Category Archives: JoCoCruiseCrazy

I’m on a boat: In which I’m a proud father

I’m on JoCoCruiseCrazy 2, and I’m taking an Internet vacation until I get home. So every day while I’m gone, something from my archives will post here automatically, for your entertainment. I had a lot of fun picking these different things out, and I hope you enjoy them again, or for the first time.

In Which I Am A Proud Father

Originally published January 2011.

"I have to tell you," Jonathan Coulton's wife said to me on the last night of the cruise, "how wonderful your boys are."

"I have two daughters," Peter Sagal's wife told Anne, "and I hope this isn't weird or creepy, but I really hope they meet guys like your sons."

"Dude, you know you raised your kids right when they are awesome and not lame even when you're not around," my friend Kathleen said.

In each of these instances, I was as proud as I was relieved. When they were growing up, it was important to me that I protected Ryan and Nolan's privacy, and I kept them out of the public eye (visually, I mean) as much as I could. I knew that #JoCoCruiseCrazy would be the first time a lot of people would actually see them. I knew that most of those people would have cameras, and I knew that it was unrealistic and unreasonable to expect those cameras wouldn't ever be turned on my kids. Before we left, I had long talks with both of them about all of this, and I urged them to comport themselves in a way that would make them and us proud. They assured me that they understood in their own way: Ryan told me, "Yeah, I get it. Don't worry." Nolan rolled his eyes at me and said I was being "lame."

Ah, youth.

Anyway, I had a great time on the JoCo Cruise, but before I actually recall it in my own way, I needed to get this out of the way.

I've waited almost ten years to do this. Internet, please meet my family:

We are Wheatons

That's Anne, me, Ryan, and Nolan.

This is probably my favorite picture that's ever been taken of me and Ryan:

Wil and Ryan have moustaches

Please enjoy the bonus Kevin Murphy photobomb.

So with this important formality out of the way, I can now get down to the very important business of recounting some of the things I loved about the cruise. Until I get the thoughts out of my head and into words, though, I highly recommend reading Stepto's and Molly's blogs, as well as JoCo's Open Letter to the Seamonkeys.

 

in which a suitcase is packed

Tomorrow morning, I'm going to get into a giant aluminium tube and fly across the continent to America's Wang. Then, on Sunday, I'll get on a boat and spend a week doing nerdy stuff with nerds in the middle of the ocean. It should be pretty awesome.

Earlier today, I folded my laundry, and put it on the bed. I laid out the various items of clothing I need to take with me on the cruise next week, carefully considering what nerd T-shirts would make the cut, and which ones would have to stay home.

I took my suit, and a clean white dress shirt out of the closet. I walked around the room, trying to find a place to hang them up. When I realized there wasn't a place to hang them up, I carefully laid them on the bed.

"The cats aren't in the house, so this will be fine here for a few minutes," I thought to myself.

I went into my office, and prepared my backpack: I took out some things I didn't need, including an old call sheet, and realized that the last time I took this backpack anywhere, I was working on Eureka. I had a little bit of a sad. I put some books in a pocket next to my Kindle. I put my bag of dice inside, and grabbed a couple of small, social games: Werewolf, Resistance, Fluxx, and a couple of Button Men, just in case. I printed out my performance setlist and put it into the pocket where I'd usually put my laptop. (My laptop is staying home, because the Internet on the ship costs eleventy billion dollars a second, and I'd rather read books, play games, and relax in the sun with my friends and family than hang out online, where I spend pretty much all of my free time when we're home.

I made sure my various chargers, extra batteries, headphones, and other nerd essentials were in their proper place. Then, having confirmed that I had everything I would need to entertain myself and survive a zombie apocalypse, I headed back into my bedroom to load up my suitcase.

My black cat was sleeping in the middle of my white dress shirt. My black and white cat was sleeping on my black kilt.

"Are you fucking serious, you guys?" I said. 

The cats did not reply. One of them rolled over and purred enthusiastically, while the other put her ears back and flicked her tail.

I sighed. "Okay, get up," I said. "These are going back into the closet until I pack them."

The cats let me know that they were very displeased with me, in the usual manner. I let them know that I would get over it, in the usual manner.

I hung up my fancy clothes, and put my normal clothes into my suitcase. The cats glared at me from the floor.

"You'll get over it," I said.

That's when I realized that I was alone in the house, and talking to my cats.

…turns out that this is the perfect time to take a working vacation.

From the Vault: “…because Next Generation FUCKING RULES!”

I'm digging into The Vault for stories to tell next week when I perform on JoCoCruiseCrazy 2: The Encrazening, and I caught myself reading this story, which I wrote and published in Dancing Barefoot, when I was a baby writer almost ten years ago. 

This is from The Saga of SpongeBob Vega$ Pants (or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love Star Trek) also: Put Some Thought Into What You Name Things, Kids, Because You May Find Yourself Telling a Story With A Stupid Title Ten Years After You Wrote It.

I sit at my table, uncap my sharpie, and put on my gameface. 

My pen hand is strong. I'm ready to be witty, charming and friendly. Although the actual number of autographs I've signed over the years is probably close to half a million, I am ready to make these fans feel like the autograph I'm currently signing is the only one I've signed all day, maybe the only one I've signed in my whole life.

Over the years, I've learned something from this experience: it's never about the signature. It's about that brief moment, that brief encounter with a Star Trek cast member, that is so important to the fans. That 30 seconds or so of hopefully undivided attention is what they're really paying for, and I always do my best to make sure they get their money's worth. Contrary to popular belief, sitting at a table signing hundreds of autographs for several hours without a break is hard. It's not just mindlessly scrawling my name; It's stopping and listening to the always excited, sometimes shaking, always sweating, sometimes scary dude who wants to know exactly why I did “X” on episode “Y” and would I please sign his picture in silver, because Marina signed it in gold and now he wants the men in silver and the women in gold, and I hated your character and here are 25 reasons why and I expect an answer for each one of them and I'm not leaving until I'm satisfied.

The fans come down what amounts to an assembly line, stopping at a table, enjoying their 30 seconds of attention and trading a ticket for an autograph. They move to the next table, and repeat.

I personally think that this “assembly line” method, while the only one that really works, has the potential to totally suck for the fans. 

The first one hundred or so who come through the line will get to see a smiling, effusive, friendly actor, and will leave feeling happy and satisfied. Those unlucky ones who are at the end of the line risk seeing actors who are tired, with cramped hands and degraded signatures. 

It is a challenge for me, but I always remind myself that the last fans through the line have paid as much as the first fans, and they've also waited much longer, so they are the ones that I need to give the most attention to when I am the most drained. I know that as I get toward the end of the line, my humor slows down, and my voice fades. I know that I've let down my fair share of people over the years, but I always do my best. 

I see the first fan walking down the hallway, trading tickets and getting signatures from actors. I watch her as she goes table to table. She's not wearing a spacesuit . . . that's a good sign. She has a witty sci-fi T-shirt on. Also a good sign. 

She arrives at my table, and I cheerfully say, “Hi! How are you doing today?!”

“AWFUL! THIS IS THE WORST CONVENTION I HAVE EVER BEEN TO! I HATE DAVE SCOTT! I HATE LAS VEGAS! I HATE THIS CONVENTION!”

Oh boy. This is not the way I'd hoped to start out.

I try to soothe her. “Uhh . . . I think . . . that . . . this convention . . . just started . . . and . . . uhh . . . I'm sure that if you talk to Dave, everyt–”

“DAVE SCOTT IS AN ARROGANT ASSHOLE!”

“Uh . . . yeah . . . well, you see, the thing is, I'm sort of not exactly involved in the planning of this convention, you know? I'm just, like, a guest . . . maybe you could try talk–”

“THIS IS THE MOST FAN-UNFRIENDLY CONVENTION I HAVE EVER BEEN TO!”

And she storms away, without an autograph, without another word.

I look at Marina, who's one table down from me. Angry Fan has stormed past her, too. Marina shrugs, and I make the international sign for “crazy person” by twirling my finger near my temple.

I hear a man clear his throat, and I look up to see a smiling middle-aged face. He has a dark beard, and is dressed as Commander Riker. 

He gives his autograph ticket to the staffer sitting next to me, and asks me to sign his model of the Enterprise D. He thanks me, and moves along.

And so it is in the world of Star Trek conventions. One person will scream at me, and the next will want to give me a hug. A person will walk up dressed in an elaborate Borg costume, and the next person will be dressed in a T-shirt and Dickies, quietly laughing at “all the weirdos.”

For the next three hours, I sign pictures of the young, geeky Wesley Crusher. I sign posters of the teen heartthrob that I'm told I once was. I sign posters that I'm not even on, in silver because everyone else did, accepting the apologies from the poster owners that I'm not on the poster. I always answer with the same joke: “That's okay, you just can't see me, because I'm on this planet here . . .” They laugh and feel good and so do I.

A group of very attractive German girls comes over next, and two of them tell me, in broken English, how much they love me.

I think, Oh yeah, tell me some more, baby. Tell daddy how you love him. Ich bin ein sexmachiner!

What?

I am so sorry. I have no idea where that came from. I apologize.

There are also 20 Japanese kids who've all come over together from Tokyo. They are all smiles and laughter, excited, and having a great time. The girls ask me to write their names on their picture when I sign it, they giggle and bow and blush and thank me, over and over. For a second, I feel like a rock star. 

One of the Japanese kids is a boy, about my height. When he presents his Wesley Crusher action figure for my signature, he tells me, “My friend all say I am you twin!”

He smiles proudly. “We look just the same!”

Last time I checked, I wasn't Japanese, but I'm not about to tell him that. I look at him for a moment and reply, “Dude. You are so right. It's like I'm looking in a mirror!” 

He turns to his friends, says something in Japanese, and they all share an excited murmur. I pick up my pen, and write: “To Hiroyuki, my long lost twin brother: Don't Panic! -Wil Wheaton.”

He thanks me over and over. His smile is so huge, I fear that his face will turn inside out. As he walks away from my table, I feel happy – I've brought joy into this kid's life, just by signing my name and being friendly. It's one of the few perks (or responsibilities, if you will) that comes with celebrity that I truly enjoy.

ϑ ϑ ϑ

 

About 200 or so people into the day, I have one of those memorable “battlefield” experiences; the kind that we Star Trek actors share during a layover in Chicago, after a convention in Cleveland.

I've just finished signing a poster for a 40-ish man who is wearing a spacesuit that is a little to tight across the waist. He's painted his face blue, and donned a white wig topped with antennae, like the Andorians from the original Star Trek. The next person in line is a woman in her 30s, dressed conservatively.

I say hello, and she smiles at me . . . until she sees my T-shirt. Then she becomes hysterical. She points at my shirt and screeches at me, “You are going to hay-ell! You are going to hay-ell!”

“Why am I going to hell, ma'am?” I ask, trying to figure out if she is joking. I am wearing a black T-shirt with a picture of a hand making rock-and-roll devil horns that says, “Keep Music Evil.” I think it's very funny, and it's a nice counter-point to the squeaky-clean image of Wesley Crusher that is so indelibly burned into these people's minds.

“You're wearing that shirt! And that shirt promotes SATAN!”

Okay, she's definitely not joking.

“So I'm going to hell because I'm wearing a shirt? Is that right?” I ask her, patiently.

“Yes! You! Are! Going! To! HAY-ELL!”

“Well, as long as I'm not going where you are, ma'am.”

And she leaves, but not without getting my signature, on her collectible plate, in gold ink, not silver, because John DeLancie signed his in silver, so now silver is the color reserved for “Q.” Nobody else can sign in silver. Not even a captain. Well, maybe Captain Picard, but not Captain Janeway.

I am able to contain my giggles until she is out of ear-shot.

“Is it always like this?” the staffer sitting at my table inquires.

“Nope. Sometimes it's really weird.”

We laugh, and the signing goes on.

And on.

And on.

This next part is from when I went on the stage later that same afternoon. It still makes me laugh.

“I have the limited edition Star Trek Monopoly game.” I say.

“Of course, it's a limited edition of 65 million. But it's extremely valuable, because I got a number under 21 million.”

They laugh. It's funny, because it's true.

I go one better. “Plus, it's got a certificate of authenticity signed by Captain Picard!

“Yes, that's right, my Star Trek Monopoly game, which I've rendered worthless by opening, comes with a certificate of authenticity signed in ink by a fictional character.”

I see a guy in the front row say something to his buddy, and they both nod their heads and laugh.

“Cool thing about the game, though, is that there is a Wesley Crusher game piece in it, and the first time we sat down to play it as a family, Ryan grabbed Wesley and proclaimed, as only an 11-year-old can, 'I'm Wil!! I'm Wil!! Nolan!! I'm all-time Wil!! I call it!!'”

I see some people smile. I start to pace the stage. I'm hitting my stride, and the stories flow out of me.

“One time, when we were renegotiating our contracts, we were all asking for raises.

“We all felt a salary increase was appropriate, because The Next Generation was a hit. It was making gobs of money for Paramount,” (I like that word – gobs) “and we felt that we should share in that bounty.

“Of course, Paramount felt otherwise, so a long and annoying negotiation process began.

“During that process, the producers’ first counteroffer was that, in lieu of a raise, they would give my character a promotion, to lieutenant.”

I pause, and look around. I wrinkle my brow, and gaze upward.

“What? Were they serious?”

A fan hollers, “Yeah! Lieutenant Crusher! Woo!” 

I smile back at him.

“My agent asked me what I wanted to do. I told him to call them back and remind them that Star Trek is just a television show.”

Okay, that was risky to say. It's pretty much the opposite of just a television show to these people, but they giggle.

“I imagined this phone call to the bank,” I mime a phone, and hold it to my ear. “Hi . . . Uh, I'm not going to be able to make my house payment this month, but don't worry! I am a lieutenant now.” I pause, listening to the voice on the other end.

“Where? Oh, on the Starship Enterprise.”

I pause.

“Enterprise D, yeah, the new one. Feel free to drop by Ten Forward for lunch someday. We'll put it on my officer's tab!”

Laughter, and applause. My time is up, and Dave Scott stands at the foot of the stage, politely letting me know that it's time for me to go.

The fans see this, and I pretend to not notice him.

“In 2001, startrek.com set up a poll to find out what fans thought the best Star Trek episode of all time was. The competition encompassed all the series. The nominated episode from Classic Trek was City On The Edge Of Forever. The entry for The Next Generation was Best of Both Worlds Part II. DS9 offered Trials and Tribble-ations, and Voyager weighed in with Scorpion II.”

As I name each show, various groups of people applaud and whistle, erasing any doubt as to what their favorite show is.

“Now, look. I know that Star Trek is just a TV show. Matter of fact, I'm pretty sure I just said that five minutes ago, but there was no way I was going to let my show lose. It just wasn't going to happen. Especially not to Voyager – er, V'ger, I mean.”

I pause, and look out at the crowd. I wonder if Mr. “V'ger” is out there.

“So I went into my office, sat at my computer for 72 straight hours, and voted for TNG over and over again.

“I didn't eat, and I didn't sleep. I just sat there, stinky in my own filth, clicking and hitting F5, a Howard Hughes for The Next Generation.

“Some time around the 71st hour, my wife realized that she hadn't seen me in awhile and started knocking on the door to see what I was doing. 

“'Nothing! I'm, uh, working!' I shouted through the door. Click, Click, Click . . . 

'I don't believe you! Tell me what you've been doing at the computer for so long!'

“I didn't want her to know what I was doing – I mean, it was terribly embarrassing . . . I had been sitting there, in crusty pajamas, voting in the Star Trek poll for three days.”

Some people make gagging noises, some people “eeww!” But it's all in good fun. They are really along for the ride, now. This is cool.

“She jiggled the handle, kicked at the bottom of the door, and it popped open!”

The audience gasps.

“I hurriedly shut down Mozilla, and spun around in my chair.

“'What have you been doing on this computer for three days, Wil?' she said.”

I look out across the audience, and pause dramatically. I lower my voice and confidentially say, “I was not about to admit the embarrassing truth, so I quickly said, 'I've been downloading porn, honey! Gigabytes of porn!'”

I have to stop, because the ballroom rocks with laughter. It's a genuine applause break! 

“She was not amused. 'Tell me the truth,' she said.

“I sighed, and told her that I'd been stuffing the ballot box in an online Star Trek poll.

“'You are such a dork. I'd have been happier with the porn.'

“I brightened. 'Really?'

“'No,' she said. She set a plate of cold food on the desk and walked out, muttering something about nerds.

“I stayed in that office for another ten hours, just to be sure. When my eyes began to bleed, I finally walked away. It took several weeks of physical therapy before I could walk correctly again, but it was all worth it. Best of Both Worlds Part II won by a landslide.”

I pause dramatically, and the theatre is silent.

“And it had nothing to do with my stuffing the box. It's because Next Generation FUCKING RULES!”

I throw my hand into the air, making the “devil horns” salute that adorns my satanic T-shirt, and the audience leaps to their feet, roaring with applause and laughter.

I can't believe it. I started out so badly, but I got the audience back on my side. I say thank you, give the microphone to Dave Scott, who is now sitting on the stage pointedly checking his watch, and exit, stage left.

 

ϑ ϑ ϑ

 

I'm a very different person now than I was when I wrote it, in every single way that matters (and a lot that probably don't). I cringe a little bit at some of the ways I wrote back then, but it's the best I could do at the time, and I'm proud of it, and the 29 year-old who struggled to write it.

Reading this stuff today made me feel strange, but also good, It's sort of like I was looking in a mirror that held a reflection within it for ten years, but let a little bit out today, just for me.

Regarding JoCoCrazy2 and my important questions…

Based on the responses I got to my very important question, it looks like I'll be performing something from Memories of the Future, maybe something from Memories of the Future Volume 2, something from Happiest Days, something from Dancing Barefoot. 

I am also canceling the Wil Wheaton Anti-Formal Not Formal Unformal For Formally Being Not Formal due to lack of interest. Also I have to get some fancy clothes for me and my family now. #firstworldproblems

I have a very important question for everyone attending JoCo Cruise Crazy 2.

Saturday, I'm heading down to America's Wang to get on a boat, because JoCoCruseCrazy 2: Cruise Crazier is setting sail on Sunday.

I hope that it lives up to this video that one of the cruisers (who named themselves Sea Monkeys) created:

I know, right? Check out the video he made last year, based on the Superfriends.

I know, right!? RIGHT?!

We had a great time last year, and I'm lucky and grateful to be invited back for more shenanigans and mirth-making.

If you're going on the cruise, I have a very important question for you: I get to perform one night on the cruise, and I'm building my set list. I already have some stories picked out that I think you'll enjoy, but I'd really like to know from actual audience members what you'd like to hear from me. You can pick anything from any of my books or blog posts, so feel free to dig into the archives, if you have time and interest.

Also: There are two formal nights on this cruise, which means you have to take a tuxedo or a suit with you, taking up valuable luggage and cabin space, just so you can wear it two times. When you're on vacation. Seriously.

I am totally going to get all formal'd up for the Paul F. Tomkins Memorial Moustache Formal and Fextacular, but I'll be damned if I'm going to let a cruise line tell me that I have to dress up for their stupid fancy dinners. Indeed, I have taken a stand against fanciness, and on the formal nights, I will be hosting the Wil Wheaton Anti-Formal Not Formal Unformal For Formally Being Not Formal in the extremely fancy Lido Buffet. Come as you are, (but, seriously, at least wear a clean shirt) and we will dine like triumphant Viking warriors. In fact, I think it would be hilarious if we dressed very nicely, right up to the edge of formality, but just short of it, to make a precious little point that nobody will really care about except us.

Seriously, people: we're going to be on a boat in less than a week.

In which I am a proud father

"I have to tell you," Jonathan Coulton's wife said to me on the last night of the cruise, "how wonderful your boys are."

"I have two daughters," Peter Sagal's wife told Anne, "and I hope this isn't weird or creepy, but I really hope they meet guys like your sons."

"Dude, you know you raised your kids right when they are awesome and not lame even when you're not around," my friend Kathleen said.

In each of these instances, I was as proud as I was relieved. When they were growing up, it was important to me that I protected Ryan and Nolan's privacy, and I kept them out of the public eye (visually, I mean) as much as I could. I knew that #JoCoCruiseCrazy would be the first time a lot of people would actually see them. I knew that most of those people would have cameras, and I knew that it was unrealistic and unreasonable to expect those cameras wouldn't ever be turned on my kids. Before we left, I had long talks with both of them about all of this, and I urged them to comport themselves in a way that would make them and us proud. They assured me that they understood in their own way: Ryan told me, "Yeah, I get it. Don't worry." Nolan rolled his eyes at me and said I was being "lame."

Ah, youth.

Anyway, I had a great time on the JoCo Cruise, but before I actually recall it in my own way, I needed to get this out of the way.

I've waited almost ten years to do this. Internet, please meet my family:

We are Wheatons

That's Anne, me, Ryan, and Nolan.

This is probably my favorite picture that's ever been taken of me and Ryan:

Wil and Ryan have moustaches

Please enjoy the bonus Kevin Murphy photobomb.

So with this important formality out of the way, I can now get down to the very important business of recounting some of the things I loved about the cruise. Until I get the thoughts out of my head and into words, though, I highly recommend reading Stepto's and Molly's blogs, as well as JoCo's Open Letter to the Seamonkeys.

I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool.

5347353716_ea26b3b0d1_b

One of my favorite things on JoCoCruiseCrazy was our Informal Moustache Formal, organized by the (now dead to me) Paul F. Not Coming On the Cruise Because I Got a "Job" that "Pays Me" and "Furthers My Career" Tompkins.

During the Informal Formal, Kevin Murphy loaned me this most exquisite fez, which I wore proudly until it was time for the Informal Moustache Formal to come to its inevitable and all-too-soon conclusion.

"Thank you," I would say when a gentleman or lady would compliment me on the aforementioned fez, "it is on loan from the Murphy collection."

(Photo by my friend Atom Moore, who has a brazillion pictures from the cruise up at Flickr.)