Friday, August 30, 2013

13 Questions With Shaun Rosado

I got to be on my first Dragon Con panels ever last year and it was tremendously exciting for me. As you might have guessed over the past couple of weeks I fucking love Dragon Con, and getting to participate in such a way was an absolute thrill. I love getting in front of people and talking. I love sharing my insights in nerd stuff.
But it wasn’t just the public speaking that was great; it was also interacting with the broad and fascinating range of talents that were on those panels with me. Everybody was fun and smart and entertaining, but one fella absolutely blew me away not only with the way he presented himself but also with how graciously he interacted with the rest of us.
That fella was Shaun Rosado and he had the style and personality of a seasoned host. He spoke well and had a voice that commanded the attention of everybody in the room. And the hall. And probably the streets outside. Shaun is just one of those guys that is exuberant and loud and an absolute blast to listen to. But while those guys are often incapable of stopping their momentum and ceding the podium; Shaun was very good at working with the rest of us. He would get on a roll, but also know when to transfer his momentum to somebody else.
Side Note: Shaun – I know you’ll read this and I’m not just blowing smoke up your ass. I was legitimately blown away by what a showman you were after that 1983 panel. Just ask Mrs. Troublemaker. She’ll tell you.
Those first panels last year were amazing experiences loaded with great people that I have stayed in touch with through the magic of Facebook. I found out that Shaun is the host of a podcast called Shauncastic (naturally) that covers the whole gamut of dorky topics. He’s a very buys man with a lot going on – particularly around Dragon Con time. So I was utterly surprised when he contacted me last week asking when he was going to be able to do something for Needless Things’ Dragon Con coverage. I asked him if he wanted to do a Q&A and he said he would. Sensing an opportunity to take advantage of somebody else providing content for me, I also asked if he would send along the complete list of Dragon Con tips he’s been posting on the social media over the past several weeks. He said that sounded like a great idea. SCORE. That went up yesterday. Go and check it out if you haven’t already.
One of these days you guys will get to hear from Gary and Joe and some of the other awesome folks I have had the opportunity to interact with. You know – when they’re not utterly engulfed by Dragon Con. Today here’s a great Q&A with Shaun Rosado.
1) What are your top geek passions?

A) Star Wars – I have been a fan of a Galaxy Far, Far Away for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories involves a TV special for the premiere of Return of the Jedi. As soon as I saw Luke Skywalker activate that emerald lightsaber beam. I was hooked.

Comic Books – My father was an avid collector of comics in the 70s, 80s and 90s. He passed that passion onto me.

Video Games – I had an old school Atari back in the early 80s (I cannot remember which model number though) and of course really went nuts with the NES and subsequent systems afterward. These days, it’s not a question of IF I am going to buy a game system, it’s a matter of WHEN.

2) What was your favorite toy when you were a kid? 
A) I have two.

My favorite toy I owned as a kid was my massive LEGO collection. I would take all of my action figures and create elaborate LEGO armors for them and then smash them together. While I never owned any of the sci-fi themed sets or any of the really elaborate parts, the basic multicolor blocks allowed me to really think outside of the box. I remember as I got older creating more and more elaborate ships, armor and items than I ever saw in a prefab box. It was amazing. Then after a month or two, I’d smash them to pieces and start over. While I have other favorite toys no other single toy was used more than my LEGOs. They were my Omni-Tool.

My favorite toy I wanted buy never owned was a vintage mid 80s Soundwave. When I was around 6 or 7, Transformers came out and it was huge with kids my age. Seriously, kids were feral for these toys/cartoons. And at the #1 spot of every kid’s wish list was Soundwave. Sure there were a lot of kids that wanted Optimus Prime or  even Megatron, but Soundwave was where it was at. I think it was because the toy turned into a tape player which looked like it’s completely real counterpart.

Optimus Prime turned into a “toy truck”. Megatron turned into a small gun that looked like a toy (later on I realized the PP7 is a very respectable gun for its size, but that’s a whole different story) but Soundwave looked JUST like a Walkman, and the Walkman was the FUTURE! Portable music that can go with me anywhere? The toy turns into a robot and the cassettes were mini robots?

Our kiddie brains exploded. 

3) What is one album everybody should own?

A) Meatloaf – Bat out of Hell. This is rock opera at its best people. Not only did it have a tremendous singer in Meatloaf, the compositions are epic, sweeping and practically drip with theatrical production. While there are a lot of other albums I love and would even call my favorite, this one should be in everyone’s collection.
4) Who is your favorite wrestler and why? 
A) The Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan. Growing up in the 80s, I was privy to the rise of the first real superstars of Wrestling. Hulk Hogan was everywhere and the WWF was on every weekend for what seemed like every hour of the day. From a pure indoctrination point of view – Hulk Hogan is a favorite.

But my true favorite of all time has to be the Ultimate Warrior. The face paint, the tassels, the mystery of who he was and what his agenda could be…he was like the Batman of Wrestling! The guy would vanish for 6 months and the pop back up, do the Warrior Press, destroy a guy and then run right back out. And when he talked, he was the literal depiction of what would happen if Batman needed to chew scenery.

Why did I mention both of them? Easy. WrestleMania the Arcade game. You could play a tag team. In those cases it was ALWAYS Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior. Not to mention I am an Ultimate Hulkamaniac.
5) What’s your geek/dork/nerd background? 
A) As a kid, I lived in a neighborhood that didn’t have too many kids my age. There were maybe 3 or 4 children within my age group and by the time we hit 2nd grade, half of them moved to different schools because of their folks. So I spent a lot of time on my own. I watched movies, played video games, played toys and ran around outside just imagining stuff.

My father is like an OG Geek, loving classic Planet of the Ape movies, Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Star Trek, Comic Books and the like. My mother was also fairly geeky, though a lot of her geek tendencies would emerge trying to make sense of plot lines. Why could this character do something but another character could not etc…

So as I grew up, I just kept pursuing what my parents liked. Video Games, RPGS, and Conventions were added to the mix as I got older but it always goes back to sitting with my folks listening to them explain to me why Ray Harryhausen was so important to movies or how the Planet of the Apes changed special effects forever.
6) How did Shauncastic come about? 
A) Well, funny enough it started with Dragon Con. I had been attending a few years when I was asked to be on a panel called the Adult Themes in Star Wars. We would talk about sexuality, how did Storm Troopers go to the bathroom and all the other stuff that was too PG-13 or R for the everyday kid crowd. It was a blast. People loved it and we were nearly shut down by the fire marshal because of 300 some odd people crowding into a 115 capacity room.

When it was over, I left and there was a line of folks trying to get in. Apparently my voice had carried and people had heard me in the hallways. So when they asked me back for next year to do it again, I naturally agreed. Bigger room, bigger audience, bigger laughs. At the end of that show a lot of people asked me if I was on a podcast or if I had my own. I told them I did not. They asked why and I jokingly replied: “Yeah, why DON’T I have my own show?”

But it stuck. People seemed to like my sense of humor. I was always ranting or wanting to talk about a topic and this would let me keep the con experience going year round. So I sat down with some friends and I decided I would make a podcast about everything Geeky, Nerdy and Pop Culture-y. That way I can talk about Movies, TV, Games, Books, Comics whatever. I wanted to cast a wide net.

So we worked on the name. Very early on we decided to call it “The Nerdist” but found out that Chris Hardwick had JUST started his podcast and was using that name. Missed it, by THAT much! A few years later I told him that story and he said that he couldn’t believe someone had not used the name before. It was a fun moment.

So in the end, one of my friends asked why didn’t I just name it after myself? I was always going to be on the show and it was taking cues from my sense of humor and aesthetic, so why not? My first reaction was no, I didn’t want to come off as a raging egotist but the more thought on it, the more it sounded like a funny idea. So we decided on a name that was celebratory that mentioned a rotating cast of contributors and me. So we landed on Shauncastic.

7) If you could pursue any project, what would it be? 
A) Writing the Flash. I have been a fan of the Flash since Wally West took up the cowl in 1986 after Crisis on Infinite Earths. I have always dreamed about writing for a comic book company and in recent years have started to work towards that goal. Shauncastic has given me some very interesting opportunities and one day *fingers crossed* I’ll have a chance to contribute a Flash story.  
8) What's a favorite con memory? 

A) How I came to be known as the “Ewoks Eat People” Guy

Around 2005 I began to attend Dragon Con as an adult. I had been a few times as a child with my folks but this was the first time I would go as a grown up. It was pretty awesome. Of course being a huge Star Wars fan I spent a lot of time in that track room. Over the course of the weekend, I would ask questions, talk to panelists and basically hang around cause I was just digging the vibe.

On Sunday they had someone drop out and I was asked to be on a panel with a bunch of people with very big titles. If memory serves there was the Senior Archivist for Lucasfilm there, 2 Professors of Mythology, and a PHD in Literature. They wanted a regular fan and apparently I had gotten the staff’s attention. So they asked me to sit with them. The panel was on how real beliefs and myths had been intertwined into Star Wars.

For anyone who has seen me on panels, you’d be surprised to know that I was pretty quiet on this one. I was simply blown away by the intelligent, thought provoking conversation taking place over the hour. Sure, I’d jump in from time to time with a quip or an anecdote. But mostly, I was quiet and listened. Then a panelist mentioned that every culture featured in Star Wars was rich and amazing. Well someone from the audience disagreed and yelled out “What about Ewoks!?”

This got my attention. As a kid, I loved Ewoks. Caravan of Courage was my jam despite it being horrible and my favorite Star Wars movie of all time was Jedi. There was no way I was going to let that shot across my geeky bow stand. So I asked the ladies if I could handle this one and they let me. This is what followed to the best of my memory:

Ewoks are awesome. These lil’ savages helped take down the Empire! I hear all the time how silly and cuddly and stupid they are – but they’re not. Let me tell you what I mean.

In Jedi, when Han, Chewie and Luke are caught by the Ewoks we don’t really fear for them. As a kid I just KNEW they couldn’t die. They were the heroes, so they’d get out of it, but recently I watched the movie again and I realized that our band of rebels were in some hot water. They were tied up like animals to get barbecued. I was surprised but then the guys get free and they proceed to blow up the Death Star. Everyone wins.

Now flash to the end of the flick. There’s Billy Dee Williams, host of the party hugging everybody handing out bottles of Colt 45, cause that’s what a good host does. Around them, giant platters of meat everywhere. Behind them, rows of storm trooper helmets.”

At this point I need to note the entire audience did one collective inhale of breath in realization like you’ve seen in the movies. It was amazing. And then I uttered the words:

Ewoks. Eat. People.”

With that the room went up in claps and screams and it was amazing. I tied up the story about how eating your enemy gives you their strength, but it didn’t matter the audience was in tears thinking about how the Ewoks had eaten all those Stormtroopers.

And while this alone would qualify for my best Con experience, the next moment is what cemented it. The Senior Archivist for Lucasfilm pauses and says: “I’ve never heard that before in my life. Oh my God, that is amazing. When I get back to Lucasfilm, I’m going to enter that into their canon and put you down as the creator of the idea.”

This knocked my socks off. Little old me, on my first panel was getting a credit for the idea that Ewoks Eat People in Lucasfilms archives – and it COUNTED! After that, I was called the Ewoks Eat People Guy. A few years later the Ewok Violence mashups started and the story made the rounds. In fact, Sideshow Collectibles even did a premium statue of the more aggressive Ewoks (which I own). All from one silly throwaway line.

Best. Con. Moment. Ever.


9) Which actor do you feel like you could sit and watch for hours no matter what they were doing and why? 

A) Edward James Olmos. The man is such a great talent and natural actor he could make reading the ingredients to a 1950s Cook Book sound amazing. Especially if he, from time to time, would stop and give his “Adama Stare” at the camera.

10) What advice can you give to somebody just starting out podcasting? 
A) Be consistent. Release every week, day or month. Once you start, you are making a promise to your listeners. Make sure you keep that promise to the best of your ability. When you can’t, let them know why. And no matter what, do the podcast for you. If you’re constantly looking at hits per day – you’re going to get sad. Instead, release a show that you’d listen to. No matter what, you’ll always have a listener.  

11) How did you become involved with panels and tracks at Dragon Con? 
A) Well, I covered a bit of that with the Ewoks Eat People story but after that great panel I was flooded with requests to sit and comment on topics. Since then I have been on 4 different Tracks but I mostly stay with Star Wars as they gave me my first chance to get on stage.
12) Is there a movie that should never be remade and if so which one? 
A) No. Movies are generational. While I believe some movies are great in the period they are filmed, I have to remember that modern audiences may not appreciate a movie the same I did when I was a kid because the visual medium of cinema is constantly evolving.

Stories are cyclical. If we don’t remake, reinvent and reimagine – we flounder.

And let’s be fair. Just because a movie is remade, doesn’t mean the burn the prints of previous versions. If you don’t like it/want to see it, don’t watch it.

13) Closer –what would you say to somebody that has never heard of Dragon Con? 
Dragon Con is a giant Nerd Party the likes of which no one can comprehend. It is big and amazing and scary. But that is also what makes it great. Forget about planning your whole con. Make one goal each day and check it off. For the rest of the time, just see where the Con takes you. You’ll have an amazing time. And if you feel like you need help prepping, check out my Dragon Con Survival Tips. It's a great place to get your bearings!


How could I possibly follow all of that?
Like this – Dragon Con is on like a pot of Donkey Kong’s neckbone, people. Look for me and Shaun all weekend long.
If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s my panel schedule as of this writing:
Saturday
1 PM – Kung-Fu Grip: Action Figures and Toys of the 70s to 90s and Beyond!
This is my panel. It’s big. It’s gonna be great. Also, I will be giving stuff away. It’s
in Marriott M-303-304 (The Marquis level where they keep the Famous People).
10 PM – Earth Station Who: The Past, Present, and Future of Doctor Who
We’re recording a LIVE ESW episode. I think some of the folks from The Forgotten Doctor will be joining us. Director Faber may end up ejecting me because, let’s face it – I am not going to be sober at 10 PM at Dragon Con. That’s just ridiculous. This one is in the Sheraton Grand Ballroom.
Sunday
5:30 PM – Masters of the Universe: 30 Years of the Power!
This panel is also mine, all mine! Come see me, Mr. Beau Brown, and William Stout(!) talk about the greatest sci-fi/fantasy toy franchise of all time. There will be fabulous prizes here, as well! It’s in Marriott M-303-304.
7 PM – GI Joe Anniversary: Celebrating is Half the Battle
Me, Gary Mitchel, and Gnoll will be talking GI Joe: A Real American Hero. Expect an awful lot of nice talk about Larry Hama. I have prizes for this one as well. Because I feel it is important to bribe your audience.
-Phantom


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