Shows and Events

2012-September: John visiting the Washington State Fair 2012 (RL48)

John went to the Washington State Fair 2012 and everywhere he went, at all the different games where you had to throw darts at balloons or hoops at bottles, they were playing different Ozzy tracks. They already did that in 1980, but maybe Ozzy is just state fair music?

Everything that happens at those traveling fairs feels like it happens between 1972 and 1981. Carnies are stuck there forever! What did they give away before Coke mirrors? There are extremely hard stuffed animals that were not really cushy because they seemed to be stuffed with sawdust and counterfeit money, a lot of them probably having drugs in them that people have forgotten about. John doesn’t think that there are drugs inside, but there are definitely drugs on the fur.

John saw a Coke bottle that was heated up and pulled so it was 4 feet (120 cm) tall. He saw the invisible dog, which is a dog leash and a harness with no dog in it. He saw his first Coke mirror and his first feathered Roach Clip earring. These existed before you could buy Dreamcatchers on the open market. The Venn diagram when it comes to Dreamcatchers is really exhaustive: You move straight from feathered Roach Clip into Dreamcatchers. Merlin thinks that Dreamcatchers don’t work. They are supposed to catch your dreams and let the bad thoughts go through.

2013-April: The concert when the ceiling was full of dirty rain (RL158)

In April of 2013 (date deducted from the rehearsal video) John put together a show with Dave Bazan, Kathleen Edwards and Lara Meyerratken at The Triple Door in Seattle (video from the rehearsals). Their vision was that they were a band and would play four or five of each other’s tunes. It was a crazy idea, but once they were together in the room, there was real energy and the songs sounded incredible that way. On that summer weekend they were sitting in John’s house and were playing their music with the windows and the doors open. It was one of those pure musician experiences that they didn’t ever want to end, even though learning the music was hard. It was the best kind of hard.

When they went down to the venue, there was already a line of people to see the show they had rehearsed. They ran through a couple of songs and they sounded incredible. This was exactly the room for it and they were all expecting a magical night. All of a sudden, it started to rain in the theater while they were on stage in the middle of a song. It was not just a light rain, but a storm rain and while they continued their song, they were all looking out at the seats as they got drenched. It was so surreal because they didn’t stop playing, but then the staff of the restaurant came screaming and running around. As they got to the end of the tune, they stared out at the theater which was now a scene of complete devastation. John was standing on stage, still thinking that they better had to get this cleaned up, but there were 4 inches of water on everything. Suddenly it dawned on them that it was over! Somehow the drain in the restaurant upstairs had plugged and all the grey drainage water from the dishwasher and the kitchen had pooled in the ceiling 8 inches high until it just fell all at once. It was surreal because it didn't come down as a falling ceiling, but as dirty rain. They had just been playing the last rehearsal song before the doors were supposed to open. Had it happened 30 minutes later, the water would have fallen on a full house.

When John saw that line of the crowd down the street two hours earlier, he would have been so glad imagining that this would happen, but now he had already crossed the threshold, he was over the hump and he was in show mode, doors were in 5! That show being cancelled right in front of them was so incredible! They had all put their whole energy on the table, it was ready to go and now there was nowhere to put it. None of them had had this experience before and they were sitting backstage in a complete daze. Their whole show energy was out of them but it had not gone anywhere and was not reciprocated. There was nowhere for it to live! They felt like they all had survived being struck by a lightning. None of them could talk and it was very confusing, their feelings were outside of their body already.

The next day one of the people who had meant to come to the show contacted them and introduced himself as one of the directors of the Woodland Park Zoo. He asked them if they would like to come and feed the giraffes, so all of them went to the zoo and spent a couple of hours inside the giraffe enclosure, hand-feeding giraffes. It was a brilliant insight by this person at the zoo, maybe God was watching out or something! Having this singular experience allowed them to collect all that emotion back and made them feel that it had been used. For a month after that night they all just walked around in a strange state, not an unpleasant one, but a singular one where the show is cancelled while you are already on stage ready to go. Emotions are real! Just describing it makes John go back into a place of profound confusion and he can feel it again. What does one do when there is no climax? It is like you fill the torpedo tubes, but then you just sail back home. It feels really dangerous to sail into a port with full torpedo tubes!

2014-September: XOXO and meeting Dan Benjamin (RL125)

John met Dan Benjamin at XOXO 2014, about a year before he would start a podcast together with him (the first Roadwork aired on August 15th, 2015). John wasn't really familiar with Dan's work, but he really liked him! Everybody said that he was a kitten killer and holocaust denier, but he was a really nice guy! He is very tidy, but despite his famous tidiness, he hugged John multiple times, and John is famously untidy. Who knows what Dan picked up from John? Hugging John in the middle of the day is like licking a hotel room remote. There is a really nice picture with their finger splints.

XOXO is a great un-conference full of people who do computer-math. John was extremely pleasantly surprised. A room full of smart people who live all around the world and know each other on the Internet better than they know the people living around them in their actual town. This is one of the few times per year where they all come together and can express the family that they feel like they are in meat space. It was great! It was an amazingly douchebag-free tech conference. Merlin is a God to these people! Everybody with the exception of Dan Harmon knew John, and they knew him because of the podcast with Merlin, because he was a person proximate to Merlin Mann and Merlin Mann is the center of all things. There was this strange Fight Club-type energy where John was unaware that he sometimes was Brad Pit. When he would walk past a group of total strangers, they would all nod in unison and go "Good afternoon, sir!" They just wanted to acknowledge that they know you, but John got a sense that they wanted to stay away, but they also wanted to show their respect. So Merlin Mann is the God of all things, and Merlin is occasionally deferential to John Roderick, so if Merlin defers to John sometimes, there is a transference where the King occasionally takes your council and so you must be a real mandarin. This was very true. If Merlin had been there, he would have had to have stood next to an exit, possibly an elevator shaft with an elaborate system of ropes and pulleys, able to make an escape at any moment, because if he had stopped moving for a second, he would have been mobbed by admirers. Exactly the kind of people you want, people who are making things in their own worlds, people who know and love you, not mobbed by dummies, but mobbed nonetheless.

People often say about both Merlin and John that they are so much nicer than they had expected. John's favorite thing by listeners to the podcast is when they want to indicate that they know that a lot of what John says on the podcast isn't true. It might be hard sometimes to tell what Merlin and John are exaggerating about and by how much, especially given that John never exaggerates and everything he says is 100% true. Did he pee in a Mickey's big mouth bottle and give it to a sailor in a strip club where a girl named Lolo was dancing? Yes! Would he make something like this up? No! Does John go out in his yard in the middle of the night in a bathrobe and a sword and talk to raccoons? Yes! What part of the podcast seems untrue to you, people? You are "Big Fan"-ing me right now but you are saying the wrong thing to me. The right thing to say is: I thought that everything you said on the podcast is true and now that I met you I see that it is only scratching the surface. Merlin encounters people who he is kind of friends with, because he had conversations on Twitter with them, and they are addressing him in character, like "you got a small back pact" and sometimes it is hard to square that. That's like a high five! "SuperTrain!" They get in and they get out. If they sit there and want to talk about SuperTrain, that is a different matter, because SuperTrain is one of those things you can only say so much about. It is hard for Merlin to make it to many of those conferences, because he has family, it is expensive, he has to fly and if it is not paid for it is hard to defend as a work thing, so he has a guilty conscience about spending the money and being away from the family.

2015-January: John’s USO tour to military bases in Africa (BW205)

There is a small but growing American military contingent in Africa and in January of 2015, John was on USO tour to entertain the troops, which sounds like he was pulling a joke on all of the people he was there to ostensibly entertain. Some of the bases were more like a small collection of tents arranged in a circle, and there was a component of MASH with 4 doctors throwing playing cards into a hat across the room. Besides John, there was also David Rees, famous for the book How to sharpen pencils and Jonathan Coulton, renounced singer-songwriter from Brooklyn. They put on a three-man variety show called "The Three Johns" even though Jonathan is adamant about not being called John and David is not called John, but the name was John’s idea. They played a couple of shows a night for different troops on different shifts.

They arrived in Africa as the big American stars you have never heard of, coming to entertain you with their inscrutable comedy music. Welcome to the base! The base consisted of 9 tents arranged around a privy and their tent had bunk beds with mattresses dating from the Korean War. There was no luxurious accommodation on this base and while their first reaction was "Huh, this is uncool!" they were ready to roll with it! These canvas tents were air conditioned and had a moldy air conditioning smell. Although John is allergic to mold, he told himself that this was not the time to start having an allergy attack and to need his freaking inhaler. He was on a military base in Africa supporting the troops and he realized he should not turn into Milhouse. It was a fairly large tent designed for 30 troops, but there were just the three of them and the Army Captain who shepherded them along. It was a big tent and their show was designed as a big tent show. Over the course of his stay, John realized that this was the deluxe accommodation where the VIPs used to stay when they come to the base, because the other tents presumably smelled even worse like feet.

People are saying that the troops have $10.000 toilet seats on their airplanes, a narrative that is probably obsolete from 1993 together with the rest of John's knowledge about military technology. Somehow all this money has allegedly been skimmed off of military contracts. We think of the whole thing as this pork barrel money cesspool, but that is not how the troops are living at all. They are living in dramatically reduced circumstances! The only difference between where you are staying and where the Colonel is staying is that someone put a piece of plywood between the Colonel’s bed and the Major’s bed and that is literally how they delineate their rooms.

2016-January: The San Francisco Sketchfest (RL184)

John and Merlin did a live show at the San Francisco Sketchfest 2016, it was the 4th live show of the program they have done together. They had mixed success with live shows in the past. One time there was a very attentive audience sitting in chairs while there were a bunch of distracting dingelings in the back of the room partying and playing grab-ass. The year before, John had a wonderful time. There was a lady who wanted to meet him and they took her away from her husband and took her upstairs. The only regret John has: Someone had crowdsourced a whole stack of cards with references to things and bits from the program. It was intended as a nice gift that they would either treasure or utilize. As John went out on stage, he assumed immediately that it was some kind of attempt to usurp what they were going to do by asserting some kind of fan-ownership over the show, so he took the pile of cards and flung it into the audience.

2017-January: The San Francisco Sketchfest (RW53)

In January of 2017, John was at the Sketchfest in San Francisco. It brings a lot of boys and girls to the yard. Adam Savage is a friend to John, he met him thanks to his adjacency to all the nerds. Adam is one of the famous American nerds and John is a member of The Court of Nerds that orbits around the high nerds like Bill Nye the Science Guy, Weird Al, Pee Wee Herman or Neil DeGrasse Tyson. The thing with Adam Savage is that he is an extroverted, wonderful, open-hearted, accessible person about the same age as John. Although they don't have a lot of cultural overlap because John never made props for Star Wars movies, never had his own wildly successful television show and doesn't have his own collection of Blade Runner guns, they are of age and energetically similar enough. Adam and John once drove to Vancouver together when they happened to find out they had the same goal at the same time. John considers him a pal, although Adam is a pal to a lot of people. When John is in San Francisco, it is not hard to hang out with Adam because Adam likes to hang out. He is very engaged in the Skretchfest and the cultural life in SF in general.

Over the years John has met a lot of other people at the Sketchfest like Kevin McDonald from The Kids in the Hall whom he had met a couple of years ago at Adam's house. This year Kevin invited John to be on his podcast and then Dave Foley showed up. Dave is a lifelong pal of Kevin and John was impressed by Dave for years and was a fan of his Celebrity Poker Showdown. John didn't really watch NewsRadio until he liked the Celebrity Poker Showdown and of course: who doesn't love Phil Hartman? Then Michael Showalter showed up whom John knew from his days on MTV's The Slate. It just tumbles along! John was backstage during the Kevin McDonald show together with Dave Foley, Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black. They are all commedians and John tried really hard not to be funny. They were shifting their weight from foot to foot, poised, moving like cobras, making jokes, having fun and John was the 4th guy on the show. John can be funny when he is on stage, because that is the expectation, but he can't monkey around backstage. He was sitting with Eugene Mirman at the end of Sketchfest when somebody said they have been doing standup comedy for 3 years and Eugene replied "That's great! Only 10 more years and you can call yourself a comedian!" In that culture you can't be serious until you did your years in the trenches, but that is only important from within. Nobody gives a shit from the outside.

You can be 19 years old and have played zero shows, but you can still be as big a rock star as Mick Jagger. You can sell 10 million records with the music you made on your phone and not be able to find France on a map, like those Vine-stars! John is friends with MC Frontalot and has been on one of his records. When they first met, John talked about the struggle of all the nights in bars with the smell of body odor and cigarettes, playing for 100 people, but the guy just said that he had put up a song on the Internet and the first time he played live there were 800 people there. John realized that this is the new world. They are both musicians, playing the same show that night, but came from exactly different worlds. Jonathan Coulton was a computer programmer until he was 35 years old. He put his music on the Internet and the first time John ever saw him play a show it was sold out. No years in the trenches, no time backstage at 01:45 in the morning arguing with somebody who handed you an envelope with $175 instead of $250 and lame excuse lame excuse. So when John was standing next to Eugene Mirman at the end of the Sketchfest, Robyn Hitchcock asked how they knew each other (spoilers: they knew each other for 10 years and were friends).

John remembers that one time at the TLA in Philadelphia when he with Sean Nelson, Robyn Hitchcock, Grant-Lee Phillips and two other people played songs for two hours backstage underneith the stairs. That day, Robyn Hitchcock and Grand Lee Philips went on at 5pm and then they cleared the venue and Harvey Danger played at like 8pm. Robyn and Grant stayed through the Harvey Danger show and afterwards they met in the dressing room and so it happened. Robyn and Grant are those geniuses who can play every song. Sean is a genius who can sing harmonies on any song and John is the kind of genius that can sit there and watch and enjoy. Robyn asked John "Are you a comedian, too?" Eugene gave John an emphatic nod as he said he was comedy-adjacent. John took that as an approving nod. In the same way John is nerd adjacent. John is welcome at the Sketchfest, basically a comedy festival. He did 5 shows, he fits in with the people, he can hang, he can banter without anybody calling him an embarassment, but he cannot go up there and even do 5 minutes of stand-up comedy.

John does not normally pose for selfies with celebrities. For example, Jeff Goldblum was standing around in the lobby of the hotel and John did not go over and ask for a photograph. He only took selfies of groups of people where they, were, already standing together.

2017-February: JoJo Cruise to Baja California (RW59)

In February 2017 John went on the JoCo Cruise to Baja California, which is part of Mexico, not the US. John Hodgman, the guy from the Apple Mac/PC-ads, was the comic villain during shows of the cruise.

There was a podcasting panel on the cruise with among others Janet Varney, Hrishikesh Hirway, one of The MacElroys, and Jeffrey Cranor. Someone asked how many in the audience supported podcasts directly and almost every hand went up, which surprised everybody. Of course, this was a nerd crowd, but still, it put some thoughts into people's heads. John thinks it is hard for an established artist to change revenue model all of a sudden, but it is much easier for young budding talents to start off with whatever model they see fit. He saw record sales going from people paying reliably $17,99 for music, but now scoffing at 99 cents. Merchandise is not a sustainable way of income to replace declining record sales. Musicians have lost that battle long ago. People pay gladly $35 to watch a movie, but $15 for an album that you maybe listen to for your whole life is considered outrageous. John says that talking to friends on a podcast for an hour a week is undermining his sense of value. In a lot of fields, value has shifted and for example a university will spend large amounts for the science labs, but the history department can not even replace their light bulbs. The money is in science and programing and the like. There has been repeated devaluation in the market for liberal arts, which is very sad to see. In a capitalist economy, beauty and reflection become marginalized until those only have ephemeral value. This isn't the era of beautiful things, it is the era of crude functionality.

2017-March: Meeting the CFO of Napster at a charity event (RL239)

John was at a charity auction with a steak dinner. He was convinced by a friend to go although he didn’t have a ticket. He had donated an electric guitar to the auction, signed by Matthew Sweet. The friend had an assigned seat at a round table, but John had not, but that was not a problem. The woman who organised the event recognised John, thanked him for the guitar and guided him to a table with an empty seat, walking him over to make introductions. At John’s table was the CFO of Napster, probably Ethan Rudin (Napster still exists had been purchased by Rhapsody), and John talks with him about how Napster ruined the music business which was okay because the CFO joined Napster after the P2P-era and was not affiliated with the early days. Today everybody is streaming and the streaming-people feel they do musicians a great service.

2017-March: On a business event with Richard Branson (RW61)

A friend invited John to an event where Richard Branson, the CEO of Virgin Atlantic, was the guest of honour. Despite his age, Richard Bransons still looks amazing and everybody seems to love and admire him. He is getting younger, just like Hugh Hefner is getting older. During his whole career and still today, his whole brand is “I’m surrounding myself with the most beautiful woman I can employ, romping around, blanketing the world with cocaine. Only propriety prohibits me from walking around with my penis out.” Despite all of his practices going against current values, he is widely admired. At the event, he was on stage with other CEOs, talking about the contemporary startup culture and the future of entrepreneurial business. Unlike John, who wanted to hear Richard Branson's private island cocaine stories, the tenor of the panel was mostly: There are not enough woman CEOs, there are not enough woman at every level. Richard Branson made everybody uncomfortable with his replies, like “It is absolutely right, we need more woman in the board rooms, in every room”, but he is floating above it all. John wasn't expecting an event so business-focused, but unfortunately he had a seat where he couldn’t simply get out.

The event was held because Virgin Atlantic launched a new direct flight between Seattle and London. The moderator was a local newscaster woman and Richard together with another woman CEO wanted to lift her up, because that’s his thing. He is so rich, whenever he wants to meet anybody, he just throws an event and makes up some reason to invite them and they will come. Like Paul Allen, who invited e.g. Eric Clapton to the Key to the City awards (could not be verified, doublecheck!). People will pay a lot of money, don’t even care about Eric Clapton, just because they want to be close to Paul Allen, who won't even recognize them or actively approach them.

During the after party at the biscuits and gravy station (which John highly recommends other events to do), John started conversations with the air hostesses and found out that not all of them were really flight attendants. Some were, some worked in the air before, but some had directly applied to jobs as “event attendants”. All of them were the flight attendants on the inaugural flight from Seattle to London. When they started to look at each other’s Instagram accounts, John found it hilarious to see how these people curated their Instagram feeds. They were universally charming and witty, but because of their physically impressive appearance you would think they would be awful people and the pictures on Instagram doubled down on the awfulness. There were party pictures from Dubai, people making peace signs on EDM-parties, duckfacing, people never smiling. They seemed shallow and told a story totally in-congruent to real life, which spawned a whole discussion between Dan and John about presenting yourself online (Attitude and Opinion).

2017-May: John interviews Adam Savage (RL243, RW65)

John was hanging out with Adam Savage all afternoon on May 1st and having some Thai food as early dinner with him before heading to the University of Washington where John went to interview Adam in front of a college audience. They came to the ballroom right at 20:00 which caused some anxiety for the production staff. The vast majority of the audience were science majors, most of them engineers and a couple of math people. The interview was exactly the extemporaneous conversation they both enjoy having, and they covered a lot of ground talking about the maker culture and promoting the idea that you can make stuff. They talked about the divide between the STEM and the liberal arts.

2017-May: John's experience with app-activated wrist bands (RL246)

John played with The Long Winters at the Upstream music festival, a new event put together by Paul Allen's company Vulcan (see RW64). John is a member of the board of the organization and knows a lot of people there, but he was not at all involved in the planning stage of the following. In order to get your festival packet, you had to go to the box office down by the football field. You would get a wristband which you had to activate using an app. The package included a full typewritten page with a second page of addenda with instructions on how to activate the wristband. If you did it wrong, you could not enter the festival for the whole day and the artists even got two wristbands without a clear story which one is to be used for what. John put the envelope with all the wristbands, the instructions and several VIP drink tickets in the front pocket of his jacket. As he walked around the festival and somebody would ask him if he had a wristband, he would tap on his jacket and said "right here". Nobody stopped him. There was no space for artist parking and John parked his truck on a plaza right in front of the venue and put one of the VIP drink tickets under the windshield wiper. All day long, cops on their beats swinging their night sticks went by, stopped, looked at the VIP ticket and strolled on.

When it was time for the big night show, people were lining up to get in, but there were no guest lists at the entrace because people were supposed to use their wristbands, which they were supposed to get down at the football field and activate in the app. John called his contact person to get things explained and learned that the event was built like a festival. John countered that this is not like Bonnaroo where there is one gate where you get everything you need, but is instead a fest that is spread all over town, they are doing this for the first year and that is not how things are done. People are not going to go down to the stadium, but they are going to the individual shows. He explains that his 82 year old mother is going to show up soon and the current way of operation is not going to work, so somebody who can handle this situation needs to come over. Since this is arranged by the Vulcan company, the security staff are the same guys who usually handle the football and they have never worked on a music festival before. It is a different kind of thing! There are production people who do that for a living, event production is a high level job.

Four minutes later a guy came up the streets who was the right guy, exactly the kind of guy you want to have. He understood the situation, wrote down the names from John's guest list into his own phone and handled it from there. People showed up, said they were on the guest list and were let right in without even knowing that they had missed the thing with the wristband. He explained that he owned an event production company and 6 months ago when they announced the festival he offered them to handle production and security, but he didn't hear back until 2 weeks ago when everything was on fire. John had met him before and you could see him walk with the stride of someone who does not just follow orders and will at one day be convicted of a war crime. He is not a second lieutenant with his helmet on backwards calling down artillery on his own position. If he gets an order that is a FUBAR, he is going to belie that order.

2017-June: Tentpole calendar events like MaxFunCon (RL248)

John spent the weekend at the TV-famous MaxFunCon. The conference is at Lake Arrowhead, a mile over sea level, the same as Denver, Colorado. There is no period of acclimatization. You come from the desert of San Bernadino where people are having schwabmeats at old drive-in movie theatres where they are selling each other Chevy truck parts and the air feels like it is made of Play-Doh. Then all of a sudden you are a mile up and when you wave your hand through the air you can feel that there is less of it. You are tired, dehydrated and panting for breath. The squirrels up there are smaller. In Seattle, squirells are the size of cats. They are super-adorable with fluffy tails, they are friendly and very domestic.

There is one thing John noticed when going to MaxFunCon this year: John used to look at a calendar of the year and it looked like an empty mystery to him and he would make some dumb pronouncement about the coming year. The only things that loomed were President's Day, Valentine's Day, Saint Patrick's Day, Memorial Day, last day of school, 4th of July, Labour Day, Halloween and his birthday. Beyond that he had no idea what was going to happen. None! That situation persisted well into John's late 20:s and 30:s. As he started to have a career in music, it involved a certain amount of booking a tour in Oktober for April or June. It was amazing to know that this thing was coming up ahead and everything he was doing now would be in the shadow of this event in his future that is unknowable to him although it has been meticulously planned. Somebody in St. Louis just wrote down John's name in their calendar and it goes to the local alternative newspaper. It became a really trippy thing, like going from one key to three keys on your key ring. From 2003 SXSW became a flag pole on his calendar and it was the first thing that wasn't on everybody's calendar like Valentine's Day was. It was on his calendar and his gang's calendar and it was going to be there every year. You knew what you were doing at SXSW because all your friends went there! Then there were tours and record release dates that you could see in the future.

During the last 8 years, John has planted many of those flags: SF Sketchfest, JoCo Cruise, MaxFunCon, for a while there was Comic-Con, right now there is the Seafair in Seattle. He had obligations. It was the way his year was built. He felt for several years that this was his life now: Lots of standing events that are cemented in during the course of a year. But then after 7 years in a row, you will ask yourself "Am I doing that again?" If feels like you are not evolving anymore, but you are just making the rounds and that can be a bummer. This year on his way to MaxFunCon, he had this feeling that he had done this a lot and he was wondering if this is what he would be doing again. By the time he left the mountain it felt like everything old was new again, it was a really good year and it validated at least that standing event.

This seems to be a new process for him: Go around and check in with all these pylons and re-up with them. This is a voluntary part of his life, he could abrade all those fence poles if he wanted, but if he visits them and they still work or they work in a new way, it is also okay to keep them. John is not simply inventing a bunch of compulsory flag days or tearing it all down, because that is the way to become a new person. It was a weird year because 2016 was such a shit show from start to finish and for him personally it washed over to the first half of 2017. Nothing good happened in 2016 as far as he can tell. In the first half of 2017 he asked himself if this would be our new reality. Everybody good dies and nothing good happens! Now it feels like people are going to pick up the pieces, we do live in a new reality and we do feel maybe even more charged to build good things, John does feel a little hopeful!

2017-July: San Diego Comic-Con (RW73, RL253, RW74, RW75)

John is going down to San Diego ComicCon because this is his career now. He is going to play a show with Adam Savage, John Hodgman and Paul and Storm and they are doing a big theatrical show there where John is playing the guitar and singing, so he is still in the game of being a musician, but it is so disconnected from his time on being on tour. Those guys do not know about Waterloo, they will not do an InStore, they are not going to play at Stubb's, and they are not going to know any of the road managers of the other people playing at Stubb's. It is not the same world and the two worlds didn't connect at all. For Dan it sounds like John is evolving. Not many of those other guys have gone on to play Comic-Con or opened a mall up for people or having an Instagram or do podcasts or are king of their town? (RW73)

John does not just take one road and follows it, he goes wherever he is called! They were saying earlier that hobbies are things you don't get paid for, but John kind of gets paid for almost all of his hobbies, even if it is barely gainful, but you combine enough together and it is a job. As King Neptune he is getting asked a lot what he is doing for a living, and the obvious answer is that he has always been King Neptune, this is what he does! One of his jobs is lying in bed with nothing on but a sheet, and with a powder blue injection molded plastic bath desk from IKEA, rigged up as a podcast booth with a computer, a microphone and headphones, podcasting from bed. Naked. He used to get up in the morning, have a cup of coffee and drive into his office with a proper recording studio where you can hear the crows and the seagulls in the background. He has slipped so far that if he is recording at 12:00, he will set his alarm at 11:45. (RW73)

Comic-Con was super fun! John walked around, bought some comic books, talked to people about comic books and had his usual Comic-Con experience which is that he doesn't understand it, but he is fine with that. He no longer seeks to understand, because he understands enough. There was an enormous scrum of people around a big booth branded with a Warner Brothers logo, two stories tall with a big curved staircase and very bright lights around it. In the same hallway where a guy with a bunch of cardboard boxes is selling DC titles from the 1960:s, two blocks down the Comic-Con highway there is this huge Warner Brothers experience and security guards blocking the roads, asking John to go around, almost guaranteeing that there will be a stampede. There were dozens of paparazzi holding their cameras over their heads and rapid-fire-shooting with flashes going off. There was some smiling young actor/actress from the latest WB show called like "Coat hanger and Tibs" and who fucking cares? (RL253)

John just wanted to see if that guy with the cardboard boxes has some copies of MAD magazine from the 1970:s and he couldn't get through because Zane from "Coat hanger and Tibs" is there for 11teen minutes and all those flash bulbs attract a lot of people. Those security guards are local San Diegans and they are not invested in the safety of Zane and do not actually care about him. They also do not care about you at the other end of the line, whether you are trampled and whether you survive this day. They are employed to stand there as long as they can to say "Sorry!" and if anything happens and enough mosquitoes are pushing against that screen, these security guards will say "I'm out!". Zane is frankly only on the other side of a folding table with towels. There is no real protection, it is all just an agreed upon thing, but it won't be long before the crowd at a Comic-Con will resort to cannibalism and Zane is just a pile of bones. John wants to be for that, frankly! (RL253)

John doesn't want to go to Comic-Con as Spy vs Spy, because people have already done that, but has there ever been a blue Mini? Probably there was, but if not, then John wants to be a blue Mini! (RL253)

At shows like Comic-Con, John is together with a dozen or more friends who are all entertainers from the same corner of the field and they are all in the same general fame category. John Hodgman is a magnitude more famous than John, maybe 10x more, but they are still in the same fame category. Unlike Rock shows with a built in hierarchy defining the opener, the middle band and the headliner, shows like Comic-Con are socially very complicated. The headliner is the reason the people are at the show and the only time that hierarchy is disturbed is when one of the openers has a hit song, but they agreed to do the tour before their song hit. While Guns N' Roses was on tour opening for Aerosmith, "Sweet Child o' Mine" was rocketing to the top of the charts. Although Aerosmith was a much bigger band at the time, there were all of a sudden people in the audience who came to see Guns N' Roses. Harvey Danger was on tour once with the terrible SR-71 as the headliner and Wheatus was the opener. Wheatus was great and during the tour they had a really good hit song called "Teenage Dirtbag". Things like that happen, but rarely! (RW74)

The shows that John does now with 12 artists on stage are much more complicated, because they are all friends with one another and share a similar culture, but there is still a feeling of competition for the eyes and the laughs and the love of the audience. Everybody is hanging out backstage, trying to navigate a room full of talented people who are all used to being the center of attention. It can get tricky! People can get their feelings hurt very easily and they can feel excluded when they are not excluded. John has seen many times how it destabilizes people. Comic-Con is one of these events. The w00tstock show that Paul & Storm put on with Adam Savage and Wil Wheaton had 12-15 people on stage over the course of the night, all doing little bits. The backstage this year was a delight! Adam Savage is alwas a delight, and Paul & Storm have been super-good friends of John for 10 years. (RW74)

John genuinely likes the conference, despite spending many hours leaning against the wall and going "What the Fuck? What am I looking at right now? What is going on?" He still enjoys many things about it, like looking at old musty comic books and talking to old musty people about them. John does not care about the new show on the WB that a lot of people at the Con do care about. (RW74)

It is funny that they call it Comic-Con when it is a lot about TV shows and movie trailers nowadays. SxSW was once about unsigned bands, but now the unsigned bands are already really hot and even if they are unsigned, they have already a management and a lawyer and they have everybody just trying to showcase the shit out of them to milk every last dollar out of it. When John first went there, everybody was just an unsigned band, it was just a bunch of Texas Blues bands and Indie Pop bands. Now Interpol is playing the Doritos stage. Nothing about that is something that John wants to see. Dan has never been to the official real Comic-Con in San Diego. Dallas has one, but it is not as big as the one in San Diego. The only thing Dan got from Austin Comic-Con was a really bad flu. He needs to get out to the big one, but he hears that it is madness and busy and the lines are insane. It is fairly expensive to get out to San Diego and attend, which has been enough to keep him away. (RW74)

John went to a party with John Landers and some other famous people: mostly show runners, writers and people who make the engine of Hollywood putter along. Some were running actually famous shows, and some were clambering up the ladder in a world where John is not competitive at all. A handsome guy with long hair and a beard comes in and walks the room while looking at and being aware of John. Eventually he strikes up a conversation, speaking with this delightful Irish broke. His name is Sean Patrick O'Shannessy O'Grady (?), a documentary filmmaker with his work on Netflix. He is very charming, wants to be Facebook friends and he was a genuine person, at least in the context of this kind of party. They were talking and chatting and making the dozens and he was curious to know more. As the conversation went on between multiple people, Sean Patrick ended up talking to a fourth person who went to high school together with John. As soon as he heard that, he said "If you guys are the same age, why does he look so old?" In fact, it was true! John's friend does not have much grey hair in his beard or his hair, although around the eyes they have the same amount of smily crinkles. John just looked 20 years older and is now confronting the notion that he is an old. He looks older than he is, people are perceiving him as an old and there is nothing he will do about it to appease their incorrect perception. (RW75)

2017-July: Artists playing house-shows (RW74, RW77, RL255)

John recently went to an event where Elvis Costello was playing at a guy's birthday party with maybe 60 people. 40 of them did not know or care about him, but he still played a full two hour long set together with The Attractions. In preparation for that, they had done a 2,5 hour long soundcheck where they ran every song they know. One of John's friends put on an event in Seattle where Beyoncé played at a girl's 16th birthday party. Her dad allegedly payed $1 million for a 45 minute set. He was probably an awful guy who wanted to teach his daughter that he can get Beyoncé to come and he must have had so much money that $1 million did not seem like any kind of big deal, which is not a good lesson to teach your children. What it taught John is that those kind of events happen all the time. Beyoncé will come and play at your daughter's Bat Mitzvah and - rightfully so - she will go anywhere you give her $1 million to go. You can pay Ryan Gosling to come to your corporate party and just stand at the bar. It is a side of show business that the artists don't want people to know. (RW74)

Not that long ago, John played a birthday party for a Starbucks person who loved this particular barbecue restaurant and loved The Long Winters, so his wife rented the restaurant and called John to hire him for the gig. John gave her his fuck-you-price that is supposed to communicate that he doesn't want to play at birthday parties, but they wiggled a little bit and she gave him a number that was fine. The barbecue restaurant was 2 miles from his house and he might have gone there that night anyway! That is part of John's job. Being King Neptune doesn't pay anything, but he can never be sure if his appearance on King 5 Morning Show gets somebody to call him a month later and ask him to host their corporate retreat. When he will give them his fuck-you-price, they will say that they would have paid him twice as much. This will then allow him to go to things like Comic-Con that paid him $200 because it was Paul and Storm or do stuff that pay him nothing. You get at those things by paying your dues. All the time he played in Richmond, Virginia for $75 and two cans of cherry coke now put him in a position where he has a grey beard and can't hear out of his right ear, but he gets to play in barbecue restaurants for people's birthdays. (RW74)

Dan has those opportunities all the time. Mostly people don't want him there and don't pay him, but he does show up anyway! Dan needs to work on his public appearance, because he doesn't know what he can contribute. John gets hired for birthday parties, presumably to sing a song, but they both need to develop a whole sort of realm in which they are brought places not to do anything. Ryan Gosling probably gets $750.000 to stand at a party party because he is beautiful and famous and talented, which Dan also is, but slightly less beautiful than Ryan Gossling, despite having very sensual hips. John has much more character in his face, but while character is not a thing that people pay as much for as beauty, John doesn't see a reason why they shouldn't at least get paid $75.000 to show up or, in case it is down the streets, even $7.500. The problem is to get work in that space and get the word out that you are available. One way is to talk about it on your podcast, which would introduce at least the people who are already interested in you to the idea that they want to fly Dan Benjamin to a corporate event where he will stand around, somewhere in the $2.000 to $20.000 range. You don't want to fly out for less than $2.000, but if it is $20.000, you have to ask yourself what else they want. Is somebody going to put their hand on your knee? For $20.000, that is definitely okay for John, and if the person is one of those who will put their hand on people's knees when they are vigorously talking, then John does generally not have a problem with that and he is not offended by it. This has often enough gotten him into trouble when a girl had put her hand on John's knee and his girlfriend had a jealous reaction to it afterwards. He is totally oblivious to sexual overtone! It is like Kryptonite to him and he gets totally blind and can never see if anybody is flirting with him or if the interaction is just fraternal. On the other hand, if John all of a sudden gets locked in a truck cab without noticing, that will be a $50.000 gig. (RW74)

The thing about lock-picking skills is: If you are a former drug addict, you might think that having a set of locksmithing skills would be a great advantage, but in fact it is a terrible thing. If you are a drunk, if helps to be rich and have family money, because it can get you out of trouble over and over again. It is a lot better compared to being a poor drunk, but what it really does is allowing you to set fires for decades because your money protects you. If you are a drug addict and have locksmithing skills, it turns you into a burglar just by virtue of exploring the talents you have. John stopped doing drugs partly because he didn't want his particular talents being dirtied. You don't want to besmirch the things you love most! Anytime you are degrading yourself, it isn't about the particular activity you are doing, because all things can be both uplifting and degrading. For example: You can call it degrading if Beyoncé plays at a birthday party, but on the other hand she just got paid $1 million dollars for 45 minutes doing the thing she loves, which is kind of uplifting. It just depends on your take and if you are applying your talents in a way that is constructive or destructive. As John got lower and lower into his drug addiction, there was no part of himself that he wouldn't utilize to get high, and that is a bad feeling! You take a thing about yourself and start squeezing it to accomplish an end that is antithetical to what makes that thing about yourself great. That can be a wakeup-call! Another wakeup-call can be to get shot in the shoulder, but John has never been shot at, if you don't count pellet guns. John has not been stabbed at either if you don't count that hatchet that attacked him once. (RW74)

Although John said he was not particularly interested in doing private shows except if someone would make him an offer he couldn't refuse, Don Corleone style, somebody contacted him and asked him to play his birthday party. John referred her to the podcast and wondered if she had listened to the whole program. She asked about John's fuck-you price and John replied that plumbers submit bids, but musicians consider offers. (RW77) Merlin was the one who introduced the concept of having a fuck-you-price to John. When Merlin was applying it in order not to speak at conferences, people would still pay him the money after he raised it twice! She wanted John to play for her boyfriend, a Starbucks guy and she convinced John that The Long Winters are his favorite band, but she also payed the fuck-you-money. John just moved her cheese a little bit. She came with an offer, it was in the ballpark and John said to throw in 3 bags of M&Ms and her engagement ring (RL255) and was like "Yeah, I'll play your birthday party for that!" (RW77) She replied just with one word: "Done". The gig was already 2 days after the initial contact and John went into his car and drove several hours to this place. There were 7 guys and 4 women and none of the guys knew he was coming. John sat down in the living room with 2 grown-up men in John's and Merlin's age plus 3 of their sons between 19 and 30 and everybody knew everything. They all knew all the songs and all the podcasts. The wives were teasing them that the guys were freaking out even though you couldn't tell. They each pitched a few songs. All of the songs were great and totally unexpected choices. They weren't trying to be obscure, but it ended up as a completely weird set list that John never would have otherwise played. He even had to remember a couple of the songs as he was playing them. After the set his host had to go meet some other people and John joined them for dinner at a food truck rally, each of them got their own food and they sat together and ate off paper plates. John had brought a couple of candle sticks as a gift and after the meal he went back in his car and was home by midnight. It ended up being super-fun. (RL255)

Two of those a month and John would be happy! It was a real eye-opener for him (RL255), so now John is lining up gigs, which comes as a surprise. There is this whole culture of touring around and playing house-shows. John had followed along with friends who do that and it seemed fun, better than touring clubs, because so much of the rigmarole is dealt with. You don't show up and load in and soundcheck and wait around for 5 hours. You don't go on stage at 11:30pm to a dwindling drunk crowd. Instead you show up, the audience is already there, they have already paid for the tickets, you say "Hey everyone!", you open your guitar case and play for 45 minutes / 1 hour. Then you sit at a table and sell your stuff for another 30 minutes and you might be done in 2 hours. It's brilliant! John has never undertaken house show tours, because it does involve a kind of infrastructure. Somebody has to consider all these people, has to vet all of that, handle the business with getting people to pay in advance, collect the money and all the other administrative stuff. John is terrible at all of that! But if every once in a while somebody asks… John hates to say No to people who don't have a lot of money and want him to play. Why do only rich people get things? Well, yeah, you are asking him to go out of bed and go a long distance to you… (RW77)

John is still not going to play somebody's birthday party for $200 and it does not mean that only rich people get nice things. It comes down to Hodgman's corollary to the statement "it never hurts to ask", which is: "It always hurts to ask!" For $200 you are not getting paid properly, because you are spending the time and when you say "No", then you are the asshole! John always tells the story that he had saved up $500 for Merlin to build him The Long Winters website. The thing is: How many clients like that can you afford to have before you don't have a life anymore? When people say, that all they can afford is X, but they like to have you, and you say the minimum amount you would do it for is 2*X, then all of a sudden they can make it work. Then you go: "Oh, I see! Everyone is a liar!" Now John is trying to figure out if he can do more of these private shows, but he doesn't want to formalize this process because he has a relationship with a booking agent and at one point the agent will come and ask "Are you playing house shows?", which John does not do! He would never come to a town to play a show for someone's boyfriend! In rare instances he might do it, but he doesn't put out his shingle saying that he is open for business. (RL255)

2017-July: Producing a variety of filler content

Merlin is happy that John is still out there getting things done, like he saw a picture that John was recently on the My Brother, My Brother and me podcast. After the recording with Merlin, John has to leave for KUOW, the local Seattle NPR-station. They have a culture panel where they sit around and discuss temporaneous cultural moments. It is just filler content, which is what 98% of our content is. Since John is no longer on Twitter, he doesn't know what the "of the day" stuff is that they will probably talk about.

John did an "of the day" thing on the King 5 breakfast show a couple of days earlier, but he wouldn't have encountered those stories even if he still were on Twitter. One example is "There is a motel for sale outside of Reno that is decorated 100% in clowns" or "A football player was jet-skiing, crashed and lost a $100.000 diamond earring", what do we think about that?

John's cultural panel is not going to be as humorous and it is not going to be so broad. It will be topics like "The state legislator of Oklahoma says X". It is not going to be biting, but it is culture filler. This is one of the many things John does in order to make content for people and to stay in the mix.

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