We've Only Just Begun—TO HAVE FUN! Nathan Rabin's Happy Place, Six Months In
Six months and five days ago today, I officially launched Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place on April 20th, 1976, in a fit of feverish excitement and anticipation. One of the features that ran on the first day was the very first entry in The Big Whoop blog, entitled, “Is this going to work? An introduction”
I opened on a note of optimism but also anxiety and insecurity, and the title of the piece reflected that. Would Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place be a success? What would that entail? I did not necessarily know when I launched the site, just as I did not know just what the site would become.
I recently updated the “About” section of the site’s Patreon page for the first time since I posted it six months ago and I was struck by how relatively closely the site resembles what I mapped out before it began. Oh sure, some columns I thought would be huge parts of the site have only happened once or twice, like "Nathan Rabin's Skank-Watch" and "Playing the Dozens with Awkward Child Actors", or not at all, and columns I never gave much thought to have been unexpectedly huge and fun. Yet, for the most part, this very much looks like the blueprint I mapped out in “Is this going to work? An introduction” and that first Patreon description.
Enough time has elapsed that I think I can confidently answer the question posed in that first blog post with a resounding, “Hell, yes.” By pretty much every standard, Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place has been a wonderful experience that has reinvigorated my career and brought out the best in me, as a writer and man.
I’ve created a body of work in these first six months I’m enormously proud of, and I think stands up to the best work I did for The A.V. Club or The Dissolve. Though my sister-in-law essentially built this site, it’s pretty much a one-person operation at this point, and I had to learn on the fly and on the job as the site’s webmaster, graphic designer, publicist, social media director, Editor-in-chief, copy-editor, Managing Director, Founder, Editorial Director and Shadowy Spiritual Advisor as well as the man who writes every single word of its content.
Writing four Big Whoop blogs about matters important to me, whether political, parental or otherwise, has also been a wonderful challenge that I think has made me a better writer and a better thinker. The Weird Accordion to Al has similarly been a crazy but good challenge, although that was certainly one area where I had to significantly scale back my ambition.
I initially published the Weird Accordion to Al every weekday. I didn’t realize how much 3,000 to 5,000 words about the songs of “Weird Al” Yankovic, many of them completely obscure and unknown to the general public, would be just to read and process, let alone write. I think I flooded the early months of the site with Al-centric pieces before I realized that scaling back to three entries a week would retain the ambition and scope and some of the galloping pace of my original vision, but make it manageable, both as a writer and a reader.
And I could not be more excited to see that Al is going to be busting out almost exclusively the originals I’ve been hailing in the column when he goes on tour next year. Has he been influenced at all by my column? I have no idea, and would certainly never be arrogant enough to assume a cause and effect relationship between my writing and the vastly different nature of his upcoming tour, but Al says he reads the column, and has been nice enough to tweet about it, and to volunteer to fact-check the eventual Weird Accordion to Al book, and this makes my column more relevant and useful than I could have imagined. Though the column still lags behind other columns and features in terms of popularity, it has been steadily increasing in popularity as of late, and I’d like to think that will continue as we enter the home stretch and an Al tour unlike any before it. It's essentially a cult feature within a cult site, so I understand it not appealing to a big mainstream audience.
I’m also super proud of My World of Flops and similarly central, essential columns like Control Nathan Rabin and Lukewarm Takes and This Looks Terrible! I feel like writing entertainingly about bad movies is my wheelhouse, and what I’m good at, and what the good Lord put me on Earth to do, but going ahead I would like for the site to be a little less bad movie-centric and a little more focussed on things that are good and that I love beyond the pastiches of “Weird Al” Yankovic. I’d specifically like to write more about hip hop beyond ICP and “Weird Al” Yankovic. I haven’t written about hip hop in ages, and I think that’d be something it’d be interesting to return to.
I’m also extraordinarily happy with how Corey Feldman Month went. I think it illustrated the strength and uniqueness of the site, and what it has to offer a crowded pop culture media landscape. Honestly, I think if an entire website with money and resources and a large staff were to pull off something like Corey Feldman Month, it’d be impressive. That I did it all by myself while continuing to do everything else necessary to maintain this site, I think made it pretty extraordinary, and I’d love to have more theme months in the months and years. What would you like to see me devote a whole month today?
On a financial level, the site has also been a success. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to raise any money but there was a tremendous rush of excitement and enthusiasm and generosity when the site launched. I surpassed my first modest goal quickly and at this writing, am about 90 percent of the way towards my next goal (I'm hoping to reach it by the end of the year, God willing) and about 50 percent away from the site paying a full-time salary, which is the next big goal. I could not be more appreciative to have so many incredible donors. The nearly 600 of you who pledge monthly, and participate in polls and whatnot, really make this all possible, because without a solid base of economic support, there’s no way I’d be able to do this on the level that I want to be doing it. You’ve allowed me to continue to write about pop culture for a living and to not live in my in-laws’ basement, and I don’t take either of those things for granted. Ever.
Though I'm not posting things at quite as often as I did at the very beginning, I'm still writing and posting eleven to fifteen substantive pieces a week, and I'm proud that they go up like clockwork, at 3 A.M EST every morning. Continuity and consistency are two things I've really worked like a motherfucker to bring to the site. I feel like I've succeeded like a motherfucker at that regard, to the point where I think my wife sometimes gets a little jealous of the site because of the way it dominates my time and my mind. But it's my baby, and it takes a whole lot of nurturing to be its best.
I’m incredibly proud of Nathan Rabin's Happy Place but I know there’s ample room for improvement. Though I like to think Happy Place has a certain homemade charm, I’d like to get more professional and polished as the site progresses, without losing its passion or shaving away its rough edges. Nobody’s going to buy the Place for billion$ unless I’m someday able to write a sentence without a grievous typo or some other possibly criminal offense against grammar.
Me not always talk good with the writing. Sometimes me sense not make at all. That’s why in the future I will strive to be semi-comprehensible at least some of the time. In the months ahead, you’re going to be reading this site and thinking thoughts you never thought before, like, “Wow, that made sense.” and “I understood what Nathan was trying to say!”
This site is really good but it’s only going to get better, and that’s got a whole lot to do with me, but also an extraordinary amount to do with you. So if you’re not already onboard, why not consider joining the community? We're good people. Hard-working people. People with a healthy distrust of patriotism as it is currently interpreted.
It’s been an amazing and revelatory six months but we’ve only just begun, not unlike Karen Carpenter when she sang that lovely, lovely song. Well, maybe not exactly like her, but, you know, things are gonna be real good in the future, not like the life of Karen Carpenter.
Support Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place and get neat bonuses like patron-exclusive content over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace