The McElroys Bring TAZ Balance to PAX West 2023 – Dates, Shows & TAZ Interview

Join Clint, Griffin, Justin, and Travis at PAX West 2023, and grab tickets for the McElroy live shows during the convention in Seattle.

McElroy Family PAX West 2023

Image via The McElroy Family

The McElroy family is known for witty, goofy, and sometimes emotionally intense podcasts that delight listeners all around the world. From hilarious detours via My Brother, My Brother, and Me to fierce tabletop adventures in The Adventure Zone, there is no shortage of excellent content to jump into. While listening to them via your favorite podcast app is fantastic – fans will have the opportunity to see the McElroys in person during PAX West 2023.

I will never forget the sleepy August afternoon in 2018 when I finished TAZ: Balance for the first time. Sitting in the transport van for the computers I needed to install at a school, I listened to Taako, Merle, Magnus, Lup, and Barry Bluejeans rally their friends for the final battle to save the universe – and I don’t know that anything could have moved me so immensely. In fact, it was Balance that got me into playing D&D and, by association, becoming a games writer a few years later.

Because of this, I am absolutely delighted to not only give fans headed to PAX West 2023 the breakdown of all the ways to see the McElroys during the convention but also present a short interview featuring Clint and Justin speaking on the madness behind the magic that is the Balance arc.

PAX West 2023 – McElroy Family Autograph & Panel Schedule

Image via The McElroy Family

McElroy family fans will have several opportunities to see Clint, Justin, Griffin, and Travis at Pax West 2023 via several main events. Below is the schedule for Friday, September 1, and Saturday, September 2.

  • McElroy Family Q&A – Friday, September 1, from 1 – 2 PM in the Main Theatre (Summit Level 5 East.)
  • Randomly Generated Panel – Saturday, September 2, from 2-3 PM in the Main Theatre (Summit Level 5 East.)
  • Free Autograph Signing – Saturday, September 2, from 3:30 – 5 PM in the Autographing Area (Annex, Level 0)

The Adventure Zone: Balance & MBMBAM Live Shows

McElroy TAZ Pic
Image via The McElroy Family

In addition to the PAX West 2023 panels and signings, West Cost McElroy fans will have the opportunity to see two live shows being put on at the WaMu Theater in Seattle, Washington.

Those who are hooked on TAZ: Balance can catch The Adventure Zone live on August 31, 2023, at 7 PM local time. The show will feature a one-off session for Balance, with tickets costing $39.50.

To add to the already magical weekend, fans can also join in on a My Brother, My Brother, and Me liveshow on September 1, 2023, at 7 PM. The tickets for this showing will are also $39.50.

Fans can find purchase links to both shows on The McElroy Family Tours page, as well as more information about upcoming opportunities to see performances live.

The Adventure Zone: Balance Interview With Justin & Clint McElroy

In preparation for PAX West 2023, Gamepur had the privilege to sit down with Justin and Clint to chat about The Adventure Zone Balance. During the interview, we dove into the process of adapting the graphic novels from the beloved podcast, the importance of character creation, and the impact that the story has had on its audience.

What was the main reason you decided to try a D&D podcast? As someone who had never played D&D before listening to Balance, it was so wildly wonderful to listen to the journey you all went through of picking up a silly board game and then falling into the world. Why did you want to give it a try?

Justin: Well, it was actually something that people had asked us to do for a while, and then I was going to go on paternity leave from My Brother, My Brother and Me in 2014 when my daughter Charlie was born. So we came up with the idea of doing like, a one shot D&D thing as like a way to fill the gap so that we could pre-record and then release. We wanted to bring in dad because we knew he hadn’t played before, and we thought the times we’d had him on a MBMBAM had been a fun energy, so we wanted to try that.

And then the response was so good. But it was the straight up out of the box 5E starter campaign. It’s like in the playbook, right? This is the one you run with Wave Echo Cave and everything. And from that first session, Griffin kind of diverted it into trying to tell his own story. And that’s why in the graphic novels, specifically the first one, we had to go back and change a lot of character names.

Clint: I had always been interested in DND, but I never knew anybody who played. And then my kids told me I had to, so it all kind of worked out.

Adapting an audio play into a visual novel is a monumental task. Giving faces to characters that had been imagined differently by an entire audience is no small undertaking. How did you decide on character appearances, and what helped you with making those choices?

Clint: We knew early on that we wanted the head cannon to be different for everybody. And so we kind of took on the attitude that whatever the project was going to be, the appearance would be generated by that. I had never seen such a response in fan art as I did when we started doing TAZ – and so I think that was kind of the foundation of it. And I think when we started, especially when we started doing the graphic novel, we made a conscious statement. There’s no way that this is going to be the same no matter what the iteration is for TAZ balance. And I think that the fact that Carey Pietsch, our graphic novel artist, came along and knew more about The Adventure Zone than we did and I think took all that information and in the process of character design and creation, we kind of said, okay, this will be the visual canon for the graphic novels. And if something ever happens with other projects or other things other people’s visual canon may be different. It was really interesting.

We were the subject of fanzine before the Adventure Zone graphic novel ever came out. All the different interpretations of the characters I just found it fascinating. But we knew all along that like many other things in media, that it was going to be different and that one canon is not going to be the same as others.

Justin: The way you create a story in an actual play podcast, you’re making it up as you go, which we used the metaphor before of building the plane as you’re landing it. You know what I mean? Like, you’re adding, I don’t know, there’s a wheel here. And some of that, more than just being improv, is literally left up to chance, right? It’s left up to dice rolls. So when dad started adapting the book – and I’d love if he would fill in the gaps here more than me – but when he started adapting the book, it was very much that refining process of “what does this story require to be the story that we ended up with?”, and what are just sort of like rough edges or scraps that we can sand off to make it be the story that it is in this format? Both are obviously legitimate and canonical, but it did allow us to maybe pare it down a little bit.

Clint: I think that since a podcast is an audio experience, we knew that there were quite a few jokes that wouldn’t work in a visual sense. The fact is that the huge difference between TAZ the podcast and TAZ the graphic novel is that Clint, Justin, Travis, and Griffin are huge characters in the podcast, but hardly ever – if ever – show up in the graphic novels. A lot of the content in The Adventure Zone comes from us playing these characters. In the graphic novels, it’s the characters playing the characters. So if that’s not confusing enough, we had to kind of make it more of a story. Also, when we first started doing the podcast, it was just for I mean, we were just goofing. But by the time we got around to adapting it for a graphic novel, we knew that there was a serious not serious, but a palpable story, a substantial story to tell. And it kind of gave us a chance to rewrite history and kind of add a little bit more meat to the bone.

For Justin, when you began playing as Taako, were you nervous about presenting a queer character? I know for me personally, listening to you through Taako’s journey was extremely emotional. It was delightful to be a part of a character that is so much more than their orientation or gender identity, but still watch as key aspects colored his journey.

Justin: I did not intend at the beginning. I didn’t know I should know is probably a better word. I didn’t know that Taako was gay. It was really as close as you get to that alchemical magic of creativity where it’s just like I just knew it one day. It just occurred to me and it seemed right. And I probably didn’t get a lot of chance to analyze that because of the way that we tell the stories. You say it and it’s just out there and then you have to talk through that. I have no authority to speak to the experience of a homosexual man. In a way, I think, – and this is from hearing people and listening to people who are in that community – I think that in some ways it served me well because his sexuality didn’t become the defining characteristic of every facet of his personality. Right. He was a lot of other things in addition to the gay character in this party.

I think that probably served me really well in that it was part of who he was as a person, but not the entirety of who he was as a person, because I didn’t start from that point. So I wouldn’t say that playing Taako has necessarily helped me to understand the worldview or life experience of people in the LGBTQ community. But what I will say is listening to them and hearing the weight of that representation and the expectation of that and how much it meant to some people really put a lot of weight on me to get it right. Like, I really wanted to do it right and I didn’t realize that would be as much of a challenge as it was when I started.

I do want to mention that, especially after I talked about Taako being gay in the show, I was granted an immense amount compassion from people in the community for being patient with me as a creator. Being patient and trying to explain things in a way that I can understand the meaning of them and which certain pitfalls to avoid. Stuff that we fell into, I think early on when the show was probably more trophy when it came to people in the LGBTQ community. I feel like it is just because our listeners took the time to share their experience with us and share how certain stuff made them feel and that is really the only reason that it came together as well as it did.

After connecting with fans all over the world via TAZ, have you changed the way you approach making podcasts? Has that visibility created stress or anxiety when trying to create new content?

Clint: I think it has, but okay. When we started out – and I can only speak for TAZ – but I think this applies to MBMBAM and the other shows that the guys have done. Our projected audience was the four of us. I mean, honest to God, we thought, this will be fun. We’ll tickle each other, we’ll give each other a great time, we’ll joke around, and we’ll love it. And the fact that so many other people were delighted with it was an extra bonus. And I think the only pressure, I think, that I can directly identify is that after a while, we realized that it wasn’t just goof, goof, goof, that we were telling a story that was a little bit bigger than goof, goof, goof. And we kind of felt a responsibility to make that happen. Not that we started making smart choices, because I don’t think we could ever be accused of that, but we realized that we were doing more than just sitting down and playing a game every week. We were telling this long story, this novel, and we had to have a kind of different approach to it.

We realized that we were telling a story, not playing a game. And that, I think, influenced the decisions we made and the selections that we made, both on a story level and character wise. When we first started, our big motivation was to make Griffin cry, and then we realized we were only hurting ourselves. So I think we had to find a little bit more of a balance between the anarchy and also telling a story that everybody really enjoyed, but at the same time told a story that people could still say, wow, didn’t see that coming. And that, for me, was something that had to happen. I think that was just a natural evolution of the podcast.

Justin: I’ve had to be more careful about that sort of loop of feedback, especially since I started running Steeple Chase, our current game. I haven’t read any feedback at all in Reddit or any emails, Twitter, anything. And I had to do that to get out of my own way, because otherwise I knew how many voices would be in my head. I feel like the voice of the real creativity can sometimes be quiet enough that if there’s a den of other contradicting voices, it can get a little tough. So I’ve tried to shut out a lot of that as much as possible. But what I don’t shut out and can’t shut out is that people are giving their time to us, right? And their brain space to us and it’s a pretty intimate directly into the ears. Right. It’s just right in through the buds, right in the brain. Right. That’s an intimate connection and I try to be really respectful of that because if somebody’s going to welcome you directly into their brain or I don’t know, into their Alexa while they’re washing dishes, then I try to make sure it’s an experience that they get something out of.

Even if that’s a laugh or just a bit of entertainment. I take that pretty seriously. I don’t take a lot of stuff seriously, but I take that seriously.