The comedy boutique with a cult following has blown up on Twitch.
For uberfans, the name Sandeep Parikh is legendary. In the early days of YouTube, his role in Felicia Day’s internet sitcom, The Guild, earned him a cult following among gamers. Legend of Neil – a show about a slacker who gets sucked into the video game Zelda – was a sleeper hit. And his work in interactive streaming media with shows like That Moment When and Wizard School Dropout have broken ground in the way we consume media.
But in pandemic days, Parikh, who organizes his comedy adventures through his production company EffinFunny, has found a new way to interact with fans: on the gaming platform Twitch.
The team at EffinFunny started a Twitch channel in December, Parikh says, partially as an experiment. A fan volunteered to run tech support, and the movement gained immediate momentum.
Their tech support volunteer, George, is a multiple sclerosis warrior, so the gang at EffinFunny decided to launch a spur-of-the-moment fundraiser to raise money for the National MS Society. “We wanted to wash out the taste 2020 left in our mouths and jump into the new year with hope,” says Anand Shah, Head of Development at EffinFunny. “We were so moved by George’s goodwill and we felt obligated to do something as a thank you. We approached some friends of ours like (comedians) Paul Scheer, Taran Killam, Kyle Kinane, and writers Gary Whitta (Rogue One) and Patrick Rothfuss (NYT Bestselling Author).” A little publicity went a long way, and they launched their twelve hour marathon fundraising drive that month.
The target goal was to raise $2,500, which EffinFunny would match for a total donation of $5K. They tripled that goal. The $15,000 from EffinFunny’s charity drive was the largest single donation the National MS Society had received all year. “It was a crazy two weeks,” says Parikh, and it took them to Twitch Affiliate status in the shortest time possible: one week.
Now, they have even bigger goals. Parikh says they plan to run at least two more fundraising drives for charity this year, each with a $25K target. “Seeing what’s possible on Twitch has been a revelation,” says Parikh. “The fans are so caring, and incredibly community-oriented. And these technology platforms allow us to engage our audience in a way that actually lets us into their lives too.”
Part of Parikh’s motivation as a creator is to advance representation in comedy and gaming—two worlds that have traditionally been inhospitable to women and minorities. On his Twitch streams, many of his guests discuss representation from an insider’s perspective, giving the conversations a layer of substance that takes them beyond the usual gaming banter. But Parikh stresses that engaging fans and making people laugh is EffinFunny’s raison d’etre.
“It’s one thousand percent about the fans,” he says. “And we’ve never had such an immediate way to interact.”
“The interest in Twitch kind of took us by surprise,” says Shah, adding that they didn’t expect the response to be so big or immediate. “But the fans love it and so we’re just running with it.”
Now, Parikh appears every Tuesday in Stream Deep with Sandeep, a weekly live talk show where Parikh interviews, as he tells it, “people who matter on topics that may or may not matter.” Streamdeep has already featured appearances by Milana Vayntrub, Colin Ferguson, Gary Whitta, Patrick Rothfuss, an official from the Obama administration, and “a probabilistic (Coronavirus) forecasting tournament winner.”
“It sounds like a sleazy weatherman, but I assure you it’s something much more interesting,” Parikh says. Probabilistic forecasting is the kind of data crunching that goes into predicting the outcomes of elections or football games, he explains.
EffinFunny’s roster of streaming shows also includes Catino’s Classics Corner on Thursdays, featuring comedian Adam Catino as he tries to beat classic video games in one sitting; and the crown jewel, a monthly live interactive comedy game show Stand Up Get Down, where three up and coming stand up comedians from different cities compete head to head in “a battle of wits and wise-assery for the title of unequivocal stand up champion of ALL TIME forever… until next month.” It’s hosted by Neel Nanda and a different celebrity guest judge each stream, in partnership with Don’t Tell Comedy, a group that runs popup comedy shows around the country in nontraditional spaces.
Additionally, Parikh, who’s a new father, hops onto the EffinFunny Twitch for casual rounds of gaming called “Play Until the Baby Wakes.” He says the EffinFunny channel is gaining new followers with every stream. But Parikh is staying true to his roots. “It’s all the old school fans, the ones who have been with us since The Guild, and The Legend of Neil who have made all this possible. Reconnecting with them has been one of the true silver linings in this hot mess, couldn’t have done any of this without them.”