Back to Part 1.
In the second part I’ll talk about inspirations that I got from Kinda Funny, what happened during the time Colin left, how I travelled to San Francisco for a Prom… and how I met Greg Miller…
YouTube Inspirations: Die Oreo Orientierung
At some point, I tried to start up a YouTube career of my own. Couple of years ago, I tried to help a friend of mine to start a fitness YouTube channel. I filmed some of his videos, made some cuts and tried to give some of his videos a more fresh and fluid vibe. However, he is coming from the school of having short YouTube videos that can be easily shared. Most of the time the videos had a maximum length of 5 minutes and only dealt with a single topic. So watching a GOG was mainly eye-opening for me. Watching a 120 minute YouTube video of several people sitting around a table is outside the usual norm. At some point Colin said that he believed in a market within YouTube that urges for longer content. That’s basically where Podcasts and let’s play videos are located. And I started to make some long videos with me standing in front of a camera, talking about MCU movies for about an hour. Content was OK, but it was mainly a long, monological video. And then I made this work trip to Taiwan in 2016.
At the last day of that trip, I had lots of time on my hand and I was going to a super market before I flew home with my co-worker… until I saw those Oreos. Golden Oreos. Peanut-Chocolate Oreos. Coconut Oreos. Oreos I’ve never seen in Germany before. And I thought… well… I’ve never seen Oreos being tested in German before…
So when I travelled back to Germany I had this crazy idea to do a knock-off version of Oreo Oration called the Oreo Orientierung. Basically it has the same concept: Me being Greg, eating Oreos, testing them according to a given set of pre-defined metrics (I even included an additional 5th comparison test, where I compare the new Oreo to the standard OG Oreo), while some random comment is being written on the right hand side of the screen similar to The Wørd section in The Colbert Report. And according to the live stream on Friday, Greg admitted for the first time to have written those things himself while he tried to channel possible comments from some of his friends like Brian Altano or Nick… which I also did when I did my own Oreo comments and I tried to channel my good old friend Peter.
I finished up my first Oreo Orientierung video and before I hit the upload button on YouTube, I immediately felt that sudden voice in my head… Am I doing copyright infringement now? Do I rip of my favorite content creators? In order to feel more reluctant about a possible copyright lawsuit… (there is even one message on the wall that said „Please don’t sue me, Greg Miller“) … I felt I had to contribute a little bit more…
I started pledging to both of their Patreons in the summer of 2016… and boy… this opened up a world for me. Additional podcasts, live recordings and whole lots of other perks. I used to listen to the podcasts while doing the dishes, cleaning up my appartment or once in a while the occasional power nap again. I found myself more and more active in the chats and at some point I decided to join the Facebook group that was mentioned here and there ever so often in one of the podcasts or streams… In that time, when one of the admins was letting me into the group, Colin Moriarty left the company.
That time Colin left.
Colin announced he would be leaving KF on March 13th and I joined the FB group on March 16th, while the group was still in riots. Let’s just say, that in the months prior to Colin’s leave I felt a bigger disconnect between Colin and the others. For me, the split was kinda predictable. It was a great shock for everyone and for me as well, but I thought that this was a thing that was building up months and months in advance. It also felt less like a co-worker leaving a company (let’s just say I have some experience with that) but more like the end of a relationship or the end of a marriage. Sure, everyone has those romantic feelings of getting together with an old friend, but… sometimes something happens in someone’s life where a wife doesn’t want to see her former husband anymore that she was married with for over 20 years. And I got the same vibes here as well. It may take a while until Colin and Greg are on speaking terms again. But it should not be the basis for a community to beat each other up. Two people have different ideas to grow a company. This happens all the time. Just ask Steve Wozniak about his time with Steve Jobs. Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic were on no-speaking terms off-screen on the set of Castle. Robbie Williams and Geri Halliwell left Take That and the Spice Girls respectively in the 90s after difficulties with their band members and management. It happens all the time in a working environment. Here, however, it is also mixed with some personal things as well. I think a contributing factor could have been the fact that even after work has been done for a day, Colin and Greg would still see each other as roommates. This is just speculation on my part when it comes to C&G, but for me, when I return home from my work, I try to forget anything work-related and try to recharge my batteries by doing other stuff… I can imagine that I wouldn’t be able to relax after work if I would constantly see co-workers even at home in the evenings. But that’s just my point of view.
It was definitely a turning point for the company. Colin’s topics had a slight tendency towards history and political topics for GOG, something that I quite liked. Politics tend to be divisive nowadays yes, but during all those topics, I always felt that those 4 guys around the table could enjoy a beer even after a long discussion. Something that today’s politics in the Trump era significantly lack. Remember the fact that this podcast is the only podcast I can sleep with? It has something to do that everyone sitting Around THIS Table (*knocks2times*) is able to listen to each other, let others speak out and do not shout over each other. Something no one should take for granted. I wouldn’t say GOG or KF has become totally apolitical since Colin left the show, but it does also show how political discussions have changed significantly over the last three years. I think I could use the „Making people happy and have a good time“ quote again here, because that’s what KF has become since then. I wouldn’t say it has become a safe haven but by focussing on things like Comedy, Gaming, long Let’s Plays, TV & movies, KF has become a stable center to lift me up. Even in depressing times. When everyone’s shouting at each other and everyone gets crazy. When I’m feeling down after work, I could go home and knew I had at least 2 hours where I can see the Best friend community, talk with everyone in the chat and have a good time.
I became more and more active in the Facebook group, I even started talking more on Twitter. I started doing regular GIF Parties in the FB group on Fridays. At some point, Greg was mentioning that he was seeing my name more and more often, so I reached out to him via Twitter and told him not to bother about the pronounciation of the Crynyd and just stick with Arvel. I think around that time, I started using Twitter more often and more thoughtful as a tool. In recent years, Twitter and Facebook have become extremely divisive platforms with lots of hate speech and people blocking each other. In my years as an online user, I never ever really blocked someone, because I straight up ignored that. When I was a chat moderator I wasn’t even allowed to block someone, because then I wouldn’t see when this other guy was continuing to talk shit, so I’m not able to do my work as a mod properly. As a result, I would use the ban option to deal with those guys. But what happens if this guy has a personal vendetta just against me? First of all, if he’s just there to troll me, should I ban him for personal reasons? Am I allowed to do this? Would I exploit the mod powers for personal reasons? Should another mod who’s unbiased, do the banning for me? And this is way back in the early 2000s. I’ve always been someone who wants to make people happy. But I’m not having a good time myself. So, when I saw lots and lots of celebrities leaving social media because of trolls and Greg starts talking about his banning or muting habit on Twitter, I started to think about my presence in any social media. There is too much shouting, denouncing, off-putting comments, so why not be uplifting instead? That’s a different, new and fresh concept, right? If someone asks a question, why get on his nerves and troll him? It’s easier to answer the question with a smiley at the end. Also, if I’m not liking something, I’m rather writing a constructive criticism than a short tweet saying „This movie was the fucking worst. This director needs to die.“.
Applying the Best Friends Mantra to other communities.
The ability to sit down, think about an issue critically, formulate a constructive argument without shouting over others, accept others arguments and uplift other people in times of crisis is something I admire most about the power of the Best Friends community. Of course there are singular trolls appearing once in a while. But those once don’t have any chance. Because they are _not_ Best Friends. The humility I experienced in this community even if someone has different opinion has been a major strength of the entire community.
Thankfully, I’ve also found other communities that have a similar attitude. Several years ago, I started to support a local female streamer named SaftigesGnu. I basically following her VR & Horror-Let’s Plays and even became a member of her mod team. Streams via Twitch had been quite easy at that time, mostly a couple of dozen people were watching live. In those times, she was approached by other streamers and she was admired by the growth and humility within her community while other streamers had lots and lots of problems with trolls and divisive persons in their own communities. Yet, her community grew more and more until she reached the 20k subscriber mark on YouTube a year ago. But when she started streaming Fortnite… well… let’s just say, she’s now basically Germany’s version of ninja and she has crossed the 400k mark couple of days ago. Overall, she has remained the same person as before and now with her young audience she has basically become like a mother figure, an inspirational figure for kids and teens. A good friend that you can play Fortnite with and talk about issues in life and stuff. And someone who helps you, if you are feeling down. Just like with the Best Friends community.
Greg’s Law #1.
Around fall of 2015, I think, there was the one occasion that caught me off guard. It was when a best friend made a donation who talked about his suicidal thoughts and who wanted to … well… you know… after Kinda Funny Live 1 (if I remember correctly). And that visiting KFL 1 changed his mind completely and therefore changed his life habit afterwards. This led to Greg giving an im-promptu speech that no one is allowed to commit suicide. In a time of hate speech, toxicity, death threats and other stuff on the internet it has been one of the most powerful, humanistic and positive life-loving statements I have ever seen on the internet (the written form afterwards is one of the most linked-to webpages in the KF Facebook group I think, if someone in the group shows signs of depression). It’s those moments that really puts meaning to the words „Best friends“.It has been one of the most powerful statements I’ve ever seen someone speaking out live anywhere.
Kinda Funny Live 4… What the hell is a Prom?
So at some point at the beginning of this year, I was hell-bent on going to Kinda Funny Live 4 and was kinda shocked that KFL4 was being replaced by a Prom Night. To be frank, I was pissed at first, but after a few days I kinda understood the move and fell more and more in love with the idea of visiting San Francisco around my birthday, visiting my probably one and only prom night in my life, and meeting lots of Best Friends all around the world, so I finally got the courage to get up my lazy ass and have some fun. Let’s just say, I was frightened first, because whenever I am around lots of people, I get some anxiety and stay inside. Truth be told, it’s difficult for me to talk to different people (especially if I don’t know them) and also I don’t want to annoy people.
Therefore I was quite happy when people started talking to me, even though I remained in my small little corner.
Having a Birthday in another place.
I started my trip to San Francisco on June 27th. In the last couple of years, I’m always making plans to visit my friends and family because June 28th is my birthday. This year was different. I’m far far away from home. On the other side of the globe. As I’m a little bit more introspective, I tipped my birthday tax roughly 2-3 hours before the Morning Show stream even started. Then I went to the first big Meet & Greet. It’s World Cup time. England vs. Belgium. I actually wanted to wear a Germany dress that day, but as our team failed spectacularly while I was flying to the US, I just wore a KF t-shirt as well as the varsity jacket.
I went to a supermarket, got myself some LaCroix and some Birthday Cream Oreos (as well as Golden Oreos). Of course I was there way too early. After some time I saw someone in a KF shirt as well and we were immediately chatting. It was Majed and he asked me, where I was coming from. „Germany“, I said, while he was coming from Saudi Arabia. And I thought I was coming from far away. His flight was even longer than mine. He was asking me about my varsity jacket which he liked very much and I think I convinced him to get this jacket as well. Over the next few minutes, more and more Best Friends were pouring in, for example Max Mayer who added me some time before on Twitter and was there with some of his friends, GreedyEars and Tom Hopkins. Then Mark Freeman came in with lots and lots of his friends who helped me in the weeks before with his incredible SF guide. To which I promised getting him a beer for eventually. At some point I completely lost overview who’s coming and was kinda overwhelmed to see so many people that I’ve only known before from the chat, Facebook or Twitter. Then, my natural instinct kicked in and I became like a turtle again, hiding in his shell. I was sitting there, until Kevin Coello came in with lots of others. Immediately, he, Joey Noelle and Gary Whitta were surrounded by lots of people.
And I was sitting there and had no idea what the protocol was here. What should I do? Should I walk around and introduce myself or wait until the big crowd has gone away. I’m not made for large crowds. It’s like I flew away from my comfort zone at home and I brought a big holiday playpen with me. So I sat down and continued watching the game, until Kevin started walking around the group and shook everyone’s hands… and he was standing in front of me. „I know you. Haven’t seen you since RTX, right“. Wait. He knows me? That cannot be right. Never been to any RTX event before. „It’s probably because of the Twitter video about Alden Ehrenreich.“ At some point last year, Nick, Tim and Kevin were having problems pronouncing „Ehrenreich“ correctly, as this is most certainly a name of German descent. So I reached out to all of them during the morning show and recorded a small little video of me pronouncing it as I would do. Shockingly that video was shown minutes later in the Morning Show. It seemed to have had a lasting effect. After that we were talking for a couple of minutes about how underwhelming the Solo movie was and then he moved on to others. Then I remembered… hey, it’s my birthday, I brought something with me. Wherever I worked, it has always been a tradition to bring some cake with me. Of course, I wasn’t baking anything in my small bedroom in central SF, so I got some Birthday Cake Oreos and I shared them among the Best Friends. Even Gary Whitta ate one.
The match went on and I was cheering for Fake-Germany a.k.a. Belgium (just look at the flag, it’s just a permutation of our flag) and Belgium actually won. At that time, most of the Best Friends have already left the bar for the Baseball game Meet & Greet in the stadium next to the bar. So I was left there with only a couple of Best Friends. I wanted to pay my beer, but the bartender was telling me that someone already payed for the beer. I wasn’t sure who did pay for it, but if I’ll find out who did it, he’s getting a free beer from me in the future in return.
Later that day I went for the Meet & Greet at the California Academy of Sciences. Let’s just say it’s like an after hours opening of a museum with cocktails and dance music. I saw lots and lots of Best Friends walking around and I was enjoying the museum… until I got myself that beer and a shot. The shot being Fernet Branca. Some persons are saying that it does have magical powers. I say that’s bullshit. It makes you drunk. That’s what it’s magical powers are. I actually had to sit down for a couple of minutes because that taste in my mouth was so appaling afterwards. The rest of the Meet & Greet was done for me and I left after two hours. Without Meeting or Greeting anyone. At some point I was trying to get into some of the groups… but … social anxiety and stuff… 🙁
But I got me some Wing Wings afterwards… so this was a plus 🙂
How I Met Greg.
The next day’s schedule was filled up with an IGN tour and Sh*t Arcade. IGN was full of Kinda Funny Best Friends and it was cool to see the interior of one of the most influential entertainment websites, how it operates and how cool their meeting rooms are. Honestly, I also want a Fallout or Portal-based meeting room. After a room tour we ended up in their kitchen where they were recording several podcasts. Up to this point I had no idea that Peer Schneider was actually coming from Germany, so that was cool. After that, I was walking downtown to the Sh*t Arcade location.
And that’s when I met Greg for the first time in person (sorry for taking that long :-)). It was my second day in SF, my feet were already hurting and the entire location where the Sh*t Arcade thing was supposed to be was already full. I didn’t know where to go or what to do as I was quite afraid of the entire situation, so I just sat down on the one table that hasn’t been occupied yet. It took only two minutes until sat next to me. It was Greg. He probably kinda noticed that I was sitting alone there with my Kinda Funny jacket and didn’t want me to sit alone there and we started to talk about random stuff. Like if I met Peer Schneider earlier who had a similar accent that I had. Or if I had seen that other dude that was flying in from Germany. What I’ve seen. Where I’ve gone already. If I liked the events so far and where I’m coming from. And when I told him what my username was, he gave me a big hug. The next few minutes I got introduced to his wife Genevieve, his mom Jamie Kennedy and some other Best Friends. And at that point the Best Friends mantra finally clicked with me. Even though I was at the other side of the globe, away from friends and family, I had some friends here as well. Best friends actually.
My first Prom.
Next day was Prom day. Earlier that day there was an additional Meet & Greet at some food trucks. I went there by foot (again… let’s just say my feet were hurting like hell those days) while I was wearing this German Monkey Island t-shirt … when DDanger10’s fiancé was recognising what was written on my shirt. She had been living in Switzerland for quite some time, so she could read what was written on my shirt. We started chatting and we had a great lunch together.
I left the M&G and prepared myself for KF Prom. I felt like preparing for a job interview while I was wearing that suit. Then, I had to walk from my hotel on 9th street to the prom location on 5th street. In a suit. It felt like running the gauntlet. I was here, wearing a $100 suit, while dozens of homeless people were sitting on the streets I was passing by. It was one of the most difficult things I had to do. Truth being told. San Francisco has a big problem with homelessness and it was quite prominent in the area where my hotel was. I even prepared myself with Hepatitis shots before I flew to SF. But I wasn’t expecting this amount of people. Here in Germany, there are only a handful of people living on the streets. In SF I saw tents being put up on the sidewalks. I wasn’t really prepared for this situation, so I kinda rushed to the prom location. However this contrasting image of me walking past dozens of homeless people while I’m passing by in a suit is a thing that’ll haunt me for quite some time.
So… yeah… I went to prom in this mindset and I stood in this rediculously long queue with roughly 700 other Best Friends. I’ve been to a lot of parties, but I’ve always been that super-shy nerdy guy standing at the edge of the room, watching everybody. That’s what happened here as well. It was difficult to make a connection. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know who to talk to, I didn’t know how to have fun. It was a strange situation for me… but then the show started. I was standing mainly in the back, watching everything from the display of my smartphone, because I couldn’t see much what was happening on the main stage (I’m not that big). I also recorded everything from the main show with my smartphone gimble. So if someone wants to have some video from the show, just hit me up. Prom was fine, I had lots of fun there. But I still struggled to have a good time. I wanted to play Mario Kart on my Switch though as promised… but couldn’t.
Karaoke, Jason Voorhees and Pier 39.
Sunday was supposed to be the last day of Meet & Greets and I wasn’t one of the VIPs, so I went to the alternative meeting zone… which was not easy to find for someone without SF knowledge. I was walking around the Fort Mason Center where I thought was the location… but wasn’t. It was somewhere near Presidio / Main Post. Several kilometers away. I had no idea what to do… until I found Matt Barker and Emmett Watkins Jr., who became Prom King the day before. We got into an Uber and drove to… I don’t know… somewhere deep in the woods. It was one of those situations where you think, now that’s the beginning of a horror movie. And I’m about to die first. Fortunately we didn’t find any wolves, raccoons or wannabe-Jason-Voorhees, so we eventually came up to the Meet & Greet, finally played some Mario Kart and then we went to the other big Meet & Greet happening that day: Pier 39. Yes. I was actually there. Although the sea lions were temporarily gone, I was here at the place that I used to know only from my previous algorithm development. From then on, my state of mind changed and I enjoyed my trip more and more the couple of days.
Monday was the day most of the UK Best Friends were leaving and they were up for a final unofficial Meet & Greet. Or Meet & Sing. Because we were going to a Japanese Karaoke bar. Majed was there (now he had a varsity jacket too), Mark Freeman was there, Skzyp was there and Cool Greg was there. Even though I joined late, we were having lots of fun. And I think it was the meeting I enjoyed the most. After all those days where I was standing in the back, I was now in this small little bar and decided to sing a couple of songs and be in front of the crowd. I started with a familiar song for me. It was obviously a Pet Shop Boys song: Did you see me coming from the 2009 album Yes. Afterwards I got some compliments from Mark, telling me he was surprised to sing that well with English being a secondary language for me. Then… for some reason he was urging me to sing something in German. Knowing my pop culture history from the 80s very well, there are only two German songs that climbed the charts very high: One of them was Falco’s Rock me Amadeus, the other one being Nena’s 99 Red Balloons… or 99 Luftballons. Guess what. I sang it in German. OK, I sounded like an otter mating with a raccoon, but the crowd was on fire during and after that song. I made lots of people happy. And had a good time… Even though in retrospect my rendition of Robbie Williams’ No Regrets was the best song that I did.
Two days later, I went to the comic book store underneath the Kinda Funny studio and I was browsing through lots of comics, Cool Greg was on his break and entered the comic book store. „Hey, you’re the guy from Karaoke“. I was grinning because I think I made an impression. He was on a break from the studio and was talking with a friend and he was asking if I would be joining. So after I bought an obscene amount of Sex Criminal issues, I went outside, hung out with him and his friend, and went to Taco Bell. „Taco Bell? That shit’s great.“ Sounded like a ringing endorsement to me. We were talking for a couple of minutes until he had to return to the studio. It was a great time.
And that was mainly what happened in San Francisco with the Best Friends and me. Couple of days later, when I looked at Twitter, I saw lots and lots of selfies and pictures with Greg or the others and I thought… well… I didn’t dare to ask for a picture. With Anyone. In the end, I thought I didn’t need a picture proof for all of this, just the memories of those interactions suffices. But one thing stuck with me. Greg et al. are not only very open up, friendly and caring, but this is also visible throughout the entire community. Recently at work I found out about the existence of Conway’s law: „organisations which designs systems are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organisations“ (i heard a similar statement in today’s episode of KFGD from today’s guest host). I think you can sort of apply this to online communities as well: Personalities that create and lead communities are constrained to attract persons with similar attitudes and communications. And this has been one of the strengths of Greg as well: Not only to be positive and spread positivity, but creating a community of persons that can really call themselves Best Friends…
Now to the final Part 3