Scott Meyerhas quite the track record. From a stand up comedy career to meeting almost everyone worth knowing back in the day. Scott now produces Basic Instructions, a webcomic that describes how to handle almost every possible instance a person could think of. Scott was kind enough to sit down for an interview a short time ago:
Do A Barrel Roll Blog: First off, why do you tell us a bit about yourself. You have quite the track record for a Web Cartoonist.
Scott Meyer: Well, where to begin...
DABRB: The beginning usually.
Scott Meyer: I was born and raised in a little town in the middle of the scab-land deserts of Eastern Washington state. I usually give my hometown as Sunnyside, but really I started out in a positively minuscule town next to Sunnyside called "Outlook, WA." Sunnyside made national news several times in the 80's for being a small town with a big city style gang and drug problem. Also 1000's of people made a religious pilgrimage there in the early 90's to see an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe in the back of a highway sign. So, I fled from Sunnyside and went to Broadcasting school. I loved comics at the time, but never felt my artistic abilities were up to the standards they'd need to be. This was the era of Bloom County and Calvin and Hobbes, mind you. I knew I wanted to be a comedian, and since the liquor laws wouldn't allow me anywhere near a comedy club, I went for radio.
I met Gary Larson once. When I was a comic I auditioned to do a voice on the Far Side Halloween Special. I had this dufus who was calling himself my agent. He calls me one day and says they're doing a recording session for the Far Side Halloween special, and there's a part that's perfect for me. I get the script and he's highlighted the part "elderly headhunter." I did not get the part, but I got to shake Gary Larson's hand, which was great.
DABRB: That's not something many can claim. You've met quite a few notable figures in the comedy world.
Scott Meyer: Yeah, most of them weren't famous at the time. I spent a week palling around with Chris Titus when we were working a club in Green Bay. He was a great guy, but really intense. Patton Oswalt took me and another comic to a piano bar in Seattle that was rumored to be the last place Cobain was seen alive. He was very patient with the two of us. He was just on a different level.
I worked with Mitch Hedberg. He was a genius, but when he started talking about doing heroin I suspected he wouldn't be around long. I did a comedy contest with Aisha Tyler. She trounced me. Bare in mind, few of these people could pick me out of a lineup now. Doug Stanhope would probably know who I was if you asked him, but that's about it.
Oh, and I toured with Weird Al, who is the most underrated comedy writer of our time. He's just tremendous and he never gets the credit he deserves. The thing that sets him apart is that there's no filler. Every other person who writes funny songs occasionally has a line or two that are just there to fill space until the next joke. With Al, everything is either set-up or punchline.
So, anyway. I got fired from my first radio job and couldn't land another, but by then I was twenty one. I moved to Seattle and tried my hand at both Stand-up and comics. I got a raft of rejection letters. The gist was that my writing was good but my art wasn't. It came down to a three day period where I had to decide whether to do art school in the day and work nights, or work days and do stand-up nights.
I chose stand-up.
That lasted 12 or so years until I burned out. Toward the end I was trying to come up with something to draw people to my website, and Basic Instructions was born. I did a few, and enjoyed them, but they didn't really generate any real buzz or traffic, and by then I was fed up with comedy, so I took a day job. After a while I started missing one aspect of stand-up. My friend Ric used to call it the "bully-pulpit." Which he got from Teddy Roosevelt. When you do stand up, if you get a funny idea, you have something to do with it. You can share it with people and see if they agree, which you hope they will. I missed having that, and realized Basic Instructions could serve that purpose.
DABRB: I'm sure that this has been asked of you many times, but where do you draw your inspiration for your material?
Scott Meyer: The easy answer is "from my life." Sometimes I'll get an idea that I think is funny and I'll have to construct a subject and a set of instructions around it. (Ghandi's Gun is an example.) Other times I'll find myself in a situation I think has potential and I'll have to come up with a strip to fit the situation ("How to Explain Something to Someone who Doesn't Get it."). Other times a strip will just come almost fully formed out of a conversation I'm having with someone. Usually my wife, or my friend Ric. That's why he's in the strip. It's a form of credit where it's due. Also, if I can't figure out how to make a joke work, usually I can just phrase it in the form of an insult to Ric and it'll work.
DABRB: Now about Ric; there are some reoccurring characters in the strip. Is it safe to assume that they are all based on people you know?
Scott Meyer: Many are. My wife is an exaggerated version of my wife. Rick is pretty much Ric. I digitized him by adding a k to his name. Brilliant, I know. Mullet Boss is based on several people I've worked for. He's partially a great guy I worked for who wore suit jackets without ties and used to be a musician, a really personable guy. He's also partially this miserable, mullet wearing racist I worked for. There's also part of the guy I worked for in radio, who only had his job because his parents owned the station.
Many of the more occasional characters are members of my wife's old improv troupe in Seattle. I work from photographs, and they were really good at giving me poses that conveyed the emotions I needed. Those emotions are usually irritation, disgust and confusion.
DABRB: So what is your day to day drawing process like?
Scott Meyer: Interesting you should ask right now. I'm in the process of changing things a little.
DABRB: Do tell.
Scott Meyer: My art abilities have never quite been what I want them to be. I use computers to prop myself up in that regard. When I need a fresh piece of art, I start with a photo. Many of the characters are based on people I know, but a few of them are me disguised. I take the photo I need, then I drop it into the computer and draw over the top of it. I've been asked if I feel like this is cheating, but I never claimed to be doing anything else. If I'm not hiding it, how can it really be dishonest?
Anyway, I work in Adobe Illustrator, which is a vector graphics program. The advantage of that is that I can take a drawing and display it as a full body shot, or I can zoom all the way into one eyeball and it'll still look smooth. I've always repeated artwork. Lately I'm getting a little self conscious about it though. I set out to do more fresh artwork, but there was a snag. My wife and I still look pretty much the same, but Ric has totally changed his look. I'm going to be unveiling the "New Rick" tonight, and am bracing for the reaction.
As for putting the strip together, I have a library of existing poses for all of the major characters. I write the strip, get the words to where I'm happy with them, then I plug in and arrange the artwork.
DABRB: So it's more about the writing than the art.
Scott Meyer: Yes. I'd love to be a great artist, but sadly I just don't see it happening. Good writing can prop up bad art much better than great art can support terrible writing.
DABRB: You have to stick to what you know.
Scott Meyer: Indeed.
DABRB: You've had the same premise from some time now. How do you find new ways to keep things fresh?
Scott Meyer: That's a challenge. I've done something like four variations on pointing out the flaws in someone's plan. There are several ways to change it up. You've done one where it's someone elses plan and you're correcting it (How to correct someone), so have it be your plan and someone else is correcting it (how to take a note). Or you're correcting correcting it super-politely (how to offer constructive criticism) or you're being rude (How to shut down a moron before he does real damage). There's always a way. It's just a matter of finding it. Scott Meyer: I also have several relationships in the strip that I use often. Me and my wife. Me and my boss. Me and the client who hates me. Me and Ric. Rocket-Hat vs. the Moon Men. If I'm using one of those too heavily I'll try to steer for to one of the others.
DABRB: I was browsing through your info page and I couldn't help but notice that one of your cats is supposedly a communist. What's the story behind that?
Scott Meyer: Back when we lived in Seattle, my wife and I decided to get a cat or two. We go to the humane society a little kitten that got out attention. We take it into the little room where you can play with the cat and get to know it. I think it's called the champagne room. It immediately walks up into my lap and falls asleep. Clearly, we had to have this cat. We adopt it and get some extra paperwork from the state department. Turns out that there was a Russian fishing trawler that was sized in the north Pacific for some reason. The crew was deported. The ship was sold off. There were several animals on board, including a cat that was the ship's pet and her litter of newborn kittens. Our cat was one of the kittens. We named him Comrade. Commie for short.
DABRB: Now something I like to do is to find out what webcomics that the various figures that I interview read. Do you have any favorites floating about in the interwebs?
DABRB: Now I understand that you have an interesting story about getting started in by the one and only Scott Adams of Dilbert. What's going on with that?
Scott Meyer: Scott Adams contacted me out of the blue and promoted my comic on his website for no reason other than because he could. My daily traffic skyrocketed overnight. I have no idea how much traffic I'd be getting right now if he hadn't stepped in, but it'd be a lot less.
DABRB: Yeah, if would be great if someone did something like that here. *Hint Hint*
DABRB: Well Scott, I must say it has been a pleasure.
Scott Meyer: Same here.
Got questions, death threats, or suggestions for further interviews? Then drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow "DABRB" on Twitter. Stumblers don't forget to rate this sucker a thumbs up.
This afternoon the many players of Valve's Team Fortress 2 were delighted to find that Valve had accidentally leaked a long awaited promo for the Spy class. Valve quickly removed the video from their Youtube account, but the video was allegedly viewable to users on the Apple iPod touch/Phone due to a speed issue and was quickly reuploaded via a conviently available app. In no time the video found its way onto Youtube and various other video sites. This most recent incarnation of the "Meet the ___" videos features impressive visuals, numerous hints to future updates, and by far the most entertaining script. Earliest known upload credit goes to Zephyrak of GFAQs.
I recently had a chance to sit down with Dave and Psy of GG-Guys. What followed was extremely entertaining and likely illegal in 13 states.
DABRB: Why don’t you each tell me a bit about yourselves.
Dave: Well, I'm a nice Australian guy, who aspires to become a full-time animator. I've wanted to draw/animate since I was wee little boy, watching cartoons and movies, inspired to make my own stories and characters. My dream goal is to one day be the creator of kids animated program. In the mean time, I'm a freelance Adobe Flash animator and artist for GG-Guys, written by my lovely colleague, Psy.
Psyguy: I work for a company called Momentum Transport - I'm in charge of their website. Making the server work. Making sure the site works. Other tech junk. I've been working on webpages since '96 and I've been doing various comics of all shapes and sizes. I always been a fan of comics and when webcomics started to pop up - I had to throw my hat into the ring. But it started off with a Sonic sprite comic - that is to say I would take the individual frames of animation from the game and actually use that for the main actions of the comic. I've been looking at the "web-comic" formula for a long time and I've been trying to get something to "stick" for awhile now.
DABRB: For 35 comics, I'd say that your current format is sticking.
Psyguy: Well it's really all about the art. You can write better than Charles Dickenson for webcomics, not that I'm sure he would understand gamer-humor, but if the art doesn't sell - the whole comic ship sinks.
DABRB: True, very true. Now I understand that Dave's an Aussie, but where exactly are you from Psy?
Psyguy: I was born in Anchorage, Alaska. And no, I don't know Sarah Palin. But I moved to Texas because my mother is in the oil industry.
DABRB: A Texan eh? Longhorns or A&M?
Psyguy: UoH [University of Houston]
DABRB: Fair enough. So how did you two get together to make this comic? I'm pretty sure you didn't exactly knock on each others door and plan this out.
Dave: Well, I've been following Psy's website adventures since he started his Sonic sprite comic. I had this strange vision like he was some grand-web-figure of immense power, and got it into my head that one day I would be a part of his site. Last year, a friend of his, Chris Niosi, was making a call out for his project Nin10Doh!, and I decided to become a part of that. After I'd worked with him, I decided it was time I made the leap and asked Psy if I could join. So, I wrote up an email, sent it to him, showed him some of my work and he said yes.
DABRB: "Nin10Doh!"? Wasn't that a Youtube series?
Dave: It's am Adobe Flash collaboration hosted on Newgrounds.com, that also got loaded onto YouTube. I was responsible for the Captan Falcon segments, with him singing "I Can't Drive Fifty-Five", which was really fun to do.
DABRB: I'm actually quite fond of those segments. Needed more PAUNCH! though. Any chance of another installment?
Dave: Indeed there was. End of last year, Chris hired me and the other collaborators to make a sequel, $oopah Nin10doh!, in which I animated the Starfox segments. That was really fun.
DABRB: So tell me about the comic. As far as I can tell it’s autobiographical, but I could be wrong. Psyguy: Dave asked me out of the blue - which was a total shock. Because I just get this random note on my Deviant Art that this guy with incredible talent wants to draw for me. Kind of put me on the spot. I, being a giant fan of penny-arcade, always wanted to be the writer of a gamer comic. I bounced a couple ideas off Dave - use Megaman? Maybe Sonic? How about our own gaming characters? I'm sick of 2 guys on a couch so maybe we should just use ourselves so if we fall into any clichés it's purely a coincidence. I try to give something real and not just 2 wacky guys on a couch and one guy is less wacky with an attractive girlfriend and blah blah blah. I told my girlfriend about this at the time, Liz, who wanted to be part of it. It fell into the 2 guys 1 girl thing on its own. I have random ideas here and there and I try to bounce them off Dave so we can make them as "good" as possible. Sometimes I try to keep to gamer comics because, well, they get attention. It's more or less our ideas we bounce off each other.
Psyguy: I'm, Psy. The guy with the hat in the green. Dave is the boy in blue. Amber, my main website's mascot (fireball20xl.com) - who actually had to replace Liz because her and I stopped talking - is the pink haired eye-candy who has yet to have a line.
DABRB: I'd hate to ask, but does that have anything to do with the female character not having any lines?
Psyguy: It was actually my poor writing abilities. The jokes were about Dave and I so I just kind of had Amber sit in the background. It started to be a running gag - we have a comic planned where she's actually going to start to speak - but gets cut off.
Dave: People have often asked if it was because she was mute, but yea, it's mainly just in the writing. We'd like to think she hasn't said anything because, well, nobody's asked her anything.
DABRB: So we can plan to see her speak in the future?
Psyguy: As a matter of fact - yes! We want Dave and Psy to be stuck thinking of something and Amber comes over and suggests something. Psy would freak out, "HOLY CRAP, YOU CAN TALK!". Amber, "Well yeah...no one's ever asked me..." Dave and Psy, "Ooooooh...."
DABRB: I'm looking forward to it. I noticed in your latest comic that a few figures from the webcomic community make cameos. Do you actually know any of them?
Dave: I'm more familiar with these webcomic figures mostly. VGCats I've been watching for years now.
Psyguy: I know Scott Ramsoomair (VgCats) personally from conventions and what not. I've been talking with Scott Smith and Scott Hepting (Slackerz) mostly on twitter. Scott DeWitt (Fanboys) I've talked to off and on but I don't know as well as the other 3.
DABRB: While on the subject of your last comic, did you guys actually get a Joystiq or were you mocking those who have?
Dave: Nope, it be very true. Joystiq.com held a competition the week before we made the comic, where our Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks story made it into the lineup. Though we didn't win, we did very well, coming second in the overall line up. It was quite an awesome experience.
DABRB: Well congratulations.
Dave: Thank you, sir.
Psyguy: Much thanks.
DABRB: Tell me about the work that goes into each installment of GG-Guys. Dave: Well, it's a long drawn out process, where Psy involves himself for about a few minutes writing a story, usually through us throwing around ideas, then I spend a week drawing it!
Psyguy: Those are a very intense few minutes!
Dave: Once I get the script, I start roughing it out in Adobe Photoshop, creating the comic frames, roughly drawing the character poses, backgrounds, and anything I feel important to add, and then create text and text bubbles on top. From there, I outline the rough drawings, then color them in, add backgrounds which are either painted or become gradients if I'm strapped for time, and then finish by adding any little details, like lens flare or glowing effects. Once I flatten it into an image, I wait till Saturday to post it....or in most cases, end up posting it the exact same time I finish it on Saturday night (Saturday morning in America).
DABRB: I noticed that the art and writing are unusually advanced for such a "young" webcomic. Is there somewhere where we can see your earlier work? Psyguy: Oh lord, my early writing. Sure you can have that. Be warned it may cause cancer. You have been warned.
Dave: Well, art wise, I've been developing since I was a wee-boy. I've been doing comics since then, mainly for myself, and not doing very well I might add. It just seemed to click well when I combined my art style with Psy's awesome writing - examples of my work you can find here.
Psyguy: In closing that is how I spent my summer vacation.
Dave: And it was the best vacation ever.
Psyguy: Except for the syphilis. DABRB: ..........
Psyguy: Ba dum tish. I'm the writer.
Dave: That's our Psy!
DABRB: Well it's been a pleasure, but I have one last question for the both of you.
Psyguy: We're not gay. DABRB: Are you ga-.......... Psyguy: HO HOOOO
Dave: Ooooo snap.
Psyguy: The more you know and starwipe! And we're out
I decided to take a break from my rigorous weekend schedule (read: sitting at the dorm and thinking of reasons not to write my paper) and took a stroll down to the Ferg to check out Bamacon. Now I'm all for Nerd culture (I do a blog on it after all), but this was beyond me. You'd think considering the extent I will go to for a good Halloween costume that I would enjoy a mass of people dressed up as everything from Naurto characters to Haruhi Suzumiya, but this crossed the line somewhere. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for cosplay, but I draw the line at jail bait demons from Japanese strategy videogames. For bandwith's sake, I'm only going to link the photobucket album, but have at it. I have to apologize for the poor quality though, I was stuck with the "bad" camera for this outing.
Dreamworks has had a "long" history of making successful films. Shrek made history and they haven't looked back since. With the release of MvA today, I like to think that the company has reached a new standard in their movies.
First and foremost, the movie looks A-MAZ-ING. The 3D is crisp and makes everything look "real" without sacrificing the cartoon look. For the vainer among you, the 3D glasses are actually nice looking (at least at the Cobb theatre) and are pretty comfortable. The movie also refrains from abusing the medium and only pulls a T2 on a few occasions just to remind you that's you're not watching a normal film. The effects are so well done that you actually stop registering that they're even present after a bit (that's a good thing).
Now a movie can look great, but still manage to suck it up (Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within anyone?). I won't lie, I doubt that this will be receiving any awards for writing. There are a smattering of scene with "good" writing, but the true draw of this film is the part that never gets any awards.
This movie is peppered (and by peppered I mean chock full of) with nerd culture references. UFO identified as a "Code Nimoy"? Check. Stephan Colbert as the President? Big check. The Golden Gate bridge getting trashed? Checkorooney B Movie references? Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. and Check. Mr. Colbert communicating with the Aliens via an iconic 80's pop tune? Che- Actually, I nearly lost bladder control from the laughing.
If you like Pixar, 3D, Monsters, Aliens, Nerd humor, Geek humor, Cliches, Stephan Colbert, or are a child then go see the movie right now. If not, go see it anyway. I'm getting this on DVD and I'm heavily debating going to see it again.
Nathan Gibson is a freshman majoring in electrical engineering. He enjoys candlelit dinners, long walks on the beach, and other cliches. He works on his blog when he isn't busy being broke, unemployed and single.