I don’t even know where to start.
CommuniCon had been a pipe dream since the third season hiatus. I think the term was coined during the Paley Fest panel when we realized how many of our Twitter Study Group were either in the actual audience, at the “Greendale Pep Rally” at the NY Paley center (where the panel was being streamed) or huddled around computers watching the feed from Paley’s website. Someone tweeted that it felt like we were all at our own convention and the term “CommuniCon” was born. We started calling any gathering of two or more Community fans CommuniCon and we all talked about how wonderful it would be if a fan convention could happen.
But I never thought it actually WOULD happen.
Not that I don’t have faith in my fellow Community fans. It’s just that organizing an official convention is a massive undertaking. But I should have known better. The one thing you don’t tell a Community fan is that something is impossible. Community fans MAKE things possible.
My lovely friend Gillian followed our favorite instinct here at Head Over Feels (“Screw It, We’re Doing This”) and CommuniCon became a reality. Over the next few months, Gillian, along with me and the rest of the “Tranny Queens” Sarah, Jen and Catherine, emailed and brainstormed and flailed about and maaaaaaaaaaaaybe abused an imdb pro account (*innocent whistle*) to put it together (it should also be mentioned that NONE OF US lived in Los Angeles, where it was held). Tickets to the Con sold out in minutes and there was a wait list up until the very last day. I cashed in my long saved frequent flier miles for a trip to LA, booked a hotel room with my future wives and BARELY beat Winter Storm Nemo out of New York City on Friday.
It was better than I could have even imagined it would be.
I said it before in my love letter to Community: there is just something about Community FANS. I felt like I was drowning in love all weekend IN THE BEST WAY POSSIBLE. That’s the only way to describe it. I burst into tears from the moment I turned a corner and LA City College (I KNOW) turned into the quad of Greendale. More tears were shed as I met Sarah and Jen for the first time. And I am pretty sure they heard the screams all the way back in New York City the moment Mary, Shannon Renee and Shannon Leigh found me and tackled me with hugs.
Highlights from the Weekend:
– My friend Jaime, who was unable to attend, had tasked me with getting her Community tote bag signed by as many VIPs as possible. I completely took advantage of the fact that I worked the VIP check-in and got every single person to sign her bag. Including surprise attendees Yvette Nicole Brown and Gillian Jacobs, who I asked to sign it when I brought each of them water. Words cannot describe the joy I felt with every text I sent Jaime updating her with who signed her bag.
– The panel with the writers was AMAZING. They discussed everything from episode ideas that never came to fruition (A NICOLAS CAGE APPRECIATION CLASS) to Annie Mebane not sleeping for 96 hours during the writing process for “Regional Holiday Music”. What I loved is that you could see the genuine love and respect they all shared. Tim Saccardo summarized the writer’s room perfectly when he said “It’s always cool to be in a room where everyone’s better than you.” It’s clear that they all pushed each other to make the best show possible. True, sometimes what they did didn’t always work, but they did it boldly. And that made all the difference.
– The fans destroyed the writers in Trivia. As it should be. They gave a valiant effort though. The highlight of the trivia had to be when #TEAMWIVES got the “Name all the episodes where Jeff Winger is shirtless” question. They were in the middle of listing the episodes when the moderator said she would accept a blanket answer. “ALL THE GOOD ONES,” they screamed triumphantly.
– As it was Andy Bobrow’s birthday a few days later, Gillian arranged that we got the EXACT cake from “Mixology Certification” for him. KUDOS to whatever bakery made it, because it is an exact replica. The reactions were delightful. And the cake was delicious.
– One of the panelists on the “No Small Parts” panel was Brisco Driggs, who is Donald Glover’s stand-in and Black Hitler. When I asked him for a picture and for him to sign Jaime’s bag, he lost his mind. “No one has ever asked me for an autograph before!!!!!” he giggled delightedly. It was awesome. That is what I loved so much about the “No Small Parts” panel: giving these actors who bring so much character to Greendale the spotlight. It must have been an amazing experience for them, cause the room went crazy for all 6 of them.
– Other highlights from the “No Small Parts” panel: David Neher (Todd)’s voice is EXACTLY like it is on the show. He’s not putting on an affectation. Erik Charles Nielsen (Garrett) is HYSTERICAL, and when he was asked what his favorite moment was, he simply leaned into the mic and started singing “Ave Maria” the exact way he did in “Course Listing Unavailable”. He also admitted he never expected “CRISIS ALERT!!” to become the catchphrase that it is.
– Charley Koontz (Neil) confirmed that Neil and Vicki are still together, but Vicki definitely wears the pants in that relationship. I love them forever.
– I’m not kidding when I say the “Dan Harmon and a Microphone” segment was as close to a religious experience as one can have at a fan convention. We were at Church and Dan Harmon was our preacher. He rapped, he philosophized on the state of television and the process behind creating Community, and wandered through the auditorium taking questions. I was in awe the whole time.
– Best quote from his “sermon”: “I think the most important thing you can know is that you want to be a part of all the other individuals. You don’t want to be alone. There’s a personality disorder for every single thing you can name under the sun. There are people who put entire jars of peanut butter up their butt. There are people who are sexually attracted to cats. But there is no one who wants to be alone.” YES TO ALL OF THAT.
– Dan promised to come to every single CommuniCon, even if it was 8 people having a Troy and Abed costume contest. And then, after judging the costume contest, he promised to buy the 2 winners some beers. And he made good on that promise Monday night. He just GETS it, you guys. Also he, along with Yvette and Gillian, stayed until every last person who wanted a picture got one. Yvette even told us that she thought this was the best organized and most fun convention she had ever been to. Pop Pop!!
– At the end of the day, after all the t-shirts had been locked up, Yvette and Gillian said they wanted one. I had a handful of t-shirts that I had bought for friends. While I didn’t have the size Yvette wanted, I DID have one for Gillian, so I gave it to her. I promptly texted Jenn saying “Just so you know, I just gave Gillian Jacobs your shirt. I’ll grab you another one tomorrow.” Jenn’s response? “GILLIAN JACOBS CAN HAVE WHATEVER SHE WANTS.”
– The highlight of Day 2 (besides seeing how delightfully bedraggled everyone was) had to be the “My Whole Brain is Crying: Fan Testimonials” segment. It was amazing to hear how much Community has affected everyone. There were fun stories (I definitely got up and told the whole room the story of how I met my boyfriend and how it wouldn’t have happened had I not been a crazy Community fan), there was an AMAZING freestyle rap (seriously. You want to click on that link), there were stories of how Community pulled people out of depression, and there was an incredibly touching story of how Community helped a guy get through chemo for a brain tumor. The whole room was sobbing as he said that those 22 minutes of each episode would make him forget the pain he was in.
Fans took turns reading testimonials sent in from all over the world. The segment, which was the final one of the con, ran long, but I was determined that everyone would get to speak. So the sound guy (bless him) handed us a wireless mic while the room was being broken down around us. Still, the fans spoke, and people PAID ATTENTION, even as merchandise and fan art was packed up. Finally, the sound guy had to take the mic, right as the last person was finishing up. There were still a few WRITTEN testimonials left. So I (along with Catherine) put my vocal training to use and shouted the last 2 letters. AND THE FANS STILL SAT THERE AND LISTENED. The final testimonial read was from a 13-year-old girl. And her last line was “I’m Sara, I’m 13 and Greendale is where I belong.” Cue more tears. Because that is what we all learned from that segment, and from the entire weekend. Sure there are different factions and cliques within the Community fandom. It’s inevitable. But the one thing that unites us is the fact that Greendale is where we ALL belong. We’re already accepted. And nothing feels better than that.
– One of my favorite moments of the weekend came AFTER the con was packed up and done. I was standing in the Denny’s Parking Lot with Mary (because Denny’s is for winners, we went there TWICE over the course of the weekend) and we hear a shout from a car: “SIX SEASONS AND A MOVIE!!!” We turned and saw that the two guys who won the costume contest were waiting for the light to turn. “COMMUNITY FOREVER!!” I yelled back. “I LOVE YOU!!” one of them shouted. “I LOVE YOU MORE!!” I replied. “NO I LOVE *YOU* MORE!” “NOT POSSIBLE!!”. Then the light changed and they started to move. “ARE YOU ON TWITTER? WHAT’S YOUR HANDLE?” I yelled as they began to pull away. He shouted his twitter handle and I replied “I WILL FIND YOU!!” as they drove away. It was full on the waterfall scene from The Last of the Mohicans (“Stay Alive!! I WILL find you!!”). And for the record, we ARE twitter friends now.
It’s all of those kind of moments from that weekend that I will hold most dear in my memory. Sure, it was amazing to meet all the actors and writers and Dan, but it was the moments with my fellow Human Beings that mattered the most. Wandering the streets with Shannon in our pajamas looking for ice for our drinks (“Ice? We have Ice Cream! ICE CREAM!”). Pushing our two beds together to make one giant bed for me, Mary and the Shannons to sleep in. Watching Community fan videos at 2 AM and flailing about over them. Tweeting Catherine and Jen in their hotel room one floor above us the next morning asking if they had Advil. Doing the Troy and Abed handshake with Clinton. Constantly saying hi to all of my friends who couldn’t be there but were watching on the live feed. Recreating the worst/best romantic comedy in the world Monday morning when I VERY dramatically ran through the airport and made it just in time to say goodbye to Mary, who was on her final boarding call. Those are the moments that I missed the most as I made my way back to New York City. Those memories are what CommuniCon is all about.
I can’t wait until next year.