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Main > Escapist Interviews > An Interview with Andrew Koenig

May, 2001       

An interview with Andrew Koenig

Not long ago, I received a press release about an interesting project - a "live sitcom" based on the lives of three roleplayers entitled, simply enough, Gamers.

The show is written and directed by Andrew Koenig, who is probably best known for his role as Richard "Boner" Stabone on the television series Growing Pains.  Andrew took some time out to speak with me one Friday, just a few hours before episode three of his "live sitcom" was to hit the stage.

Okay, first is the inevitable question.  I'll get it out of the way right at the start.  Are you a "gamer?"

No.  I tried it when I was thirteen, but it was too cerebral for me.  It felt like the DM was just making it up.

What inspired you to write Gamers?

It was one of many sketches for a show I was the head writer and director on.  While we shot the sketches, I felt that we had a sitcom on our hands.

Why a sketch about gamers, though?  What brought you to the point where you were writing that original sketch, and decided to focus on role-players? 

Well it's like this. "Warped" was designed to be a sketch show focusing on sci-fi, horror and fantasy.  We did a lot of parodies of sci-fi shows and horror shows, but were desperate to come up with the fantasy quota.  First, there are few such shows to parody, and second, we didn't have a big enough budget for dragons and orcs.  So Michael actually came up with the idea of three guys playing an RPG.  Since then I have made modifications to the characters and focus of the show.

"Warped" sounds like a great idea for a show.  Do you have any plans to 
continue it, without the Gamers segments?

I was hired to do that show so it's out of my hands.  I would love to do more because I had such a great time.  But I'm lucky to be working with some "Warped" people on Gamers.

Do you have a resident "gaming expert" on your staff who supplies the gaming lingo, or do you just wing it? 

One of our actors, Michael Orenstein, helps out with some of the gaming terms and with my butchering of the English language.  Originally Wil Wheaton was going to be involved with the show and, as you may know, is a big gamer.  So I was hoping he would help me out with the technical stuff.  But ultimately he wasn't able to commit due to a very busy schedule.  When the show is sold, I do hope to have a resident gamer on staff who will actually take us through campaigns so that we can truly understand the world of gaming and keep us true.  I feel it is important to have references that only the Gamers will get.

Tell us a little about the storyline.

Lars is a young man attending his first year of college away from home.  His father was always discouraging to him, so he never developed any true interests or friends.  He meets Maelich, (a 35 year-old-man who spent the last 17 years in junior college playing a sword and sorcery RPG and avoiding life) and Valgus (another gamer with unknown origin).  The latter, who live out their characters with medieval costume and speech, take Lars under their tutelage and make him Derwan the Warrior.  But Lars is torn between his Gamer roomates and his Jock roomate Ken, who tries to help Lars be "normal".  Much of the show's humor comes from this struggle.  Lars also has a crush on Crimson, a Goth chick who lives down the hall.  And Ken has a crush on the peppy floor RA Justine.

Are any of the elements of Gamers based on real-world inspirations?

My only real-world inspiration is maybe the people who go to Star Trek conventions and dress up.  I was kind of raised around that environment.  The show is very broad in it's comedy and thus not particularly realistic.  I take creative inspiration from "Black Adder" and "Fawlty Towers" as well as some of the American ensemble sitcoms of the late 1970's and early '80's like "Taxi", "Soap", "Barney Miller" and "WKRP in Cincinnati".

Is this a series?  Is there more than one episode?

Yes.  I have written five episodes.  We show a new one every other week.  Currently we are in the second week of Episode 3.

Is this your first "live sitcom," or have there been others? 

This is the first time I have attempted anything like this.  I have produced and performed in live sketch and improvistaion shows.

You're on your third episode now - how has the audience reaction been?

I feel that it's been great. The audiences are smaller than I'd like, but they seem to enjoy it. We have a few people who come back over and again.

I'm sure there are many of us who would love to stop by and sit through an episode, but don't have the frequent flyer miles to warrant it.  What are the chances that this will make it to cable or video?

Of course the dream is to sell this to a network. Most likely a cable entity like Comedy Central or the Sci-Fi Channel.  As far as the chances... that is unknown.  We are hoping to create interest in the show through this production.  Keep your fingers crossed.

I would be remiss if I were to leave out any mention of your Star Trek heritage.  (This site does cater to the fan community, after all).  Not only are you the son of Walter Koening, you also had a part in an episode of "Deep Space Nine;"  yet you appear to have left out any Trekkie stereotypes in Gamers.  Is this sacred ground for you, an easy target, or am I missing the mark completely?

I am dealing with people who specifically play a sword and sorcery RPG.  I realize that there is a crossover audience and I have reached out to them via conventions and websites.  I am avoiding calling any game or show by name to keep things general.  At some point, if Gamers were to become a reality on television, I would like to add characters who play other types of RPGs (science fiction, etc.).  I have plans to have Crimson play a Vampire RPG.  Specifically about Star Trek, I think the stereotypes and references have been done to death (Galaxy Quest, Free Enterprise, William Shatner just being William Shatner).  I'm trying to present something that has not been
seen on TV before.

The media and entertainment industry have been less than kind to the gamer stereotype in the past, portraying us as social outcasts or much worse. Lately, we've seen that change, with shows like Freaks and Geeks and others that poke more fun and throw fewer stones.  Where do you think Gamers lies on this scale?  Are you cruel, kind, or a little of both? 

Actually we walk the line between the two sides.  Our Gamers are outcasts by the standards of the college students around them, but they live in their own world where they are heroes.  We don't have people making stupid sitcom put-down jokes at the Gamers' expense.  Their jock roommate Ken may call them "geeks", but they just as easily look down on him for "playing with balls."  It's a tug of war.  We poke fun at everyone.  All the characters are stereoypes to a degree.  And all of them are acting out of their insecurities.  My main goal is for the Gamers to always come out on top with Ken being their foil.  Instead of being the geeky, sitcom sidekicks, these guys are the leads.  Think Marx Brothers.  They were "wacky" and out of place, but they were always the winners. 

Andrew, thanks for your time, and I wish you all the best of luck with Gamers.  Here's hoping it makes it to prime time!

Thanks, Bill. 
Gamers is showing Friday nights at Midnight, now through May 18th, at the Acme Comedy Theatre (135 N. La Brea Ave., Hollywood CA 90036).  Tickets are $7.00 in advance, or $10.00 for you procrastinators.  To reserve tickets, call 323-525-0202.  For more info, including directions and nifty cast photos, visit the Gamers website at: