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The Secrets of Their Success

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"There’re discussions on where else to go with the show, but right now, we’re really happy with how it’s performing on our page," he says.

Sandeep Parikh: The Gamers’ Comedian
The main thread that connects the work of Sandeep Parikh—whether co-starring as Zaboo in The Guild or creating, co-writing, directing, editing, and providing voice overs for The Legend of Neil—is video games. In fact, one of his favorite games, The Legend of Zelda, is the inspiration for Neil, which follows the adventures of a Trenton, N.J., native who is sucked into the game.

Figure 2
Figure 2.Sandeep Parikh (left) directs The Legend of Neil co-writer and star Tony Janning (right) during the filming of the series’ second season, slated to premiere this summer. The show follows the adventures of a Trenton, N.J., native who is sucked into the video game The Legend of Zelda.

According to Parikh, inspiration struck when his roommate received a care package from his mom that included an old Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and The Legend of Zelda, which he claimed he could complete in an hour. As Parikh watched his roommate play Zelda, he began to joke about some of the game’s curiosities and decided to put together a parody video for consideration on VH1’s Acceptable.TV program, which broadcasted one 2.5-minute, viewer-submitted video per episode.

"We put several hundred dollars out of our own pocket to make it, shot with whatever equipment we had lying around or friends would lend to us," Parikh says. "But then by the time we were done with the show, that show, Acceptable.TV, was cancelled. So we were like, ‘OK, I guess that’s out.’ So we just put it on YouTube."

The video went viral almost instantly, as several gaming blogs posted links to the program, driving its total views to more than 300,000 by the end of May 2007, the month it was launched. Parikh then used contacts he’d developed while pitching an independent television pilot to land a Neil deal with Comedy Central and Atom.com. After releasing five additional episodes beginning in July 2008, The Legend of Neil became the first web series to be picked up for a second season by Comedy Central, according to Parikh.

"Atom and Comedy Central, they’ve been great," he says. "They’re really cool about notes, and they don’t try to push their own agenda or anything like that. I think because they’re not necessarily putting in TV money, they’re like, ‘Let’s let the creator express himself.’"

The show is available via Atom.com, Xbox, iTunes, My Damn Channel, and Effinfunny.com, a channel Parikh founded in March 2006. He would also like to repost the first video and make the rest of the series available via YouTube, but he needs to get approval from Atom.com first.

"Basically Atom has the rights to distribute via the internet, so it’s up to them," he says. "I suggest places. I suggest things to do, but we have to wait for them to decide. That’s part of the give and take of signing up with a production company. They give us money, but they have control over where it’s distributed."

To market the program, Parikh is taking full advantage of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. He says that he and Neil co-writer/star Tony Janning try to engage in a "natural and fun" dialog with fans, posting messages, show updates, and links to other content they find funny. The sites were also instrumental in the development of Neil’s second season, which is scheduled to debut this summer, as the show’s fans often rushed to the rescue when funding ran low.

"Our safety net was our fan base, for sure," Parikh says. "I’d just throw up a Twitter or something just being like, ‘We’re dying for electric department people to come help out,’ and sure enough, there’s two or three people."

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