ConnectiCon 2013: The Funny People Downtown

Photo by Helder Mira, rabbitearsmedia.com

Whenever ConnectiCon comes to town, the largely unoriginal jokes aimed at convention guests circulate.

What’s actually funny about this annual weekend that transforms Downtown is not thousands of visitors being costume — it’s the featured speakers and the guests themselves, few taking themselves too seriously.

Photo by Helder Mira, Rabbit Ears Media

The Mystery Science Theater 3000 panel exemplified this. “I’m going to make this panel worse by my attendance,” said Todd, one of the four panelists marking the 25th anniversary of the show.

Panelists critiqued the show’s episodes based on who was involved in production and which channel played host at a given time. Of the episode, “Manos: The Hands of Fate,” one panelist said it took several viewings just to get the plot so the banter could be enjoyed. While engaged enough in MST3K to participate in such a discussion, the panelist said this episode made “my stomach hurt.”

Photo by Helder Mira, Rabbit Ears Media

For those who have only been to business conventions or academic forums, ConnectiCon has a similar structure yet despite all appearances, this convention tends to be more down-to-earth. Before panels and workshops begin, there is often banter between the panelists at the front of the room and the audience. At that same MST3K panel, one of the featured speakers broke the ice by saying that she was a “psychic vampire…. I just suck the life force out of people.”

Photo by Helder Mira, Rabbit Ears Media

Hierarchies are broken down during performances too, with musicians indulging and even encouraging their audiences to participate to the point of disruption. brentalfloss, opening for Paul and Storm, got the audience riled up with a Mad Libs-style game that had an adult twist. Audience participation trended filthy and hilarious. brentalfloss played off the energy; when the audience was asked to provide him with a type of job, he quipped: “being a gynecologist is like being a game tester…it sounds fun at the time.”

Words and phrases provided by guests were later used to fill in the blanks for a very different version of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.”

Photo by Helder Mira, Rabbit Ears Media

By the time Paul and Storm took to the stage, guests were so energetic the musicians commented that the audience had “preloaded squee.”

Later, the musicians were interrupted by waves of  “arrgh!”.  This is to be expected when the duo has more than one song about pirates.

They closed with their show with “The Captain’s Wife’s Lament,” a naughty play-on-words lasting over thirteen minutes when pirate jokes and banter were injected between verses.

Photo by Helder Mira, Rabbit Ears Media

On the last day of the convention, Paul and Storm joined Mike Phirman and Josh Cagan on a panel moderated by Joseph Scrimshaw to talk about their web series LearningTown.

When asked if there is a blooper reel, Phirman replied: “I think the show is the blooper reel.”

The panel was not a steady stream of jokes. The origins of LearningTown were explained. They confirmed that Weird Al, who appeared on the show, is “the nicest and most professional” person to work with.

Cagan, asked for what advice he would give to those thinking of starting a web series, paraphrased Joel Hodgson, creator of MST3K: “it’s not important that everybody gets it. It’s important that the right people get it.”

That’s a fine message for those who mock ConnectiCon and similar pop culture conventions. It’s not important that everybody understand this. It’s important that the right people do.

Photo by Helder Mira, Rabbit Ears Media