Ivy (ivy_rat) wrote,

Cruise Post Part 2 (the long one)

We are leaving for New Zealand in less than a week (Eeeeee!), so if I don't do the second part of the cruise post, it will never get done. I've decided to throw out the pages that I've written and start again. Oy.

Soooo,

First off: Part One is here..

This is Part Two.

I have no idea how to do this. Did I explain what the JoCo part of the cruise was? If not, here's the official "OMG This Was Awesome Post". It gives you an idea of what went on, and has pictures and everything. And this is the schedule of entertainment.

When I think of the JoCo part of the cruise, it separates into three distinct parts: The performers and their shows; the other fans/geeks/audience; and Scott and his desire to not call attention to the fact that he was there. For those of you that don't follow this blog and don't know who I am or who I'm talking about, first a quick PSA:

My name is Ivy Ratafia. I'm married to Scott McCloud (the cartoonist). We are friends with Neil Gaiman (the author). Now, if/when I mention Scott or Neil, you know (there was a Neil on the boat, he helped organize the trip, when I talk about Neil, I don't mean him, I mean Gaiman).

Okay, now that's done with, on to the Cruise.

Let's talk about the shows and performers.

I'll start with our host and namesake, Jonathan Coulton: I (as you might remember) had met Jonathan and his lovely wife, at Neil's birthday party (which was partly how I managed to be on this cruise). Scott didn't. He spent most of that trip not dying in the hospital, and missed most everyone at the party. When we were getting ticketed to get on board the ship, I saw Jonathan and his family. They recognized me and said hi. Throughout the trip we would say hi when we saw each other, but I never really got to talk to Jonathan at all. I did get to talk a bit with his wife when we were taking the giant group photo, but that was Tuesday, and the last time I talked to her other than to say hi in passing.

The first night there was a party which we got to a bit late. Because we were there late, we missed the beginning of the announcements, so we wound up missing the movie that was shown. I regretted this deeply, and it goes with a long story, but I'm skipping it. If we ever meet, ask me, and I'll tell you about what we did to try NOT to miss the movie, and how we did anyway.

The next day was the official first day in my mind. We got on the boat on Sunday afternoon, but Monday is when things really started. Every night there was a show. On sailing days (there were two when we spent the whole day at sea) there were things to do during the day as well. Our shows were early. Starting around 4:30 or 5pm and went until it was time to get ready for dinner at 8pm. Very very cool.

So, Monday the evening entertainment was Paul and Storm and Wil Wheaton. My entire knowledge of them was that I'd seen their names mentioned in things that Neil had written about. I knew that Paul and Storm were a music group, and that Wil Wheaton was not. I also knew that Wil was supposed to be funny, and that he might be an actor. Paul and Storm put on a great show. They were very funny, and I really liked their music. Wil told stories and was very much a geek and amusing.

All the performers went to the shows and the other entertainment type stuff, so we got a real sense of them. As the week went on, I developed more and more respect for Paul and Storm. Paul helped host (along with Jonathan) all the night entertainment, and he and Storm were frequently called upon to add their talents to someone else's work. They were always funny, and always right there doing what needed to be done.

Wil, was always in the audience to add something obnoxious. And amusing. Well, almost always there. He was frequently harassed for being late.

On Monday late night there was a drama production. Which might have been my favorite event of the cruise. First, Peter Sagal and Bill Corbett performed a one-act play that Peter had written. Then Bill Corbett and (I think, since I got his name off the website) Joseph Scrimshaw performed a one act that they had written. Both plays were great. They both really stayed with me, but the second one, the Bill Corbett written one? Wow, that blew me away. Very powerful, funny, thought provoking. Just, really good!

On Tuesday there was more stuff, since it was a day at sea. Tuesday was amazing, and since it had some of my favorite moments of the trip, I think I'll save it for the end.

Which means I'm going to tell you about Wednesday next. Wednesday was probably my favorite show. Performing that night was Molly Lewis, Mike Phirman and Bill Corbett & Kevin Murphy. In this line up, I knew who Mike, Bill and Kevin were. Molly was the only female performing on the cruise (there was an awesome stage manager who was referred to as Dammit Liz, who was made of all kinds of win, but she didn't perform). She did us gals proud. Very good show, she was funny and charming.

Then Mike Phirman came on. He was, by far and away, the funniest thing all week. He became a superstar with that performance. I do not remember when I laughed so hard. A friend of ours has been following Hard and Phirm (the duo he used to perform with) and she has told us stories of them for years, but this was the first time I'd seen either of them. If you EVER get the chance to see him perform, I can't recommend it enough. Wow was that a great set.

Following him Bill & Kevin did their Rifftrax thing. They did a couple of shorts. One of which was so very hard to watch (a machine safety film from the '70s, *shudder*). They got help from John Hodgman for one and Peter Sagal for another. I didn't laugh quite as hard for them as I did for Mike, but it was a close thing. That was one show that I didn't want to end. It could have gone on all night and I wouldn't have minded.

Thursday was the weakest show, if you ask me (even though it was still great, just all the others were even better). John Roderick did a very nice set playing piano and singing, but really didn't feel like he belonged with the rest of the entertainment. Stephen "Stepto" Toulouse was funny and had some cute bits (he was there to talk geek), but mostly he seemed a bit overwhelmed by the crowd. I think he would have been better in a smaller space.

Peter Sagal, whose appearance was the deciding factor that got us to go on the cruise, was the best thing. I am a HUGE fan of his. He told some stories. He was charming, funny, and even got his wife to help out. I adore him, and his show only made me love him more.

I think this was the night that we also had some strange visitors added to the mix. David Rees was The Spoiler which was a bizarre thing he did, that was absurdly amusing. Peter Sagal did a thing as #57 which started out funny and then turned rather sad. It was odd, but strangely compelling.

Everything that I'm talking about can be found on YouTube if you want to see it (hell, if you are interested and can't find something, ask me, I'll find it for you).

The last night, Friday, the entertainment was an all request show by Jonathan Coulton, except that, as usual, he called out almost everyone else to help him at some point. It was a great night. Coulton had trouble remembering all the lyrics to all the songs, but that just made it more charming. His rendition of The Presidents, for example, consisted of him getting lost very quickly and a couple of audience members singing the song instead of him.

There had been a form to fill out on our program for requests and then he played whichever ones he wanted to. I requested Curl, and he played it! So I was happy. All the entertainers took part to some extent and they all got on stage for a final bow. It had been an amazing week and it went out with a bang.

Told you this would be a long post..

As for the people that we met there; well that's what made it so perfect for us. There were geeks and nerds and basically our kind of people. I liked everyone we met. The first night, which was before things had really started, we had just left port and no one really knew what was going on, we ate at our assigned table. We were all given tables to eat at. At our table with us was one other couple (Amanda and Paul). We were all kinda shy, but had a lovely time. Afterwards they joined us as we attempted to find out if the movie was happening. It was, but we decided it wasn't, gave up and went to bed early.

The next day, at the show, they told us that the cruise line, in deference to our group, was doing away with the assigned seating. That meant that we were no longer having dinner with just Amanda and Paul, but instead were to find a table that we could join and meet new people. We met bunches of people that way. It was a great idea. Many of the people we had dinner with, we would see again and since we now "knew" them it felt like we were one big happy family. Scott and I frequently felt a bit old, being that we were way above the average age, but we still had a good time.

One of the couples that we dined with told us how Jonathan Coulton had become famous. We did not know this. Turns out, he had written a song that was played during the credits of a computer game and it became a hit in the gaming world. This is why there were a whole lot of gaming type geeks on the cruise. Despite our lack of gaming savvy, Scott and I still found much in common with the people that we met. I was very impressed with how cool the other passengers were.

As the trip went on, we kept bumping into Paul and Amanda. They liked to sit at the same place we did in the theatre, so after awhile, we started meeting them on line to get into the show and then got seats for the four of us, and they became our cruise buddies.

On the last night, rather than grabbing a few seats at an already occupied table, we decided to "make" our own. The cartoonist David Willis was on board with his awesome wife and we had wanted to spend some time with them in a "lets talk comics" kind of a way and since we had yet to have dinner with Amanda and Paul since that first night, the six of us got a table together. It was the only repeat we had of dinner companions, and despite the really dreadful floor show that the poor servers were forced to put on for us, it was a delightful way to end our trip. Only saddened by the knowledge that it was our last night on board.

Scott had decided that since it was my birthday, and we were part of the audience not the entertainment (an odd position for us, I must say) he wanted to downplay who he was. Thing is, Scott's strangely famous. Strangely in that most people don't know who he is, but the ones that do, tend to be very impressed by him. So, when it would come out who he was, some people had no clue, others were doing the, OMG, I'm talking to someone I really admire, oh god let me not make a fool of myself dance. Everyone who did know who he was was beyond awesome and thrilled to spend time with him, but I felt sorry for the people that I knew would have loved to know that Scott was That Scott, but never knew because he didn't make a thing about it.

But, like I said, I had met Jonathan Coulton and John Hodgman at Neil's birthday party, so there were people there who, from the start knew who we were. And this brings me back to Tuesday, since Tuesday was my favorite day.

Tuesday was a travel day. No stops, just the boat. The morning started out with a Q&A. We figured we could skip it, since we envisioned it as mostly fans asking Coulton questions that wouldn't mean anything to us. We were very wrong and were sad that we missed much of it. We decided to show up for the end of it, since after the Q&A everyone was going to be led to where the "Big Picture" was going to be taken. When we arrived, what we found was that ALL the performers were being asked questions and that they were really interesting questions. One audience member said that meeting everyone had been an intimidating experience for her until she decided to pretend that she was famous, then it didn't seem so difficult. She asked the performers what tactics they used when meeting people they admired. What followed were some wonderful stories about meeting idols, where finding out who intimidated them was as interesting as the stories. John Hodgman knew who the audience member was, her name was Tracy and he had met her earlier in the cruise and had had encountered her in real life before the cruise. He dubbed her Famous Tracy, since she clearly was famous since he knew who she was, and the name stuck. From then on she was Famous Tracy.



The Big Picture. If you can find me, I will be shocked. I can't find me, and I know where I was standing!

After the picture was taken, and everyone got their Titanic Moment out of the way, I found myself standing next to Jonathan Coultlon's wife (Christine? Christina? I'm not sure!). I really like her (even if I'm not exactly sure of her name) and we started talking. Standing near to us was John Hodgman. I went up to him to thank him for being so kind to me at Neil's party, when I was kind of a basket case. John hadn't recognized me and was upset at this fact. When we had met at the party it was dark, so he hadn't noticed that my hair was very purple. Outside and on the boat it was much brighter, so my hair stood out. Once he realized who I was, he surprised me by vividly remembering me. I introduced him to Scott (who, as you might recall, wasn't at Neil's party long enough to meet anyone other than Doctor Dan). They are both fans of each others and we had a delightful talk.

(John told other people that Scott was there, so we later had the opportunity to spend time with Bill Corbett, Kevin Murphy and David Rees who are all fans of Scott's.)

After the picture stuff, we went to do Cruise stuff. There was a chess tournament and a trivia game. I watched the trivia while Scott won the chess tournament (not quite as impressive as it sounds since he only had to play two people to win, but still...)

Then there was the show. This was the night that Jonathan and John were performing. Jonathan played a wonderful set, aided and abetted by Paul and Storm (and maybe others? hard to remember which night what happened anymore). Then John did his thing. He told some stories in the first half and in the second he did his adjudicating. After helping two couples settle arguments he asked the audience if they had anything for him. Famous Tracy raised her hand and told the story of an injustice she perceived in an earlier encounter she had had with Hodgman (there was a note, and her not being there, and stuff...). The way he chose to solve this conflict was to challenge Famous Tracy to a game of Scrabble after dinner.

After dinner, there were several things going on, but no question, Scott and I wanted to see the Scrabble game. When we got there Famous Tracy was already seated in a chair at one end of a coffee table, the seat opposite her was empty, the couches on either side were full. I stood behind the couch on the Famous Tracy side to watch. When John arrived (after a bit of work to reacquire a Scrabble game) he decided he didn't like the seating arrangement and asked the person sitting in front of me if he would mind trading places because he wanted to be closer to Tracy, not all the way across the table. I had the perfect spot, I could see both sets of tiles, and even got to kibitz both sides. After a moment I realized that I was not going to do well if I stood for the whole game and asked John if I could sit on the arm of the couch. He said (without turning around), "Is that Ivy? For you, yes. You, I'll let sit there." So I did. For the whole game. Which was quite exciting. If you get excited about things like Scrabble. Which I do. I think that game might have been my favorite moment of the cruise.

There are lots of other runners-up and so many stories that I've not told, but this post is far far too long. There are so many people I could have talked about. There was pencil sharpening, an iPhone hand bell choir, crazy pants, a mustache party that we didn't go to, and a sing along that we did, and the SONG! Can't forget the song, oh, and Rich's t-shirt (OMG!), and so much more. If you ever meet me, now you have something you can ask me about. I warn you, I'm very long-winded.

I had an awesome time on the cruise. I'm so glad I went.

When we got back to the real world it hit with a bang. There was bad news from home, and then we started getting news as it was happening, about the shooting in Arizona. While sitting in the airport, waiting for the plane to take us home, I checked my email and discovered that Amanda had friended me on Facebook, and John Hodgman was now following me on Twitter. It was like the cruise could just go on virtually, and all the bad was tempered. If we had the money, I'd do the cruise again in a heartbeat.

We are off to New Zealand on Sunday night. We are supposed to have internet there, so hopefully I can update as adventures happen!
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