Anwar Newton on His San Diego Comic-Con Shroom Freakout
Anwar Newton during a stand-up act
San Diego Comic-Con is an exhausting, chaotic mess. Going to panels and rubbing elbows with folks dressed up like Doctor Who and Game of Thrones characters sounds fun, but in reality, you spend most of your time waiting in lines. It's a bit absurd when you think about it.
Phoenix comedian Anwar Newton dealt with said absurdity by taking hallucinogenic mushrooms and chronicling his experiences in texts to his girlfriend. While Newton initially thought it was a good idea, it quickly turned into a bad trip. Newton had a bit of a freakout, thanks to people in rabbit costumes, giant buttholes, and a Pro-Palestine protest. His text messages have since gone viral via Imgur.
I caught up with Newton to discuss his bad trip and why he thinks San Diego Comic-Con has spiraled out of control.
One of Anwar Newton's Screenshots
Editor's note: Anwar Newton and Melissa Fossum have known each other since attending college together.
Newton says he took shrooms at Comic-Con because attending it sober seemed like a "fucking stupid idea." His decision to take shrooms at SDCC was premeditated, so he prepared for the event by watching superhero movies while tripping balls before he going to the event.
Watching The Dark Knight was one of his favorite experiences, because Christian Bale's already strange voice was perceived by Newton as some sort of demon voice. He tried to reenact it for me, but the best way I can describe it as a mix between the little girl in The Exorcistand something from Aliens. Newton says he clearly did not remember Christian Bale speaking like this in the movie when he saw it sober and found it hilarious because it did not sound like English when he was high.
His preparation did not pay off. Newton made the rookie mistake of eating nothing but Skittles last Saturday, moments before he took shrooms.
The shrooms took hold as Newton walked past the Adult Swim Funhouse outside of the Convention Center. "That's where I freaked out the most, because Adult Swim is weird," he says.
Here, Newton saw the giant butthole in question. It was an actual part of the Funhouse exhibition, made worse by Newton's trip. His freakout took hold as waited in a long line for a T-shirt that featured cartoon poop. He was distracted by an incident that happened the previous night when Newton and his friend, Portillo, saw a group of Pro-Palestine protestors standing outside of the venue. The Pro-Palestine protests were also very real, but were made more intense by the drugs. The duo mistook the protestors for pedestrians wishing to cross the street, and thus found themselves unintentionally participating in the protest.
"I'm at a protest where people think I'm anti-Semitic and I look like the year 1992," Newton says, referring to his large hi-top fade. He assumed he was seen as an anti-Semite due to the protestors' controversial stances on Gaza. Newton and Portillo quickly left the scene as they witnessed a girl get visibly upset.
"[The protestors] capitalized on the mass of people, like hey, now we can get some attention on what's actually going on," Newton says, describing the protestors as a massive group standing between him and the bus station.
The next day, Newton was still reeling from what he saw at the protest, and the drugs intensified those feelings. "I was irate that fun was happening while [the protest] was happening," he said. "How dare the world have fun while these kids were over there dying? And I was freaking out. That's what brought all this shit out, I was like, Palestine, Gaza Strip, the West Bank... and you guys are over there waiting for a T-shirt."
Newton had waited three hours to see an Archer panel the day before, though he originally wanted to go to the Rick and Morty panel, but waited in the wrong line.
Angry and armed with an intensifying high, things went from bad to worse. Newton described his sober friend, Portillo, as his "drug Sherpa" who was supposed to keep an eye on him. Instead, Portillo distorted his voice and messed with Newton. While Newton was waiting for his free T-shirt, Portillo was on a mission to fly a drone. A 24 booth let fans fly a drone for free with lessons from an FAA-trained pilot. His story checks out, though I'm not sure about the next part: Newton said that Portillo was determined to crash it, stomp on it, yell "Free Palestine!" and walk away.
"Portillo decided he was going to crash the drone for political reasons, and I'm standing in line, tripping out because there's a ton of people around me, and the worst thing you can be asked to do when you're tripping on shrooms is being given something objective to do," Newton says. Portillo later returned and said that he didn't crash the drone because he "didn't want to take sides."
After waiting in line for a few hours, Newton reached the front of the Adult Swim line and was asked to provide his registration information. By that point, he was tripping so hard that he thought that the registration woman was speaking a foreign language. He struggled to enter his information, and eventually asked for help.
"I'm like, oh my gosh, I can't read English at this point, I'm so fucked up. I tug on her cape [she was in costume], and was like 'please, can you help me, this is in a different language' and she's gonna know I'm on shrooms because it's in English, I'm so stupid," he says. As it turns out, the prompt was in French. Newton may have struggled with English, but he did eventually get his free shirt, though he opted for Venture Brothers instead of poop.
Upon returning to Phoenix, Newton took screenshots of the text message conversation he had with his girlfriend and posted the images to Imgur. He shared the post with a few friends and the photos quickly snowballed. His Comic-Con trip has been a featured entry on Reddit, Death and Taxes, and Elite Daily. Some have questioned the veracity of his post, but Newton explained that each text took about 10 minutes and "autocorrect was a small angel blessing me with gifts."
Would Newton do it again? Without hesitation, he says, "Hell yeah, I'm gonna do it next year." He described his experience as doing "more on one Saturday than most people do in an entire year" and said that taking drugs at Comic-Con made him feel ready to fight in Fallujah.
See the texts from Newton's shrooms freak out on page two. For more from the comedian, check out his stand-up comedy at Monkey Pants on Thursday, August 7.
Editor's note: This post has been modified from its original version.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Phoenix art and theater scene.