The Professional Guest Returns to Comic-Con The Professional Guest Returns to Comic-Con
This post is long. It also took me nearly two months to write, because I am a slacker. So, despite it being way less... The Professional Guest Returns to Comic-Con

This post is long. It also took me nearly two months to write, because I am a slacker. So, despite it being way less topical now, and mostly irrelevant to your interests by this point, I present you with my San Diego Comic-Con recap. Warning: Nothing but name dropping and bragging about my wonderful time ahead. Turn back now.

If I took anything away from San Diego Comic-Con last year, it was that I like people a lot more than I like stuff, or announcements, or behind-the-scenes details from movies and TV shows. Last year, I spent my time with people doing cool things because I was a person and they were people and we had fun being people together. This year, I did more of the same, often with the very people I was people with last year. And, despite the ocean of strangers that surrounded me at Comic-Con, there were also people I tended to run into again and again, and those encounters turned into friendships when, we realized, we were running into each other again and again because we liked the same stuff. Or, as was often the case, we saw each other again and again because we were friends with the same people.

Despite not going to Comic-Con for many of the usual reasons, I did do some traditional Comic-Con things: I walked the floor a bit on Preview Night.

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I saw a Ghostbusters car outside a Hooters.

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I even attended a couple of panels.

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The Husbands panel, moderated by Jenna Busch, with Brad Bell and Jane Espenson.

But, when The Professional Guest goes to Comic-Con, some extra special stuff happens.

First thing’s first, though: This was another Comic-Con that would not have happened without Steven, The Pop Culture Maven. I wouldn’t get to go if he weren’t willing to use one of his professional guest badge slots for me. When he comes to visit me, I make him babysit the kids, so I probably owe him doubly, now.

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I skipped out of Preview Night early on. I didn’t need to buy anything, and I had no patience to chase down any giveaways. I wanted to stand in the crowd for a bit, and get that first floor walk out of the way so that if I never had time to do it again the rest of the week, at least I could say that I’d been in the exhibit hall once.

I went straight from the convention center to HopCon, a celebration of beer at the Stone Brewing Company. Wil Wheaton, Drew Curtis, Aisha Tyler, Bobak Ferdowsi, and Rileah Vanderbilt crafted special beers for the event, and the rest of us, uh, drank them. The Professional Guest needed to drink!

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Bonnie Burton, Cullen Sweet, and Anne Wheaton also like beer. Cullen and I like to look at the wrong side of the phone when taking pictures. Bonnie knows better.

I mostly hung out with Bonnie and Anne. I tasted many bears out of tiny glasses, but I am very sensible (and also knew that I would be sleeping on the floor of my shared hotel room, and there is no way I was going to do that hammered), so I did not overindulge. After Hop-Con, Cullen Sweet (marketing director for San Diego Comic-Fest) drove me and Bonnie and our new friend Briana back downtown, and I joined Cullen at a fundraiser for the Comic Book Defense League for a little bit.

Then I went to bed.

I woke up on Thursday fresh and ready to take on all that Comic-Con had to offer. Actually, I spent a lot of the day in or around the Geek & Sundry Lounge. The Professional Guest need to chill. I love having this lounge available as a meeting place that is something other than “On the corner of 5th and K, in the middle of the crowd, I’ll be the one in the shirt”. It is also a great event space, hosting tabletop games and panels for their own web shows and also more broadly geeky things. Anne and Bonnie were there to help Espionage Makeup promote their line of VandalEyes nailwraps, and when they wrapped up, we went to lunch with Wil, Drew Curtis, Mikey Neumann, John Scalzi, and Amy Berg. The Professional Guest needed to eat!

After lunch, we scattered to the four winds: Anne and Wil to get ready for W00tstock, Bonnie to join Felicia Day and Kiala Kazebee at the Vaginal Fantasy (an online bookclub about romantic scifi/fantasy books) meetup, and myself to the convention center for a quick hello to a few people who were there. I managed to snap a quick shot of my friend Clare Kramer with J. August Richards after she interviewed him for GeekNation.

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That’s Glory and Deathlok, nerds.

Then, it was up to the Balboa Theater for the 5th Annual W00tstock show. I had purchased a ticket months earlier, but The Professional Guest, well, you know, he just ends up places, so I had the great privilege of being backstage at the show, and it was a pretty damned cool backstage to be at, if you are me.

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Wil, with Paul and Storm

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My new superhero team, the Chrome Fighters, featuring Amy Berg and Patrick Rothfuss

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Storm, Tom Lennon, and Paul. I asked them to look normal.

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Phil Plaitt, myself, and Adam Savage. Someone told Adam to look serious and scientific. They did not tell Phil the same thing.

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Nothing. Just me and my new best friend, Craig Ferguson.

The show, as usual, was hilarious and nerdy. If you would like to see more backstage pictures, Anne stole a camera (per tradition) from the person with the worst seat at the show, and those pictures are up on Flickr. I am in none of them, though, because no one except The Professional Guest needs a picture of The Professional Guest.

After W00tstock ended, I returned to the Geek & Sundry lounge with Bobak and Rileah.

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If you have a chance to wait in a very long line with Bobak and Rileah, I highly recommend it.

There was a big dance party going on there, and if there’s one thing we know from last year, it’s that The Professional Guest needs to dance!

I only danced for a little bit. The night was long, the club was hot, and my floor was calling me. Before I left, though, John Scalzi and I had a pose-off. Earlier in the day, he was teasing me a bit for looking a little like Robert Goulet (a resemblance that has been noted before, and which I still fail to see), while he lamented the fact that his doppelganger was Himmler. You know, that Himmler.

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Nice photobomb, Wheaton.

Then I went to bed.

Friday morning, (my god, is it only Friday?), I awoke refreshed and ready to go, again. And again, I found myself at the Geek & Sundry Lounge. This time, I had my own event to attend: I played Gloom with some Geek & Sundry personalities and fans. There is actually a video of some of my game online. I won’t spoil the outcome, because it was just too good, but let me say: set your own tiebreakers, folks. (The Gloom section starts at 3:26 of the video.)

I ran into my friend Jeremy at the lounge. You should check out his vlog, An Idiot’s Array. He goes to lots of cons and interviews people. He didn’t ask to interview me. Only The Professional Guest wants to interview The Professional Guest. Since he wasn’t going to interview me, I went over to say hi to Chloe Dykstra, cosplayer and all around tall person.

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If I were wearing heels as high as hers, I would have been taller than her bunny ears.

I went back to the convention center and attended my second panel (my first having been a panel on pitching the day before that I went to for the hell of it). This was the Husbands panel, moderated by my friend Jenna Busch, and featuring Jane Espenson, my friend Brad Bell, and Sean Hemeon. I was able to catch up with Brad very briefly afterward, but I had to go eat and get changed, because I had a thing to go to.

You see, I was invited to a party at Comic-Con. Now, lest you are confused, yes, The Professional Guest has attended many things: that’s what The Professional Guest does. Somehow he just ends up places. But once in a while he is legitimately invited to a thing, and when that happens, he is no longer The Professional Guest, but is instead just Shawn. Hi, I’m Shawn. (I was also invited to a super secret thing I can’t talk about, so I won’t talk about it. So that’s TWO things I was invited to and didn’t just end up at. If you’re counting.)

Anyway, I was invited to a party sponsored by GeekNation and Cozday Clothing in honour of the new documentary, Showrunners.. So I went, and I talked to people, and I hung out in the VIP section and I took snazzy red carpet pictures.

Snazzy red carpet photo with Clare.

After the GeekNation party wrapped up, I located Brad Bell and we went in search of The Quietest Bar at Comic-Con. Our search took us from the Hilton Bayfront, all through the Gaslamp, until eventually, after madly texting with Briana, who was just leaving some kind of party on a pirate ship, we wound up at the lobby bar of the Marriott next to the convention center. It was late, but the bar was still open, and still selling some kind of Game of Thrones beer Briana wanted to find. We sat in big chairs and drank beer from a giant beer bottle. And then, since Briana was cosplaying as Margaery Tyrell at the nerdiest place on earth, a couple of people asked her and her friends to pose for a photo.

That’s my elbow in the background, so this totally counts as a picture of me.

The folks taking the picture then saw Brad sitting next to me and came over to gush to him about Husbands. It was very cute. I nicknamed them Space and Time, because they were cosplaying as the Doctor and The Doctor’s Wife and I couldn’t remember their real names.

It really was a very quiet bar, despite all the through-traffic activity. And off to one side, unnoticed by me until I was leaving: George R. R. Martin sat with a circle of friends, enjoying the quiet evening. I did not spoil his quiet evening with any fanterruptions. But guys, I totally saw George R.R. Martin.

Then I went to bed..

Saturday morning arrived too soon, and then I was off to breakfast! I had no breakfast plans, so I joined Bonnie and Janna O’Shea (well, “joined”, for The Professional Guest, means “earned an invitation through looking pathetic”) for what was supposed to be a quick meal at the Hilton Gaslamp restaurant, but somehow turned into over an hour wait for eggs. We kept each other entertained during the wait with the funniest conversation I had at Comic-Con, and I can’t remember a word of it. I just remember the laughs.

Bonnie was scheduled to do a Marge Simpson makeover at the MAC store around the corner, so I joined her for that before heading over the convention center to walk the floor again.

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She looks just like Marge!

As I was dropping off Bonnie at the Cupcake Magazine booth to do a signing, Wil was likewise dropping off Anne. We resolved to keep each other company on the floor of the exhibit hall for the hour or so before the ladies could be retrieved. We stopped at a few booths, ran into Bobak and Mikey again, and navigated the crowd while Wil gave as many high-fives to fans as he could on the move. No one asked me for a high-five. The only one who wants a high-five from The Professional Guest is The Professional Guest.

We returned to retrieve the ladies, then found Bobak and Rileah and made our way to an afternoon party that I really had no business being at, but The Professional Guest? He goes everywhere. So The Professional Guest ended up at Bill Prady’s Comic-Con party and thanked his lucky stars that there were people there he already knew so he wouldn’t have to walk up to Bill Prady at any point and say “Hi. I like The Big Bang Theory thing you make. I don’t know what I’m doing here. I’ll just go now.” The Professional Guest needed to mingle!

I talked to Paul and Storm for a while, and the lovely Amy Berg. I spoke to David Rees for a long time about philosophy and graduate school (he’s just an impossibly curious guy and wants to know about everything). And there, in the corner: George R.R. Martin. Once again, I didn’t talk to him. The Professional Guest leaves George R.R. Martin alone. (Also, it would have been entirely uncool to sit around taking pictures of or with everybody, so I took no pictures of or with anybody at this thing. Sorry. It was just very chill. I ate some food from trays, and had a beer, and tried not to be an embarrassment to the people who brought me.)

After a quick post-party stop at the Geek & Sundry panel so Wil could talk about Tabletop to a hall full of people, we took a leisurely (i.e. very hurried) walk from the Hilton Bayfront all the way up to the Spreckels Theater downtown, which, according to a Google Maps search I just did, was 1.5 miles. We were sweaty when we arrived. Why did we walk so fast? And why did we cross downtown San Diego? Well, Wil was a special guest on the Thrilling Adventure Hour/Welcome to Night Vale crossover episode, of course! The special guest and The Professional Guest went backstage for the read-through of the episode (again, no pictures, because I’m not that guy, and I was trying hard not to be that guy everywhere but I was that guy once and once only and that was with Craig Ferguson), and then we waited for Anne to bring us various things: Wil required a shirt, and I required a hamburger, and lo! Both were provided.

I didn’t sit backstage for the show. I had a ticket, and wanted to actually watch this very special thing that was about to happen. Also, I didn’t really know anyone there except Wil, and while The Professional Guest goes wherever he wants, he prefers not to be the awkward guy standing in the corner. So, to the seats.The show was very funny, although I really only understood the Thrilling Adventure Hour parts. I was seated amongst the Night Valers, and we were alternating our laughtracks. I mostly didn’t get the Night Vale stuff, but it probably requires a thorough listening-to, like Thrilling Adventure Hour did when I was just getting into it.

After the show there was a meet & greet party for people who had purchased special VIP ticket packages. I had actually tried to buy one of those, but they were sold out by the time I even knew the show was happening. Alas, it wasn’t to be. I returned to my…oh, what am I saying? Of course The Professional Guest stayed. The Professional Guest had friends who weren’t going to use their tickets, so when they left they gave him theirs. The Professional Guest needed to stand around in a crowd with a ginger ale and occasionally talk to people he just saw on stage!

It was fun. Bobak stayed, and Jessica Merizan and Holly Conrad were there to talk to. But they are Night Valers, and I still don’t get it.

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Seriously, Jessica and Holly. You’re the cream of the weirdo crop.

I spent much of the party talking to Storm, of Paul and Storm, since I knew him and we could be equally awkward standing-in-the-corner guys.

When the party thing ended, I left with Bobak and a small group of people who were headed toward Petco. We met Bonnie on the way, and I walked her down to her hotel, and then I decided the night wasn’t over. So it was off to Slam Con! I didn’t really know what Slam Con was (apparently it’s just a ton of people at the Hilton Bayfront bar all at the same time, but I don’t know what separates them from the rest of Comic-Con). But I knew Brad was there, and that Janna was there somewhere as well, so I knew I’d be able to talk to someone. I met up with Janna and her friends for a bit, then found Brad where he was sitting outside. I hung out with Brad, and Alan Kistler, for a while, and then Jenna Busch showed up with her fiancee Jeff Henderson, and we settled in for a long evening (that would last another 20 minutes because I didn’t get there until very late).

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Alan, Jenna, and I being the most adorable goddamned people at Comic-Con.

Standing in the taxi line that night, waiting to be taken back to my hotel and saying goodbye to some great people, I really started to feel like Comic-Con was over, even though there was still another day to go. But so many people, including myself, were leaving on Sunday that Saturday was the end. I found my taxi, and went to my hotel.

Then I went to bed.

I woke up and immediately started finding people to say farewell to. I bid adieu to Steven and Glen, my roommates for the week. Then I found Anne and Wil and said goodbye to them (and managed to say hello to Felicia Day and Zachary Levi in the process). I said goodbye to Bonnie. Then I went back to the convention center, because there was one thing I wanted to do to really put the finishing touch on Comic-Con: The Buffy The Vampire Slayer “Once More With Feeling” sing-along.

I had some time before it started, so I wandered the exhibit hall again. I saw Clare and her husband Brian finishing their shopping (while I was doing some shopping of my own) and said goodbye. I saw Rileah and Bobak again and said goodbye. I saw Janna and her husband Mike and said goodbye. I saw Liz Smith again (I had seen her at W00tstock, and again at the secret thing I can’t talk about because it’s a secret) and said goodbye, cruelly abandoning her on the exhibit hall floor by her lonesome while I went looking for comic books. And I finally had a chance to talk to a friend I had made at Big Wow Comic Fest a couple of months earlier: Alison MacInnis, the Pink Lightspeed Ranger.

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This is the best one-handed, no-preview selfie that’s ever been taken. I even got her banner in the shot.

Anyone else would have just said a quick “hi and bye”, but The Professional Guest, well, he sat in the booth with Alison while she signed autographs for fans. The Power Rangers came along a little after my time, so the fandom that surrounds that franchise is almost entirely alien to me. It was very cool to see those fans getting to interact with a couple of Rangers first-hand.

Right before I went to the sing-along, I tracked down Brad Bell and Jane Espenson to say goodbye to them. Jane is very smart, and also sweet and I like her a lot (she was also a writer on Buffy, in case you didn’t know that, but I imagine you did know that). And Brad is a big part of what has made Comic-Con so great the last couple of years.

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Brad, with a tiny Jane in the background.

Although that was my final goodbye of the con, I said goodbye to the con by singing Joss Whedon lyrics with a few hundred other Buffy fans.

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I’ve got a theory. It could be bunnies.

That’s not a bad way to end a Comic-Con.

I bought very little, and I only went to a few, specific, panels. I don’t go to Comic-Con to hear the big announcements in Hall H, or to stand in line for photo-ops with celebrities. I don’t go for swag, or for the spectacle, or collectibles. I go to hang out with people I don’t get to see every day. The Professional Guest? He goes because he just ends up places. And because sometimes he gets to meet Craig Ferguson, or doubly not-meet George R.R. Martin.

I got home late on Sunday night, and greeted my family, who indulge this secondary existence of mine. I put down my suitcase, put on my pajamas.

Then I went to bed.

Shawn Burns is a father of two, husband of one, and fan of all things. He can mostly be found on Twitter as @backpackingdad, and his own blog, Backpacking Dad.

Shawn Burns

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