COMIC-CON 2010: ALEX ALBRECHT talks comics fandom, Hall H perils -- & his 'awesome' work history with BP
"I'm more famous for being fired from 'Screen Savers,' " says Alex Albrecht [left].
He just might be the coolest person in the country ever to have worked for BP.
"Oh, that's right -- I did do work for BP, in 1995," recalls ALEX ALBRECHT, now the famed Diggnation and Totally Rad Show podcaster. "That's awesome."
British Petroleum "had contracted with SAIT [Science Applications International Corp.], where I worked," Albrecht, 33, continues. "BP had made a multimillion-dollar purchase for new workstations. These were to be workstations with webcams and personal scanners -- so we were hired to come up with multimedia apps so sowehow, people could take this multimedia course to teach them how to use the scanners and webcams."
But the twist is, the teen Albrecht had been hired merely to copy papers -- at seven bucks an hour. Soon, he says, he was doing coding for the app and helping to lead the project. Still, of course, at a mere seven dollars an hour. "I was only 18," Albrecht says. "Otherwise I might have caught on and said: 'Waiiit a minute...!' "
Albrecht certainly has "caught on" ever since. The Northern Virginia native and American University computer science graduate worked as a RAND programmer -- the same place his dad worked -- before heading to Hollywood.
"I moved because I decided to pursue acting and the full-on entertainment-industry stuff," Albrecht says. "I moved to L.A. with an actual [computer programming] career while waiting for the acting thing. ... I did work for UCLA, military projects, 2 1/2 years with cancer research -- so I was going to acting class while working on projects for the Air Force."
Then, Albrecht says, the entertainment gods intervened. "I went to [a friend's] wedding in Santa Barbara and met a woman -- a producer -- who said she was looking for someone to cast in L.A. who could host a show on TechTV." He discussed his technical background, she said he'd be the perfect show for the show "The Screen Savers," which was relocating in 2004 and host Patrick Horton declined to move with the show.
"It was just kismet," Albrecht says. "You can't plan for that kind of stuff. I met with Kevin Rose and [executive producer] Paul Block [and others]. They said: 'Go stand over there and we'll ask you questions about technology. That was very easy -- I'd been building computers and video kids since I was a kid. Even now, I'm a leading-edge kind of guy."
Not long after, Albrecht was let go, but by that point, he and Rose had created Diggnation. "I'm more famous for being fired from 'Screen Savers,' so they actually did me a favor. I now had the leverage of a fan base."
"The timing was just perfect for me," says Albrecht, who joined Revision3 in 2005. "It's crazy."
Having caught on with millions of geeks and gamers through Diggnation and Totally Rad Show and his many other projects and appearances, Albrecht is now one of the celebrity faces at San Diego Comic-Con. Comic Riffs caught up with Albrecht to talk comics fandom, his affinity for San Diego -- and the perils of being interminably confined to Hall H.
MICHAEL CAVNA: So Alex, can you speak to why it's essential that Diggnation has such a presence at Comic-Con? Is it about giving back to your diehard fans, attracting new fans -- or just reminding the hordes of geeks how to really party?
ALEX ALBRECHT: Ha-ha, I'd say it's a little of all three. We are all fans of Comic Con and have always thought it would be a great fit for our show to do a huge blowout there. Live shows and parties are about meeting with the fans and giving them an experience that transcends the Internet -- making real the fact that what they think it's like to be in the room with Kevin [Rose] and I when we tape is actually what it's like.
MC: How many times have you been to San Diego Comic-Con, and what's
your best (or worst, if far more entertaining) Con memory ever?
AA: think I've been to the Con the last five years in a row. It's always a blast! I think one of my worst memories was from last year actually (or the year before, I can't remember): Dan [Trachtenberg of The Totally Rad Show] is always telling Jeff [Cannata] and I that we have to stay in Hall H. We can't leave and we can't see any panels that don't happen in Hall H -- Hall H being the biggest hall and where more major movie announcements
happen. Well, Jeff and I said "nuts to this" and went to the Marvel comics panel -- leaving the coveted Hall H. Well, when we finally met back up with Dan he was all atwitter about the fact that there was this huge surprise that they actually showed "Tron" 2 footage in hHll H. That at the time was about as good as it could have possibly been!
This year [we've been] staying in Hall H, come hell or high water!!
MC: So no Diggnation presence on the showroom floor?
AA: Diggnation ... thought about a booth or doing a signing but it just felt like we would have more fun and a bigger impact on our fans by just
throwing a big-ass party!
MC: Even as its outgrown the convention center, do you think Comic-Con
should remain in San Diego -- or is time for the burgeoning event to
relocate to L.A. (much closer to your own driveway, perhaps), Anaheim
or even Vegas?
AA: I think Comic Con should stay in San Diego. I spent my summers in San Diego growing up as a kid and I really feel like part of the joy of Comic-Con is that it's in a different city. It's like a vacation wrapped in amazingness.
MC: Are there any comics-related movies, comic books, new games or
graphic novels you've been particularly excited about at this year's Con?
AA: Thor and Captain America for sure. I'm excited to see how far along those properties are. ... [I wanted] info on "The Avengers" movie ... and cast info and a final confirmation that Joss Whedon is directing.
MC: Does the word "geek" -- which once connoted an "outcast" or a "freak" -- now mean something different as the geeks have inherited the earth. Is the word now mean less than it once did, or perhaps have more meaning that ever -- a word of empowerment, appropriation and a badge of powerful honor?
AA: I think we are in a time where "geek" as come to mean so much more than before. To be "geek" now is to embrace everything about yourself no matter how childish or extreme it may be. Being a "geek" to me means not being afraid to love what you love and enjoy life to its fullest.
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| July 25, 2010; 2:30 PM ET
Categories: San Diego Comic-Con | Tags: Alex Albrecht, Diggnation, Totally Rad Show
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