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What about autographs, did anyone ever ask you to sign their kid or sign their body in a strange place?
Oh Yes! I've signed alllll kinds of body parts! Name it. I've signed it. I'll let your imagination run wiiild! [Laughs]
In addition to Star Trek, you've become known to a new generation of fans as George Takei, social media darling/king of the Internet. How did you become so engaged in social media?
I grew up imprisoned as a child in U.S. internment camps and it's been my mission in life to raise the awareness of Americans on that very dark chapter in our history. To really get people to connect emotionally to that story I thought it was important — and remember I'm a theater person — to dramatize it. And even better to develop a Broadway musical on that subject. ...
So we [put] a lot of our time, energy, talent and money into that project and we were able to get the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego to produce it. But before we did any of that, we needed to have an audience prepared for it. So, I thought, "Well, social media is a wonderful way to get the word out and to raise the awareness, but how do we do that?"
My primary social media base was primarily sci-fi geeks and nerds and I had to build that audience base much larger. So I just started through trial and error making some funny commentaries about Star Trek and sci-fi and that started getting a lot of likes and shares ... and my audience base started to grow.
At that point I had to introduce another component of this, and that was social justice. So I started talking about equality for the gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people and I discovered that there was a big overlap between sci-fi geeks and nerds and LGBT people. From there my audience exploded and it got big enough that I then introduced the subject of the Japanese-American internment camps, and that brought in an even larger community, particularly Asian-Americans. From there I started bringing up the musical because I needed to develop them into potential ticket-buyers. I began sharing a few songs and a few scenes from the musical, Allegiance, and it got even bigger.
... And that's it, that's how my social-media escapades began: primarily to get the word out about a project that was very close to me.
You really seem to reach a cross-section of people. I have friends on social media who I'm sorry to say are homophobic or really far right-wing conservatives and I'm always amazed when I see even them on occasion share a George Takei meme or photo.
[Laughing] Well, thank you for telling me that. And thank your friends.
I will. What do you think it is about what you're doing on social media that reaches people of various backgrounds despite your positions on certain social justice issues?
I really do think the connective glue is humor. Humor is what binds us all together regardless of what our politics or phobias are. We as human beings are all connected by the ludicrousness of life.
I want to ask you about your two-word catch phrase, and of course you know what two words I'm referring to. Where did the catch-phrase "Oh My" from. Is that something you've always said and it just became more noticeable as you became more popular?
Absolutely. Haven't you ever said "oh my" when you hear something outrageous or when you see a breathtaking sunrise or sunset? It's just "Oh my!"in awe. It's a common phrase and I've used it my whole life.
But the fatal flaw was when I first went on the Howard Stern Show to promote a play I was doing in New York. There are so many outrageous things that are said on that show and I said "Ohhh Myyyy!"and he had it on tape so from that point on whether I'm there or not when someone says something outrageous, he presses a button and my voice comes on saying "Ohh Myyy." So he'd done that for years. Once when I was having a book signing a young man comes up to me and slips me the book and says "please sign it: To Jack, Oh My."And then it hit me he was a fan of the Howard Stern Show. That's when I realized it had become my signature phrase.