When I mentioned to some folks I know that I would be participating in w00tstock in Minneapolis, I got a few strange looks followed by the question of “what is w00tstock, anyway?” I could have gone the “Morpheus in the Matrix” route and say something along the line of “no one can be… told what w00tstock is,” followed by the choice of rolling a red or blue twenty-sided die. But instead I said that it was basically a vaudeville show for geeks.
And as it turns out, that’s exactly what w00tstock really was, or at least was the night I was part of it. The show featured music, it featured comedy, it featured semi-serious lectures on physics, it featured video and it feature art being made live (the poster above, which was made during the show). It was a hybrid of a 100-year-old theatrical form and cutting edge nerd enthusiasms, and it probably shouldn’t work, but it did, if the reaction of the sold out(!) theater was any indication.
YouTube is filled with audience video from the show, so I won’t bother to recount the evening act by act (except to say — hey! Audience! Why haven’t you posted my bit yet? Huh? Huh? Huh? Update: It’s here.). I will say that if I hadn’t have been a performer, I would have been busy laughing my ass off in the audience, and I know this because we were basically laughing our asses off backstage — the four principals of the show (Wil Wheaton, Adam Savage and Paul & Storm) basically pick as their guest stars the people whose work they really enjoy, which means that backstage we were all pretty much fans of each others work. Which meant we were all crowded up behind the stage craning our necks to watch everyone else.
My bit came up early, both as a matter of scheduling and as personal preference; I was playing the part of the assistant principal of the Lucas School for Interspecies Troubled Youth doing the school morning announcements, so that seemed better closer to the beginning than not. I’m happy to say the piece seemed to go over well: Everyone laughed when they were supposed to, and I had fun doing a little bit of acting, and since the character I was playing was meant to be the nervous, edgy type, it hid my own nervousness spectacularly well. And of course it was fun debuting a new piece of writing, specially created for the event, to the crowd. Thank you, Minneapolis, for enjoying it.
By other “big” moment for the night came at the end of the show, when during the legendarily long closing song “The Sea Captain’s Wife’s Lament” Paul and Storm were eliciting pirate-y “Arrrrs” from the audience and then asked for a very specific kind of “Arrrr,” that being “authorial… and science fictional and fantasyish… and Hugo award winning…” at which point I flounced on stage, triumphantly, “… and British!” At which point I stomped off stage, dejected, and Neil Gaiman came onstage instead. Yes, indeed, I was the set-up for a Neil Gaiman joke. And it went off perfectly, which is to say the audience was mildly disappointed when I went on the stage (because they were hoping for Neil), and then lost their minds when Neil actually showed up. Now, now, I feel fine, give the audience what they want, I always say. It’s not that they didn’t like me, they’d just already seen me. Yes, yes, that’s it. Also, Neil was lovely and it was great to be able to spend a little time with him backstage.
Likewise it was great to meet all the other w00ters. Wil, of course, I am friends with, as I am with Paul and Storm and with Len Peralta, but I had a great time meeting Adam Savage, who is as amusing and enthusiastic about the world in real life as he is on Mythbusters, as well as Trace Beaulieu, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy (also deeply, deeply amusing), Tim Bedore and James Kakalios (amusing? Why yes! Of course!), and also Molly Lewis and Jason Finn (by this time you should sense the theme of general amusement). I liked and geeked out about every single person who performed, basically.
In short: What a great time. If you were there, you know what I mean, and if you weren’t there, well, at least you have YouTube. The next w00tstock will be in San Diego in July; you want to be there if you can.