Category Archives: blog

How I spent my Comicon

I spent five days at Comicon this year, and discovered a new level of exhaustion and fatigue every day, surpassing the level I’d discovered the day before. By the time I was finally on the train back home, I had reached a point of burn out that I never though I’d experience: I pretty much don’t want to go to Comicon any more, because it’s stopped being fun for me.

Wednesday, we got on a much-delayed train (tragically, a northbound train hit a woman up near Ventura, so the southbound train was delayed by almost three hours) and headed down for Hop-Con at Stone’s Liberty Station. We celebrated the launch of w00tstout 2.0, and tapped some awesome limited collaboration brews, including my own white sage IPA, called the Tao of Sage. Much fun was had, and I drank as much beer as I’ve ever had in my life. I’m not sure how it got away from me so quickly (I suspect it was the 13.5% w00tstout on cask with s’mores) but my wife had to literally roll me into bed, because I sort of overdid it. Lesson learned, I woke up Thursday morning without a hangover (Anne says she kept giving me water) and vowed to institute Operation: Beer Just Drink One for the rest of the con (a quest I completed, I’m happy to note).

Thursday night, we did w00tstock 6.0. It was a great show, with some standout performances by Mega Ran, Marian Call, and Thomas Lennon. Craig Ferguson even came by to make jokes.

I always want to perform something new at w00tstock, but I’ve been so busy with The Wil Wheaton Project, I haven’t had time to write anything that isn’t specifically for the show. I had some stuff in my pocket that hadn’t been performed for w00tstock before, though, so I went with my story Blue Light Special, from The Happiest Days of Our Lives. It felt like a little bit of a cheat to me, but the audience loved it, and I had a hell of a good time performing it.

After the show was over, we tried to go to the Geek & Sundry lounge, but upon discovering that the rest of the world was there, in a room that I’m fairly sure was 500° Kelvin and 812% humidity, we ended up going back to our hotel, crashing into bed, and sleeping for almost 10 hours.

This was a theme for me at Comicon this year, and it’s probably the only reason I was able to survive it (emotionally and physically): I didn’t stay up too late, I didn’t overdo anything, and I made sure that I got to sleep as much as I needed, on every night that it was possible to do that.

Friday morning, I went down to the convention center and actually went inside for the first time. I was a surprise guest on the Big Bang Theory writer’s panel, and we showed a trailer for the imaginary film Serial Apeist 2: Monkey See, Monkey Kill. The audience loved it, and they really seemed to be happy that I was there, which made me feel good.

Friday night, I took a crew from The Wil Wheaton Project to Syfy’s Sharknado 2 party, where we made some funny stuff together. Some of it made it into this week’s show, if you’re into that.

Sidebar: How much fun was Sharknado 2?! I love that everyone in the film’s universe just accepts that there can be a massive shark-infested weather event, and then stuff happens. I also noticed that, according to some Twitter thing, I was the second most prolific Sharknado 2 Twittering person, behind the official account. I’m, uh, I’m not going to try to pretend that I’m not proud of that.

Saturday, we went back to the convention center, where Anne did a signing at Cupcake Quarterly, a really cool nerdy pin-up magazine that our friend publishes. After dropping her off, I tried my best to get through the con floor to visit some of my friends, and this is where I discovered that, maybe, I just can’t enjoy Comicon like I used to.

I realize that I’m on television every week, and even though that audience is smaller than we all hoped it would be (turns out promotion off the network is kind of important), that audience is maybe, um, oversampled at Comicon. There’s also the whole Big Bang Theory thing, and Tabletop is pretty popular with my people … so on the one hand, it was really exciting and awesome to meet so many people who love the shows I make as much as I do, and I tried to take pictures and stuff with as many people as I could, but I quickly learned that there’s no such thing as “just one quick selfie”.  I hate telling people no when they ask, but if I said yes to one person, that person quickly became ten people, and then a small crowd formed. I got a little panicky once, when I was literally surrounded, but everyone I interacted with was kind and understanding, and with the help of my friend Shawn, I was able to make it across the floor to visit with some people I don’t get to see as often as I’d like.

So, before I continue: I know this is a #firstworldproblem and a #celebrityproblem and whatever else you want to say about it. I get that, and I know that from a business position it’s an amazing problem to have. From a human being perspective, though, it’s a bummer, because I couldn’t wander the floor and look at art and talk to comic creators, because whenever I stopped  I got sort of mobbed, even with my friend doing his best to keep an eye on me. I suppose I could be one of those people with a couple of security goons, but that seems even worse. If I do go back next year, I think I’ll have to cosplay in a full mask or something, which is weird, but at least I’ll get a chance to maybe pick up some cool art and books.

After Anne was done signing, I did a quick interview for Rotten Tomatoes, and then we spent a little bit of time at a really nice cocktail party that Bill Prady has every year. Finally, I got to see a lot of my friends all in one place, and that was really nice.

Before we knew it, it was time for the Geek & Sundry panel, which I had to leave early because I had to get up to a theatre a couple miles away from the convention center to perform in the Welcome To Night Vale / Thrilling Adventure Hour crossover show.

“You look exhausted,” Ben Blacker (Thrilling Adventure co-writer) said to me when he saw me backstage.

“I am,” I said, “and I’m soaked through because of the humidity, but I’m really glad to be here for this show.”

I looked around the backstage area, and took in the curtain, the lights, the prop boxes, and all of the things that I only see backstage in a theater. I heard some of the other actors running their lines out on the stage, and flipped through my script to catch up to them.

“I’m so happy to be here, though, because I feel like I’m back in my element as a performer, back where I belong, back where I’m doing actual work, instead of being ‘that guy from TV’.” I wiped sweat off my face and took a deep breath. “It’s like I’ve been doing hundreds of performances for an audience of one for the last few days, and I’m looking forward to doing one performance for an audience of whatever fits in this theater.”

“I get that,” he said.

“I feel like it’ll be rejuvenating,” I said.

“That’s awesome,” he said, “and you’re up on the next page.”

I walked up to the mic and joined the rehearsal. It took me a few tries to find the character, but with the help of Ben Blacker and his co-writer Ben Acker, I brought the omniscient galactic being S’Tonge to life in a way that was incredibly fun and deeply satisfying. And not for nothing, I got to be in Welcome to Night Vale and The Thrilling Adventure Hour on the same stage in the same show, and I never thought I’d get to do that.

When the show was over, I thanked everyone for having me, found my wife, and went back to our hotel.

“I have found a new level of tired that I didn’t know existed,” I said, in the elevator.

“You said that yesterday,” she said.

“I know.” I said.

We went to sleep, and got up early Sunday morning so I could make it to Nerd HQ for a panel with Felicia. After that panel ended, Anne and I were rushed to the train station in a freaking golf cart motorcade — for reals — and a few hours later, were back in our house. The dogs were extremely excited to see us, and even the cats couldn’t pretend that they didn’t give a fuck about us for very long.

I unpacked my suitcase and repacked it with clean clothes, because the next day, Anne took me away for my birthday, which I’ll write about later.

this is why i’m weird about comic-con

I’m packing for Comic-Con, finalizing my set for w00tstock, getting all kinds of excited for Syfy’s Sharknado 2 party on Friday night, and locking down my character choices for the Welcome to Night Vale / Thrilling Adventure Hour crossover show on Saturday night.

I fold some jeans and put them into my suitcase and think to myself, “this is weird. I don’t feel panicky about Comic-Con at all.”

So, of course, my brain goes, “well, let me fix that for you” and I feel the nauseating well of panic swell up in my chest. My arms feel fifty feet long, my hands get cold and numb, and I realize that I’ve been clenching my jaw for several minutes. My ears actually pop when I release it.

Depression and anxiety are awesome*.

So I’m genuinely excited for all the cool things I will get to do this year, and I’m genuinely excited to be, at least in some fashion, a representative for Syfy, Geek & Sundry, and myself. I’m excited to see neat cosplay, visit with friends who I don’t get to see as often as I’d like, and for some things to happen that I can’t talk about in public at the moment.

… but occasionally things like this happen at Comic-Con, and then I get scared and overwhelmed, and don’t want to go outside.

I’ll do my best to be awesome, but if you see me at Comic-con, and I seem a little weird or off to you, this is probably why.

*not actually awesome

this is how we do it

I’ve been getting up earlier than my body wants to on Monday mornings for almost two months, now, and I’m still not used to it. I mean, I don’t feel like I’m upside down in a pool filled with goo, but I’m still a little slow and easily confused until I get my CON and DEX bonuses from my morning coffee.

I don’t know if I’ve talked about this, but the way we put The Wil Wheaton Project together goes something like this:

We have a great staff of associate producers, researchers, and staff writers who are responsible for certain shows. We do our best to assign shows to each other that we wouldn’t normally be watching, so that we all bring different perspectives to the shows that we cover. All of us are constantly on the lookout for stories, videos, cats, and things that would probably be interesting and/or amusing to our audience, and we have a private mailing list for that.

We take all that research, and have a couple of creative meetings during the week that helps us narrow down what we’re going to do on the next episode (tonight, we air S01E08, which we call 108, so we’re working on 109 this week).

On Thursday, there’s a thing called a clip meeting, where everyone gets together to look at clips that have been gathered, along with some jokes or insights or other commentary that may go with those clips.

On Friday, I come into the office for a table read of the script with a the senior producers, and we all work on figuring out what sorts of jokes we’re going to do, and how the show is going to come together. We usually leave the office very, very late on Fridays.

Over the weekend, we watch all of our weekend shows, and keep looking for box office news for movies that are in our world. Then, at are-you-fucking-serious o’clock on Monday morning, the producers and editors put together material from those weekend shows. Around 8am, I head into the office and look at everything they’ve been working on, and we make a final decision on what’s going to fill out act one of the show.

Usually, we have three bits in act one that are more or less locked in, and we add up to three more based on that early Monday work.

After a bit of work on Monday morning, we all head to our studio and tape the show. It’s usually done in the very early afternoon, at which point the network executives and our executives get to work on putting together the final cut of the show, which is sent into space and then down to New York for broadcast about 30 hours after I walk out of the studio.

It’s not as harrowing as I imagine @Midnight must be, but we all work very hard without ever feeling like we have as much time as we want, and I’m super proud of the work we’ve been delivering since episode 104, which is when I think we finally found ourselves and started making the show that I hope we’ll get to make for at least another year.

So, I want you to know this about tonight’s episode: yesterday, we built act one from the ground up. We didn’t keep anything that we had planned to put there, and a few people — including our amazing editors — worked their asses off to build the longest act of the show, the most important act of the show, in just a few hours, when all of us are at our most exhausted. And get this: we ended up having to cut some things that we really liked from the first act, because it was too long! I’m intensely proud of the team I get to work with, and so grateful for the privilege of working with them, and what we did as a single unit yesterday is a very big reason why.

 

there are four things

We taped a great episode of The Wil Wheaton Project yesterday, that I’m super excited to see tonight. We wrote some stuff that I think is really funny, and I had all kinds of fun when we were in front of the audience. Tonight’s Wil Wheaton Project is on at 9pm Eastern on Syfy. Next week, the network is moving us back to 10pm, after Face Off, which I was disappointed to learn is not a show where puppets reenact the classic Nic Cage / John Travolta film.

Starting today, I’m working on the audiobook for John Scalzi’s Lock In, which is a really fantastic story, until the end of the week, when I get three days to prepare for everything I’m doing at Comicon next week, including W00tstock and Hop-Con.

Speaking of Hop-Con, Anne and I got our hands on a case of w00tstout 2.0 yesterday, and I’m happy to report that it’s just as good as we knew it would be. It also is a great way to ensure you don’t feel your face, if you’re not careful.

Finally, Anne wrote and produced a wonderful video for the Pasadena Humane Society, starring Marlowe and Seamus, which I think you’ll enjoy:

 

 

 

No, that’s not me on Instagram

Someone is impersonating me (or at least trying to mislead people into thinking he/she/it is me) on Instagram. This person is using my Twitter avatar, my bio, and generally causing a lot of confusion.

I tried to report the profile to Instagram, and Instagram told me that to complete the report, I would have to send a scan of my government-issued identification.

Fuck. That.

So: I can’t get the account taken down, but that’s not me on Instagram. Tell your friends. Or don’t. I’m not the boss of you.

Schrödinger’s Nielsen Box

The last three episodes of The Wil Wheaton Project (105, 106, 107) are pretty much what I wanted this show to be all along. I feel like it’s a good blend of irreverence, silliness, cleverness, and actual information that’s entertaining and interesting. We’ve had some great guests drop in, and our original creations (our silly TV theme songs, games like How Will They Bite It?) are landing on the audience exactly the way we hoped that they would.

As far as I can tell, the people who watch the show are having a good time with it, and the feedback I’ve been getting has been overwhelmingly positive. This makes me happy, because I’m making the show that I want to make, and the people who are watching it seem to enjoy that.

So, creatively, I’m very happy.

Our ratings are okay, but not great. We are building on our lead in, which is good, and people are watching the whole show, which is also good, but it’s discouraging that more people aren’t watching something that I’m really proud of.

I’ve done just about everything I can to convince the network to make it easier to watch online, but I’m just getting a runaround that ends with a whole lot of audience that probably would add to our ratings just going to YouTube or Pirate Bay to watch us. I’m happy that people are finding and enjoying the show, but I’m disappointed that our network isn’t making it easier for those people to be counted in a way that would help us get renewed for more episodes.

I made a decision two weeks ago, after 106 didn’t do as well as I hoped it would, to not care about the ratings any more. They matter only because it’s part of some inscrutable formula some people in a building in New York use to determine if we get to make more than 12 episodes, and those numbers are a distraction from the creative process for me.

As it stands right now, we’ll get to do at least five more episodes. After that, my long range sensors can’t get  a signal. I could spend a lot of time worrying about our ratings, but the fact is that people tune in or they don’t. The network has to promote the show in a smart way that gets people interested in us, and we have to make a show that those people enjoy enough to stick around and watch.

So I’m going to stay focused on the creative side of things, and work with an incredibly talented, smart, and funny team of writers and producers to make a show that we are proud of, that we can stand by.

Whether that’s for five more or thirty more is currently in Schrödinger’s Nielsen Box.

 

epic level homebrewing

I was the very particular kind of tired, bordering on exhaustion, where I felt dizzy, disoriented, a little nauseous, and clumsy. It was like being drunk without any of the fun.

I stumbled from my bedroom to my kitchen in the predawn darkness, and somehow made myself a cup of coffee. I stood at the back patio door and watched the glow of the sunrise begin to touch the eastern sky, sipping my mug of wake-up-Wil-it’s-going-to-be-a-long-day juice.

I’m sure normal people get up before dawn every day. I’m sure normal people sleep less than five hours a night all the time. It turns out that I am not a normal person, and after less than ten hours of sleep over the previous 48 hours, as well as back-to-back 18 hour work days, I was a little sideways.

It would all be worth it, though. I was up so early because Anne and I were heading down to San Diego to make a special beer with my friends at Stone Brewing’s Liberty Station.

We drove to Union Station to catch our 6am train. We got there so early, the parking lots hadn’t even opened up yet. That seems like something Amtrak may want to look at.

Once we were in the station, we noticed that it has been vastly improved since we were last there, about a year ago. It’s clean, it’s well lit, and there were a number of good food options that had never been there before.

We found our train, boarded it, and I fell asleep before it even left the station. During the nearly three hour trip, I woke up a couple times when my head did that “fall down onto your chest and wake you up” thing, and when we got to San Diego around 9am, I was delirious and had a sore neck. Awesome.

Our friend Tyler, who works for Stone, picked us up and took us to Liberty Station, where I was introduced to Kris Ketcham, who is the head brewer there. Liberty Station is a little different from the main brewery in Escondido. It’s a smaller, 10 barrel system, and Kris can create and brew beers that are quite different from the things Stone is typically known for releasing. Later this month, we’re having a beer celebration at Liberty Station called Hop Con, and in addition to releasing w00tstout 2.0 there, we’re also releasing three special collaboration beers that Kris made with Rileah Vanderbilt, Bobak Ferdowsi, and me. I can’t say with Rileah and Bobak made, but I made a white sage IPA, inspired by Craftsman Brewing’s legendary Triple White Sage.

While Kris prepared some of the things we’d be using, I drank approximately sixty-one gallons of coffee, and ate a little breakfast. The caffeine, food energy, and overwhelming excitement I felt about brewing gave me access to an energy reserve that I didn’t know I had, and I didn’t feel even a little bit tired, once we started milling our grains.

When I’ve brewed at the Escondido brewhouse, it’s been really fun, and brewing on such a large scale is vastly different from what I do when I make beer at my house. I’m not as intimately involved, because I don’t need to be; computers and the equipment handle most of the work. But at Liberty Station, we worked on a 10 barrel system (that’s about 3500 bottles of beer if I did the math right) that was much more like epic level homebrewing.

Kris and I hauled something like sixteen 55 pound sacks of grain up some stairs and poured them into the mill so we could mash them. Then we collected all the various hops we’d be using, and weighed them out by hand. Finally, while we were mashing in (adding hot water and milled grains to the mash tun, where we turn water and grains into beer wort), I got to use a giant mash paddle to stir it all around. One of the things I love about brewing is how little the process has changed in hundreds of years, and I genuinely loved standing over a big kettle, stirring water and grains the same way a brewmaster would have in the eighteenth century. I was also grateful to not have to worry about that century’s infectious diseases.

Over the course of the day, I made beer with Kris exactly the same way I make beer by myself or with friends on my patio, but instead of making 5 gallons of beer, I made several hundred gallons of beer. The experience was really awesome, even though it was physically tiring to move so much heavy equipment and ingredients around.

When we were done cleaning up everything, we sat outside and had a celebratory beer with a light dinner. About halfway through our meal, my lack of sleep and days of intense work caught up with me, and I felt like I was going to fall asleep at the table. Kris drove us back to the train station, and I again fell asleep before the train even began to move.

I’m very lucky that I get to do the things that I do, and I’m grateful that all the hard work I’ve put into my life allows me to do these super fun and awesome things.

 

Oh, hi, I’m still twelve years old.

I’ve been organizing my game room, and finally addressing the hundreds of billions of Star Trek things I own, including lots of action figures.

I came across one of my Riker figures, and realized something…

They want you to use his poseable arms to hold his awesome phaser, like this:

Riker with his phaser

But this is how it always ended up on my bookshelves:

Riker with his little captain

Because if you’re going to make an action figure that can be posed in ways that make us go hurr hurr hurr, we’re going to do it.

Riker taking care of business

It’s important to be easily amused.