Crit Juice manages to mix two volatile activities with the potential to go horribly wrong – gaming and drinking – and ends up with a situation where it’s extremely funny. Whether it’s the “juice” or the players involved, they apparently got the magical formula just right for a hilarious podcast. (If you haven’t listened to them yet, pop over to their site and spend some time laughing… I’ll wait!)
When an opportunity came up (thanks Brianne!) to interview the guys behind the show, I jumped on it without hesitation. After all, as a gamer I too am always looking for the secret of the “Crit Juice”!
Keep in mind that these guys head into NSFW territory at times (depending on your NSFW tolerance it’s pretty minor), so be forewarned!
Q: Could you introduce yourselves to our audience? Maybe share a bit about Crit Juice, how it got started, and how it’s going so far?
Matt B: I’m Matt Buchholtz, I play “Doc Keratin” the party’s cleric. I work at Groundlings Theatre and write comedy as well as freelance graphic design.
Brian: I am Brian McGrath. I play Wolf.
Gary: Hey, my name is Gary M. Soldati. I play the Dwarven Swordmage, Gralford. We had all met at Groundlings and our geek/nerd souls drew us to each other.
David: I’m David – the almighty game master. I mete out judgment upon the mortals who populate my world, though I have been known to be merciful.
Daniel: I’m Daniel Acker. I play Arience who is a human Wizard, prince. I perform improv, sketch, and stand up comedy. I love making people laugh. I love nerding out! So, getting drunk whilst playing D&D made perfect sense.
Cook: Crit Juice got started after about a year of playing D&D for fun. Gary asked a bunch of his pals who would be interested in playing D&D with him and a few of us said we were super interested. We started playing with Gary as our DM.
Matt B: As we met more and more, we started the tradition of bringing in new alcohol every week to our games. We started calling the drink of the night our “Crit Juice” under the idea that once imbibed, those who drank it would roll higher.
Cook: And things got super critty.
Matt: It wasn’t uncommon to finish a handle in a night.
Cook: So we played for about a year and then Matt B came up with the idea of recording it. We were having so much fun and making each other laugh we thought maybe we could share it with like-minded folks. But we wanted Gary to play with us, we got tired of just kicking the snot out of all his encounters. So Matthew called David, and here we are.
Gary: Besides the fact that I am a lightweight in the drinking column and I am still working on my “public” Dwarf voice, things couldn’t be better. We get to play D&D with an AMAZING DM, who’s imagination is second only to his patience. We get to sit around, have drinks/food donated to us and run our mouths. We are so fortunate for the support of our families, friends, community and complete strangers. We Crit in a big way with this group.
Q: What is the best “Crit Juice” the group has discovered so far in their adventuring? Are there particular liquors or cocktails that seem to work best to keep the critical fumbles away?
Brian: The original Crit Juice was Coke Zero without booze but then we needed to give it more kick so Jameson got added.
Tom: The whiskey keeps the players loose-lipped and their game-play ballsy and the Coke Zero keeps the energy up when it gets into those wee hours of the morning.
Matt B: I drink like my character drinks. He carries around a keg of 200 Proof Keratin Family Whisky, distilled in the belly of a dragon. So as long as I’m drinking something “manly” I feel like I’m doing my character justice. I have the most crits, currently, so I might be on to something…
Daniel: The best Crit Juice so far has been from Rock Bottom Brewery. Mainly because they were our first sponsors with some of their fine beer. That gets me so excited that we’re getting recognition and places want us to drink and enjoy their products.
David: I fell into a deep sort of romantic love with Rock Bottom Brewery’s Winter Tartan Scottish Ale. Drinking it is like having a gorgeous woman slap you across the face with a velvet glove.
Gary: The beer from Rock Bottom was amazing… It made me feel like a Dwarven King.
Matt B: The Winter Tartan had a real nice tone to it- smooth with a heavy malt. It wasn’t as abrasive as a stout, but had a similar body.
Brian: We have started crafting our own special recipes like the Moscow Minotaur. Equal parts Vodka, Rock Bottom Signal Hill Gold (or available Pale Ale) and Grapefruit Juice. It’s a Moscow Mule on steroids.
Cook: We do some Cinnamon Whiskey shots at times, too, because Fonss makes us. And watching Gary take those shots is amazing. For being the biggest, toughest, handsomest of all the boys, he sure can whimper.
David: The Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey does seem to do a good job of getting the guys…dare I say…fired up! Although they continue to roll abysmally, no matter what.
David: Speaking as the DM, my favorite moment came after Gub the Dragonborn (played by Tom) reconnected with an old flame (Dovana) of his in the City of Assassins. As a human being, my favorite moment came in episode two when everyone started taking off their pants at the table
Tom: She was someone I had just mentioned briefly in my character’s backstory and David took a paragraph’s worth of description and created a fully-formed, ridiculously awesome character from it and that’s just reason #327 why we have the best DM in all of D&D.
Cook: My favorite moment so far has been in episode 4 of the podcast. I had a pretty huge turn where I got to do some really fun stuff. Aided by a Crit and a free move action from Brian (which he got from unlocking an achievement) I was able to cover a lot of ground and still dish out some damage. And watching Tom fall in love with David as Gub and Dovana fall in love all over again. It was intense.
Gary: I think anytime I make eye contact with Tom/Gub, that’s my favorite moment. He makes me feel like I am the only person/Dwarf/person in the Forgotten Realms and that no one else matters…it’s special.
Matt B: My favorite story-line moment has to be when we met the Red Cloaks. Everyone was pumped from the encounter with Lloyd (the giant head that spewed hands) and we were ready for another fight. Seeing a group of mercenaries enter the town, we all had our dice ready to roll initiative. I don’t think any of us even had the slightest idea that they would end up giving us directions for our next quest.
Daniel: My favorite part of the podcast story so far is getting to relive it. I’ll listen to the podcast and go, “Oh man! I was so drunk! I didn’t even remember we fought that huge pus-demon!”
Q: Why a podcast instead of starting a new YouTube channel?
Cook: I think that with just audio, it allows listeners to paint the pictures in their minds, instead of just watching me pinch my friends while they try to talk.
Daniel: I enjoy the feel of a podcast because it reminds me more of an old radio serial. Also, if there were footage, people wouldn’t hear anything… they’d just get lost in Gary’s eyes.
Brian: Nowadays podcasts are so accessible, you can listen from anywhere!
Gary: Also, Matthew/Doc edits the &%$# out of our episodes and makes them bearable. The unedited sessions are 8-12 hours long. We are not that entertaining.
Matt B: No one has that sort of attention span at a computer. We are looking to have video content at our YouTube Channel in the future, though, so keep your eyes open.
Q: How would the cast of characters in-game introduce themselves to the players if they met somewhere in a bar between worlds?
Brian: “What up dog. My name is Wolf. I am looking for these fuckers called the veiled eye. They are huge assholes going around kidnapping people and sacrificing them. Bunch of bullshit. You know anything?”
Daniel: Arience would presume that everyone in the bar already knows who he is. He’s the crowned prince to the land of ThunderBlood. He has a pretty amazing wardrobe.
Tom: I’d like to think that me & my character “Gub” would be instantaneous buds but he’s a Dragonborn, ex-mob hit man and I cried during Wall-E so I don’t think that’d be the case. Nevertheless, we can both hold our own when it comes to heavy drinking and we both have a soft spot for whiskey, so I’d like to imagine that we’d meet via some drinking contest in some dingy dive and we’re the last two ugly schmucks left standing.
Cook: Dar’Jjeeki would approach me, Matt Cook, and smiley widely. Tap me on the shoulder and when I turned around ask “Are you my mother?” And then we would both turn and watch David shake his head disapprovingly. Then Dar’Jjeeki and I would laugh really hard and order each other the tastiest of cocktails and begin a long drunken night of trouble making.
Matt B: Doc would probably smack me so hard on the back that I would fall over. Then he would remind me that he has reach one. After that, I think that we could actually be pretty good drinking buddies. We’d compare stories of camping, mustache tips, and the smokey flavor of a good whisky.
Gary: Our characters are such a part of who we are in real life, it would be so much fun to watch. Gralford and I would talk caves, axes and shields the whole time…or at least until 23 minutes in, when I pass out. Lightweight is an understatement.
Q: Has anyone passed out from drinking too much during one of these sessions? If anyone *did* pass out, would they be tended to nicely or mocked mercilessly?
David: Astoundingly, no one has passed out yet. I think they would be tended to nicely. The sort of drinking we do is not the lackadaisical drinking of the every man. The players grapple with heroic amounts of alcohol each session – wading deep into the swamp of Inebriation in a quixotic quest for true enlightenment. A man who passes out under the weight of such a task should be ushered to sleep by a host of sweet angel babies.
Matt B: If someone did pass out, I like to think that we’d tuck them in, but knowing Cook there would probably be some sort of punishment dealt out.
Daniel: We’d make sure they were safe and okay, and once we were sure they weren’t dying, we’d mock them to no end.
Gary: I love these guys so much and I know that they feel the same way. I would NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER pass out in front of them. They would murder me. Love with no mercy. NEVER.
Cook: In one of our Pre-Crit Juice games I definitely fell asleep at the table. The boys were kind to me but only because I was playing the Defender and they needed me to wake up and take more attacks.
Tom: I’ve certainly blacked out before and during our latest session I decided to take off my pants to “gain combat advantage.”
Brian: After every session I feel like it takes a lot to recall the whole adventure. Who knows, if someone fully passed out, it may unlock an achievement from David. Then I am sure it would be celebrated.
Q: What’s been the biggest surprise so far with how the podcast has been received by the gaming community?
David: That people actually know about us. There are such a large number of D&D podcasts and such out there already. I thought it would be much more difficult to get recognized.
Cook: I think it’s been the overwhelming response from the D&D community. With the exception of David, Matthew, and Gary, none of us are trained in how to play. We’re still pretty new to it. But I think our excitement and passion for the game carries through to the people that also feel the same way.
Daniel: I think a lot of that has to do with our amazing DM, David. He gives the game the legitimacy it needs so people in the D&D community don’t hate us.
Brian: I also love the fact that people who are not part of the D&D world really getting into. I think the most common response from them is “loving the podcast even when I have no idea what you guys are talking about.”
Gary: A lot of the comments start with; “I have no idea what is going on but I can’t stop laughing.” Or “Why didn’t you second wind, drop your encounter, action point and drop your daily on that demi-god.” So I am getting it from both sides and loving it.
Matt B: I’d have to say my favorite part of the community is hearing from people who are listening to the podcast in other countries. It’s crazy just knowing that our drunken games are listened to across the globe. We have listeners in Norway and Korea. I have no idea how they heard of us, but they’re my favorite listeners.
Cook: I was prepared for friends to politely listen to it. But to have strangers listen, enjoy, and participate in it is really something special.
Tom: I was confident the response was going to be positive but day after day I marvel at how excited and supportive our listeners are. We’d keep trucking along with “Crit Juice” no matter what the reception was like but the fans have made this whole venture extraordinary and we can’t thank our listeners enough for their support and their Crit Deck submissions.
Q: Is there any competition (friendly or otherwise) between other shows of a similar nature like Nerd Poker on Earwolf or Beer and Battle?
David: Not as of yet. But that’s probably because other podcasts are too intimidated by us.
Gary: I don’t feel like there is but I also don’t think there is anything quite like Crit Juice out there.
Matt B: We come at the game from a very improv-based angle. Everyone has a character that they play with a very defined point of view, and it’s fun to see those lines blurred as the party gets more and more intoxicated. Personally, I’d love to meet up with people from other podcasts and have a little crossover.
Cook: I’m sure though if our paths crossed with fellow podcasters there would definitely be some in-game sparing matches. I mean, that has happened with us Crit Juice boys and we’re all on the same team.
Gary: It is so much easier to be a geek/nerd now than it has ever been. Anything we do to further the movement is good for everyone.
Daniel: I love knowing that the nerd world is blowing up. I do believe we are entering an Era of Nerd. Get on board!
Q: What can listeners do to get involved with the crew at Crit Juice?
Matt B: At Crit Juice we’re really proud of how much we involve the audience. The Drinking Gods and the Crit Decks are our most popular ways for the audience to get involved. The Drinking Gods allow listeners to submit drinking game rules that we have to play by each session.
Cook: At the top of each session we roll a D6 to decide how many other drinking rules we’ll incorporate. Those additional rules come from submissions. We’ve had some pretty awesome ones so far. And by awesome, I mean dangerous for our livers.
Matt B: In our last game we had to draw five- we were drunk before the first encounter ended. Then we have the Crit Decks – those cards determine what happens to a player when they roll a 1 or a 20. We’ve had some hilarious entries with everything from Natalie Portman to orphaned kittens being brought into the game. They make it really fun as an improviser to try to justify what just happened.
Cook: It’s a really fun way for us to be surprised and involve the people who are putting up with my drunken screaming.
Matt B: We also have occasional plot points which listeners can choose what happens via online poll. Personally, I’ve never heard of any other podcast that gives so much power to the listener.
Brian: Also there is Ask Monday where we answer your questions, and of course we love chatting with you on Twitter. Keep a look out for future video content too like helping me find a girlfriend on “Single. (Save Ends)”
David: We also run prize giveaways to loyal tweeters.
Gary: Let us know what we are doing right and wrong. We are very vocal and very accessible. Keep listening and spreading the Crit Juice!
Q: If there’s a question nobody has asked yet that you’d like to answer, what would the question and answer be?
Gary: Yes, that is my real voice. I’m sorry.
Daniel: Who’s the coolest person in Crit Juice? A: Listen and decide for yourself.
Cook: If you could play as another player’s character, who would you play and why? I would play as Arience and just drop his Princess Points into the dirt. Or Wolf so I could deal even more damage than Dar’Jj. Or Doc because I know he’s got some cool stuff hidden his cart and I want to check it out. Or Gralford, just so I can have SOMETHING in common with Handsome Gary… I would never play as Gub because I wouldn’t want to rob any of us or our listeners of that very bizarre pleasure.
Matt B: I would love for Rainn Wilson to ask if he could play with us. The answer would be yes.
I want to thank the guys behind Crit Juice for answering my questions – I wish Matt Buchholtz, Brian McGrath, Gary M. Soldati, David Crennen, Daniel Acker, Tom Fons, and Matt Cook all the best with the podcast so we can enjoy many many more episodes and adventures with their characters! And a huge thank you goes out to Brianne Richard for organizing the interview!
Check out Crit Juice today on their alcohol-fueled adventures!