The Return of the Son of SpongeBob Vega$Pants
A long itme ago, in an entry far, far away, I started to tell a story…it was the story of SpongeBob Vega$Pants…So…here we go:
Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?!
Where was I last time? Ahh, after a terribly long tnagent (That’s right, I called it a ‘tnagent’. It’s part of being average), I ran out of time…let’s see where I was before I got sidetracked:
I’d explained (sort of, in a very average, not interesting, you’d-only-read-it-if-I-were-famous way) what a Star Trek convention was. I’ll pick up the story as I’m standing backstage, getting ready to go on.
I’m supposed to go on at 5PM, and I’m supposed to talk from 5 to 5:50. I usually talk for 70-90 minutes, so only having 50 minutes is really tough. I’m nervous, because I don’t think I have a lot of time to work the audience. I have to go out there, and nail ‘em with a funny, so they get on my side.
Well, I’ve got three things going against me before I even take the stage:
1. I’m the last speaker of the day. So the fans are tired, and a little burned out.
2. I’m following Michael Dorn and Marina Sirtis, who the fans LOVE.
3. I was Wesley Crusher.
So I am pacing backstage, looking at my notes, trying to relax and focus, and getting more and more nervous that I’m going to suck.
See, here’s the deal: contrary to what many people think, I care about how I do at a convention. I care about what the fans think of me. Oh, yes, I do. I don’t just write off the fans like a certain WILLIAM FUCKING SHATNER, because I, myself, am a fan. I also realize that the entire Star Trek franchise owes an extreme debt of gratitude to fandom, because without that core fanbase, Gene would have never been able to sell the idea of TNG to Paramount, and then there’s no DS9, no Voyager, no Enterprise. So it’s important to me not to suck.
Finally, at 5:15, Dorn and Marina are done, and I’m going to go on. My mouth and throat get dry. My hands sweat, and shake a little bit. Jesus, you’d think I was going on a date, or something. It’s usually not like this…but this time is different, because I’ve got friends in the audience, and my wife is there, and the last thing I want is to have a whole room hate me in front of them.
Dave Scott takes the stage, and he gives me this great introduction, about how funny I am, and about how much fun they’re all going to have…and I’m just thinking, “Great, dude. Please. Build me up more. Keep raising those expectations. Woo.”
I hear the intro finish, and I come out on stage…and they’re all standing up, applauding, “whoo!”-ing, and stuff…and I think, “Okay, Wil. Start it off with a joke…that’s what they’re expecting…”
So I tell a joke about the water we’ve all been drinking. Here’s a little background, on the water:
It’s hot in Vega$. 10 Circle of Hell hot, which is nothing to me, since that’s where I’m headed, anyway, but it’s pretty bad for eveyone else. Fortunately, TNN has shown up, and, in a humanitarian and self-promotional effort, they’ve been handing out bottles of “Altair Water”. It’s bottled water, you know, but it’s in a nifty green bottle, with some Star Trek graphics on it…and they’re handing them out by the hundreds, because those spacesuits really make you sweat, if I remember correctly.
So I hold up the bottle of water, and I say, “I’ve been drinking this ‘Altair Water’ all morning…and you know what I’m thinking? This isn’t really from Altair. It’s just regular water! So if you paid for it, I think you got ripped off.”
Silence, followed by the first surly heckler, who shouted with the appropriate mix of condescension and contempt: “It’s free, Wil!”
Aw, crap. That was so lame. I mean, come on! How “Hello how are you I’m fine” was that?!
But, like I said, I was nervous, and I panicked, and, after I’ve been on stage for 15 seconds, they allready hate me.
So I take a second, and I regroup, and I say, “Okay…uh, I only have 50 minutes here, and I want to maximize our time together today, so here’s the deal: I have some stories that I like to tell, and I’ll tell them, but I also like to take questions from the audience, and let you all inform the discussion. Since we only have a short time today, I’ll answer the most frequently asked questions first: No, yes, Umbrellas, I can’t remember, and they were real.”
Silence, and grumbling.
Oh shit. I’m dead. I teach comedy, for christsake! I got rave reviews for my sketch show! I know that I can be funny! But I’m panicked. It happens. The few things I have, that I’ve told before, that I know get a good response, the things I have for circumstances just like these, have all gone out of my head. I am drawing a complete blank, and I just want to get off this stage as fast as possible, and get back on my road to hell. Oh, wait, I’m in hell right now. Dammit.
So I say, “Uh. Does anyone have any questions?”
Apparently, nobody does, so I say with a smile, “Well then, I guess we’re done here! Thanks alot for coming, and have a great rest of the weekend!” And I start to walk off stage.
And they all laugh.
What? that was funny? Okay. I’ll take what I can get at this point. So I relax a bit, and we get going. I start to tell my stories, and the questions start to come. Unfortunately, none of the really cool, “In episode 67, you said…” questions are asked, at all. Too bad. Those make for the best stories.
But here’s the thing: while my talk goes on, I keep losing the audience. I can feel it. I can feel them hate me, and I can’t quite figure out why. But, upon reflection, I can take a guess: I tell it like it is. Unlike lots of other actors, who get up there and kiss the collective ass of fandom, and tell them exactly what they want to hear, I tell them what it was really like, for me. The truth is, sometimes being on Trek was the greatest thing, ever. Other times, it really, really sucked. And, as blasphemous as this sounds, at the end of the day, it was a job.
I realize now, that I left out a very important bit of info when I was at the con, and I’ve left it out here: I really, really, really like to watch Star Trek. Star Trek is really, really, really fucking cool. I loved the original series, and, even though WILLIAM FUCKING SHATNER has always been a tool towards me, I still think that he was rad as Captain Kirk. I think he’s got a GREAT sense of humor, and that has come through in the more recent star trek movies. But I digress. The thing that I left out, is how much of a fan of Star Trek I am, and, without that context, it can piss people off that I don’t worship Trek the way some of them do.
So when I say things like, “I really didn’t like DS9 or Voyager very much, because the stories really didn’t interest me,” I’m not saying those things because I want to crack on the other shows, it’s just because, as a viewer, I didn’t like the stories as much as I liked the ones on TNG or TOS.
So I left that out, and when I’d say anything remotely critical of the show, they’d get pissed. And I’d get more and more tense, and I felt really bad. There are few feelings that are worse for an actor, than dying on stage, in front of your wife, parents, and friends. Oh, and 300 Trekkies.
But, somewhere towards the end, I got going, and I was able to recall some funny stories:
I have the limited edition Star Trek monoploy game. Yeah, limited edition of 65 Million. But it’s really valuable, because I got a number under 21 million, and it’s got a certificate of authenticity, signed by Captain Picard! Yes, that’s right, my Star Trek monopoly, which I’ve rendered worthless by opening, comes with a certificate of authenticity, signed by a fictional character.
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 it and proclaimed, as only an 11 year old can, “I’m Wil!! I’m Wil!! Nolan!! I’m all-time Wil!! I call it!!” *smile* that was really cool.
One time, when we were renegotiating our contracts, we were all asking for raises, which we all felt we appropriate, because TNG was really taking off, and was really making lots of money for Paramount. Of course, Paramount needed that money to keep churning out their film *cough* hits *cough*, and was reluctant to share it with us. So a long and annoying negotiation process began, and, during that process, the producers first counter offer was to not give me a raise, but they’d give my character a promotion, to Lieutenant.
What? Were they serious?
My agent asked me what I wanted to do. I told him to call them back, and remind them that Star Trek is a television show! Here’s me calling the bank: “Hi…Uh, I’m not going to be able to make my house payment this month, but don’t worry, because I am a Lieutenant now. Where? Oh, on the Starship Enterprise. Feel free to drop by Ten Forward for lunch someday.”
Last year, there was a contest at Star Trek Dot Com, where they were asking what the best episode of all time, across all the series’ was. The nominees included “City On The Edge Of Forver” from TOS (One of my faves, but not as cool as “arena”, imho. Send your flames here. The entry for TNG was “Best of Both Worlds part 1&2″, and I can’t remember the titles of the ones for DS9 and Voyager, but the DS9 one was the one with the tribbles, and the episode for Voyager was the one where the alien creature, who looked surprisingly like the alien in “Alien” was wreaking havoc on the ship. Now, as I’ve pointed out before, it is just a TV show, and I’m not that competitive, but there was no way I was going to let my show lose. It just wasn’t going to happen. So I went into my office, sat at my computer, and, for 72 straight hours, I, didn’t eat, didn’t sleep, and sat, stinky in my own filth, as I voted, over and over, for TNG to win. So, sometime around the 71st hour, my wife realizes that she hasn’t seen me in awhile, and starts knocking on the door to see what I’m doing, and I don’t want her to know, you know? I mean, how embarrassing for me…I’m sitting here voting in the Star Trek poll! So she stays at the door, and keeps asking what I’m doing at the computer for so long, and, not wanting to embarrassed, I shout out, “I’m downloading porn, honey!”
Finally, through a combination of exhaustion and the fact that my eyes were actually bleeding, I gave up, but not before I had successfully stuffed the ballot box, giving TNG a landslide victory in the all important online poll. Whoo!
Dave Scott ended up coming on stage to get rid of me, and I had a lot of fun walking away from him, pretending that he wasn’t there, and stuff, and I closed with a story that always gets a big laugh, that people seem to enjoy. There are others, but if I tell them all here, you’ll never come see me at a show, right?
I said thank you, exited, stage left, and walked back into the now infamous WFS Memorial Hallway. I sat there for a second, and replayed the talk in my head. The first 90%, they mostly hated me, I thought, with little fits of laughter, and the last 10%, when I finally got going and found my groove, they really loved me, and I felt really good. But it was not my best talk, by far, which was a big disappointment, considering the build up I’d gotten from Dave, and that I had people in the audience.
But I didn’t have time to reflect on it, because I had just 90 minutes before we were all due in the theare for our show, and we still hadn’t had a technical rehearsal…
NEXT TIME, AS THE SAGA CONTINUES:
MIND MELD PRESENTS: “ASSIMILATE THIS”