Jonathan London (Explo Student 1995-1996) is the host of the podcast Geekscape, which is simultaneously a website and media empire. A writer for multiple media, including film, television, music videos, and more, London is also a producer, director, actor, and critic. In advance of his summer stay with us as a Scholar in Residence, London found time to tell us a bit of his own story, in which Explo plays a meaningful role.
Meet Explo’s Supergeek
Explo alumnus Jonathan London is the creator of Geekscape, a podcast-turned-website originally produced from his Los Angeles living room, now a media empire that sees more than 200,000 unique visitors a month. London, pictured above (right) with Stan Lee—the former president and CEO of Marvel comics and the co-creator of Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Ironman, and many more comic book legends—has built an impressive career in multimedia arts based on inspiration, hard work, and at the end of the day, being a geek (and embracing it).
Always a comic book fanatic, London combined his lifelong love of comics, video games, zombie movies, and more, with an education at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia Film School. A filmmaker, music video director and producer, screenwriter and so much more, London lives and works a creative life, steadily honing his craft, unafraid to test—and push—boundaries.
Jonathan London’s Career
Jonathan London currently hosts the podcast and news network, Geekscape, a media empire in the making. He's also the co-producer of Doc of the Dead, a documentary about zombies. In 2006, London directed the live DVD portion of Reel Big Fish's Our Live Album Is Better Than Your Live Album. In 2009, London became the head writer and a correspondent for the online show Heads Up! on CraveOnline, and two web series, Singledom and When Ninjas Attack, both of which he wrote and directed for Hulu. And in 2012-2013, he was the host of Pause/Play on Metacafe. His directing credits include music videos such as, "Turn Out the Light" for The New Amsterdams, "Take Me Home Please" for Reggie and the Full Effect, and "Come Back Home" for Suburban Legends. He also directed Gay By Dawn, a short film that won a number of film festival awards.
London’s Journey to Explo
Originally from Austin, Texas, Jonathan London remembers learning about Explo from a VHS tape that he got in the mail. Something about that tape captivated London, and he made a plea to his parents to spend part of his summer at Explo (the other part he spent working at a local comic book shop). London’s parents agreed, and so began a pivotal chapter in London’s story.
Explo was different from anything else London had experienced. Within days of being on campus, London had met people from across the entire United States and from countless other countries. Being immersed in the diversity of Explo was “mind opening," he says. Not only did the students and staff come from different backgrounds (he recalls being playfully teased for having a Texas accent), but they all seemed to possess something else, something uniting: a keen and palpable excitement for learning. Back home in Texas, a love of learning isn’t something that was celebrated among his peers. London was the type of kid who devoured comic books and competed in the Nintendo World Championships (true story, circa 1990), so being among peers who were driven in a variety of ways was refreshing and new.
Inspiration and Reinvention on Campus
London attended public school in Austin and was a solid B student, and before Explo he hadn’t really pushed himself academically. But being around faculty members at Explo who attended some of the top colleges and universities in the country “fired him up and made anything seem possible.”
At Explo, London felt that he could reinvent himself, which is a common refrain we hear from our student alumni. In the supportive Explo community, London could “be a different person and escape what was expected of [him] at home.” Being the same kid in the same environment in Austin, he says, everyone knew you as one thing. Explo changed that for him. He took science at Explo, something he felt he was “awful at” in his school-year life, but it became fun for him because at Explo it was taught in a new way. Inspired by his courses and Explo's learning environment, London recognizes the impact that inspiration has had on his work—whether it’s abundant or lacking—all around him.
Jonathan London Returns to Explo in 2015
Jonathan London returns to Explo for the summer of 2015 as part of our Scholars-in-Residence program.Students will be able to attend his talk, meet him in class, discuss storytelling with him during an activity period, and pick his brain at the dinner table. Our residencies offer a unique opportunity for students to engage with top field professionals, and for both students and professionals to learn from one another.
Fond Memories of Explo
London’s other fond memories of Explo include playing the triangle at a Guster concert on campus, going on college tours of Brown and Harvard, and buying a Ramones CD in Newbury Comics while walking around Boston on a weekend trip. At an Explo talent show, London read Green Eggs & Ham, and got people to laugh. Until that moment, London says, he hadn’t realized he was funny. London traces his interest in storytelling to that performance of the Dr. Seuss classic.
Of being on stage in front of his peers and faculty members he says, "I never would have risked something like that at home.” After London’s first summer at Explo, he returned home with a new dedication to school and a renewed focus on living life fully, which he attributes to the Explo culture. He did theatre, attended concerts, and tried stuff he had never attempted before. “Explo gave me a new confidence and drive,” he says. “Explo gave me aspiration. Aspirations frustrate me along the path, make me think of what else I can be doing, and then create drive.”
A Tragic Turn and a Welcome Change
London returned to Explo for a second summer, but this time his circumstances at home were vastly different. The night before London was set to leave for campus, his brother was killed in a car accident. Explo became a haven for London that summer in his grief. He recalls that the staff handled his process very well. “They knew and were supportive,” he says, “but they didn’t treat me weirdly. Explo gave me a chance to reset myself. Explo saved my life.”
London vividly recalls arriving at Logan Airport a week after the Program had started, and the staff member who picked him up “really got it.” He took London on a three-hour historical tour of Boston, sensing that London needed some space to think and to start to ground himself in a new place.
Aspirations Pay Off for College and Beyond
Explo represents a lot of firsts for London. His first time in the Northeast, his first girlfriend, a first kiss, and the first people he had encountered who attended Ivy League colleges. A particularly influential staff member went to the University of Pennsylvania, which inspired London to apply there early (he was accepted and matriculated the following fall), another Explo-inspired moment in time that changed London’s trajectory.
London brought his Explo lessons with him to U. Penn, and beyond. In college, he did radio and stand-up comedy, and later, when he attended Columbia Film School, he wrote and directed a 10-minute short film, Gay By Dawn, which won numerous awards.
Embracing His Inner Geek
After graduate school, London continued to make more film shorts and started dabbling in music video direction and production. He also stayed true to his comic roots, writing a remix of Miami Vice to much critical acclaim. His current venture, Geekscape, was originally developed as a place to put his work in between projects, but the brand has exploded since that iteration. What began as an online space to keep his audience engaged has become a pacemaker and a trendsetter in the market. Geekscape, a name borne out of London’s desire to “embrace his geek-dom,” is home to podcasts, interviews, and reviews on new comics, video games, movies, and more.
Geekscape is a collaboration, something he truly values in the creative process. Also highly prized is a passion for what he’s working on. “I have to be passionate about a project,” he says. “I can’t say yes to every job. I think, this is one year out of how many that I’ll have? You have to have confidence that something is worth doing. Explo gave me that boost of confidence in myself.”