If you're not familiar with Arin Hanson and Dan Avidan of the Game Grumps, you're truly missing out on some of the best video game humor happening on YouTube. Essentially a video game version of Mystery Science Theater 3000, the duo record themselves playing video games both awesome and horrible while commenting on the game and getting some laughs out of the experience. Recently, the Grumps have found themselves in the center of several opportunities to branch out, which included releasing the game Dream Daddy (which we reviewed), going on tours as themselves and their bands Ninja Sex Party and Starbomb, and most recently taking part in a brand new YouTube Red series called Good Game. We got a chance to chat with Avidan and Hanson about their experience filming and being involved with the show, as well as what they've got coming up in the future.
BC: Hey guys, how are both of you doing lately?
Dan: I've been great! Doing a lot of touring with my band Ninja Sex Party and constantly recording new Game Grumps episodes. There's always a lot to do!
Arin: Yo, I'm good.
Touching a little on the Game Grumps, you recently hit the five year anniversary. How was that experience for you both?
Dan: Well, I've only been with the show for four of those years, but it was pretty remarkable. The internet moves very fast, and the fact that we're still keeping people entertained and interested for such a long time is very gratifying. My life has changed so much since I joined the show!
Arin: Pretty sweet. It's hard to be upset about playing video games for a living. It can be difficult at times but it's always fun, especially when I can do it with my best bud, Dan.
Getting to the show, how did you first learn about Good Game? What were your initial thoughts on the concept from Jesse Cox and Michele Morrow?
Dan: I was really excited because I love Michele and Jesse and have been a fan of Dan Harmon for a while now. Game Grumps, NSP, and Starbomb (our other band) have been my life's focus for so long that it was really cool to have a new project out of nowhere that I could be a part of.
Arin: Well, Dan and I were on tour and Michele called me in my weird hotel room in New York. Her excitement was infectious so I was immediately stoked. I honestly thought it wouldn't happen because it sounded so fun and awesome, you know?
Did you need to audition or talk anyone into letting you act in it, or was this one of those moments where the show was basically written with you both in mind?
Dan: I think a lot of those preliminary things were taken care of before we were even approached. That said, we definitely had to do a couple of screen tests to prove to the people funding the show that we could actually act!
Arin: Yeah the show was written with us in mind, but we didn't want to make fools of ourselves, so we spent six months taking acting lessons. I'm glad we did, we were not amazing pre-lessons.
A number of the show's producers, including Arin, are involved with Let's Play culture or eSports to some degree. How was it working with so many people you knew in producing the show?
Dan: It was certainly cool to have people on board who understood the eSports culture more than I did. Fans can always spot a show/movie made about their passion that doesn't know what it's talking about. It's a huge turn off for any group like that, so great pains were taken to make sure this show was respectful of the source material.
Arin: Well I only really knew a few people, like Dan and Michele and Jesse. Everyone else was totally new, save for a cameraman I worked on another project with once. But the crew was incredible, and I felt really close to a lot of them, so it felt good being able to see good people every day.
I briefly heard about the first time you met with Dan Harmon on an episode of Game Grumps. What was it like connecting off the bat and eventually working together?
Dan: Awesome! That dude's brilliant and a lot of fun to talk to. You can see the gears turning and ideas forming when he speaks about a creative subject. It's inspiring!
Arin: Dan is brilliant, and he's also very kind to us. He thanked us for letting the show use our brand to support it, and it was really, honestly, one of the only times in my life that someone from the established media industry had acknowledged that we offered something of value. I think the old media industry sort of tries to downplay our role or our importance to culture and to media, but Dan immediately comes out the gate humble and appreciative, which meant a great deal to me.
What kind of strain was it for you to film the show and also record episodes for the channel at the same time?
Dan: Very strenuous, because we had to skip recording Grumps episodes for a month, which pushed all of those recording sessions into the months before and after filming Good Game. So it essentially became three months of double work-shifts every day, if that makes sense. We like working hard though. I got a lot of partying out of my system in my 20's, so I'm happy to put in the extra career time now!
Arin: It was all fun, but it was also a huge strain. We had to film episodes every weekday, from very early to very late, typically on the other side of L.A. from where we live, and in between filming, we had to memorize lines. And since we were major characters, we were on set every day except for one day for me. Filming was itself exhausting, but then on weekend, we had to record Game Grumps for our channel, and I always had some kind of meeting or thing I had to go to as well. So it was nonstop for an entire month, and it was very fun, but I missed spending time with my wife. She was very understanding though and made sure I remained healthy.
Over the past few months, I heard your experiences in filming and the awesome time you were having. What would you say was your favorite aspect of making the show while it was in production?
Dan: I think just the camaraderie between the cast and crew, and the ability to see a scripted show come together from scratch. I'd never witnessed anything like that before and now I watch films and TV and shows in a totally different light.
Arin: I really enjoyed the cast and crew and how fun it was riffing with them. But honestly, it was the work that was the best experience. Challenging myself every day to be a better actor was really fantastic. I had never been in a situation that allowed me to flex that muscle for such a long period of time so it was very gratifying.
I enjoyed how this show goes after almost every video game trope there is today from character skins to tournament play to terminology. Do you think a gaming audience will love this or feel slighted?
Dan: I hope they'll love it because everyone worked so hard to make the show something that gamers would enjoy and approve of.
Arin: This show is very genuine. Michele, Jesse and I are especially entrenched in the gaming world and we never once felt like the story or any particular moment was unfair or unjustified. There are times where the show gets pretty into the dark side of it, and I think that's very interesting because most non-gaming media portrays anything relating to video games as very tropey, mom's basement, "what a nerd!" kind of bullshit. The writers tried to avoid that stuff at all costs, and make us understand these characters a lot better, because stereotypes aside, we're all human.
On the flipside of that, do you feel like the show is accessible enough for average viewers to understand what's happening and relate to it?
Dan: Yes! It's a tightrope walk obviously, but there are big themes in the show that are universal like friendship, social anxiety, and dick jokes that everyone can connect with.
Arin: I think to the credit of the writers, Sarah Carbiener and Erica Rosbe, all the characters are written very real, and all the conflicts are very relatable. There's plenty in the show that sort of lets the audience know, hey, we know what we're talking about when it comes to eSports and gaming, but I think a good story is a good story.
Overall, what do you hope people take away from the show?
Dan: I hope they think "Wow that was funny and different. I'd like to see where these characters go from here!"
Arin: I just hope people dig it. It's a comedy. I hope people laugh. And I suppose I hope it helps people who don't know about video gaming to understand it a little better.
What other projects do you both have in the works right now? New Starbomb or Ninja Sex Party albums? Return of Grump Cade or maybe a new series for the channel?
Dan: A lot of stuff! We're releasing a new Ninja Sex Party cover album at the end of October, and have a new original album that's nearly done and should be out early next year. We're also aiming to have a new Starbomb album out in 2018 as well. We're having a lot of fun and the fans are lovely and amazing, so why slow down!?
Arin: Well, since the success of Dream Daddy we've been batting around ideas for a couple new games, but we're working on a lot of post-launch development for Dream Daddy before we get to that. A new Starbomb album is being written at the end of the year with an early-mid 2018 release which will be dope. We're helping Ross [O'Donovan] (Rubberninja) to produce a serialize cartoon called Gameoverse that we're hoping to release sometime in 2018 if that's even possible. We've started a touring company to help tour YouTube and alternative acts and we offer the best deal in the industry, so we're gearing up to tour ourselves as well as a bunch of other YouTube acts this year and next year. But honestly beyond that, I don't know, and I don't really ever know. I sort of fly by the seat of my pants and if an idea comes up I run with it. That's sort of how this weird adventure started in the first place.