Just watched “Big Bang Theory” with Wil Wheaton making a guest appearance. In two different Diesel Sweeties t-shirts. You can read the gory details of the episode’s filming and the wardrobe backstory in Weaton’s blog about it.
It was the first bit of network, prime time, non-sports television that I’ve watched in at least 18 months, and I watched it because of a tip from Richard Stevens, the human alter ego (and crushable form) of Diesel Sweeties’ Clango.
I have a bunch of thoughts on this, and most of them come down to: Tonight’s t-shirt experience demonstrates the (mostly wasted) potential of “big media” today. Having no idea how to turn this into a coherent story, here’s a list.
Wil Wheaton wore two of Richard Stevens’ t-shirt designs, both based on his Diesel Sweeties comic strip. I discovered DS through BoingBoing about three years ago, and haven’t missed a day (or laugh) yet. Bought the shirts, went to MoCCA and met @rstevens, once brought him a chocolate babka (that he sliced with the precision not often seen outside of a neurosurgery theater) and a casual friendship was born. If you read DS, you’ll find Wil Wheaton in 8-bit guest apperance form as well (and the headshot on Wheaton’s blog is a custom Stevens portrait, as is my own pixelated likeness – yes, that’s me next to Red Robot in the bottom frame).
It’s easy to discover art that makes you laugh, that you want to wear, and that makes others uncomfortable because they “don’t get it” and you’ll find the artists are genuinely good, reasonable, fan-appreciating people. But more than that, trace the edges of the social graph – I found DS through BB, I laughed at a Philip K Dick joke in DS, bought the t-shirt and wore it religiously. Based on a recommendation from Richard, I watch TV and suddenly Wil Wheaton shows up on TV wearing my electric sheep shirt. Well, it’s Richard’s shirt, not mine, but I got more stares wearing it on airplanes than @wilw has. And for a brief moment, I felt incredibly connected to this TV show, and I’m only pounding out a blog entry right now to avoid buying the first three seasons of “Big Bang Theory” on DVD based on one 30 minute interaction. I should at least give it a second date.
Why won’t CBS let me watch full episodes of the show online? I’d make that buying decision tonight, rather than the next time I happen to be watching CBS at 9:30 PM (best estimate: some night in July when the Yankees are off). But wait, you argue, if you watch the episodes online you won’t buy the DVDs, and then CBS will lose that revenue. But here’s the reality: right now CBS has exactly zero of my dollars. If I watch a few episodes online and decide I like the show, I’ll spend $100 to get caught up, and I’m likely to drag a few viewers with me. I can’t watch three years of backstory online; yeah, I could stream it to a TV so the comfort of my office chair isn’t a factor, but I’m much more likely to buy the DVDs once I know I like the product. Basically, it’s better to focus on building an audience that be afraid of some potential product substitution. If I don’t consume your bits, I have no interest in your war3z.
You can use Richard Stevens’ DS artwork for non-commercial purposes as you like. And that’s from a guy who said “nyet” to a nationally syndicated cartoon gig (DS used to be carried in a variety of newspapers, including our very own Star Ledger). I’ll be using a clip when I speak to the ACM Southeast Conference on Friday night. That’s how you build an audience (insert obvious Cory Doctorow cross references to Creative Commons and BoingBoing here).
I’m not really sure what the point is: Buy t-shirts to support your favorite artists, online, musical or otherwise. Start everyday off with a laugh. Support big media when they support you, by making it easy and fun to participate and share the “inside” — like a good chocolate babka, the inside is always the best part. Bonus points if you immediately got the Seinfeld reference without having to Google it, double bonus points if you know that’s also the episode that references my favorite treat, the black and white cookie.
Final thought: I now “get” #BBT on twitter. Like, duh. Yes, I have been this socially dense my whole life. Probably the result of eating too much babka.
Update 4/15: I fixed the spelling of Wil’s surname. More proof I’m out of the nerd loop.