"I really think there’s such a thing as being unhealthily ambitious."
September 27, 2023 6:47 AM   Subscribe

Dropout is celebrating its fifth anniversary. Dropout, a streaming service born from the ashes of CollegeHumor, is dropping the CH brand altogether; its CEO, Sam Reich, talked about the site's indie rebirth on Vulture and on Polygon, the latter alongside Dropout's resident dungeon master and socialist folk hero, Brennan Lee Mulligan. Apart from the channel's Dimension 20 D&D series (sample episode here), Dropout is best known for the improv-heavy game show Game Changer, in which players imitate mac and cheese, combat unruly lie detectors, improvise full musicals, harsh the vibes, name birds, and generally cause undue amounts of chaos. (Several full episodes are available here.)
posted by Tom Hanks Cannot Be Trusted (26 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Dropout's resident dungeon master and socialist folk hero

A Dom DM
posted by BungaDunga at 7:06 AM on September 27 [2 favorites]

If you're not watching "Um, Actually" on Dropout, you're really missing out.
posted by hanov3r at 7:23 AM on September 27 [5 favorites]

I'm a subscriber. I enjoy the game shows and the live play D&D stuff. I'm a sucker for groups of funny folk who look like they're all friends having a good time putting on a show.
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 7:36 AM on September 27

Oooooh you beat me to making this post - I was trying to figure out a way to frame it that didn't make me look like a dropout marketing plug, since I love the service and shows so damn much. Dimension20 is hands down the best actual-play series out there, with a huge array of tones and settings. Sample eps of the opener of each season are on YouTube - these openers often have the most scene-setting and character introduction, so there's a lot of one-on-one time between players and DM; once the season starts rolling you get even more rollicking and rowdy collab between the players themselves (not that the openers are completely devoid of that). Some examples:

Fantasy High: a world of trad style Euro fantasy, except for the central city which is a modern-adjacent suburb with a John Hughes style gang of high schoolers studying at the Aguefort Adventuring Academy

Tiny Heist: an absolute delight of a collab with the McElroy fam, picture The Borrowers + Toy Story in an Ocean's 11 style caper

A Crown of Candy: the political turmoil and grim turns of a Game of Thrones-esque storyline, but set in and adjacent to Candyland.

Misfits and Magic: with Guest DM (and soon to be regular) Aabria Iyengar! Four American teens find themselves whisked away to a very British wizarding school that is Definitely Not Hogwarts, and balance between adapting to this new world or tearing it all down.

A Court of Fey and Flowers: another absolute Aabria banger, this will get all your Regency needs met and Bridgerton thirst slaked, set in a gala thrown in the Seelie court.

And basically every other series as well, they're all so damn good. In addition, there's the series Adventuring Party, which digs into the episodes with the players in a post-sesh debrief kind of way that frequently just disintegrates into hilarious lunacy. And Adventuring Academy - long-form interviews between Brennan and different guests, to explore just what running a game is *about*, and how they handle different elements of engagement and joy with players and stories, and also the best snacks to have at the table. (and of course we can't forget to highlight Brennan's very particular opinions on snacking)
posted by FatherDagon at 7:41 AM on September 27 [7 favorites]

I can't neglect the entire Game Changer episode that introduces the Noise Boys - an episode that starts fairly straightforward and then becomes... something more.
posted by FatherDagon at 7:51 AM on September 27 [3 favorites]

One of my favorite Make Some Noise bits: an ad for the new McDonald's Sandwich: the Macbeth.

Also a must watch is the episode of Game Changer where they improvise a whole-ass Shakespeare play. And the episode that's a room escape game!

Anyway, I'm also a subscriber and consider it streaming cash well-spent. Though I do keep trying and failing to get into Dimension 20. It's too easy for my attention to wander during the episodes, and then I end up lost, and don't end up finishing. But I have been enjoying Mentopolis!
posted by yasaman at 8:05 AM on September 27 [3 favorites]

So I'm a massive bird nerd and I watched the "name birds" episode of Game Changer and I knew all of the birds purposefully picked to stump one of the players, so there BRENNAN.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:07 AM on September 27 [3 favorites]

I subscribed to watch Game Changer and Um, Actually, and I would describe the vibe as similar to a British panel show but less polished and the guests seem more like friends trying to make each other laugh.
posted by jomato at 8:08 AM on September 27 [2 favorites]

I enjoy the Dropout cinematic universe and am very happy for them and their success! Describing themselves as “dropping out of capitalism” does make me roll my eyes a bit, tho.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:37 AM on September 27 [1 favorite]

Tumblr circulates these clips so much, and they're always a delight.

A Defendant Stupidly Interrupting His Lawyer's Closing Remarks

"Story of Sisyphus" by Tom Waits

"Would you take a bite?"

posted by gc at 8:47 AM on September 27 [8 favorites]

Worth noting: Sam Reich is the son of political commentator and former US SecLabor Robert Reich. Jokes about his being a trust-fund baby are rampant in some of the properties (definitely comes up on "Breaking News").
posted by hanov3r at 9:10 AM on September 27 [1 favorite]

I mainly see this stuff filtered through DeepBlueInk's animations and if I didn't already pay for way too many other streaming services and Patreon feeds I'd get Dropout in a heartbeat
posted by jason_steakums at 9:11 AM on September 27

That Tom Waits Sisyphus is fucking amazing.
posted by nushustu at 9:44 AM on September 27 [7 favorites]

I rediscovered the vlogbothers and through Hank Green’s involvement in the recent Dimension 20 show Mentopolis ended up with an annual Dropout subscription. It was truly the best thing to have when I finally got COVID a few weeks later and isolated in our living room for a week. The fact that the Dropout fans are introduced to Hank Green and vice versa is a nice cross pollination of good things I think.

I’ve consumed entirely too much Dimension 20 in the last month to have a lot stronger opinions about Actual Play D&D than I thought I ever would. There is a lot of different types to watch, I found the side quests (Escape from Bloodkeep, Mentopolis, etc) easier to get into than the tent pole series that everyone says to watch in order. Ally Beardsley is a great comedian but I found their “doing the funniest thing possible in the moment” in the earlier seasons without regard to the story or game mechanics jarring to me. Might just be how I end up getting overly invested in the emotional beats of the story to miss the comedy of it, but it did make it hard to get into Unsleeping City.

Burrow’s End GMed by Aabria Iyengar looks to be delightful. I’m listening to Worlds Beyond Number right now (it is a piece of art in and of itself) and I’m super excited to see more collaboration involving Brennan, Erika, and Aabria.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:21 AM on September 27 [2 favorites]

I realize there are hundreds of Game Changer clips, and everyone has their favourite. But, you're all objectively wrong, because this is the best one:

The deviled egg.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 10:30 AM on September 27 [5 favorites]


Brennan Lee Mulligan, after not winning a single point in one episode of Game Changer, thinks he's figured out why.

This is a brilliant example of Brennan's Whole Thing.
posted by gc at 10:32 AM on September 27 [6 favorites]

My favorite BLM thing on Dropout is A Message from the CEO of Skype. (loud and NSFW)
posted by The Tensor at 10:51 AM on September 27 [2 favorites]

So happy that they found a way to keep creating, one of the longest running continuous threads of watch/consumption on the internet for me. But part of me was hoping that the big announcement was going to be the merger of Dropout and Nebula so that I could just get one and be done with it :-p
posted by mincus at 11:19 AM on September 27 [1 favorite]

posted by SonInLawOfSam at 11:59 AM on September 27 [8 favorites]

"Sam Reich is the son of political commentator and former US SecLabor Robert Reich."
Sam's Dad, Robert Reich, tells all.
posted by Mutant Lobsters from Riverhead at 5:42 PM on September 27 [4 favorites]

Animator DeepBlueInk makes the best of GameChanger even better:

Name that Bird

Deviled Egg

Brennan Can't Win
posted by mmoncur at 4:01 AM on September 28

Oh, and Closing Remarks
posted by mmoncur at 4:06 AM on September 28

Bandcamp news today makes me wish it had taken that Dropout “healthily unambitious” approach
posted by Going To Maine at 10:08 AM on September 28 [2 favorites]

That Tom Waits Sisyphus is fucking amazing.

Depending on your taste/perspective, that Tom Waits Sisyphus might not even be the best moment in that particular episode. That bit is absolutely incredible, and probably my favorite, but it's not the only jaw-dropping moment.
posted by EvaDestruction at 10:10 AM on September 28 [1 favorite]

I love Dropout so much. Easily the best $5 in my monthly budget, and best value for hours watched per dollar spent.

If we're calling out best Game Changer episodes, there's an excellent Shakespeare based episode A Game Most Changed. It features three members of the Improvised Shakespeare Company, and the whole episode just feels like magic.
posted by Torosaurus at 6:07 AM on September 29 [3 favorites]

I subscribed to watch Game Changer and Um, Actually, and I would describe the vibe as similar to a British panel show but less polished and the guests seem more like friends trying to make each other laugh.

I think this is what's interesting to me about Dropout: they've stumbled into the American panel show, a thing that, with certain rare exceptions, I thought Americans just could not do. The secret appears to be not the actual format, but the talent realising that there's going to be like five more of these so don't get so invested in winning this specific one.
posted by Merus at 10:47 AM on September 29 [4 favorites]

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