I was lucky enough during New York Comic Con to score a plumb seat: on Main Stage 1-D, in front of 500 or 500 screaming fans, interviewing Michael Rooker.
If you’ve never been to Comic Con before, let me tell you, it’s a madhouse. More than 200,000 went to the New York convention this year. For a first-timer, it is entirely overwhelming; it certainly was for me. There’s too much to see, to much to do, and the crowds are way, way too big to wade through. Getting from one end of the Javits Center to the other – the equivalent of about three city blocks – can take 30 minutes. It really is that crowded.
I’ve spoken in front of big audiences before, but I’m not sure I ever was in front of a crowd this big. Also, most of my public speaking has been related to bitcoin or markets. Bitcoiners are a passionate bunch, but not exactly rowdy. These Rookerholics, as some of his fans call themselves, are a different breed. This was a fired-up crowd before I even walked on the stage.
You can watch the whole thing for yourself here.
If you haven’t seen Rooker do one of these interviews before, understand that this is not in any way a normal interview. I was warned, specifically, beforehand: he likes to pick up his interviewers and turn them upside down. I do believe it was meant literally. Now, fortunately for me, I had seen Rooker before, at the Charlotte Walker Stalker convention. His talk ended up making it into chapter 10 of “Guts.” So I knew what I was getting into.
Rooker is a live wire, man, no doubt about it. He barely sat still for a minute. The idea of doing a formal interview was never even a question. The idea of physical harm, however, was. There was, after all, that warning. And no doubt, the first question I asked, he stood there, pondering whether or not to simply chuck me off the stage. At one point, he did a fake leg-kick, at least I assume it was fake, that still came pretty close hitting me in the head.
And I knew that about halfway through, he was simply going to jump off the stage and start wading through the crowd himself. You might think, therefore, that this was an unforgiving assignment. No doubt, in the days after the event, more than one person came up to me, said they were in the audience, and actually apologized. One said she thought Rooker was rude, unfair to me.
They were well-meaning, but they had it totally wrong. It was an absolute blast.
First off, as an interviewer, you should love something like this. It’s nice to have the kind of interview that explores topics, that opens up the subject and provides some insights. That’s fine. But, this was fun! I’d gotten a little time with Rooker beforehand in the green room, we established a bit of a rapport, and then we just went out there and winged it. I’d written down a bunch of questions, some serious, some goofy, just to rile him up. Rooker was kinetic, the crowd was frenetic. How could you not enjoy this?
I’ll tell you, the first seven minutes or so, I was screamin’ nervous. I sound at the outset like I’m doing a bad Woody Allen impersonation. Only, Woody’s act is just that, an act. I was legit anxious.
I calmed down after that, though, and felt pretty good up there. My job was to be Rooker’s foil, to bounce off him, to keep up, and I think I managed that pretty well. Toward the end, I even bounded off the stage and started taking the questions from the crowd. I was just following his lead.
And, again, those people apologizing for Rooker had it totally wrong. Look at the very beginning of the interview. What’s the first thing he does? Pulls out my book and holds it up for the audience. He did not have to do that. We gave him a copy as a courtesy, but weren’t looking for any kind of endorsement. So Rooker’s totally cool in my book.