I got to spend the last two evenings at one of my favorite entertainment venues in Minneapolis, the gorgeous Varsity Theater.
Thursday night was John Hodgman’s Minneapolis show. His opening act on this tour is the delightful Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy of MST3K and Rifftrax fame. A few of the show highlights: Bill & Kevin singing a song about sparkly vampires. Bill & Kevin singing the Love Theme from Game of Thrones. A pretty sweet film on patriotism starring Bob Crane, with riffing by Bill & Kevin. Hodgman doing George RR Martin cosplay when he joins Bill & Kevin to riff a bizarre short film about safety & alien abduction. Hodgman’s subjects covered on stage included naked parties, sperm whale sperm, Doug Henning, Ragnarok and other such absurdities.
When no one was on stage, I was busy behind the merchandise table. The Other Sharon’s (Birdchick’s) husband Bill and I had received comp admission in exchange for pledging servitude to a Deranged Millionaire for the evening.
Getting into the show at no charge would have been payment enough for me, but the Hodgman is a benevolent master. Shortly after intermission he sent the theater manager, Shayna, back to us with drink tickets and a menu and a meal voucher.
After the show Mr. Hodgman settled into a comfortable leather chair in front of the merch table to greet his fans, sign for them and pose for photos..
All in all, it was a very nice way to spend an evening. Mr. Hodgman was charming and thanked us many times for helping out. He even hugged me when I said goodnight.
Friday night was Nerdist night! Rick & I had tickets to go to both the shows. A full night of Chris Hardwick, Jonah Ray, and Matt Mira! The evening started when I left work. I drove to the Light Rail Station and picked up Rick, who had just flown in from Boston after being gone all week. He was hungry, and Chris Hardwick had tweeted that he was going to do a pre-show Tweetup at Burrito Loco at 6pm so we just headed there. Traffic delayed Chris and while Rick & I were busy Enjoying Our Burritos who walked past our table but Doug Benson! I’d known he was in town to do shows at Acme but hadn’t paid much attention. I tweeted about it:
About 20 minutes later I got a Direct Message on Twitter from Doug!
Chris and Matt Mira eventually showed up at Burrito Loco and when Chris saw me he recognized me and smiled and said hi. When their group was sitting I went and introduced myself to Matt and gave him a little gift I’d printed up at work: two photos of Space Shuttle Atlantis. I’d gone to the 5-14-10 launch of Atlantis (STS-132) as a part of the official NASA Tweetup, and Matt was at the 7-21-11 launch of Atlantis (STS-135) Tweetup. One of the pictures I gave him was from a close-up I shot of her on the launch pad the evening before launch right after the RSS retraction. The other one was from the actual launch. He seemed to genuinely appreciate them and gave me a hug.
After finishing eating Chris had gone upstairs to join Doug, and left Matt sitting at the table by himself. Rick & I went over and joined him and had a very pleasant time chatting for a while. Matt confirmed my suspicion that Doug was there at Burrito Loco because he was the surprise guest for the 8:00 show, but said the surprise guest for the 11:00 show would be someone different.
Rick and I left Burrito Loco and got into the line for the Varsity. It was crazy long! They normally have one line for will call and one for people who already have tickets. We lucked out and got there right as they decided that ticketed people could also join the will call line. Woot! The other line was already around the block so we were quite happy with where we ended up. As the Varsity staff was going down the line to check IDs & apply wrist bands the theater manager Shayna recognized me and said hi. Once the line started moving we got in pretty quick and got decent seats near the front. Romeo and Shaya eventually made it there and joined us. When I ran back to the bar to get a drink it was the same bartender who had been working the Hodgman show the previous night. When I asked if the leftover drink tickets I still had were good he said yes.
The show started with all three guys doing stand-up sets, and they were all super funny. We were super impressed with Matt’s set and would never have guessed that he’s such a newbie to doing stand-up. The dude’s seriously funny. After the stand-up they did their usual podcast chatter, brought out Doug Benson, and then did live Quemments. If the evening had ended there it would have been awesome. But it wasn’t done! There was a second show that we had tickets for. Between the two shows Rick ran home to take care of Rex and drop off his suitcase. I was going to be responsible for making sure I got seats for the two of us and our friend Tom.
This is where I got to reap even more additional benefits from my previous night’s servitude to the Hodgman. I asked the bartender if he thought it would be possible for me to just stay in the theater out of the way rather than going out & getting in line just to come back in again. He said to go ask Shayna. She rocks! She didn’t even hesitate & said “yeah, you’re one of us. Go show Katie at the door your ticket and get a wrist band. Tell her Shayna says it’s ok.” Hooray! No standing in line for me! I sat in the lobby reading Twitter while the Nerdist crew posed for pictures and signed stuff. About half of the line had been moved up into the balcony so that they could get the doors open for the second show. As they finished the last of the line downstairs and were headed upstairs to continue I stopped Doug, introduced myself, and got the required picture of him with Moose. Then, right before the doors opened I headed up and grabbed a seat in the second row right on the aisle.
Rick & Tom found me and we settled in for another several hours of laughs. Matt & Jonah both had some stuff in their stand-up that was repeated from the first act, but for the most part they brought new stuff because there were a fair number of us attending both shows. Someone saw the surprise guest for the second show slipping backstage & put it on Twitter, so it wasn’t a surprise for some of us. Without that I never would have guessed though. It was Tim Meadows, of Saturday Night Live fame. Tim was in town to be the guest at Minnesota Public Radio’s Wits show that night. It wasn’t planned for him to do Nerdist but fate put him on the same plane to Minneapolis as Chris and Chris asked if he could come do the show. The timing worked so that after Wits he could come do the second Nerdist show! He couldn’t stay for the whole thing since he’d been up at 3:30am in LA that day and was just exhausted so we didn’t meet him afterwards.
Tom left right after the show, but Rick & I hopped in the meet & greet line. I got a hug from Chris and I told him we were going to take up twice as much of their time because we hadn’t gotten in line after the first show. He laughed and said sure. I got to gush a little to him about how much I really liked his Nerdist Way book and how I was trying to apply it to my life. One of the things his book has you do is make what Chris calls a “Character Tome.” I’ve got one started and I had Chris sign the front where I’d sketched the Nerdist Logo. I also had him write some inspiration for me:
After that I had Chris sign the picture of him with Moose from his last time in town. Rick & I then had our picture taken with the whole crew:
(Yes, Rick is Tebowing. No, I’m not sure why.)
And one last picture before we headed out for the night. I had to get one with the three NASA Tweetup alums together, Matt, me, and Moose.
I had so much fun both nights. Thank you to John Hodgman for letting me work for you and thank you to the Varsity Theater staff for making a couple great nights into a couple fucking amazing nights and thank you to the entire Nerdist crew for coming to Minneapolis and doing two phenomenal shows!