'Join The Resistance': The Star Wars book that's also a live variety show
What if "The Goonies" were in the Star Wars universe? That's the idea behind the new book "Star Wars: Join The Resistance" by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker.
The improbably similarly named writing duo has done everything from TV to comics to animated film, but their new book started with the editors behind the Star Wars books coming to them with that "Goonies" premise — then letting them take that idea and run.
Acker and Blacker are promoting the book's release with a big live comedy and music show at West Hollywood's Largo at the Coronet theater on Wednesday night. It's something they have experience with after years of producing underground favorite "The Thrilling Adventure Hour." The proceeds of the release party will go to pro bono law firm Public Counsel.
"There's a great feeling, especially in the creative community, that we want to do something, but we don't know what," Blacker said. "And what Ben and I know how to do is to put on a show."
"There is a feeling, if you're going to go out and promote something these days, promoting the act of resistance is a pretty fun thing to do," Acker said.
But the event itself is a lot more Star Wars than politics, with guests including everyone from comedy music legend "Weird Al" Yankovic to actress Busy Phillips, along with Star Wars luminaries such as composer Michael Giacchino — who composed the music for "Rogue One" — to Ahmed Best, who played the infamous Jar Jar Binks. Their live band is the biggest to ever play Largo, Blacker said.
What makes Acker and Blacker the right voices to tell the story in this book? "We're children at heart," Blacker said. "We're pretty great!" Acker said, laughing. He added, "We grew up playing with Star Wars toys, and now it's like we get to use our vocation to play with Star Wars toys for everyone to see. It's stuff like this — our wheelhouse is characters in genre, and the sandbox that they let us play in with this, we're right at home in."
The moment Acker said was a personal favorite in writing the book: sending the kids to a swamp planet where they get to ride speeder bikes.
"It just felt like taking a couple of things that you know from Star Wars, but putting them together in a way that you haven't seen," Acker said.
"There are some cameos from Star Wars figures, and writing Admiral Ackbar just felt like writing fanfic," Blacker said.
Beyond writing the book, doing the live show gave Acker and Blacker the chance to write more Star Wars, with live comedy sketches based in the universe.
"They both felt like we were getting away with something. Like taking their stuff and making it us-y," Acker said.
While Acker and Blacker are lifelong fans, they share a favorite Star Wars film they felt could be controversial: "The Force Awakens."
"Sorry to blow your minds," Acker said. "It's not the emotional favorite — people will love your 'Star Wars,' or your 'Empire,' whatever you saw when you were 8. But we are 40, and we watch this movie, and it's a great movie. It makes us feel like we're 8."
"The thing that Ben said after we saw the movie, which I think is absolutely true, is all that stuff that you loved about the original 'Star Wars' — and we loved the original 'Star Wars' — but all that stuff that you loved about it, in 'The Force Awakens,' is by design. There are so many happy accidents in 'A New Hope' that make it a nostalgic favorite, but 'Force Awakens' is a sharper, sort of more thoughtful, and still pushes that nostalgia button movie," Blacker said.
That look toward the more modern includes more ideas in their brains for more books, comic books, and potentially other projects, according to Blacker. "Join The Resistance" is the first in a four-book series.
The Acker/Blacker team, like many successful writers, have more projects on the way that they can't talk about yet, but you can see their work in a more adult setting in the new Boom Studios comic "Death Be Damned," a supernatural western. The first issue is in stores now.