Introducing the “Kings of Con”
I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking… ‘who are the Kings of Con and why do I want to meet them?’ Right? Good questions and I’ve got your answers right here!
The Kings of Con are Richard Speight, Jr. (actor, director, musician) and Rob Benedict (actor, singer, songwriter) as well as a comedy show that premieres November 15 at Comic-Con HQ. These two very funny gentlemen met each other approximately eight years ago on stage at a fan convention for the TV show Supernatural. Both actors had played roles as reoccurring characters and were paired up by Creation Entertainment for a Q&A panel at the aforementioned convention. Please note, these two who had not worked together on the show, connected at that first convention and went on to become best friends.
In time, both Rich and Rob were promoted to convention regulars, Rob and his band Louden Swain, performing as the house band for convention weekends and Rich as the master of ceremonies and MC extraordinaire. Spending upwards of eighteen weekends (conventions are held Friday afternoon through Sunday evening) a year together has led to a rock-solid friendship and has also provided a super-sized chest full of anecdotes about life on the road.
Instead of keeping these stories and experiences to themselves, Rich and Rob decided to put their heads together and write a comedy show that takes place at a series of fan conventions where the characters, played by Rich and Rob, “get to live like the stars we should have been” for thirteen weekends a year.
When asked about how the idea came for the show, The Kings of Con, Rich had this to say:
Rob and I became the host and co-host of the conventions, with Rob’s band acting as the house band and the format became a Jimmy Kimmel late night format. At that point, which was about three or four years into doing conventions, Rob and I developed a rapport with each other onstage. The personas that we play on the show were developed from our experience on the road eighteen weekends a year. Our characters on the show are actually more akin to the improv characters that we developed for our live act, so to speak. What Robbie and I do is basically improv. We get up on stage and do 45 minutes a morning without really planning a thing and that has been a great theater sport for us and a great exercise for developing these characters.
Rob has a film making background in his own right, and I do as well and we were working on our own projects, but we were out there and we knew that the world that we are in right now is super-unique and we knew that we each had a different perspective on things. I mean, I tell him stories and he tells me stories and then we re-enact stories and we crack each other up backstage. We said to each other, ‘there’s a show here based on this relationship. This world is unique to television – there are not a lot of shows about fan conventions’, however, the fact of the matter is that you do not have to be a con goer to get the comedy! Because it’s built on the characters. The con becomes an interesting wall paper and it makes a great and fun and rarely seen world for the viewers, but that’s just the setting. It is the characters that inhabit that setting that makes the show work. The Robs, the Riches and the other actors we had on board are what will drive the show forward.
Having attended fan conventions including Supernatural conventions, it is easy to see where these guys are coming from and I have to agree with them that the con circuit will provide a goldmine of comedic potential. Go ahead and watch the trailer and the first episode, there is plenty humor that is independent of the actual fan convention experience. There really is something to which just about everyone will be able to relate.
This, of course, leads to the next question… how much of the scripts for Kings of Con are actually based on real life experiences and how much is fictionalized?
There’s a nugget of reality in every episode whether it is on tiny detail or a whole story. Usually what we do is take a nugget of something that happened and we’ll take it into the extreme comedy format – into the world of nonsense that didn’t actually happen. There’s a story we like to tell… we’re in New Jersey and we’re both on the ninth floor and Rich was in room 911. I went to call him and did it without dialing the ‘7’ first and ended up calling 911 and then I hung up and the cops ended up coming to the hotel. That really happened and it was funny and provided lots of laughs but of course in our show when the cops show up, things go really wrong!
Robbie and I, we’re goofballs and we do a lot of things on the road where we end up dodging bullets. In the show, we never dodge them, the bullets always hit us square in the chest. (laughs)
Both actors have attended the larger multi-fandom conventions (like San Diego Comic-Con) as well as, the smaller show specific conventions (Supernatural). Asked about whether the Kings of Con show will offer insights into both types of conventions,
We have done both but we’ve done a lot more Supernatural conventions than the comic-cons. They are different animals in terms of our participation in them. When you go to Comic-con you are one tiny speck of sand on the giant beach; whereas with Supernatural conventions, we’re the lifeguards, we’re around the entire time. It is more of a full-time job at the Supernatural conventions and that’s the world we know better, that’s the world we came up in. So, in terms of the show’s dealings with conventions the model is based more on the Supernatural world that we inhabit in the show.
Right, it’s more like a weekend where people come together to celebrate a show that they are all fans of; so yeah, it is that smaller, more focused convention than it is a big Comic-con type convention. We were at LA Comic-con last weekend and we found that a lot of those con goers really seemed to ‘get’ our show and where we were coming from and I think, like Rich said, whether or not you go to a Comic-con or a Supernatural con or you’ve never even been to a convention you will still get this show. It’s not an inside joke…
No it’s not, we’re making a comedy show for comedy lovers!
Asked about how he balances his acting career, his new show and his time playing with Louden Swain,
…what’s great about what we’re doing is that we figured out a way to incorporate my band into these other creative ventures. You know, like at the conventions themselves a model has developed over the years where Rich is the host and I’m the co-host and my band plays all weekend long. Then in our show, Kings of Con, Louden Swain does the theme song and it’s peppered with Louden Swain music throughout the episodes. So, it’s very much a part of what I’m doing and it doesn’t actually feel like it’s two separate things and they’re used to it. Ten years ago, the band was just an extra-curricular activity and now I get to do both and it’s really great.
Rich declines to share any more anecdotes about the show because he doesn’t want to give away any more of the show’s plot, but does point out that as he and Rob have appeared on various shows to promote the show that they’ve noticed that there is a huge disconnect that exists for people who have never attended a fan convention.
We were actually surprised to learn that there are still people out there who stereotype fan conventions and the people who attend them as ‘quirky’… wouldn’t you say that Rob?
Yeah, a great example is these private meet and greets that we have. Rich and I will sit at a table with ten fans and we usually go around the table and go ‘say your name, what you do and where you’re from’ and these are doctors, lawyers, people who work with the homeless… these amazing people who have these amazing jobs and then it comes back to us and we’re like ‘um, I’m an actor?’ (laughs)
You guys probably get this because you’ve been to conventions, but the old-school way of thinking is that conventions are for ‘nerds’ or whatever and we’ve actually found that that is not at all the case. Conventions are actually for bright, like-minded people who like this one certain thing, like the way baseball fans go to a baseball game, people come here.
Using your sports analogy is spot on because to the same person who says ‘aren’t convention goers kind of odd?’ we say to them, ‘you have a fantasy football team and I’m not sure you should be throwing rocks.’ Mark Sheppard always says something in his panels that I think is spot on, he says, ‘I don’t trust someone who is not a fan of something.’ We’re all fans of something, the fact that we go to a concert to see a musician or go to a stadium to see a sports team or go to a convention to see that show, doesn’t mean anything other than that you are a big fan of that thing.
Richard goes on to describe the show as ‘very scripted’ in terms of what situations are covered in each episode; both he and Rob have kept the episodes focused on the stories that they want to tell. There is, however, a little bit of an improv element that comes into play once they are actually filming. Occasionally a written joke doesn’t work quite as well as they’d hoped and they work together to develop a spoken joke on the fly that eventually gets the point across and draws the laughter while they remain true to the written script.
Asked if they would be able to choose a favorite episode from the show and share it with us,
Rich leads off:
An actor from outside the world comes to visit the convention the boys are attending and Rob and me end up sharing a ‘special moment’ including gift swapping in the man’s hotel room. I’m going to leave it at that.
I’m going to go with the one I mentioned earlier where I call Rich’s room, 911 and end up getting in trouble with the police, the po-po.
Many thanks to both Richard Speight and Rob Benedict for spending time answering our questions and giving us a little insight into the genesis of the show. Be sure to tune into the premiere of Kings of Con on Comic-con HQ on November 15th. You can find all the details you need to access the show at the Comic-con HQ website.
So, if you’ve attended fan conventions in the past, if you’re planning to attend one in the future, or even if you’re just curious about exactly what goes on at a fan convention, I think that you are going to want to catch this fun and creative series. At least give it a try – you’ve got nothing to lose!
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