Sunday, 19 May 2013

Meeting Your Heroes

This week, the very day I got back to London from New York, I got to catch a show by Chris Hardwick at the Leicester Square Theatre. I heard about it before leaving, and dutifully bought tickets and roped a friend into coming, despite the late hour (10pm). The show itself was lots of fun, as he spent most of it talking to the crowd rather than doing his Mandroid set or testing out lots of new material.

After the show, he came out and talked to the fans, as in a receiving line, so that we could each get a picture with him and get him to sign our copies of his book. Despite the jet-lag, he was able to muster a cheery manner with me (it probably helped I was close to the front of the line), and we chatted a little about the Bay Area. Gratifyingly, I made him laugh a couple of times, at my reaction to our first attempt at a photo (I really need a new phone), and at my description of my own job.

And then it was over. The theater didn't want us hanging around too late, so we kind of had to hurry through the whole encounter. Naturally, I felt like there was loads more interesting stuff I could have said to him, like how I write fantasy and science fiction, so over the last couple of days I've been thinking about how to get across more about myself in a short time.

Now, one of the themes Chris Hardwick himself has talked about frequently on his podcast is how to react when meeting a famous person you like; the two best interviews he did on this subject were with Tom Wilson and Zach Braff. I seem to remember in the latter interview he pointed out how a fan only has a very short time to engage with them, so it's natural to kind of want to throw everything out at once. But, as per Tom Wilson, the problem is that for that fan it's possibly the only time they interact with the celebrity, whereas the celebrity has that same conversation every single day with different fans.

So overall, I feel like I was pretty good about the whole thing: I didn't fawn too much about how much I loved his book or his podcast or his comedy (why would I be there, otherwise?); I was polite to his girlfriend, Chloe, who was kind enough to be taking time out of their (presumably rare) vacation together to be taking pictures of him and his fans; and if I feel like I could have added something clever about my fiction writing, then I console myself with the thought that, for what it's worth, I'll probably be able to mention it to him at another signing sometime in the future (and with luck I'll be a little further along with it than I am now).

Looking back over that paragraph as well, it occurs to me that probably what I wanted was validation, in the form of, "Hey, that's really cool, good job!" Obviously, I got that reaction from family and friends when a story of mine got published online in January, but to some extent I suppose telling it to one of my heroes is probably about showing them that I'm getting to their rarefied level, and not just some wage slave out enjoying himself for a night.

Hopefully that doesn't seem too harsh, but it feels about right. If you meet your hero, you want to know that you made some kind of impression, that the experience was anywhere near as meaningful to them as it was to you; some people do that by trolling online, I suppose. I've resigned myself to the thought that I probably won't stick in Chris's memory (not like the girl who came from Italy dressed as a Weeping Angel, anyway, but I'm not much of a Dr Who fan), but at the very least, I won't be remembered as a complete jerk. And as I said, I'll wow him next time.

In any case, I'll close with these words of wisdom from Tom Wilson himself, or Biff from Back to the Future: