Recovering from w00tstock

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I just got home from performing two w00tstock shows in Chicago and Minneapolis. w00tstock is a sort of nerd variety show that I produce with Paul and Storm, and Adam Savage. We and an ever-changing lineup of invited guests perform geek-related material for people who are just like us, in an environment we hope feels like the This American Life stage show meets Coachella. (On these last two shows, we had Bill Amend, the creator of Foxtrot, join us in Chicago, and Professor James Kakalios of The Physics of Superheroes joined us in Minneapolis.)

As I sit here today, my voice almost completely gone, every muscle in my body aching, and so tired I don’t want to do much more than grab a bunch of comics and spend the day with my feet up, I am once again grateful to live in The Future. As recently as five years ago, w00tstock could not have existed the way it does today, and we owe a lot of that to our audiences, who have promoted and supported us, and helped us grow so fast, we just announced a show at Comic-Con.

(More on Techland: E3 2010: What We’re Looking Forward To)

Cory Doctorow famously wrote about the implied endorsement when a friend hands you a book, or a movie, or a CD. There is tremendous value there, that we artists simply can’t get from publicists and interviews. I know that w00tstock wouldn’t be nearly as successful as it is if we didn’t make it easy for our audiences to share our shows however they want, and that’s what I wanted to write a little bit about today.

* Twitter.

There’s no getting around it: Twitter has fundamentally changed the way we communicate with friends and strangers. For performers, this means that we can share glimpses of the show from backstage, which is awesome for a show like ours with so many interesting and Twitter-connected people in it. For the audience, this means that they get to tell their friends what they’re missing, which has the added benefit of helping build demand for future shows (provided we don’t stink up the place, of course.) Don’t fight it; encourage it!

And while we’re talking about Twitter from the audience, let’s not forget how cool it can be to Twitter from backstage during the show. In our Portland show, Adam said something to Molly Lewis like, “you haven’t seen a penis until you’ve seen it on an iPad.” I was checking the #w00tstock tag on Twitter to see how people were enjoying the show (a lot, it turns out) and I saw that … so I immediately went backstage to get some context. I added it to my own Twitter feed, and the people in the audience and online got to share in something that we all thought was hilarious. The relationship between performer and audience has always had a certain intimacy to it, and pulling back the curtain – just a little bit – like this was a lot of fun for all of us.

(More on Techland: Jedi In Training: My Midi-chlorian Count Is Low)

* Recording and rebroadcasting of the show.

I understand why some performers are uncomfortable with this. Back in the old days, if I had a bad show or screwed something up on stage, it didn’t go beyond the theater much faster than people could talk about it. These days, the whole world knows about just about everything seconds after it happens, usually from multiple sources. Initially, this freaked me out and made me stress a lot about being even more of a perfectionist than I already am, but I’ve since learned to embrace it. Every performance is unique, and the mistakes – especially during a show that’s comedic – are usually the best parts. I understand that some performers are sketchy about live bootlegs, but are they really cutting into our bottom line? Making it easy for people to see what a live show is like makes it easy for them to make an educated decision about seeing us.

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