Meet Grant Lyon: A stand-up comic turned host of the new laugh-out-loud board game channel Grant's Game Recs...
Who is the man behind Grant's Game Recs?
My name is Grant Lyon and I’m a comedian and board game content creator. Hopefully
I’m also a swell guy, and you can trust that because I used the word swell. I’m a rare
breed - I was raised in Los Angeles. In a city of transplants, both of my parents were also
born and raised in LA and even one of my grandparents was raised here as well. Growing
up, I was always the class clown, constantly disrupting learning sessions with funny faces
and well-timed quotes from The Simpson’s. But I was also a good student because I don’t
fit into molds. Every report card, I had the same fight with my mother. She told me to pay
attention in class and I said, “What does it matter if I get good grades?!” Now that I’m
more mature, I feel bad for my former teachers because I was probably a little jerk.
My first love was soccer. I started playing at an early age and spent much of my free time
training. It was time well spent because I went on to play college soccer at UC Santa
Cruz. I continue to play soccer now, but I tore my ACL in 2020 trying to do a move.
Nobody even touched me and I got hurt, so that means I’m officially old.
I’ve got a wonderful family including an older sister, older brother and younger sister.
Every other person in my family has a Master’s Degree in something, so I like to learn
obscure facts before I go to family gatherings so I can seem smart too.
While I was in college, I started doing stand up comedy around campus and at local
coffee shops. By the time I was a senior and somebody asked for the thousandth time
what I was doing after college, I realized that college might end at some point for me. So
I decided to pursue stand up full-time after I graduated, and I’ve been a professional
comedian for about 10 years now.
For those unfamiliar with your videos, tell us a little bit about how your Youtube channel
all started and what your channel is all about.
As a professional comedian, I’ve spent many years touring around the country to
perform. When the Covid pandemic hit America in March 2020, all of my tour dates
canceled and my life changed over night. I live in a house with multiple other comedians,
known lovingly as The Dad Pad, and all their tour dates canceled as well. For that first
month, we played board games every night together as a way to maintain our collective
sanity. We liked games before the pandemic and hosted monthly game nights for other
comedians, but I’d never played games every single night for a month straight before.
I decided to start Grant’s Game Recs about a month into the pandemic because I wanted
to help other people find good games. It seems like hyperbole, but I felt like board games
were saving my life in April, and I wanted to help others find this hobby that I love.
My channel is all about short and funny videos about good games. I only cover board
games that I think are good and people will like – that’s why I call them recommendations and not reviews. My videos contain real information about games so you can find a new game you’ll like, and they also contain jokes so you can laugh at the same time. I want to be a place you start when looking for a new game. Watch ten of my videos (which will only take 15-20 minutes), and walk away being entertained and with two games you think fit your style.
Now, your channel is a fairly new one, having started up in just April of last year. As
time has gone on, though, how has your channel changed? What would be your biggest
takeaway from this experience so far?
As you mentioned, my series is still fairly young, so I don’t think it has changed too
much in terms of content. I’ve consistently been making short and funny videos about
good games. It has changed significantly in terms of production value though. When I
first started making these videos, I just threw them together as a way to help my friends
find games during the pandemic. As time has gone on, people have responded positively
to the videos and I realized they could be helpful and fun to people beyond just my
friends. I’ve acquired better lights and microphones and equipment to improve my
production value so people want to tune in.
My biggest takeaway from the experience so far is how welcoming and positive the board
game community has been. Sometimes the entertainment industry can feel like you’re
working against others to carve out your piece of the pie, but in board games, it feels like
we are all working together to raise awareness of this hobby that we love. I love
collaborating with others, and I’ve been astonished at how quickly people welcomed me
with open arms to the board game content creators community.
Walk us through what the general process looks like for creating your videos. From
conception to writing to uploading, how long does a single video typically take?
First of all, it’s important to me to play a game multiple times before making a video for
it. I want to get to know the game with different groups of people and with different
player counts. Then I feel like I really understand the game and who will like it. Next, I
sit down and write some jokes about the game. What’s a funny angle on it? What’s
something silly I can do in the video? Once I have a humorous approach, I set up a table
in my living room and force all of my roommates to shut up while I film. I don’t like to
have an exact script. I like to have an idea of what I want to say, but then I let myself
improv and ad lib in front of the camera. I usually film for about 10-15 minutes per video
and just let the camera roll. The hardest part for me is the editing. Picking out the funniest
takes is difficult! I make myself laugh and I want to keep every joke in there, but in the
end, I also don’t want the videos to be longer than about 2 minutes.
Prior to starting this series, you were a stand-up comedian and have appeared in movies,
on the radio, in TV shows... How is this kind of content creation similar to what you've
done prior and in what ways does it differ?
My series is actually very similar to stand-up. I’m still writing jokes, they just happen to
be about a very specific thing. Instead of thinking about my life to write a joke, I’m
thinking about a particular game. In that way, it’s helped me stay creative at a time when I can’t tour and perform live. It’s also similar to stand-up because in both mediums, I’m a
one-man creative team. I’m the writer, performer, director, and editor all in one. I make
all of the creative decisions, which is both incredibly rewarding and incredibly
vulnerable. If people don’t like a joke in stand-up or a video for Grant’s Game Recs,
there is nobody to blame but me.
Grant’s Game Recs differs significantly from the acting I’ve done in movies and TV
shows for those same reasons. When I’m on set, I am not a one-man creative team. It
doesn’t matter what I think, I’m there to do a part and play a role. Most directors and
producers will listen to your creative input, but they make the ultimate decisions. There’s
also a large amount of other people setting up all the cameras, lights, microphones,
getting everything ready for filming. That part I do miss having for my game series.
What are your biggest short and long-term goals for the channel?
My biggest short-term goal is to get to 3,000 subscribers on my YouTube channel! I’m
close and that feels like a cool milestone to hit. As I mentioned earlier, my long-term goal
for the channel is to be starting point for people getting into board games. I want people
to watch my videos for the entertainment value, but leave actually thinking about buying
a game or two. I love introducing people to the hobby! Lots of people still think board
games means Monopoly and Risk, and I’m excited to open their eyes to the great big
world of better games.
What are some of your favorite games to play right now?
The game I played most in 2020 was probably Champions of Midgard. I love dice rolling
and I love worker placement, and the two combined is magical. I also love Parks. It’s so
beautiful, and in a time when it feels like we’re stuck in our homes a lot, it feels like a
real escape. I played a lot of Just One over the holidays with my family. It’s collaborative
and easy to learn, so it’s perfect for family time.
My biggest thanks to Grant Lyon for agreeing to take part in this interview. If you want to find out more about Grant's Game Recs and help him reach his goal goal of 3,000 subscribers, click here.