Wednesday, July 30, 2008

So, back to Friday then. After the X-Box panel was the panel for The Venture Brothers, which, judging by all the Monarch, Dr. Girlfriend, and Molotov Cocktease costumes, was what most of the people were in the room for.

The panel featured Mike Sinterniklaas (the voice of Dean Venture), Jackson Publick (series co-creator and voice of Hank Venture among many others), and Keith Crofford, executive vice president of Adult Swim. The two answered questions from a number of fans in costume and in character--one guy managed a perfect Brock Samson impression and asked the panellists if he (Brock) and Molotov Cocktease were ever going to have sex, at which point a girl dressed as Cocktease shouted from the back of the room, "I've got five minutes!" I saw the two hug a few moments later, but I guarantee you they'll never actually have sex. I'm just sayin'.

A girl asked the two real life Venture Brothers to do the "Go Team Venture!" salute over her head, and the panellists obliged after some initial awkwardness.

After The Venture Brothers panel, a lot of people left the room, so I decided to move up to the third aisle, where Rorschach was sitting. I asked him if he was saving the three empty seats next to him.

"No," he said. "But I need a lot of personal space."

Yes, I'll bet you do, I thought. I sat down two seats away from him.

The next panel was for Robot Chicken and featured show creators Seth Green and Matthew Senreich, writers Tom Root, Doug Goldstein, Breckin Meyer, and Kevin Shinick. They had voice actor Tom Kane with them as well, who astonished the room with a dead perfect Morgan Freeman impression.

Seth Green and Breckin Meyer dominated the panel as they both seemed to be filled with lot of energy. Green told a story about trying to get Harrison Ford on Robot Chicken which did a lot to explain Ford's lack of interesting roles for the past fifteen or more years. Green was never able to get past Ford's people, the last person he spoke to apparently having been Ford's agent who'd been with Ford since the 70s. Green had been making the pitch to her on the phone, telling her how Robot Chicken would be fun and good for Ford's image, when the woman interrupted him to ask, "Wait--there's a whole channel for cartoons?"

Green recounted explaining as patiently as he could manage, "You've heard of Ted Turner, the multi-billionaire, right?"


"Well, Turner thought it would be a good idea to have an entire channel dedicated to cartoons, and then later a late night block of adult programming developed which became Adult Swim . . ."


And Green never heard back from camp Harrison Ford.

But, Green told us, Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee Williams are both going to appear on the next Robot Chicken Star Wars special. "The great thing about Billy Dee," said Green, "is that he always talks like that." Imitating Williams' smooth, persistently pleased, insinuating voice, Green said, "I would like a turkey sandwich."

I expected a lot of the people who'd come for the Adult Swim panels to stay for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 20th anniversary panel, which was next, but most of the people left and were replaced by a slightly older crowd coming in. Damned kids. Even Rorschach left.

Comic-Con workers came in bearing real Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot puppets, both eliciting applause and a general feeling of awe. People got up to get their pictures taken with them, and I for one couldn't stop just staring at them.

Then came the humans; Mike Nelson, Joel Hodgson, Kevin Murphy, Trace Beaulieu, Bill Corbett, Mary Jo Pehl, Frank Conniff, Paul Chaplin, J. Elvis Weinstein, and Bridget Jones, Mike's wife, who was for some reason seated five people away from her husband. "Oddly enough, they requested this seating arrangement," said Corbett.

The panel was moderated by Patton Oswalt, who is a very funny comedian, but somehow perhaps a little too slick. Although I was just a few feet away from all these people, Oswalt somehow made it feel like I was watching it all on television. He also never opened the floor to questions, which was a little annoying. But on the other hand, he was very funny.

"I demand you do the whole panel in your Ratatouille voice," said Joel (Patton Oswalt was the voice of that movie's lead character).

"As you wish, Sire," said Oswalt in some kind of thick, vaguely Welsh accent. Then he explained, in his normal voice, "That's from the alternate, very dark ending, where Remy wiped out Paris with the plague. It's going to be on the Criterion edition."

He asked a lot of questions of the panel that I'd unfortunately already heard answered many times before. I was happy to see that Mike and Joel were very nice to each other, asking each other questions as they tried to remember this or that about the show--I was a little worried there might be bitterness over their current competing riffing enterprises, Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic.

For some reason I was most excited to see Trace Beaulieu, who was the original voice of Crow and played Dr. Clayton Forrester. Strangely, looking at him, I somehow saw Crow more than Forrester. But he was mostly quiet and seemed a little depressed. I always preferred his Crow over Corbett's, though I do like Corbett. There just seemed to be more nuance in Beaulieu's performance and a much broader range.

Oswalt asked him about the white stripes in Dr. Forrester's hair and moustache, to which Beaulieu replied with evident emotional pain, "There was a third stripe . . ." prompting Kevin Murphy to scream wildly in terror and pantomime gouging his eyes out.

Oswalt talked to them about the wide ranging nature of a lot of their jokes, referencing a bit in Mitchell where, seeing an old man being led away in handcuffs, Crow had said, "Aw, they're arresting Harlan Ellison!" and Joel had said, "Good!"

"You had something for people who liked Harlan Ellison and for people who hated Harlan Ellison," said Oswalt. And then he talked about watching the show with a comedian friend of his when Joel or one of the bots mentioned an obscure comedian local to Minneapolis, with whom Oswalt's friend happened to be familiar.

"That was our attempt to reach a wider audience," said Mike.

Asked if there was any movie they found themselves uncomfortable with riffing on, they talked about a film from the 1930s called Child Bride, which they'd found much too disturbing to make funny. They insisted to the crowd on Friday night that Child Bride is much to obscure for anyone to find, but I see to-day it's been available on DVD for some time.

After the panel, I hurried to the restroom, but found all the urinals were out of order except for one being used by one of the Monarch's henchmen. I was hurrying to the next restroom when, going through the corridor on the opposite side of 6B, I found myself in the midst of all the MST3k people who were milling about, chatting with fans. Patton Oswalt had vanished utterly, which is extraordinary since 6B has no secret celebrity exit, which was why all the rest of the panellists were in the hall.

I thought about talking to one of them, but I was nervous and having to pee wasn't helping. I actually found my path blocked by Trace Beaulieu, who wandered alone up to a wall, stopped, and looked up at the ceiling. I almost spoke then, but in the next instant a girl was asking him for his autograph. "Okay, but don't tell anyone!" he said.

So I walked past and continued my grand journey to the restroom!


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