For what is typically considered one of the lighter, less big events-heavy days of Comic-Con, this year's must-see-and-do Thursday events in and around the convention center were outrageously plentiful. You had to choose your battles both in the official panels and screenings, and the offsite awesome – and it's awfully rough to choose between the first-ever public screening of Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World with in-house DJs and cast and crew, or the Machete preview party with courtesy taco service by Robert Rodriguez himself. Of course, there was also the weapons-grade-nerd alternative: Head down to 4th & B for the triumphant California return of W00tstock.
The traveling gathering of nerd culture icons – spearheaded by Wil Wheaton, Mythbusters' Adam Savage, and comedy-folk troubadours Paul & Storm – seemed a no-brainer for the Comic-Con weekend, though it came together relatively quickly. (As Wheaton explained to the crowd “We put a big X in July [for a possible show] thinking 'Well, we're all going to be at Comic-Con, and… wait, we're all going to be at Comic-Con!'“)
No surprise, then, at the lineup that they managed to pull: Eisner Award-winning comics writer Matt Fraction, slideshow-ing his amusement at having his Iron Man cover turn up on t-shirts at Hot Topic. Killer comedy from the Rifftrax team, unleashing their live commentary mayhem on “Lunchroom Manners”, plus Nerdist guru Chris Hardwick reciting pi to at least a few dozen decimal places – and then upstaged by a wookiee! (Oh, wait, no it's just Adam Savage in a suit. One of many he'd wear this weekend, as he teased that he'd be on the exhibit floor in Stormtrooper garb on Saturday. He practically dared the audience to find him.)
In a slot that was as much entertaining as it was “OMFG breaking news!”, Bad Astronomer blogger Phil Plait not only treated the crowd to some glorious stargazing slides but announced then and there that he's got his own show launching on Discovery Channel soon with a preview reel. Oh, but doesn't it look hhhawesome? Just as brilliant, illusionist Jamy Ian Swiss turned up to deliver some jaw-dropping slight-of-hand that included a milk bottle pressure experiment he revealed that he'd learned on Mr. Wizard as a kid, although Mr. Wizard never pulled the stopper off the bottle without spilling a single drop, until he willed it to– with magic. Whoaaa. (Speaking of which, Sad Keanu was undoubtedly the most popular interstitial slide of the night. That meme's never getting old.)
The W00tstock shows legendarily run long, and this was no exception. For sheer bang-for-buck, the Comic-Con crowd made out like bandits at an over four-hour running time, crammed with delightful entertainment right down to the hilarious cameos. Savage's Mythbusters partner, Jamie Hyneman, introduced the show to rapturous applause. Meanwhile, Wheaton's good buddy Aaron Douglas, aka Chief Tyrol from Battlestar Galactica, stopped the show with a walk-on in his full BSG costume. After Savage took the stage and treated the crowd to his indescribably funny impression of Gollum from Lord of the Rings singing “I Will Survive” (seriously, must be heard to be believed), Mythbusters build team member Grant Imahara jumped in to wriggle his fingers over his lip in the universal sign of “Jamie Hyneman's moustache.” (Someone had to do it before the night was over. Jamie had already left, anyway. “Trust me,” Savage said, “He's in bed by now.”)
You know it's one for the ages, though, when even the intermission promises great entertainment, in this case, courtesy of the delightful ukulele songstress Molly Lewis, who happens to be under 21 and, as such, was almost barred from performing in the venue. Tweets from the performers were quickly blasted out promising a Molly ninja concert in the parking lot at intermission, although she was in fact able to perform inside (accompanied by security – jeez!) and hit the stage early in the show. (A definite highlight of the night: Lewis' ode to Stephen Fry basically informing him that he's too brilliant not to breed, and offering her baby mama services if necessary.)
Geek joy is never conducive to backsies, though, and sure enough despite the initial snafu, she hit the parking lot between acts anyway and wowed some of the concert goers (including, naturally, almost all of the smokers) with a bevy of acoustic covers. There's kind of no topping Lady Gaga performed on a ukelele, under harsh gold fluorescents on a brisk summer's evening. Let's keep that #freemolly hash tag going for at least another week, geeks, because we can.