Chris “Crispy” Lloyd knows a thing or two about conventions. He’s been working them for the past 15 years and loving every minute of it! In fact, they’ve kept him so busy, he’s had to cut back the number of cons to work, in order to make time for other hobbies, including puppetry. Looking ahead to Dragon Con, Crispy previews the 2013 convention, details the origins of his nickname and gives an exclusive news tip regarding the upcoming show!
What’s the story behind your nickname, Crispy?
– “As for the nickname itself, I used to perform at Renaissance Festivals, since 1996. Shortly into my work, I started to help out with living chess matches. There was a show down in Alabama one year, and we had this Arthurian setting. We had all of the classic characters. During one fight, Morgan throws a fireball from her hand. It misses her target, and blows up a random knight. I was selected as said random knight. We used a simple little flash pot, with a pressure activator. To stage the setting, imagine that you are crouched in such a way, that under your left foot it this tiny button. When your queue comes (in the form of a fireball), you jump (hitting the button, triggering a large fireball inches away from you), scream, and roll to your ‘death’ onstage. That was my role. I had a little line at the end, ’cause no one truly died. It was a family show, after all.”
“We had four shows in total, twice daily over a single weekend. I blew up as needed and the shows went great! Sunday someone else had loaded my device for me, so right out of the gate I was nervous. I did not have time to change it, because the show had to go on. My queue came. My foot hit the trigger and nothing happened. I quickly glanced over and saw the fuse had lost the connection. Thinking I could save the gag, I reached over, and reconnected the wad of paper used for the fuse. Only, I forgot to take my foot off of the activator.”
“The fireball happened, admittedly a few seconds late. I jump, screamed, and rolled out of the way. People looked confused but the show went on. I glanced down at my hand, and saw that it was quite burnt. Using my costume, I wrapped my hand so no one else could see and rolled off the stage. From that point on, I quietly worked with our staff to get treatment. I was very relaxed about the whole thing. ‘Hey guys, so I kind of burned my hand. Think we should check it out?’ Meanwhile, certain staff members were diving around looking for our insurance paperwork, which led to me being driven to the hospital.
“To give you an idea of this device, and the damage it did, take a soda can. Not very big, right? The flash pot wasn’t wider across than that. Now, take your left hand, shape it in a soft C, and place it directly on top of that can. Now imagine the can just shot a flame of fire, five feet high, with your hand still attached. Now, imagine what that would do to your hand. Second and third degree burns were the final results. The ER doctor cleaned me up, covered my hand in salve, gloved it, and sent me on my way.”
“The entire time, I felt no pain. There was a heat coming from it, but really, all I cared about was getting back in time for the second show. Sadly, the final show had started, and I had just missed the explosion. But I was able to sneak my way back on stage to deliver a line near the end of the show. Very few people saw me, and when they heard me, you could see the show breathe an audible sign of relief. It started with that crew from Alabama. They were the first to call me Crispy, and did so immediately. That continued further into the Ren Faire world, spilling into everyday life, after a few years.”
How did you initially get involved with Dragon Con?
– “I had a number of friends that were involved with the show for years. The crew that ultimately convinced me to make it down were my then-roommates. This is the same group of people who would then go on to form Dragon Con TV with Brian Richardson, currently the Director of Videography.”
How long have you been working at Dragon Con?
– “I started with the show in 2001. It feels like a lot longer, in retrospect.”
What was your first position with the convention?
– “My very first year was spent between two departments. My first volunteer meeting was the last one of that year. There were only a few remaining jobs. I found myself working the Comic Artists Alley. I helped the director maintain the space used for the artists, and we did everything we could to ensure that they had what they needed. On the first day of the show, I found myself asking TechOps if they needed any extra help. I was doing a lot of lighting design for theatres at the time and found myself quickly giving my spare time to them, over the weekend. That lasted two years, the split of responsibilities, until my third year when I focused on the Tech staff full time.”
What is your current role at Dragon Con?
– “I work officially in the Videography department, but my current role at Dragon Con is entirely unique. It is something I have been building for the last couple of years, and have a lot in the works, to grow it further. It started off as wandering the Walk of Fame with Brian, asking the guest for interviews. I used to shoot the interview, while Brian conducted them. Now, that has evolved. I am now at the point where I am contacting their agents months in advance, and working with them to schedule an interview. During the con itself, I perform many of these interviews, and Brian gets to conduct a few of them as well. I always tend to pick up a few unscheduled ones throughout the course of the show.”
Dragon Con 2013 brings some big developments. Are there any new responsibilities for you this year?
– “There are actually quite a few for me this year! As of the time of this interview, we have something major that we will be announcing, so I will go ahead and give you the exclusive on it. I have been looking for a way to elevate not only my product, the interviews, but the image of the convention, as a whole. When I look back at our archives, at the previous interviews, there was nothing there that said to me, ‘This is obviously Dragon Con.’ So, I thought to myself, what really sets our show apart? In talking with the guests for the last few years, the one thing that has been a universal compliment has been the cosplay. That even though they may find themselves at other shows, they never see that level of showmanship that is seen at Dragon Con. Plus, there is a high level of energy and enthusiasm that makes our show a preferred stop for many guests.”
“Last year, we experimented with adding an introduction to the Walk of Fame interviews (interviews shot at their signing table), a little package that ensured we had something high energy or costume related in the shot. This year, we are going big. Big. For Friday only, as a trial run, we are taking over The Loft above the Pulse Bar in the Marriott. For those that may not be familiar with the space, this area of the convention has become THE place to see the best costumes, as well as engage in the high energy that comes with this show. Our new interview location is above the convention floor, so this will ensure you have this feeling of the actual convention behind you. One look at an interview in that space and you’re going to know that is Dragon Con. By doing this, we not only make our product easier to identify, but it really elevates the quality of the product, literally and figuratively. If it is received well, we will look into being there full time throughout the entire con, cementing our presence at the show, and adding in a new layer of interaction with the guests.”
“As part of this new initiative, we are putting a huge emphasis on turning our content around during the show. The idea is that we want to be able to have an interview in the hotel feed (Dragon Con TV) within a couple of hours of shooting the it. We want our content to not only be exciting, but be relevant. We want the guests to not only promote projects outside of the con, but also be able to talk about the con itself.”
As a fan, what are you most looking forward to this year?
– “That is a tough question for me. As a fan, I have never been more excited for a Dragon Con, ever. There is a not only a high quality of guests this year, but a high quantity of them as well. The congoer in me is having a hard time focusing on it all, and is loving it. The part of me that has to schedule all of the interviews is silently cursing at just how many excellent guests we have. For me, I would have to say the one thing I am looking forward to the most is getting to interview the Fraggles that are making it to our show. As a child, the Muppets (and anything Henson) had a major impact on me. Last year, during our live Late Show (at 9am daily during the convention), I had the chance to perform as my puppet, Randall. I would often wander around the convention with him at night, and entertain the masses. One night, I found myself down at the karaoke in the Hilton just as a song from Avenue Q started. He couldn’t contain himself and jumped onstage and joined in the number. I am told it was an amazing thing to have just happen, and that it was a very Dragon Con moment. If my love for the Muppets — and especially the Fraggles — had not gripped me at a young age, then I would not have had the chance to have been able to have that moment. At the least, I want to thank them for it.”
What are you currently geeking out to?
– “Orange is the New Black, to be perfectly honest. I just started watching it the other day, and I could not put it down. I should be finishing it tonight. Not a very geeky answer, I know. But I highly suggest it! I watch a lot of ‘genre’ television and films, so for me to geek out over something that isn’t a part of that mold should say something.”
You also worked MTAC earlier this year. What were your responsibilities there?
– “My role at the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention has changed so much, over the last decade. Those very same people that got me started with Dragon Con were also some of the original founders of MTAC. When I was first brought into the show, MTAC was going into its fourth year. I was brought in for one year as the Senior Director of Tech. I knew that I only wanted to do that for a year or two, while they looked for someone more willing to take up the mantle full time. I was quite busy with theatre at the time. After that, I took a couple of years off, and came back to form a new-to-MTAC department: Photography. I saw the need to chronicle the show and share it with the audience. Social media was just starting to really become popular around then, so I wanted to ensure MTAC had a visual presence, online. I did that for a number of years, until the distance became too much of a problem for me. I had moved to Atlanta, so it became difficult to be a director at an out of state show. That department is still going strong. I find myself at MTAC every year, and find myself helping out in a multitude of ways. I have a hard time sitting still at a convention.”
Do you work any other conventions? If so, how many per year?
– “When I first moved to Atlanta in the summer of 2007, I found myself working a different convention every month, sometimes more. It was quite the busy schedule, and it really wore on me. As my role for Dragon Con increased, I scaled that back a good deal. Now, the only show I officially work is Dragon Con. I still find myself attending MTAC, Geek Media Expo (GMX), and occasionally Anime Weekend Atlanta (AWA), if time permits.”
What is your all-time convention highlight?
– “This is always a difficult question to answer. After almost 15 years of volunteering my time to this industry, I have picked up a lot of stories. Many of them I can’t talk about, due to the names of people involved. That sounded sketchier on paper, than it did in my head. Being able to perform as Randall last year was a big moment for me. Second to that, I think the biggest fanboy moment I had was getting to talk to Chris Hardwick last year. I caught him on Twitter and was able to put him in touch with the right people to get him to the convention. My part of the deal was that we could score an interview with him, and he graciously accepted. He was a super awesome guy, and a nerd who really knows his stuff. In my line of work, you don’t get to be a fanboy out of respect for the job, but I may have had a moment.”
When you’re not working conventions, what are a few of your hobbies?
– “Aside from trying to be more involved with puppetry, I find myself continuing to grow my board game collection. I am currently well over 100 assorted games, ranging from the simple and fun, to the convoluted and the complex. There is just something grounded in playing one of those games with friends. I love video games; don’t get me wrong. I have even more in that category, but we are currently in another age of board gaming, and I encourage everyone to find a way to take part of it.”
Is there anything else you’d like to mention, that I may not have asked?
– “I was apparently on the short list of people who did not have to look up Peter Capaldi when they announced the new Doctor. I have always loved the show, but I am really excited for it now. I want the show to return to its more darker history. The Valeyard should make a return soon! I am not sure how that applies here, but there you go!”