, and I had a super good time working with one of my favorite directors in the industry.
Double Fine announced my participation in a video that includes some shots of me recording, and the response from people who chose to respond was overwhelmingly positive.
Earlier this morning, the following Tweets appeared in my timeline, back to back:
When I was younger, I would have completely ignored the first one, and obsessively focused on the second one to the point of feeling shitty about myself. Part of having Imposter Syndrome is believing that people who praise you are dupes, while the people who criticize you can actually see through everything. But the thing is, the guy who isn’t thrilled has every right to feel that way, and I don’t take it personally. Not everyone digs what I do and what I bring to a project, and that’s totally cool. At the same time, it’s also pretty awesome that a lot of people do dig what I bring to a project, and that is also cool.
Consider this, about having perspective on criticism: If you enjoyed making a thing, and you’re proud of the thing you made, that’s enough. Not everyone is going to like it, and that’s okay. And sometimes, a person who likes your work and a person who don’t will show up within milliseconds of each other to let you know how they feel. One does not need to cancel out the other, positively or negatively; if you’re proud of the work, and you enjoyed the work, that is what’s important.Don’t let the fear of not pleasing someone stop you from being creative.
The goal isn’t to make something everyone will love; the goal is to get excited, and make a thing where something wasn’t before.