Category Archives: blog

In Which I Interview Patton Oswalt for Playboy

This is a big deal for me. A few months ago, my friend introduced me to Marc Bernardin, who is a new editor for Playboy. My friend told me that Marc is helping bring back the kind of writing that Playboy had in the 70s and 80s, when it was held up next to Esquire, Vanity Fair, and Rolling Stone. They both thought that I should become a contributor, and be part of that effort.

It was an incredible honor when Marc asked me to interview Patton Oswalt for The Playboy Conversation, and I’m really happy with how this turned out. Here’s an excerpt.

Geographically, Los Angeles isn’t that big. In fact, we say that pretty much everything, from The Valley to the South Bay is about a 20-minute drive, until you account for the traffic. It’s just past eleven in the morning, and I’m stuck on Highland, just six miles (but almost 22 minutes) away from my destination, because I didn’t account for the traffic.

I call my assistant and ask her to “let them know that I’m stuck in traffic, and I’ll be there as soon as I can.” She calls me back a few minutes later and tells me that everything’s okay. “Patton’s already there, so just drive safely and get there when you can.”

I try and fail to be patient. I can’t make the traffic move faster any more than I can go back in time to take a different route to Hollywood from The Valley, but I’m late, and the only thing I hate more than waiting for someone is making someone wait for me.

Twenty-five minutes later (parking is a bitch in Hollywood) I walk into BLD restaurant on Beverly. I look around and find Patton, sitting at a small table, facing the door, sipping from a mug while he looks at his phone.

“I’m so sorry to keep you waiting,” I say.

He looks up, cradling his mug in one hand. “It’s okay. Is everything alright?”

“Yeah,” I say, sitting down. “There was construction on Barham and an accident on the 101 and–”

“And you’re fucked,” he says.

“Pretty much,” I say. The waitress comes by and I order some coffee. I pull out my recorder, and set it on the table between us.

Where do I start? I’ve known Patton Oswalt for almost 15 years, though we’ve never been particularly close. When our orbits intersect — most frequently at Comic-Con or in the lobby of a theatre in Los Angeles — we talk for a few moments before going on our respective ways, until we meet again. I like Patton, and we’re friendly, but we’re not friends. This isn’t the first time I’ve interviewed someone, but the uncertain intimacy between us, combined with my general anxiousness about being late, has made me a little off balance. Whether he senses this or not, I don’t know, but Patton takes the pressure off.
PATTON OSWALT: So you’re interviewing me for Playboy?
WIL WHEATON: Yeah. And I’m not going to lie; I think it’s pretty cool. It’s such an interesting part of our culture. Magazines like Playboy are so different to the current generation than they were to ours. Like, if you want to look at boobs today, you just go to the internet, but when we were younger, we had to, like, actually find a magazine, find that one kid who for whatever reason, had an older brother or something who got it.
PATTON: I think I actually wrote a thing for Playboy about telling the new generation buy Playboys and go leave them in the woods, just so those kids can still, it gets them out of the house. I think I actually wrote that down for them. Gets them out of the house. Because the sense of that quest, it doesn’t really exist anymore. Not only the quest, but the currency. Now you’re the kid that has a Playboy: What can you trade for it? What can you get for it, you know?

(My friends and I hid  a Playboy in a tree, covered up with some rocks, in the wash behind our house. I remember that the playmate of the month was Hope Marie Carlton, and the Internet tells me that that means we had the July 1985 issue.) The waitress comes back, and sets a small press pot down in front of it. It probably has three cups in it. “Would you like to order some breakfast?”

I look at Patton. “Yes, I’ll have the huevos,” he says.

I order the first thing that I see on the menu. “Blueberry pancakes, with a side of bacon or sausage.”

She writes on her notepad, stops, and looks at me. “Did you want bacon or sausage?”

I notice that she has blue eyes, and is pretty. She has a cool tattoo on her left forearm. “I don’t care. You choose.” I hope I’m not being flirty. That happens sometimes when I’m nervous.

You can read the rest, where we talk about Twitter, fatherhood, stand-up comedy, The Interview, and his new book, Silver Screen Fiend, at (the site is probably NSFW, but the page where our conversation lives is SFW)

a brief history of Radio Free Burrito

Way back in 2005, when I was trying to figure out where the next mortgage payment would come from, I tried just about anything creative that I could think of to help support my family.

Mostly, I did that by writing. I did columns and freelance work, and wrote a few books. It was creatively satisfying, and it helped us get through each day, then each week, and eventually through a few years.

Way back in 2005, the whole podcasting thing was just getting started, and I saw an opportunity to live out my childhood dream of having a radio show (in fact, even earlier in the 2000s, I had done a live broadcast where I played music and did my best DJ impression. I had to give it up for reasons that are lost to history). Just as blogging tools like Greymatter and Blogger had made it easy for me to become a self-published writer, Garageband made it easy for me to become a self-published radio sort of guy. Back then, I felt incredibly guilty if I did something or spent money on something that was just for fun, without also supporting my family. I couldn’t really afford to do a radio show or podcast just for fun, but maybe I could get sponsors or sell ads or take donations or whatever.

So way back in 2005, Radio Free Burrito was born. It never really helped me support my family, but it helped me find some more creative confidence, and it gave me an opportunity to pretend I was one of those late night DJs I grew up loving, listening to on a tiny transistor radio in my bedroom long after I was supposed to have gone to sleep.

I did Radio Free Burrito with some regularity for several years, trying my best to stick to a weekly schedule, but since this was back before I got treated for Depression, it was really, really hard to stick to it. I put a lot of work into each episode, and sometime around 2008, it just felt like it wasn’t worth the effort.

But something happened around the end of 2009. I don’t remember what it was, but — wait. I think I know what it was. I think that’s when I finally got treated for Depression.

Huh. That’s weird. I hadn’t really put these two things together until just now. Which is ironic, because I’ve been struggling to hold a pretty bad Depression and Anxiety thing at arm’s length for at least a week.

ANYway, around the end of 2009, I found a groove, and I got comfortable with the sound of my own stupid voice. Radio Free Burrito hit what I’ll call its golden age during 2010, and I looked forward to it so much, I started another podcast to support my book Memories of the Future, Volume 1.

After almost a year of consistent releases, my life started to really turn around. Not to mistake correlation for causation, but this was when I started to work like crazy as an actor again. I think it was around 2011 that I started working on Leverage, then Eureka, then Big Bang Theory, and then Tabletop was born. As much as I had loved working on the Burrito every week, I actually didn’t have a lot of time to spend on it, and since I felt like it never really passed more than a couple hundred listeners, anyway, I had to make a choice to let it go and invest my time and creative energy in other places.

The last show I did was in February of 2013. People asked me about it all the time, but I was pretty sure that Radio Free Burrito was done.

Until this weekend, when I had an idea.

See, I’ve been listening to Serial and Snap Judgment and 99% Invisible and Nerdist and Dan Carlin.  Thanks to all of that, something landed in my brain and refused to leave. See, I’m sort of between big projects at the moment (finishing Tabletop and getting started on our RPG spinoff), and I think that The Thing I’m Going To Do Between Things is Radio Free Burrito. I don’t know if I’ll be able to stay on a weekly schedule, but I think I can. I think that, if I remember that the point is not to make something perfect, but is actually to just make a thing, I’ll enjoy it, and maybe a couple hundred people will enjoy it with me.

So yesterday, I did a brand new Radio Free Burrito. It isn’t great, but it isn’t terrible, and it’s a thing where there wasn’t a thing before. I had fun when I was making it, and all I’ve been able to think about since I made it was what I’m going to do when I make the next one, which is pretty cool.

I won’t do this with every episode, but I wanted to share it and its show notes, here on the mothership, so as many people as possible can know about it.

Well, it looks like we’re really back, for reals, and on an actual schedule. Welcome to Radio Free Burrito Episode 35 – Ring of Fire

This week, I talk about the first thing to come to my mind, including trains and books. I tell a pretty gross story that gives the episode its title. This will also be the first episode that has an actual name, because some day I’d like to come up with something as magnificent as #Torsoshorts.

Okay, that’s everything. Please enjoy Radio Free Burrito Episode 35 – Ring of Fire.

Radio Free Burrito’s Experimental Episode

I had an idea, so I tried it out. I’m publishing it now, before I have a chance to back out and change my mind.

  • Show Notes:
  • The audio isn’t perfectly clean. That is by design. This is an experiment.
  • Radio Free Burrito doesn’t work as hard as Memories of the Futurecast did to earn its NSFW rating, but listener discretion is still advised.
  • If you want to introduce yourself, join this post. Maybe you’ll make a new friend.
  • The theme music was just called “flight.mp3″ and I have no idea where it came from.
  • There’s no art, because it’s an experimental episode.
  • I’m not sure if this will work with typical podcast clients. Apologies in advance if it isn’t available in your preferred thing.
  • The episode is 19.26 and is 28MB.

Enjoy the Burrito!

If the embeded player doesn’t work, try this link: RFB-Experimental

as you were, as you want me to be

The kitchen is a disaster, but we earned it. The dishwasher is full of plates that were full of a delicious feast just 24 hours ago. The sink is full of dishes that won’t fit into the dishwasher, on account of that feast.

For the last few days, my house has been filled with the love and warmth of my family, the warmth and comfort of a roaring fire, and the delicious smells of roasting turkey, baking bread, and the faintest hint of the Christmas tree in our living room.

What passes for winter has arrived in Los Angeles, and while the sun does its best to warm us, a gentle but persistent chill wind consistently blows most of the warmth away. Our dogs are extra snuggly, and more reluctant than usual to get out of bed. The cats are tucking themselves into us when we’re on the couch, even though they don’t want food.

I needed the break from everything, this Christmas. I needed to force myself to stop working, to feel free to goof off. I played Rock Band for the first time in about a year. I watched several movies. I caught up on Mad Men and some other series. I have a stack of comics that have been piling up for months, that I’m dying to get into … but when I read, my mind drifts and does its best to write its own things, to tell its own stories. My notebook of ideas is slowly filling up again.

I texted a friend, who worked with me on the Wil Wheaton Project, and told him that I’m having a great time editing Tabletop, and that writing for the RPG show is awesome. “I’m so happy just writing and not being on camera,” I said. Maybe I’m ready to semi-retire from on-camera work. I don’t know.

The house is currently quiet and empty, except for me and the dogs. Ryan’s coming over to play Splendor in a little while, and Anne and I are going to the hockey game tonight.

I should take a shower, but I have this amazing bedhead, and I haven’t been able to bring myself to murder it with water.

I have a lot of creative ideas that are pulling me in a lot of different directions. I want to make a lot of things, and I can’t seem to pick one and go with it until it’s done … which means that I’ll need to just make a decision and do it.

It’s time to get back to work. It’s time to get disciplined. It’s time to make things. It’s time to write.

But first, I have to clean up the kitchen.

experiencing the social part of social media

I spent much of today going through last night’s post comments, and making sure that people I’d inadvertently blocked on Twitter were unblocked.

But, uh, the thing is … after going through about 250 links, I’d only actually blocked three of them. Everyone else was “just in case” or something like that. I thought, gee, maybe I didn’t make the instructions for finding out if you’d been blocked clear enough.

But the other thing is, I ain’t even mad. Because I did that today, I saw a couple hundred real people’s faces, and got a tiny little glimpse into what all of those people have been doing with their lives. It made me feel connected in an unexpected way (it put the “social” in “social media”), and though it was time consuming, it turned out to be a nice way to take a break from doing actual work.

And it gave me an idea: Why don’t you introduce yourself to me and other WWdN readers?

Leave a comment in this post that tells us a little bit about yourself, if you feel comfortable sharing that sort of thing. Don’t post personal stuff that could be too revealing or hurt your privacy, but maybe share your first name, if you’re married, have kids, what sort of work you do, and maybe something that you like.

The idea is that, when you see the actual, real, human person behind a screen name or twitter handle or whatever, it’s a tangible reminder that we are all people on the other end of the connection. We’re people with families and jobs and hobbies and passions and hopes and fears and we all live on the same piece of rock, hurtling through space.

Of course, you don’t have to do this, and I can’t stress enough how important it is that you protect your personal information, but since I enjoyed the social experience of feeling connected to actual humans, maybe you will, too.

Or maybe you won’t. I’m not the boss of you.

worst. theme. ever.

I really hate this theme, but I broke Twenty Fourteen when I upgraded WordPress, and I don’t have time to fix it at the moment.

So, for now at least, enjoy the ugly.

there were loose threads…

Nearly ten years ago, when I was struggling to get any kind of meaningful on-camera work, and it looked like my once-promising acting career was going to be traded in for a writing career, I got a call to audition for a show called Wired Science. It was the kind of show that, today, would likely be online, but in 2006, it was going to air on PBS.

We went through several rounds of meetings and auditions, each one ending with the people in the room praising my preparation, passion, and on-camera presence.

I remember getting several calls from casting, and each time I expected to be told I’d been hired, I was told that I needed to read some new, different material, or come back in to meet someone new. This process went on for well over a month, until I finally got a call from my manager.

“They want you to write an essay about why they should hire you,” he said.

“What?” I said. Was I auditioning to host a show, or was I in middle school?

“I guess part of the job will be writing for WIRED, and they want to see a sample of that,” he said.

“Okay,” I sighed, already knowing that I wasn’t going to get this job, because that’s the way things went back then.

I opened up a text editor on my Linux machine, and I wrote the following essay, which I hadn’t thought about or seen in nearly ten years, until I came across it last night in an old documents backup folder on a hard drive that I’m cleaning up.

It’s simply not possible for me to cram 34 years of science enthusiasm into the one paragraph I was asked to write, but I will attempt to be as brief as I can.

I’ve been a technology and science geek my entire life, starting with National Geographic’s “Let’s Go to the Moon” when I was 7 years old. When I was 11, I programmed in Atari BASIC, and wrote my own games on my TI-99/4A. I was online when BBS systems could only handle one user at a time, 1200 baud was blazing fast, and 256 colors was magnificent. Today, I make my primary living in jobs that didn’t exist ten years ago, as a writer for online magazines.

Over the last decade, as I’ve watched what was once the province of serious nerds like myself become more common, it’s been a passion of mine to educate and enlighten anyone who will listen about the impact of science and technology on our culture, whether it’s climate change and network neutrality, or GPS devices and the Large Hadron Collider.

I was a Wired subscriber from issue one, until I cancelled all my magazine subscriptions in favor of online versions and RSS feeds a few years ago. I was interviewed for Wired in 2001.

When I was a cast member on Star Trek: The Next Generation, I frequently met with astronauts and scientists, and spoke at several NASA functions. I’ve been attending the JPL open house since I was in elementary school, and I’ve been a backyard astronomer for nearly as long.

In 1992, I walked away from the entertainment industry to work for NewTek, and worked on the Video Toaster 4000. Long before iMovie and Final Cut Pro made editing as simple as word processing, we were bringing professional quality video production to anyone who wanted it, for just $5,000 (at a time when the average set up cost closer to $85,000.)

For many years, I was a frequent contributor to TechTV’s The Screen Savers, and filled in a few times on Call for Help. As a result of that work, I was hired to co-host a technology/gadget show on the Revision3 network called InDigital, where I review things as varied as routers and video game controllers. I frequently discuss public policy concerning technology, most recently the threats against Internet radio by the Copyright Royalty Board. I am one of the original Netscape Navigators (now called Scouts) at the new Netscape News, where I frequently submit science and technology stories. I have been an open source and free software advocate and Linux user since 1995 (when it was still really hard to use) and wrote all three of my books in I’ve built too many computers to count.

Before Chris Anderson articulated The Long Tail, I was espousing a similar theory to anyone who would listen to me. My blog at was very successful and had a large readership (about 30,000 RSS subscribers, and 500,000 average monthly visitors) so I knew I could take my books directly to the audience without using the traditional publishing channels. I believed and proved that the Internet gives creative people all the tools they need to realize their creations and share them — for free or for profit — online. Both of my books were massively successful, thanks entirely to my blog and the Long Tail effect. My next book, which I just finished last week, will be distributed and publicized in the same way.

This is much longer than the one paragraph I was asked to write, but context is everything, I believe, and as you can see, it would be impossible to give context and credentials in that small space.

On an entirely personal note: I love science, and work tirelessly to counter the pseudo- and anti-science that infects popular culture (and much of the current US government policy) today. I’m thrilled to be considered for Wired Science, because the opportunity to share the wonder of science and the impact of technology in our world with as wide an audience as possible is a dream come true.

It’s okay, I guess, and the best I could do when I was 34, written while choking on my pride and trying not to feel humiliated by being expected to tell these people who had kept me on the line for weeks exactly why I was so great.

I, of course, was not picked to host the show. I was offered a very small, barely-paid job as an occasional contributor, but that’s not the job I worked for, and it wasn’t the job I wanted. I passed on what felt to me like a consolation prize.

Wired and PBS cast my friend Chris Hardwick, who went on to be really, really good, and was an excellent choice. I remember watching some of Chris’s early shows, and wondering how I’d even been considered at all, because he was such a natural fit.

My life is so different now than it was back then, and I’m proud of all my hard work and my stubborn refusal to give up that got me here from there. When I found this document last night, my first instinct was to delete a painful memory, but I’m glad I kept it, because it’s part of the tapestry of my life.