I’ve been involved in a new project that is slowly becoming an actual thing so I think it’s time to start being a bit more public about what we’re doing.
Gordon Smuder, who produced Transylvania Television, came to me last year and asked if I was interested in being head writer on a new project called “Vermin.” I was in the midst of looking to increase my work as a writer so of course I said yes.
Vermin is about a bunch of lab rats. One rat, Ralph, is a bit smarter than the rest so what happens? He has gotten promoted to management.
That’s the basic idea. A bunch of rats in a lab. And one of them is in charge.
Where me and the other writers have gone from that starting point is getting very exciting and very silly. We explore the various experiments the rats are part of, the challenge of being the rat in charge, and there are ninjas. Rat ninjas. Also a whole lot of bagels.
Being a head writer is a different experience for me. I’m not writing the whole thing. I’m just the guy who drives the conversation and sometimes says “hey – maybe we should change this part.”
I don’t know if I’m doing it right. I have to trust the other writers to do their jobs and still be willing to step in to make decisions that keep the whole thing moving the right direction. At least I think that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m kind of making the whole thing up as I go.
Dawn is one of the most gifted actresses I know. When I ask her to work on a project with me and she says yes, it makes me feel like I’m doing something right.
I first became aware of Dawn when she took part in a short film I helped write for CONvergence a few years back. I was working on a totally different part of the film so we never actually met. When we finally met at the convention, she was the nicest and most gracious of people I could have imagined.
I’ve never seen Dawn treat anyone poorly in all the time I’ve known her. She is genuinely friendly and interested in whatever others have to say. She’s also game to try just about anything provided she has the time. Which she often doesn’t because why wouldn’t you want her to be part of anything you were trying to do?
As an actress, she typically nails exactly what I need the first time she reads something but whenever I ask her to make a change, she understands what I want and makes the right choices every time.
What surprised me was to learn how good she is as improvisational comedy. She’s so good at everything else, I guess it shouldn’t have come as a shock.
There is a love for performing in Dawn that is contagious. When I came up with an idea to have a script with a Connie puppet, she was practically vibrating with excitement. Well, once she was excited about it, there was no way I could back out, could I?
She’s also generous. She was over at my house for a rehearsal yesterday and was eating a granola bar. The first thing she asked as everyone came in was if they wanted some. That willingness to share is, I think, one of the things that makes her such a good actress. She’s not concerned with the size of the part but rather giving the most of her talents to the part she has.
I’m grateful to have met Dawn. She’s one of those people that brightens the life of everyone around her.
Among the many things Dawn does, she has a podcast about wine called Screw It!
I met Michael the back in the early days of CONvergence. He was part of a group that brought in Gary Russell as one of our first guests of honor. Mike has always been passionate about Dr. Who, fandom, and conventions.
When I stepped down as a CONvergence director, Mike was elected to take my place and I couldn’t have been happier because I knew the convention would be in good hands.
He’s stepping away from the board of CONvergence this year but in the last several years, his interests in conventions have grown to the point he is currently helping with a Worldcon bid.
Mike can be a bit quiet until you get to know him but he certainly has his opinions and is willing to share them.
In the years that he has run the convention, I’ve seen him work tirelessly to make things better when he perceives a problem. He has taken the initiative time and again to fix problems that wouldn’t have been fixed had he not made the choice to act. He seems willing to commit whatever extra time it takes to make sure something gets done right.
At the convention, he has also served as a calming influence when tempers begin to flare.
I wouldn’t say he is the biggest Dr. Who fan I know but he is a big Dr. Who fan. For the last several years, he has been the “candyman” who brought new episodes over to our house. I know that on such evenings, my kids were a lot happier to see him than anyone else. In that way, he’s passed his love of the show on to a new generation.
I really enjoy talking to Mike when there is something that excites him. For someone who is so typically laid back, his personality completely changes and he lights up like a big kid. That reaction betrays the passion that is always just below the surface.
I know that Mike will continue to be involved with CONvergence as long as the convention is around. That’s a good thing because the con needs people like him.
You can find his blog at michaell.org.
Laurie is one of those people who comes up with exciting crazy ideas and then actually makes those crazy ideas happen. Several years ago, she decided that we should have trading cards for Vilification Tennis. I said that was a great idea and if she could make it happen, I was completely behind it.
Well, she made it happen and it has been a crazy popular idea ever since.
She has a great impish smile that betrays a new idea. She can’t wait to tell you about it and I can’t wait to hear it. I’ve learned to never say anything so foolish as “you’ll never figure out a way to do that” because the fact is she already has.
She’s been a performer with Vilification Tennis for several years and is always writing new material that is clever and unique. I can hear a joke and know it is a Laurie joke.
One of the things Laurie is really passionate about is animals. She’s worked for veterinary clinics and the Humane Society most of the time I’ve known her. When someone lost a pet, she cried with them. When someone abandoned some kittens behind a gas station on a cold winter night, she took the survivor into her home, nursed it until it was healthy enough to find a home, and then found it a good home (ours).
That’s just one animal she rescued. There have been many others.
She understands the bond people form with their pets and shows amazing compassion for pet owners and their animals.
She’s also spent many hours renovating her home. Her house has been transformed by hours of hard work. It takes a lot of drive and determination to buy a house knowing that it will take years to turn it into the house you really want and to continually work towards that goal.
I like Laurie because she does things. She is an idea person who makes the ideas happen. It makes her a really fun person to be around.
Laurie doesn’t have a web site but right now, she is raising money for the annual Humane Society Walk for Animals. It’s something she’s very passionate about. So if you think she’s as cool as I do, you should go to her page and donate a few bucks.
Eric and I started at the Renaissance Festival in 1985 and we have been friends ever since. This year both of us will celebrate our 30th season. The years of service awards at the Festival are that much better because I get to share the walk with a good friend.
Eric is well known for being pedantic but that somewhat derogatory term points to how good he is at the little details of so many things. He doesn’t miss much.
He’s been my assistant director for Vilification Tennis for the last several years and the reason is because he will tell me when he thinks I’m doing something wrong. I don’t tend to take such conversations well but I usually come around to his way of thinking because he is usually right.
When I’m working on a new project or a new idea, Eric is one of the best resources for me because I understand the language he speaks. His criticisms and comments are clear and honest and they help me become a better writer.
At the festival, he is a gifted up close performer. His Concierge character is not a boisterous character that draws a crowd but instead, he is a character built around the idea of improving the festival day for everyone who walks through the gate. Every interaction he has with a patron is a positive interaction.
Conversations with Eric typically aren’t short. We used to hold monthly Festival get together parties and Eric was frequently the last person to leave. Often it would be as the sun was rising and he hadn’t yet overstayed his welcome.
Eric is also a gifted costumer, a movie fan, and one of the founders of the CONvergence movie room, Cinema Rex.
I’m lucky to have known Eric for almost thirty years. I’m hoping we’ll be friends for at least thirty more!
Eric doesn’t have a web site but he sometimes tweets as @PedanticEric.
You know, I really loved The Majestic the first time I watched it. Until I watched it for the Alphabetical Movie Project, I hadn’t watched it again. I didn’t really understand why it was considered a bad film.
I don’t think it’s a bad movie. But wow. It is nowhere near as good as I remember.
I generally think I’m a bad judge of movies on a single viewing. I like a lot of films the first time I see them because I’m focused on the stuff that was good. Most films have at least a few parts that are good. It took me a few weeks of thinking about the film before I finally concluded that yes, Man of Steel was pretty dumb.
There was still stuff I liked in the film that I liked. Can’t recall what that stuff was but I remember there were a lot of parts I liked.
When I watch a movie in the theatre, I want it to be a good experience. I like seeing films in the movie theatre but it costs a lot to see go to the theatre. If I’m going to shell out money and time to see a film, I want to find something to enjoy.
A few years later, I’ll go back to a film like The Majestic and realize that my desire to enjoy the film was what made it worthwhile.
I’m not saying that is a bad thing. Unless my goal was to watch a bad film, it is actually a good thing to walk out of the theater feeling like it was time well spent.
Teri is one of those special people that makes you grateful to have been in the right place at the right time to know her.
Teri and I live a long way apart and that is a shame. We see each other once every few years and fall into long, easy conversations that only end when we are in desperate need of sleep.
Pretty remarkable that a friendship can be that strong after only one year at college and long periods of time with little or no contact. The internet has made regular contact much more common and for that small favor, I’m grateful for Facebook every day.
Terry is an artist and she shares her work on Facebook all the time. I know that what I see is only a fraction of what she produces but I love the passion she has to create. She always seems to be exploring that part of herself and every now and again she posts a snapshot of what she’s working on. Every snapshot makes me wish I could see more.
When we were in school together, I remember spending long hours in the art studio talking while she worked. She really loved being an artist even if she was often frustrated by the process of making art. From everything I see, she still loves being an artist.
She has a wonderful wit that gets her though a lot of life challenges. She isn’t always happy but she refuses to be sad.
I think the reason I like talking with her so much is because she is so good at it. Conversations with her are interesting because she speaks with such a distinctive character.
She’s also a devoted mom and whenever she talks about her son, you can see her brighten up more than usual. That kid is super lucky.
But then, anyone who knows Teri is super lucky.
What constantly impresses me about Levi is how positive he is about everything. The Friend a Day blog posts, which I borrowed from him, were all about saying great things about people in his life. The internet can frequently be a very negative place and having someone making an effort to actively fight that negativity is refreshing.
Levi is a very talented writer and producer. The shows he produces with Comedy Suitcase (along with Joshua English Scrimshaw) have long been favorites of my kids. There have even been some tears when we arrived at a show too late to purchase tickets.
Not your fault, Levi. You can’t help it if what you produce is so good everyone wants to see it.
In a theater market that is as rich as the Twin Cities, it is great to see Levi and Joshua working so hard to produce comedy that is targeted towards families. I think that has helped inspire me to explore more scripts that my kids could actually watch.
He’s a very devoted dad and that has helped inspire his podcast, Pratfalls of Parenting, a podcast featuring performers who are also parents. He is a gifted interviewer who helps bring out the best in all of his guests.
Watching Levi on stage is a genuine treat because he’s willing to put his body on the line in the most creative ways possible. When he was doing the Pratfall Olympics at Die Laughing, it was as much fun to watch him falling all over the sage as it was to watch his daughter gleefully bounce in her chair.
I don’t get to spend a lot of time with Levi, which is too bad. His positive attitude and intelligence is always worth the time. Someday, perhaps, we’ll end up working on the same project together. That would be all sorts of cool.
I’m pleased that knowing Levi led me directly to this project. I always look forward to what he does next.
Speaking of what he does next – Levi has started up another project called Worth Stealing and you know what? It’s another great and positive idea. You can read all of his friend a day posts on his web site leviweinhagen.com.
This week’s episode features local comedian Elizabeth Ess. She wanted to talk about the Hobby Lobby case now before the Supreme court and we were happy to oblige. We spent a long time talking about the details of that case and making jokes.
There were also a lot of interruptions as we tried to reach our fundraising goal. I thought I was going to cut the interjections out but in listening to the raw file, it actually was kind of fun. Hopefully listeners will agree.
I edited a few things – mostly conversations with people in the back of the room – but for the most part, the episode is as originally recorded.
So hey, if you want to hear us talk about religious liberty and head shaving, this is the episode for you!