The line leading to the main stage of Cap. City Comedy in Austin, TX begins at the end of a short hall lined with glossy photos of the most famous comics working today. And, appropriately enough, at the stage door. The line makes a sharp left about halfway down the club’s south wall, where a table has been set up to display flyers and postcards and assorted knick-knacks that promote the club’s upcoming shows. Things that probably have a lot more to do with modern stand-up comedy than the often eclectic and frequently electric podcast/stage show of Dan Harmon, creator and former showrunner of NBC’s “Community.” Bobby Lee’s perpetually bewildered face is everywhere, as is its wont. But his isn’t the show we’re all in line for, continuing past the table to snake around the bar. We’re here for Harmontown, where not everybody knows your name, but you tend to belong just the same.
Not a single person in line looks over 35 and most are assuredly in their 20s, many still in college. Those nearest the front of the line are the most stereotypically nerdy — pasty, somewhat haggard (if male, definitely bearded), wearing thick-lensed glasses with thin wire frames — or trying so hard to be real hipsters they’ve circled back to ironic — also pasty, haggard but clearly bathed (if male, also definitely bearded), and lots of thick-framed glasses with useless or non-existent lenses. Eventually the two just sort of merge together, with hipster sisters escorting their nerdy younger brothers, until the non-tumblring, non-instagramming fans arrive merely minutes before the doors open. I’m at the table, much closer to the beginning of the line, glancing back and forth between the door in front of me and the one behind, at the main entrance where tickets and merchandise are sold. It’s during one of these backward glances when the man himself enters the club.
In chinos and a plaid shirt with rolled-up sleeves (not unlike nearly everyone in line), Dan Harmon seems both taller and smaller than imagined. This, despite having seen him in interviews with both Kevin Pollack and Joel McHale, who apparently aren’t the definitive height-based reference points they would seem. The writer, who has been a called “genius” not insincerely, almost stumbles in, but not drunkenly or for lack of grace. He stops as suddenly as he started, at the precipice of the club and methodically taking in his surroundings. First straight ahead at the mass of fans in line, then at the merch booth, and then at me. At the table. The avatar of what’s blocking him from barreling straight onto the stage. For a half a second we make eye contact, and it’s almost like he can see through to my soul and he gets me but isn’t sure how to feel about it. Which, incidentally, is not unlike seeing right through me to some other goal beyond.
The moment passes, and just as it seems like he was going to fruitlessly head in my direction to determine where he’s supposed to go, someone in his crew moves among the throng, ninja-like toward backstage, and grabs his attention. Immediately, he bolts in that direction. It’s only then that I manage to nudge a friend and say, “Holy shit, that’s Dan Harmon.” Everyone around us looks, but he’s already gone, lost in the crowd, camouflaged in his bearded disheveledry. He disappears backstage and sooner than later, the doors finally open and we head inside.
(TL;DR - Time travel is a very complicated bit of scientific gobbeldygook — the technical term is Seriously FUBAR — but, with the help of pop culture entertainment, you may be possible to survive and not be a mass murderer — emphasis on “mass”. Also, despite their inclusion in the header, neither Bill nor Ted are mentioned below — because those two totally excellent dudes never met a rule they couldn’t break!)
So, you’re lost in the space-time continuum, huh? Don’t panic, it happens to the best of us.
One minute you’re minding your own business, listening to a pod cast you downloaded from iTunes onto your MP3 player or watching a streaming movie from any number of websites on your TV or reading a book on your tablet computer — you know, something obviously indicative of our modern age. The next minute you find yourself in the same balcony box at Ford’s Theater with President Lincoln or riding atop one of the many armored elephants crossing the Alps with Hannibal Barca’s Carthaginian army or hunting dinosaurs with Cro-Magnon men led by Moses and Hercules — you know, something that reeks of the ancient or prehistoric past, and most likely literally. It doesn’t matter how you got there, or then, you’re there then and you need to know what to do next, or if you can do anything at all, much less should. This guide is meant to help you navigate the confusing rapids of the time stream with little to no Universal destruction.
First things first: Do you still have access to the time machine that enabled you to make this temporal jaunt to begin with? If yes, stay perfectly still for a second and don’t touch a damn thing. If no, then welcome to a consequence free existence! Any of the following rules of time travel are still likely true for you but, since you’re trapped there and then with no hope of ever returning to your own time, you may as well do whatever you want since you have no way of testing these rules empirically. “Whatever happens, happened” is a phrase we’re going to come back to, but in you’re case it’s 100% literal. So, go nuts, time traveler, you may as well enjoy yourself whenever you are. Because no matter what happens, you’re probably going to bed dead soon — whether from being considered a witch or because you can’t eat the local delicacies dripping with bacteria that your precious stomach can’t handle. The past is a very dangerous place to go.
If you’re still reading this, then you still have the capability of returning to your own time, at least theoretically for now. Before you start experimenting with the fabric of existence, be sure to mark the exact moments and places of both your departure from the present and your arrival in the past. You’re going to need to return to these exact points in space and time for every future trip, so we can narrow down exactly your quantum and physical limitations. Ignore what Bruce Willis said in Looper, the ramifications of your continued presence in the past is pretty important and worth some level of healthy scrutiny.
With your chrono-coordinates are set, you’re ready to start messing with history!
A long, long time ago (approximately 36 years) in a top secret genetics research laboratory (somewhere in Washington, D.C.) a woman agreed to be part of a groundbreaking artificial insemination experiment. Rather than impregnate fertile women with the average donated sperm, a group of government scientists were determined to impregnate those women who seemingly could not carry a child to term. The scientists reasoned that a mixture of DNA, from the strongest sperm acquired surreptitiously via nocturnal emissions of the nation’s physically healthiest male specimens, would do the trick to cure infertility. A spicy semen stew, if you will. When a viable mix was finally created, the only one of its kind, it was named the Bagans Alpha in honor of the U.S. citizen who bravely donated her supposedly barren body to science.
Pictured: a sample of the Bagans Alpha swimming in perfect harmony
Nine months later, a bouncing baby boy was born. His mother named him Zak. He would grow up to lift weights and adventure with ghosts, eventually filming his escapades for a “reality” television show. At some point in the interim, two of the highly classified scientists fell in love, married, and tried to start a family. Sadly or ironically, or probably both, the couple discovered they couldn’t have children the old fashioned way. Rather than leave themselves to their childless fate, they decided to steal a second batch of mixed DNA — this one acquired from the nation’s most intelligent male specimens, under the impression that if strong sperm couldn’t break through the egg’s defenses, then the smartest or cleverest could sneak around them. This never-meant-to-be-used concoction was named the Bagans Beta.
Pictured: a sample of the Bagans Beta awkwardly and ineffectually bumping into each other
The couple went on the lam, changing their names and moving to Canada in order to escape U.S. authorities. Approximately 11 years after Zak Bagans was birthed, Michael Cera came into this world. Exercising his mind and funny bones in lieu of his body, he eventually made us laugh and stole our hearts on, arguably, the best sitcom of the last three decades. Neither Bagans nor Cera are aware of their shared genetic traits, though both have probably always suspected there was something different, something undeniably unique and special, about only them. Nor do I have any actual documented proof of this tale’s veracity, as confirmed by no one.
But I do have evidence that is sufficient enough to sway even the most gullible of juries. Specifically evidence in the form of comparison shots of Zak Bagans in his natural habitats and Michael Cera as George-Michael Bluth in a muscle suit from the aforeferenced “Arrested Development,” which can be found immediately below:
I’ve never cottoned to the phrase “guilty pleasure.” At least, not in relation to the ways we spend our time and money on entertainment. I suppose the phrase does have some merit when talking about the food we consume. Certainly, there are things we digest (anything fried and/or covered in chocolate comes to mind) that are far unhealthier, in a very real and literal sense, for the human body than other things we can eat (I’ve been assured that most of these come in some shade of green). I would be willing to listen to an argument that attempts to place unhealthy viewing habits alongside unhealthy eating habits as equal malpractices for body and the mind, and thus society at large, but unless we’re discussing the broadcast schedule of TLC, I doubt I would be thoroughly convinced. For as long as I can remember, the concept of feeling remorse and shame for what we watch, read, or listen to just does not make any damn sense to me. And, trust me, I’ve derived pleasure from truly, objectively awful things.