It’s Thursday night and I’m cruising down Melrose. To many, downtown LA is a mecca of culture and artistic expression but for me it is a weird and terrifying place where some of my friends live for some reason. Finally I come to my destination: The Hollywood Improv. If the sign out front wasn’t indication enough, the line of people out front certainly was. I was here.
Game Grumps Live. Every fifth person was wearing a Game Grumps T-shirt even as two guys in front of me scoffed at the idea of wearing them to the live show. Personally, I wore the shirt I bought from the Retro Give Grumps charity stream, arrived just that morning.
There was excitement in the air as Vernon Shaw, the founder of Hot Pepper Gaming and newest member of the Grumps Team did a run through of the crowd. We were a surprisingly diverse bunch. Hipsters with inscrutable haircuts, a couple from out of state who just had to make this part of their California trip, even two young women that I eventually concluded were on their first date. All of us brought together by The Game Grumps.
When they finally let us inside, we went past a merch table that snagged quite a few people, but I knew there would be time for the later. I found a seat at a table with three strangers (pro-tip: you can get around the two item minimum if the wait-staff don’t realize you’re there alone) and waited, not totally sure what to expect.
I half expected a comedian to be the opening act but it was, in fact, Barry Kramer, who began playing the first level of Super Mario blindfolded. I later learned that this role fell to Ninja Brian the night before and he was much more sucessful.
Finally they arrived, Arin Hanson and Dan Avidan: The Game Grumps. They were going to be playing a Mario Maker level designed by Ross O’Donovan and Jirard the Completionist. As the performance went on, any doubts I had about the viability of watching two guys okay video games in a live setting were dismissed. Arin played for the most part, erupting into his trademark rage while Dan worked the crowd, posing, hitting on girls, and even high diving every member of the 200 strong audience. He also took the controls on a couple occasions, along with an unexpected guest, Markiplier, a random audience member a bit too critical of Arin’s performance, and the level’s co-creator, Ross himself. Jirard wasn’t present but he did call in on Ross’s cell phone. In the end, no one was able to beat the level, but that isn’t the point. No one watches Game Grumps to see people be good at video games. They concluded the show with a short Q and A reminiscent of their convention appearances.
At the end of the night I, along with those others who had the foresight to purchase VIP tickets, got to meet the Grumps. It was an experience unlike any celebrity meeting I’ve ever had. I had real, albeit short, conversations with both Grumps and they were both so humble and down to earth.
I also spoke briefly with Vernon Shaw, who I suspect was the mastermind behind this event, as he was also responsible for organizing the charity stream and several other community events.
Vernon, who as far as I know lacks a formal job title, told me of the months of planning that went into it, and the wild success that both nights of the show enjoyed. He also told me of plans for future shows. Just today, two East Coast dates were announced.
So what did we learn from all this? Well, besides the fact that the Game Grumps are just as amazing as I’d hoped (as is Markiplier), we learned that a show format previously unique to Youtube, can work in a live format. We learned that people who watch YouTube all day are willing to shell out to see their favorite performers. So really we got a sense of just how famous YouTube stars really are, despite their obscurity in mainstream media. I’m still waiting on that live cat video though.