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May 6th, 2016

The Life and Death of a Nerd: Chapter 4


Click here for part ONE, TWO, and THREE!

Where we last left off, I started seeking the help that I needed, started writing again, stopped caring about the things that were dragging me down, and started really embracing all the nerdy things I missed over the last few years. Funny thing, if you show up to your job not giving a fuck every day, you’ll likely lose it. The company that I was working for at the time (that was easily the worst job I’ve ever had) started laying people off, and nothing could have been better for me. On my drive home from being let go, people from work called me to see if I was okay. I was smiling and told them it I was great. And I was. Sure, I might have come across as a person who just snapped, because rarely enough cries tears of joy when getting sacked, but this was the push I needed because I was too afraid to leave a well paying job.

Summer was coming, and I was ready to try something new. I enrolled back into college, took a vacation to San Diego Comic Con, and started enjoying experiencing new things. At this time, Dan Jones was very persistent in wanting to hang out. While I always thought Dan and his wife were cool people, I never really saw us as those people that were close in the way where we hang out. At that time, I was kind of a loner as well. No one really saw me, and I liked it. Dan was persistent though. So eventually I met up with him and his wife on a semi-regular occasion and just hung out. Good lord did this kid and I have a lot in common. We were both huge movie junkies, his collection rivaling my own. We both had our own unique social awkwardness that quickly shed away in each other’s company. I felt sorry for his wife because every time we’d get together, Dan and I would just talk for hours about everything from Crispin Glover movies to Voltron.

And eventually, Dan said it. “We should start a podcast.” If I knew then what I know now, I would have met his idea with genuine enthusiasm. Maybe it was the fact that I was still piecing my life together after a near brush with suicide, but my self confidence was low. I was trying to figure out who I was, and I didn’t think anyone would really want to listen to my obscure Highlander knowledge on a weekly basis. So I did what every shitty person does and said, “That sounds cool, dude,” but I never intended on following through with it. I knew I could be funny, but I also knew that I felt like crying some days at a moment’s notice.

Dan kept pushing it though, so I gave it a second though. I was writing a lot more recently, and I was also wanting to get back into acting. I was also jobless and trying to regain a level of control in my life. I countered Dan’s podcast proposal with doing an entire website instead where we could do reviews, make videos, interview people, or anything that came to mind. I’d been following a few other groups who were just a year or two old at the time like Mega 64 and Screwattack, so I knew that we were living in a time where with the right effort, we could make something special. Dan said yes. Around that time, I ran into Brandon Wolfe who had recently moved up to Portland. He was also wanting to get involved in some kind of creative endeavor. So I looped him into what Dan and I were cooking up, and after a long night at a coffee shop brainstorming, the name “Chronicles of the Nerds” was born. The only problem we had though was we didn’t really know anything about actually making videos.

We quickly learned that Brandon knew a lot of people. He had a friend named Cole Dixon who recently had a few Youtube videos become pretty popular. This was the early days of Youtube where certain creators were made partners, and Cole was one of those. He was interested in creating a site where he could really develop his craft with other people, so in a line outside an MC Chris show, we met him and interviewed him there to see if he’d be a good fit. Also in that line was frequent guest and hashtag heel of Portland, Ryan “Seacrest” Reid. He even asked us while we were meeting Cole if we were some kind of internet celebs. Looking back, it’s amazing what moments end up defining your next 7 years. That night we interviewed the band “I Fight Dragons” before anyone knew who they were. The next day, Cole had our first interview edited down, so we had some real content to post when we launched the site.

Back in the promoting days, we became friends with the band Broadway Calls. We hit them up for an interview as they opened for one of my favorite bands, Bayside. While there, we got to interview Bayside’s guitarist, Jack O’Shea. 3 interviews in and we still hadn’t even launched. Then the fateful night happened. We heard John Cleese was in town for a show. We all grew up on Monty Python, and feeling high off of doing a few interviews over the span of a few days, we thought, “What’s the harm in trying.” So we went to his show and asked his merch person (who happened to be his tour manager” if there was any chance to speak with him after the show. She kind of laughed at us and says that he never does spontaneous interviews, but she’d ask during intermission. We gave her the name of our site, and proceeded to wait for over an hour. We knew it was hopeless, but his manager shortly found us and said, “John never does this, but when I told him your website’s name, he laughed and said sure.” If it weren’t for the fact that I’m writing this almost 7 years later, I’d be pretty positive that might head exploded right there. I mean, not only was John Cleese going to let us interview him, but he thought something we came up with was funny. We spent the next hour just writing questions and rehearsing them. If you go back and listen to the interview, you can hear how nervous I am. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been that nervous. I still can’t believe it all happened just like that.

A few days later we officially launched the site on Halloween 2009 with the John Cleese interview and our first podcast. That night we went to a party with Brandon where we met the band Asteroid M, who quickly became partners with us on the site. We made videos with them, had them on the show, interviewed them. We were making new friends, creating content every day, and actually getting a response on the internet from people. Dan was keeping the website in shape, Brandon and I were writing reviews, I was interviewing people, Cole was editing video. Before we knew it, we were shooting skits, making rap videos to sell our merch, scoring interviews with Bob Saget, Cheech and Chong, Seth Green, and so many other actors and aspiring comedians. Comic creators I always admired were sitting down with me and talking about their craft. More and more people were downloading our show. This had the potential to be an actual thing.

At the same time, I was back in school where I took a comics writing course taught by my favorite writer, Brian Michael Bendis. Every week I was getting actual feedback on my work from the person that all through high school and my first degree blew my mind on a regular basis. In that class I also became friends with creators who ended up blowing up like Brandon Seifert and Joshua Williamson. Almost every moment of day was filled with using my brain to make things instead of panicking about my horrible job or crumbling relationship. To use the term “awake” is an understatement.

After existing for just a few short months, we were accepted as press at Seattle’s Emerald City Comic Con. There we had an amazing weekend with Aaron Douglas (The Chief on BSG), interviewed the cast of The Guild, interviewed Erin Grey (Buck Rogers), and met and talked with Wil Wheaton and Thomas Jane. We really started looking into what it would take to turn this into an actual business and figure out how to make money off of this. What we were doing was something that was hard for professionals with entire media companies backing them, and we were just a couple of dorks doing it in my basement in our spare time.

So as we started figuring out the details behind going legit, problems arose. We started finding out that Brandon wasn’t always being honest with us with how he represented us to other organizations and agents. This lead to us pressuring him to leave since we felt we couldn’t trust him. Cole, who was there because of Brandon, started becoming flaky, and it’s hard to create sketches when one large element of your crew isn’t there. And Dan who just got married just a few weeks before we launched the site was just getting burned out. He was visibly becoming exhausted. The insane pace we’d been going over the course of 6 months was too much to ask of any person, let alone someone who had a wife waiting around for him all the time. So while we were on the verge of establishing ourselves and becoming proper z-list internet celebrities, it kind of all fell apart. So at a time where we could have done anything, we just kind of stopped out of nowhere. While we stopped, the word about us was starting to get around, and people were still contacting me about doing interviews and inviting me out to cover events. It was just me at this point, but it didn’t seem like the world wanted this to stop.

There were two people who I saw every Wednesday at the comic shop. I didn’t know them that well, but we would talk at least an hour every week (podcast length), about comics and nerd crap. So I asked Allen Bethel and Nate Dickerson to join the show. While we didn’t really have the same level of creative vibe as a group, we did have a better conversational vibe. While we lost the majority of video and interview work we used to do, this is where I feel like our podcast found it’s real voice. Our recording equipment sucked (it was just a handheld HD camera that we just took the audio. That hardcore), we started crafting our brand of show. No longer were we trying to be Mega 64 or Diet Pepsi Cort and Fatboy’s, but we became Chronicles of the Nerds at this point. We started taking typical nerd topics, and instead of being fanboys about it, we started having critical conversations. We lost a lot of listeners as we transitioned from being a video podcast to audio only, but we also gained a bunch more. It also started to feel like we were getting a bit more respect from people in the local nerd community as we developed a more professional reputation. Instead of listening to other shows as a fan, I was being invited to guest on them. New shows hit the scene and asked me on because we were one of the shows that motivated them to do their own thing. In many ways, this was more rewarding than meeting the celebrities we’d admired for years.

Time past and Nate left the show just from being too busy, and Cole joined back up for a bit. We got back into the habit of making more videos, but he found himself getting burned out of making videos and being in the public light in general. It was around this time that we met Ibrahim Moustafa. He was funny, charismatic, and blended well with the rhythm Allen and I had established. This iteration of the show is likely what most people reading this right probably think of since it has been the lineup for the majority of the show’s existence. So after a few guest spots, Ibrahim became a permanent fixture of the show. It was also around this time that we met Leia Weathington when she came for a visit. After a few guest spots, we invited her to be part of the show as well.

Around this time, I started missing interviewing people a lot, so I started a second show called “Comic CONversations.” This gave me a chance to meet with a comic creators and pick their brains for an hour about craft. This was not only fun, but it encouraged me to write more. For a while I was pumping out a comic script every 2 weeks and feeling that creative rhythm. It’s one thing to be a kid writing comics in high school and college, and whole other game writing them as you’re regularly talking to the creators like Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, and Christos Gage.

Bobby “Fatboy” Roberts had apparently been listening to our show for some time, and getting tired of how bad our audio quality was, invited us to his studio to record our show as our producer. So having someone you’ve always been a fan of basically say, “Hey, you’re good enough that you shouldn’t sound like shit,” was a major moment of validation. So while Leia parted our show to join Cort and Fatboy once a week and eventually start her own show, we all recorded in the same studio, along with podcasting friend Dawn Taylor. We also recorded Nerdfight here, which was really the ultimate Portland nerd podcast, bringing together some of the best and brightest the city had to offer, and putting them in front of mics to yell at each other for an hour.

We started hearing rumblings of a comic convention starting to be developed. I had no idea who these people were, and in this town, I had become that guy who knew of everything comic related, so I either needed to give these people my blessing, or stop them at any cost. Luckily folks putting it on were cool, and they actually asked me to moderate a panel with a Power Ranger as well as their panel with comic writers. I assume this offer came off the strength of my previous work, but I’m willing to accept it was likely desperation. I apparently didn’t suck though, because the show director, Ron Brister, asked me to become the Programming Director of the entire show. This was right at the end of me completing grad school, and at the same time that I accepted a job at a video game company. My days were spent working with video games, my nights on planning a comic convention, and my weekends doing a podcast. I am now in every sense a professional nerd, and have been keeping this up for the past 3 years.

If anything can be taken from this week’s installment, I owe every impressive and awesome thing in my life to Chronicles of the Nerds. Because of this I met people I’ve loved watching on the screen, to the creators that made me love comics. I became peers with people who entertained me on a daily basis, and found career paths that are fulfilling and challenge me to be my best. I’ve helped take the Rose City Comic Con from a 4,500 person show, to an over 30,000 person show. I earned my confidence, and have so much to be genuinely proud of that no one can take away from me. We’ve created an audience that literally stretches over the globe, along with a very active community that meets every Saturday morning in our chat box. I’ve made friends with some of the most interesting and inspiring people I will ever know. I’ve left a footprint on the world, which is really at the end of the day the best any artist or entertainer can hope to accomplish. This is all because Dan Jones bugged me to make a little podcast that I was sure nobody would listen to. So why after nearly 7 years am I wanting to eagerly hang it up and leave it in my past?

To be continued next week…

All content © 2009-2010 by Chronicles of the Nerds



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