It's pretty hard to summarize or even relate how MaxFunCon went last weekend, so maybe I'll start with some history.
Nearly a year ago, Jesse Thorn emailed me to say he was seriously considering throwing a comedy/internet type conference/festival outside of Los Angeles, and would I like to sponsor it to get the ball rolling. Jesse described who he'd like to have in the nightly line-ups, and had a loose idea of some podcasts being recorded live in the day. I had no idea what to expect, but I had a feeling it could be good, so I gave Jesse some sponsorship money and the ball started rolling.
This past weekend is mostly a blur, but I remember laughing so hard I cried both nights of comedy. I learned a ton about cooking simple desserts from Julia Crookston. I loved hearing nerds sit quietly during a musical set and instead of yelling at the performer, when they did make noise, it was to offer cooperative harmony that actually made the songs better. I thought the podcasts were great as well.
But the thing that really made it all work was the people. I listen to podcasts alone for the most part, and for The Sound of Young America, I only know one other person that listens to it that I can discuss shows with. I think most podcast listening is a solitary thing done in the car on long commutes or at the gym climbing imaginary stairs, so when you bring everyone that listens to a podcast together, I had no idea what that kind of crowd would be like.
Turns out they are extraordinarily nice, tremendously open, and generous with conversation and sharing of spirits (booze). Having only 150 people worked wonderfully as the five strangers I met the first afternoon became quick acquaintances and no matter where I ate at each meal or stood next to during an event, it was easy to strike up a conversation about the weekend and ourselves. The "famous" people that starred in the shows were attendees themselves and I found everyone to be approachable, funny, and interesting to be around.
The food was great. I don't recall a conference ever having food that surpassed standard airline food (I mean, what's the deal with airline food, amirite?), but every meal was amazing and didn't taste like the standard institutional stuff that passes as catered conference food.
It was great that we didn't need money while we were there. When Jesse said everything was taken care of, he was right. Being outside of LA and basically in the sticks also helped -- we were isolated which made making friends and sticking together for three days straight much easier. In the end, the whole thing felt like some sort of magical cruise loaded with people I liked, people I knew, and tons of people I never met before but somehow the cruise director knew I'd like.
About the only downside of the event was one of my own making. I drink very rarely, on the order of a glass of beer or wine once every 3-6 months. Maybe once a year I have more than one beer and it's even rarer when I drink to the point of being tipsy. I drank several beers on Saturday night then followed it up with a couple delicious daiquiris prepared by Dr. Cocktail. I drank tons of water at the after party, stumbled home, then awoke with every symptom cliché in the book. Everything was too loud, too bright, and anything in my stomach was quickly ejected. I missed most of the last morning thanks to my first adult hangover of my life. Stupid me, but next time I'll definitely slow it down and keep it under control.
In the end, it was some of the best times I've had. It's tough to compare to other conferences because I mostly attend serious technical conferences unconcerned about how much fun attendees are having, but MaxFunCon was worth every penny of the sponsorship. I think Jesse stumbled upon a perfect combination of small but manageable amount of attendees that were extraordinarily nice combined with ample good food and drink and finished off with amazing comedy, music, and podcast showcases.
If I could sign up for next year's event today, I would.