The lead up to the third officially unofficial gathering of Community fanatics and the creatives who love them filled me with trepidation. Don’t get me wrong – I was counting the seconds until I’d be reunited and, in many cases, united for the first time with members of this small internet army. But despite watching the show since Jeff Winger hastily put together a “study group” to get into Britta Perry’s pants, I didn’t know if I’d quite meet the super-fan requirements for CommuniCon. It’s common knowledge that Kim is the Greendale authority in our partnership, and my casual live-tweeting has nothing on the hours and hours she’s spent promoting the show. What if I couldn’t hang? Cue Hulu and a mainlined, full-series rewatch.
I shouldn’t have worried. (Zero regrets for that marathon though.) CommuniCon isn’t about some established fan hierarchy. It’s the Greendale of cons, free of
standards judgement. You love the show? Well then, you’re already accepted.
Let me back up for the benefit of the n00bs. CommuniCon is a fan-run convention created to celebrate and support Community. Like last year’s, CommuniCon 3 was held at the Embassy Suites in Glendale, CA. (And the hotel will hopefully will remain its home, because we’re now thoroughly spoiled by the nightly open bar.) Organizer and dear HOF friend Gillian Morshedi packs the itinerary with panels and meet & greets. Other features include a mini-Artists Alley to assist you in emptying your wallet; the full-size DARSIT, available for photo ops; and even a game station where you can Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne, 8-bit style. Basically, it’s a Communie playground.
We escaped rainy New York City and landed in sunny California the Friday morning of the con. Thanks to the careful pre-planning of the abundance of Monicas in our hotel room, we quickly rounded up Communies from a handful of different terminals and headed out to Glendale together. (Shout out to the SuperShuttle and the family we rode with. Sorry we talked about the finer points of the Mindy backdoor episode the entire ride.) After the obligatory In-N-Out meal and gas station wine run, our first show-related act as a unified fandom was to take on a Community trivia that just happened to fall on the same weekend. I was ready to back out when I learned that the cafe hosting us didn’t have a liquor license. (Whoever heard of a dry trivia? That’s on par with a dry wedding. Why do you hate your friends?) But Kim had already sorted us neatly into cars (Monica), so fine.
Precocious Little Bitches wasn’t just a name, it was an attitude. Being a trivia host myself, I firmly believe a) that the job of the host isn’t to show off his own obscure knowledge but to facilitate fun-times and friendly competition, and b) that anyone who carefully watches a show should do reasonably well on that show’s trivia, even if they don’t spend their spare time scouring the IMDB pages of anyone who’s ever been involved with it. So maybe we were a little vocal about calling bullshit on a whole round on the cast’s various connections to obscure horror movies. While our wife-friends trounced the rest of the competition and walked away with some extra-rare crew hoodies, we were given prizes by the hosts, I swear to god, just for complaining. (Those guys were total sports.) “Don’t be so negative!” you might say. But I didn’t get this Joel McHale-signed “Modern Warfare” script for being a positive person, so.
CommuniCon officially kicked off the next morning. When we hit registration to get our badges, we were each handed a swag bag from Yahoo Screen. The streaming service saved the show after its cancellation by NBC and has already been treating Community like the asset it is. From SDCC to NYCC and all the internet in between, we’ve seen Yahoo reaching Community fans and would-be fans where they live – the nerdiest reaches of the culture. It almost goes without saying that NBC never showed its network-y face at any CommuniCon event. Yahoo Screen was there with us all weekend, recording panels, engaging with the fandom, and making sure we all had our official Greendale student IDs.
Also there all weekend: CON RIBBONS. We
borrowed stole this idea from Gallifrey One and it’s a keeper. Dozens of CommuniCon attendees jumped on board and had their pre-ordered ribbons ready to trade. A few of our favorites:
- “It’s like a thought with another thought’s hat on.”
- “Oh, the Koog approves! That’s a five!”
- “Lava Joust?”
- “Technically Jeff, you ARE about to get screwed in the biology room.” (Kim’s)
- “How long does peyote last? Just…asking for a friend.” (Mine)
After welcoming everyone, Gillian played for us what Kim and I consider our contribution to the con. The week before we left for LA, we saw Danny Pudi in the original musical Found Off-Broadway. We caught up with him at the stage door and talked showtunes and Community for a good while. He was so jazzed to hear that we were going to the Con and graciously (nay, enthusiastically) recording a greeting for us to take with us. He wants you all to know that he loves you a lot, and that musicals are more exhausting than sitcoms.
The very first panel of the con was a fan favorite: No Small Parts. The Community universe reaches far beyond the Greendale 7, and this hour gave us the chance to find out what it’s like to be a guest star, a recurring character, or even a stand-in. Our panelists were Erik Charles Nielsen (Garrett), Danielle Kaplowitz (Vicki), Brisco Diggs (Black Hitler and Donald’s stand-in), Jordan Black (Dean Spreck), Brady Novak (Richie), Dominik Musiol (Pavel), Deanna Moore (Alison Brie’s stand-in/photo double), and Ben Zelevansky (Postman). We learned the Jordan doesn’t exactly watch the show – how very City College of him (“I told you I was going to come off as an asshole. You can relax, I already know.”); that Dominic spent 2.5 hours pouring water over Danny Pudi’s head to create Abed’s romantic ’80s movie moment; and that Deanna’s favorite moment on the show was getting to act with Alison Orphan Black-style in the Darkest Timeline episode. The actors hung way longer than they were supposed to in order to sign and take photos for everyone who wanted to meet them. The Meet & Greet line uncovered a few more revelations: my favorites being that Ben also played the ranger who asks to see Ron Swanson’s permit for roasting an entire pig in a park (“This just says, ‘I can do what I want.'”) and that this very blog is one of the top 10 Google results for Erik’s name. (It’s cool, Erik. We all Google ourselves from time to time. Also, IF YOU ARE READING THIS, HI. YOU ARE GREAT.) You can watch the entire conversation online at Yahoo Screen (our favorite streaming service EVER) even though Charley Koontz (Neil) is making that CSI money now and is too famous for us.
At any given break, you could find us buying up Artists Alley. My own haul included a gorgeous set of paintball postcards, a PayDean button, framed Brittabot print, and an activity book and one-of-a-kind commission from THE Julieta Colas. My only request was “something Jeff/Britta” and THIS is what she handed me.
From small parts to smaller on the outside telephone boxes, we rolled right into the Inspector Spacetime panel. Travis Richey and the gang were there to clue us in to their progress on the crowd-funded Untitled Motion Picture About a Space Traveler Who Can Also Travel Through Time. Honestly, the work so far looks impressive and expensive. The Spacetime team were adamant that they approach their Inspector spin-offs as high-quality standalone stories. And that’s why they were able to court Star Trek‘s Robert Picardo and Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy, both of whom contributed painfully adorable videos to the fundraising campaign. Check those sweet old motherfuckers and the rest of the panel here.
Since the Inspector’s panel led right into the annual CommuniCon costume contest, I should mention that Kim, myself, and our friends Mary and the Shannons had been, for the entire day, in full “Geothermal Escapism” mode. When the floor is hot lava, there’s nothing to do but Mad Max it out. We’d been plotting cosplay domination remotely for months. And even though we lost our Abed, we made quite the BAMF study group when we were finally together. (Kim: I was the first member of our group to make an appearance on the con floor that morning, and BOY did I make an entrance. Everyone was lined up to register, and I was one of the first cosplayers there, so I was met with raucous applause. “WELCOME TO SHIRLEY ISLAND BITCHES!” I declared, because all I need in life is for people to applaud me where ever I go.)
Because Kim has fancy staff privileges, she had also had intel on a couple of surprise judges. Gillian Jacobs and Yvette Nicole Brown became three-time CommuniCon veterans that weekend and we love them for it. They both thanked us all for staying so passionate and Yahoo Screen for believing in the show. And Yvette went on to assure us (to huge applause) that even though her family concerns prevent her from being a part of the cast, she will always be a part of the family, on social media and everywhere else. After bemoaning the lack of Shirley cosplayers last year, Yvette geeked out over Kim’s Shirley Island outfit in the green room (Kim: I had tweeted Yvette a picture of my costume earlier in the day (as I was super proud of it)and she flipped out over it. I popped into the green room not long after she and Gillian arrived, and Yvette FREAKED OUT over seeing my costume in person. “It’s YOU!!” she exclaimed. “THIS is how you cosplay! You have just made my life today!” She also offered her condolences to the teddy bear I had beheaded the night before to make my scepter. Honestly, I don’t know how I didn’t burst into tears.) Because people listen to Yvette Nicole Brown (and also because she made no bones about being a biased judge), there was also small parade of Shirleys in the costume contest finals. (Glinda Shirley, Sam Jackson Shirley, Security Shirley, etc.) So well done on all of us for making Yvette feel loved and appreciated.
Obviously Travis Richey had selected our group costume as a finalist. We even took in an Abed and a clone Troy when a couple of costumes from the same episode joined our team. Far too nice to decide between us all, Yvette and Gillian put the competition to a crowd vote…
Victorious, we settled in for the last panel of the day, Advanced Concepts in Concept Advancement (aka the writers and crew panel). Take it away, K-Rocks!
The Crew panel was a highlight of CommuniCon 2 and I was so glad to see it return this year because it is amazing to hear JUST how much the people behind the scenes bust their asses to bring Community to life. On the panel: Precious Blueberry and Father of the Pathological Ones, Andy Bobrow, writers Monica Padrick and Dan Gunterman, composer Ludwig Goransson (who brought his parents with him, which is the cutest thing ever), editor Ruthie Aslan, set designer Chris Branan, and make-up designer Pamela Lljubo. Everyone was super excited for season six, which at that point was about 2 weeks away from production. They all stressed that Community would still be the same show we all know and love as it moves to its new home on Yahoo.
– Hot Lava was the hardest episode of the season (as it should have been…they knew it had to be a send-off worthy of Troy Barnes). The story took a month to break!
– Pam made Chang’s diamond grill in 15 minutes, all with existing items in her kit. This woman is a hero.
– Ludwig made a specific reference to the “Jeff and Annie Love Theme”, so he TOTALLY ships them. He talked a lot about Annie, in fact, so it’s nice to know that SOMEONE really cares about her. #shade
– Ruthie gets 45 – 50 hours of footage for a twenty-two minute episode. There are usually several cuts of each episode, and now I am wondering why the editor’s cut is NOT the one on all the DVD sets. Note to Yahoo for S6: WE WANT THIS.
– Much to writer Monica Padrick’s chagrin, Andy brought up the abandoned story line of Dean Pelton and Dean Spreck going to Dean Camp together. The concept was cut from S2’s “Basic Rocket Science” (the exact line was “You betrayed me, and after all we went through at dean camp!”) and really hasn’t been dropped from writer’s room discussions since. Of course, we all went wild over this. The fandom DEMANDS Dean Camp, ladies and gentlemen! Make it happen. Plus, we’d love to get Jordan Black back.
– Yvette had a MUCH longer speech in “Mixology Certification” that Andy called “Emmy Worthy” but ultimately the speech was cut because of pacing. AGAIN I say…why was this not on the DVD?
– Andy also reported that Mindy Kaling banned Community‘s famous “story circle” writing style at The Mindy Project after Chris McKenna and Adam Countee worked on the show. He did a fantastic imitation of her.
– In order to perfectly render the Dean’s Black and White look for the Sadie Hawkins episode, Pam took a still photo of Jim Rash and then painstakingly working from that to match the grey scale with make-up and wardrobe. Again. This woman is a hero.
– Naturally, the panel was asked about their favorite characters. Andy refused to play favorites, but said his natural style of jokes lended itself best to writing for Pierce. He even wrote jokes for Pierce in season 5 (“If I were here, this is what I would say!”). Pam the Hero wouldn’t pick a favorite. Chris chose the Dean and Dan chose Britta (for her flaws and earnestness). Monica chose Garrett and Ruthie said she had soft spots for Shirley and Annie (Aw, that’s nice!). Ludwig chose Pierce. Or Chevy. They are on and the same after all.
– Ludwig was especially proud of “Teach Me How To Understand Christmas”, saying he never thought anyone would allow him to write a song like that. He also hinted that Dan was interested in exploring a full musical episode. Yes please.
-In order to keep Chevy’s cameo in “Repilot” a secret, they wrote the scene using Starburns. Andy ruefully admitted that the scene went over REALLY well in the table read and they were sad they had to cut it.
– Andy, precious soul that he is, credited Community fans with coming up with the term “Head Canon”. Oh, honey.
And that was the end of Day One. We de-lavaed and headed off to the evening reception with most of the con, before heading off to our more private after-party at our friend Travis’ apartment. At the reception, Gillian warned me…”I see it in your eyes, Kim. Don’t get too messed up that you can’t enjoy tomorrow.” (She may have used more colorful language than that. I’ll never tell.) WELP.
It’s an ignoble tradition at CommuniCon that one of the wives is brutally hungover Sunday morning. This year, it was my turn. Note to all future attendees…one can not drink and eat very little of the course of a day and expect to be a fully functional Human Being in the morning (see what I did there?). To my credit, I TRIED. I pulled on my sweatpants and attempted to go down to breakfast, only to nearly lose it when the elevator stopped on every single floor and got more and more crowded. (I literally started rocking in the corner. Sage, bless her, just rubbed my back and allayed the fears of a VERY concerned mother observing my behavior.) So I grabbed two pieces of toast and a banana and headed back up to the room to sleep it off. So I am sorry to say that I missed a good half of the first panel of the morning (and what I DID see I have very little memory of, as I was nursing a Gatorade and tentatively eating my banana with peanut butter, cause protein). It’s a bummer because the “Rodent Mammography and Facial Astronomy” aka the Animation Panel with Titmouse and Starburns Industries was fantastic. (Let’s all give Gillian a round of applause for coming up with all the names of these panels!) Animation has always been a huge part of Community, from “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” to the anime sequence in the Foosball episode to “Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne” to “Greendale Babies” to “G.I. Jeff” (not my favorite episode, but I do admire all the work that went into it), so it was amazing to hear about all the work and creativity that went into those episodes. You can watch the full panel here, thanks to our pals at Yahoo Screen. (We’re just going to suck up to them for this entire post, if that’s okay with you guys.)
By the end of the Animation panel, I was feeling human enough to fulfill my Staff-ly duty of working the merchandise table while the second panel of the day, “Intermediate Game Theory” was going on. (Note: Obviously, I would have fulfilled my duties even if I WAS still feeling like hell, the fact that I was feeling better was a bonus!) I am forever amazed at the creativity in the Community fandom and the Six Seasons and a Movie video game is just another example of how the fans take everything to the next level. Watch that panel here! (THANKS YAHOO! I was THERE and I need to watch these things.)
After that panel, I declared myself ready for food (YAY), so we made our way across the street to Shakers, a delightful family run restaurant known for its “famous” zucchini bread (it should be noted that the quote marks are theirs, not mine). Our group of ten settled into the banquet room, where hilariously the table arrangement ended up with our one guy at the head of the table and Maggie at the foot. “Kids, we have something to tell you,” she said and thus our bit about being a family going through a divorce was born. A little twisted? Of course. Hilarious, as we stuck to the bit for the rest of the day (much to Travis’ chagrin at all of us calling him “Dad”)? Completely. For me, this meal is one of my favorite memories of the weekend and exemplifies why CommuniCon is so special. All the stuff with the show is GREAT…but it’s the relationships that have formed because of the show that mean the most. It’s transcended all of us just being fans of the same show and become something very very real. We truly ARE a family, one of our own choosing. And despite our jokes, it’s a family that will NEVER break up.
Because Gillian is a master of scheduling, she saved the marquee panel of the con for very last: the Town Hall Meeting with Dan Harmon. At the first CommuniCon, Dan said that as long as they existed, he would always be there, and he’s made good on his word. Dan has always been an open book with the fans (at times to his own detriment some would say) and this dialogue is WHY the fans feel such a sense of ownership when it comes to Community. During his town hall, Dan opened up more about WHY he behaved the way he did regarding season four (and completely acknowledged the way he lashed out at Megan Ganz and other writers for staying on that season, saying that it was petty and he shouldn’t have), what we can expect from season six now that it’s on Yahoo (basically, we can expect the same show, so yay), and waxed poetic on the creative process and what it means to him (“You don’t HAVE to go to a dark place to create.”). It’s a fantastic way to finish the con, as it leaves the whole room rejuvenated, reminding us just why we are all there in the first place.
– Dan’s dream crossover would be with Parks and Recreation as he feels the two shows exist in the same universe (and he has a great respect for Mike Schurr, calling him the “Anti-Harmon”). Obviously, I need this to happen somehow.
– When a fan brought up the “Rich is a serial killer” theory, Dan thought he fit the profile. He also hinted that he’d love to see Rich return. (And Greg Cromer replied to that tweet from the CommuniCon account saying that he’ll bring the kettle corn, so again…let’s make this happen.)
– “You are never more than a quarter of a circle away from a change in your story’s direction.” Words to live by, in bad times AND in good.
– Troy’s leaving was the end of innocence for Abed, and it was just as painful in the writers room as it was for the fans. He emphasized that what made Trobed so special was the fact that it was completely organic.
– Surprisingly, Dan had nothing but praise for NBC. “I grew up worshipping NBC,” he said. “NBC had a brand, it meant something. I was raised by that network and I created a show FOR that network.”
– Regarding the move to Yahoo, Dan said “The first order of business is to make sure the show looks & feels like it did on NBC. The second is to make it BETTER.” He also pointed out that while they likely won’t be constrained by network time lengths, they won’t seek out to make episodes longer just for the sake of it. (Thank God)
– Dan credited Jim Rash for the Dean’s crush on Jeff, in that he added all the touching Jeff on his own. He also is proud of the Dean as a character, stating ” Everyone is indecipherable & Dean Pelton, more than any character on TV, represents that. We can’t let the system trick us into thinking that power in numbers is the only kind of power there is.”
– Dan is completely open to taking the show BEYOND Season Six, viewing the move to Yahoo as a new chapter. He THEN joked about trying to get Alison Brie to sign THAT multi-year contract. “We will have six seasons and we WILL have a movie…and that does not deny us the right to do more.” #24SeasonsandaThemePark
– He then admitted that he doesn’t feel like 13 episodes is ENOUGH for a Season, specifically referencing how the show dropped Jeff being a teacher last year. “We had so much other shit to do.”
– “Modern Warfare” was born out of an exercise in the writer’s room regarding topics they just “not allowed” to cover and how they COULD do it. Someone brought up a School Shooting, which then inspired a school wide paintball war. Thus, one of the most iconic episodes of the series was born and my mind exploded all over the place. (Dan stressed it was not a commentary on school shootings, it’s just what got them there.)
– When asked if the show would retain the credits sequence, Dan said it absolutely would. “That credits sequence is a handshake with the audience. it says “Let’s begin”. You can’t change it or shorten it for time. What if Cheers went ba-ba-da-da__PFHBT! Fuck it!”
– Being that our group of wives is also a fierce group of feminists, Mary posed a question about the lack of female characters. Dan promised that season six would have women EVERYWHERE. A promising statement until it devolved into him talking about the women wrestling with each other 😉
– Lastly Dan closed out the panel saying “The show is a religious thing. There is a joy in surrendering yourself to a higher power. In the moments where it looked like Community was over, I HAD to go “Fuck it, I’m glad” in order to preserve my sanity. But if there’s a chance…I’d like it to last forever.” #InfiniteSeasonsandaWorldDomination
As soon as Dan’s panel was done, a massive line was formed for his meet and greet session. Here’s the thing that I respect so much about Dan…he truly makes every interaction with a fan special and talks to them, often for too long. He could very easily just sign shit and move people along, but instead he chooses to connect with people. Every con he’s stayed until the very last person has gotten their moment, and the time has gotten longer and longer each year. People were in line for over two and a half hours to meet him and we even had to move the line out into the general lobby as the con was torn down around it and our time permitted in the room elapsed. Given that I’ve met Dan several times before, I skipped the line, choosing to goof around in the “photo booth” with the wives, as we had to properly document the matching shirts Sage and I had made for all of us (quoting Britta in “Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts”). While the rest of the girls settled in to play “star ball” in the lobby (there were no rules. Just a group of girls sitting in a star formation rolling a ball around. Joey Tribbiani would have ranked up right there with Fire Ball), I was called on to try to help move Dan’s line along, as people were genuinely afraid he would leave before he got to everyone. Basically, I wandered up and down the line telling people to not be assholes and yes, have their moment with Dan, but also respect the people in line after them and keep it brief. It helped marginally, but no one can rush Dan Harmon when it comes to his fans. I love that about him.
While a good majority of the con then made their way to that night’s Harmontown (where Joel McHale made an appearance. Hey…come to the actual con next time, you bastard) our family (SEE? We carried it out for the WHOLE DAY) opted for one last night at the evening reception (a MUCH more relaxed affair compared to Saturday) so we could soak up as much time together as we could. And then, because it’s us and our lives revolve around watching TV together, we retired to our hotel room, ordered pizza, and gathered around a laptop to watch that week’s episode of The Walking Dead. When else would we have the chance to all watch our latest obsession TOGETHER? Totally worth missing Joel for. Even if he WAS wearing a tight and artfully undone button-down.
Like I said earlier in this post, and like I’ve said in both the CommuniCon posts I have previously written, these are the moments I hold most dear about the entire weekend. It’s all the prep sessions BEFORE the con as we plot out how to top ourselves. It’s the gossip sessions and the flail sessions. It’s moments like me declaring our hotel room a pantsless zone after our hike through the heat to get In and Out. It’s Maggie writing a friendship ceremony based on Jeff’s speech in the pilot episode for our entire hotel room and then struggling to break the pencil when she needed to make us feel things. It’s Sage picking a fight with the cab driver and then refusing to leave without everyone when he showed up at Travis’ apartment in a car not able to take all six of us. It’s convincing them to go on without us and later finding out that Michelle had a strongly worded conversation with the cab company, saying we were treated like dog poop. It’s sitting on the curb outside of Travis’ apartment and talking about life struggles with Shannon Renee and Mary as we waited for a new cab (even as Travis shouted from his window that we could come back up). It’s rallying around Shannon Leigh, surrounding her with love and support while one of her dogs had a health crisis over the weekend. The love extends to SL’s boyfriend Kurt, who insisted that she go and have the weekend with her friends while he took care of the dog and to Mary’s husband Mike, who watched Joey all weekend. There’s just so much LOVE in the Community fandom and CommuniCon is just time to completely surround yourself with that love and then leave feeling renewed. My life has been forever changed by that love. It’s helped me to fully embrace who I am and it’s opened so many doors for me. Sage and I both know that this site would be nothing without our Community friends believing in us and supporting us from the very beginning. So if, we haven’t said it before: THANK YOU. I’m just going to let Jeff Winger sum it up…
“I’m so used to being the guy who can talk his way out of anything, but… what do you say when you don’t want a way out? What you all have done for me is indescribable. It’s unbelievable. And my love for you is immeasurable, even when you split it seven ways.
Our love for you is immeasurable, split infinite ways. See you next year, Greendale.