What is “The Spoony Experiment?”
It’s an online comedy video series created and hosted by myself (Noah Antwiler), in which I review the worst (and sometimes best) movies, videogames, and comics I’ve ever experienced. As an avid gamer of nearly everything that can be played (consoles, computers, cards, boardgames, tabletop RPGs), and an avid movie buff, I’ve got something to say about nearly everything.
Who the hell are you?
I’m the award-winning creator and host of this popular site and online video review show. For over three years I’ve created a hilarious series of videos and blog entries skewering all aspects of nerd culture, from movies to video games to comic books. My first work was as a freelance movie critic for Knights of the Dinner Table Magazine, back in the days when I had a lot more time to play Dungeons and Dragons and write long-winded recaps of godawful fantasy flicks. I’ve acted on the Arizona State University mainstage and appeared in several short films, even starring for a time in a touring dinner theater. What started as a geeky hobby has become a full-time madness, and now I’m living the dream as a comedian and a paragon of Internet nerdiness!
Where does the “Spoony” thing come from?
The story of the “Tandem the Spoony” mantle is, of course, an extraordinarily nerdy one that started at a Dungeons & Dragons table, where I played a swashbuckling (and often accident-prone) bard. While playing the game Final Fantasy 2, I came across a scene where the game’s bard, Edward, was getting the crap beaten out of him by an old sage. During this Rodney King-esque beating, the sage howled in badly-translated Japanese rage “You spoony bard!!” I still don’t know what the hell it means, but after some in-jokes exchanged at a Dungeons & Dragons session in reference to my bard character “Tandem,” Tandem the Spoony was born. Today, spooniness indicates a devil-may-care swashbuckling spirit, where all men are equal and free and should be generally nice to each other, and embrace wine, women, and song. Now I carry the name as an Internet handle, because – while silly – it’s infinitely more memorable and interesting than Noah Antwiler.
What’s the deal with the blue robot?
That’s my robot, Burton. A few years ago, I’d gotten it in my head to write, produce, and shoot a feature-length film about my own experience working at a game store, so I wrote a screenplay, bought a decent DV camera, and had even gone so far as to hold auditions when suddenly the location I was using closed down, and it derailed production. I was on a micro-budget as it was, and I couldn’t afford to go anywhere else. It was probably a good thing, because I have to admit that the screenplay I ended up with was not very good.
Anyway, I ended up stuck with this camera, and I had another mad plan to shoot some Mystery Science Theater-style videos using public domain movies as fodder, complete with robot puppets and a storyline. To that end, I enlisted some help to construct the robots, named Burton, Sorbo, and Morgan (after Big Trouble in Little China’s Jack Burton, Hercules star Kevin Sorbo, and nerd vixen Morgan Webb). Burton was the only robot we managed to finish, and he’s unarguably the best of the bunch. He’s got an expressive face and a cool color scheme, and I really think he blows the other two robots away. Sorbo is a stainless steel robot made out of a disinfecting UV lamp, and Morgan is a modified salon hair dryer, but they don’t have the distinct look of Burton’s cyclopean Dustbuster head and floppy red useless arms.
I ended up retiring the MST project also. I began to realize that what I was attempting was bigger than something I’d be able to do on my own, obviously because I would need at least one, hopefully two, and ideally three other people to host the video with me (to run the puppets and play other characters). I toyed with the idea of doing it solo without robots, but I didn’t like it much. Part of the fun is having more than one person to bounce jokes off of, otherwise who am I talking to? And I hadn’t even gotten into the manpower needed to produce the show. I couldn’t find anyone willing to devote the time to write, film, or do any meaningful work for the show. And I can’t blame them. It’s a lot of hard, unpaid work for a pretty pathetic nerdy exercise.
After all that, I didn’t really have anywhere to store poor Burton, my robot without a function in life. The other robots I could throw in the closet; they hadn’t been finished yet and so there wasn’t much to damage, but Burton is a fragile guy and I prefer to keep him where I can see him, sitting upright so he doesn’t fall and break off any pieces. So there he sits, behind my recliner, watching disapprovingly as I review games and movies instead.
What are your goals?
Making reviews is a lot of fun, and right now I’m living the dream of slackers everywhere. But I’ve been branching out into several new areas like net journalism, covering breaking news at major press events like the Electronic Entertainment Expo, ScrewAttack Gaming Convention, Penny Arcade Expo, and others. I’m also discovering a lot of potential in appearing as a guest speaker at these conventions, as I was recently featured as a guest at the Music and Gaming Festival (MAGFest). The main reason I bought a camera and started this whole thing, though, was that I wanted to one day write and direct a feature-length motion picture. Creating a movie is still a lifelong aspiration of mine, and hopefully I can use the contacts and knowledge I’ve gained from this site as a launchpad into even greater things!
What editing program do you use?
Up until about 2009 I used Sony Vegas Pro almost exclusively, which worked great for me. Recently, in one of the greatest acts of generosity I’ve ever personally witnessed, a fan donated the Adobe software suite to me. Since then I’ve been using Adobe Premiere Pro for nearly every project. I use a PC, as opposed to a Mac.
What camera do you use?
A Panasonic AG-HMC150. It’s a relatively large HD-camera, chosen because it has XLR microphone inputs and saves to SD-cards as its recording medium. Before that I had a Sony PD-100A DV-camera, which saved to tapes. Great little camera that I completely wore out.
How do you record game footage?
The easiest way is to use a DVD recorder, which will accept input from almost any other gaming device. From there you can rip the footage off the DVD rather easily. I have a Dazzle and a video capture card on my computer that I sometimes use, but they’re not as reliable and as simple as the DVD recorder. Capture cards are often not ideal for gaming since they might introduce a delay between input and on-screen results. For computer games, I use FRAPs to record screen-capture footage.
What are your favorite movies?
I have a TON of favorites. I never like to put one above the others because they’re all great in different ways and it’s tough to compare movies in different genres. In no particular order, I love Big Trouble in Little China, the original Star Wars trilogy, Oldboy, Jaws, The Eye (by the Pang Brothers), Infernal Affairs, the Back to the Future Trilogy, the Indiana Jones Trilogy, Highlander, The Dark Knight, Hot Fuzz, John Carpenter’s The Thing, Airplane!, Best Worst Movie, The Last Starfighter…I’m sure there’s more.
What are your favorite video games?
I was a big fan of anything Origin Systems made for the PC, like the Wing Commander series, the Ultima RPG series, Strike Commander, and Crusader: No Remorse. My favorite games of all-time are Wing Commander: Privateer (PC), Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (Gamecube), Mass Effect 2 (X360), Shadowrun (SNES), Wing Commander IV (PC), Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (PS2), Fallout (PC), Descent: Freespace (PC), and Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny. My favorite arcade game is Rampart, and I will crush you if you are foolish enough to challenge me.
What is your favorite music?
My taste in music is as fickle as it is eclectic. I usually can’t say no to artists like Weird Al Yankovic, Austrian Death Machine, or Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. But I love classic rock of the 70s, pop music of the 80s, and punk of the 90s. I’d guess my favorite song is “The Break-Up Song” by the Greg Kihn Band.
What are your favorite books/novels/comics?
My favorite books are “Snow Crash” and “Zodiac” by Neal Stephenson and the “Song of Ice and Fire” series by George R. R. Martin. My favorite comic author is Warren Ellis, creator of “Transmetropolitan” and “Nextwave.”
How did you get started?
Very poorly. My first videos were largely improvised, slipshod efforts that mainly consisted of me slapping together loosely-edited footage and then narrating over it on a headset microphone. My process evolved quickly into having much more scripted formats, just so I could keep the pace and humor consistent, and it’s a much more professional presentation. I started making videos mainly to entertain my friends on a message board by showing them my own experiences struggling at all the bad games I could never beat as a kid. From there, my fanbase spread exclusively through word-of-mouth (word-of-blog?).
Actually, what really set word of the site running rampant on the Internet was when I started reviewing Final Fantasy 8. My early FF8 coverage wasn’t very good, even I admit, and to this day I regret making a few very tasteless jokes for cheap laughs (“Gay gay sissy gay!” Ugh.). But at that point, nobody had dared to tip over the sacred cows of Squaresoft. FF8 was still held in great reverence as one of the best examples of RPGs and a solid title in the Final Fantasy library. When I started making fun of it, people started passing the links around like crazy, and the reactions almost set the Internet on fire. I got thousands of e-mails, some in support, mostly decrying my blasphemy, horror-stricken at my sacrilege. I knew from that moment, I had to keep making videos like that, if only to keep generating responses that passionate. Love me or hate me, people were watching me and wanting to hear what I had to say next (even if it was complete, deranged insanity).
How can I get into reviewing?
I won’t lie. It’s a tough racket to get into, especially if you have hopes of making any kind of sustainable income. You have to generate a fanbase, and that’s not easy with as much competition as you’ll have. It’s best that you start out making videos out of a desire to entertain people rather than as a serious business plan. I’m just saying that the same way I’d warn anyone who’s considering a career in dance, acting, or singing. It’s tough to be successful, and it doesn’t always have much to do with talent. Make some videos and show your friends on message boards. Listen to their advice and make better videos, and keep refining your style, and if they’re good, your friends will pass the links on. Keep encouraging people to pass on the links if they like what they see. You have to grow a fanbase, and it’s slow-going. But that’s how I did it.
You don’t need a great camera, a great shooting space, or great audio. These things help, but it’s about finding your own style– something that sets you apart. You have to be comfortable in front of a camera. You have to be comfortable speaking, acting, and performing. You have to be prepared to make a total ass out of yourself in the name of entertainment. You also need to prepared to weather some pretty harsh criticism from the Internet audience, which can be notoriously brutal. You gotta be bulletproof to some pretty nasty, ignorant hate-speech.
What is your relationship to Channel Awesome and That Guy With the Glasses?
TGWTG was looking for new talent to help their own site grow, and they found me as one of the bigger movie/game critics on YouTube, so they offered me a partnership and featured my videos on their site. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’ve really loved the opportunity to work with Doug and Rob Walker in the Epic Brawl, Kickassia, and all the major crossover projects. It’s helped me meet and make videos with some of the funniest people on the Internet like Angry Joe, Linkara, the Game Heroes, Guru Larry, the Cinema Snob, Bennett the Sage, and many others.
What is your relationship to James Rolfe (the Angry Video Game Nerd) and ScrewAttack?
We made out one time, but it’s nothing serious.
Just kidding. James and I have worked together on a couple of projects like the TGWTG Epic Brawl (Nerd vs. Nostalgia Critic) and Deadliest Character. He’s been wonderfully cooperative with any requests for help I’ve sent his way. But truthfully, we aren’t in contact much. I’m working pretty much all the time, and I can only imagine how busy James must be with his numerous commitments, so I only bother him when strictly necessary. I have no formal relationship with ScrewAttack, but I was very happy to appear as a panelist and guest at SGC.
When is your next video?
I try to have a new video every 2 weeks, but this is a loose schedule. Sometimes I release videos a little faster, sometimes slower. It depends on a lot of things like upcoming conventions. I know this isn’t very helpful, but I release videos when they’re done and I’m happy with how they turned out.
I have an idea for a review. Can I make a request for a movie or game for you to talk about?
Sure, you can e-mail me your suggestions at email@example.com.
Can I contact you on Skype/MSN/AIM?
Sadly, no. I rarely use instant-messaging except when I’m collaborating with my co-workers.
Why don’t you ever respond to your e-mails? You bastard.
I know. I suck. I get such a huge volume of e-mails every day though, I can’t possibly respond to everyone. Heck, I can barely find the time to respond to people I work with. If I spent time responding to every e-mail I got, it’s all I’d be doing every day. Wouldn’t you rather I spent that time making more videos? I do read your e-mails when I can, but I’m very sorry that I can’t respond most of the time. It’s just not possible.
Are you planning to release any DVDs?
Not at the moment. I’m looking into creating videos that are more suitable for sale.
I’ve heard you’ve been having some health troubles. Are you ok?
2010 was a rough year for me, health-wise. I was out of commission for quite a while with a persistent and debilitating nerve condition the doctors diagnosed me with called vasodepressor syncope. It’s a fainting condition, aggravated whenever my heart rate gets above 130bpm or so. My heart squeezes too hard when it beats quickly, and it causes circulation problems. When that happens, my heart rate drops dramatically and I collapse. It got really bad and I was incapable of doing even minor household tasks without feeling nauseous.
The good news is, I’ve been seeing a doctor and we’re zeroing in on the right balance of medications to get the problem under control. I already feel a lot better. I’m working out, losing weight, and feeling a lot less-stressed about it.
Do you have a mailing address I can send letters or donations to?
Yep! I just got a P.O. Box. You can send your letters to:
2758 US Highway 34
STE B 156
Oswego, IL 60543