The Comedy of Eri Neeman: How PH’s Boy Back Up put up a show that entertained international esports
Posted by Caisam Yvez Nopueto January 22, 2018

Editor’s note: The following is a personal commentary and does not reflect the views of ggnetwork.tv

Probably anyone can become an esports caster. Maybe anyone can be an events host. Or maybe an esports talent can come from anywhere. Then again, as it was said in a movie about a rat cooking delicious food, only the fearless can be great.

And in my own search for greatness while at the Galaxy Battles II Dota 2 tournament, the stand out was definitely Eri Neeman‘s performance. This guy rocked the whole Dota community with his crazy antics, dank memery, and just genuine passion for his job. It’s impossible to watch him and not just feel the purity of his spirit when it comes to eSports and his love as an events host.

Fortunately, I got the chance to talk to him, right after he pulled off that Ode to Shanghai Major segment. Like many people, I was really excited to talk to him about how he was able to pull it off — I mean, why would Fallout or the rest of the organizing body of Galaxy Battles II even allow Eri to actually make fun of themselves?

Only the fearless can be great

“They wanted to still do the event,” Eri said, after we both talked about how devastating it was for the whole PH Dota scene after Galaxy Battles II’s Major status was rescinded by Valve. This was coming from the fact that almost everybody in the PH esports scene (and the whole scene in general) weren’t hopeful anymore about the event. “The segments were my idea, I presented to them and they were happy with it.”

Needless to say, his segments were plain crazy. And at the same time, amazing. He practically made fun of all of Galaxy Battles II’s faults; from the venue being ridiculously hard for Filipino people to go to, to having an overwhelming amount of empty seats in the first two days, to even relating the event to that dreaded Shanghai Major of 2016. Only the fearless, indeed, can pull it off, because only the fearless looked at the bigger picture.

“When they decided to push through, I said ‘let’s do it!’. You wanna pull off a show, but you also have to stay true to the nature of what everyone is feeling, or the reality,” Eri added. He then said, “and that’s how these segments came about. Say what you will about these organizers, but how many organizers are going to say yes to you making fun of them?”

What separates Eri Neeman from other esports talent is his maturity, and how this trait goes well with his boldness and creativity. He commended the organizers’ willingness to make make fun of themselves, just because it’s one way to deal with the situation. Almost everybody in the PH scene counted Galaxy Battles out, but that didn’t stop the event from happening. Even after the doubts, when it came to the actual thing, there were even more hiccups for the event.

Eri narrated how the organizers were very much open to his segment suggestions. “I’m glad that they were very supportive of the idea, and they came up as far as helping and coming up with their own,” Eri said.

I, myself, thought that the organizers were ambitious. Mall of Asia Arena, the usual go-to place for International Dota 2 LANs in the Philippines has a reported seating capacity (for sporting events) of 15,000. Key Arena, boasts of around 17,000 capacity as it hosted The International for the past few years. Philippine Arena, however, is currently the largest in-door arena in the world already house 55,000 attendees before.

There were many other factors for Galaxy Battles’ attendance to be hindered. Philippine Arena is not easily accessible to everyone as it could be one to three hours (depending on the state of traffic) of drive from Manila itself. Tournament tickets weren’t cheap either. Plus, many of the most awaited top teams didn’t even bother attending the event after losing its Major status. Man, the best way do describe pulling off Galaxy Battles, at least for me, was ambitious. 

Well, Eri Neeman told me, “You know, ambition like that is good.”

“No one wants to do it. No one ever thought of doing that here, To say that you’re doing Philippine Arena, you’re willing to fail that big. I think that’s a potential. If that stays true and they learn and they grow. We may have another big organization in the southeast Asian scene and that’s healthy.”

You be the judge whether or not the Galaxy Battles II was a fail or not. Eri Neeman, however, looks at events like these in how the organizers actually deal with the situation presented to them. “It’s a great experience for growth, for them, and for me as an entertainer. For someone who’s there for the show and who’s there to deliver. I think it’s great. I love it,” he said.

The Eri Neeman brand

Eri Neeman is such a unique talent. If you’re an esports event organizer and you want to hire Eri Neeman, boy, you have to be prepared for the memes. Because when you get Eri Neeman for your esports event, all his segments come with him.

However, what strikes to me as one of the best ways to look at Eri Neeman is to look at his craft, particularly his stint as Boy Back-up. I’m about to tell you quite a flashback story, so buckle up.

About maybe six years ago, a comedy show aired in PH Television (and was really famous in the country) called Bubble Gang had this funny segment called Boy Pick Up. This segment is basically a parody of Rap Battles, but instead of rhymes and bars, the players actually top each other’s pickup lines. Most of the pick-up lines were cheesy and can actually please women as they make sense. The protagonist, and the all-time champion, Boy Pick Up, however, just made no sense. That’s the joke: his pick-up lines were always out of line, and nobody would ever understand. Yes, the protagonist’s pick-up lines were trash.

The reason how he wins? Well, after Boy Pick Up delivers his nonsensical lines, this particular Boy Back Up always yells, “ang lupet mo talaga, Boy Pick Up! (you’re really great, Boy Pick Up!)”. In all of Boy Pick Up’s victories, the only reason why the crowd cracks up and the judges choose him is because of how Boy Back Up seemingly hypes up the moment and makes something out of nothing.

By the way, the Boy Back Up was Eri Neeman himself.  Boy Back Up was a character was a product of a spontaneous idea when the team were developing the Boy Pick Up Segment. Eri Neeman was telling the production how the crowd should react after Boy Pick Up delivered his pick up line, and during rehearsal. was part of the program ever since.

It’s amazing to think how Eri Neeman was able to essentially bring the entertainment to Galaxy Battles II, when everyone else was craving for it. Galaxy Battles might have been a nonsensical pick-up line for some, but because PH’s own Boy Back Up was there, the whole of the Dota scene can look at it as a very entertaining show.

“I enjoy doing it. I’m a comedian, man. There’s a big part of me that will always be a comedian, who loves doing funny things,” Eri Neeman said after telling me stories on how he came about the segments that he was able to pull off during the Galaxy Battles II tournament.

It took him a lot of collaboration with international talents, the organizers, even the players themselves. “It’s so nice to get to work with everyone, to Godz, the other talents, the organizers, for being so game for it. It just shows how much you can do if you’re open and you’re willing  to work with people and collaborate. Good things can happen,” he recounted.

I remember when he did his Dota 2 Reddit AMA last 2016 after hosting ESL One Manila, he boldly claimed that he has never played Dota 2 at that time. I mean, the worst thing you could ever do as a talent for the Dota 2 reddit community is to admit that you haven’t played the game. The thing about Eri is that he’s so genuine and his love for hosting and for comedy was just too pure for the rest of the world to tarnish.

He went on and mentioned that he worked with several people to educate him about Dota. A year after, he got to host Manila Masters, and by that time he was already familiarized with Puppey Rage memes and other Dota 2 related controversies to make fun of. I personally think that aside from dank memery and funny esports segments, the Eri Neeman brand is genuine passion for hosting. Because only genuine passion can take you to a point where you’ll explore something deeper than what you’re asked of.

The bigger picture

“I won’t lie, when all the negative press happened, you just start to rethink,” Eri Neeman confessed. “And then you’re just like, will this work, will this stick, is it okay to be associated? Because everyone questions that. But at the end of the day, I did it because they asked me, and because I actually like the guys. I don’t wanna judge them by mistakes and lapses. I mean, I have to work with them and see how it happens.”

It took a lot of guts for Eri to still push through with the event. In the end, well, it all paid off. The whole Dota 2 scene exploded and expressed their appreciation through Reddit posts, tweets, Facebook posts, and other social media platforms. “At the end of the day, if you can do your part in making a good event, then that helps the bigger picture. It’s not just for my career, it’s for the scene,” he added. “Align yourself with the bigger picture and things kinda fall into place properly.Helping in making this a successful event is good for the scene. That’s the bigger picture.”

I personally think that whatever happened to Galaxy Battles II was a wake-up call for the whole Dota 2 scene. Especially here in the Philippines. I believe esports in the PH is still in its adolescence, and that it took quite a nasty blow over the past few weeks, there’s tremendous growth that it can have if people look at the event in the bigger picture.

Like Eri for example, who mentioned that the organizers of Galaxy Battles II pulling off the event brings about healthy competition to the PH and the SEA scene. “If you have competition, like now, everyone’s trying to put out the best stuff. If I was the only host, and there weren’t others, it’s easy to get complacent. Like, when I see someone like Slacks, with the things he’s pulled off, and see other people do things, I tell myself, ‘F*** that’s good, I want to f****** do that s***;”

“It lights up a fire,” Eri Neeman said as he was talking about healthy competition. “If Sasuke didn’t have Naruto, If Kakashi didnt have Might Guy, where would they be?”

By far, we saw ESL, Mineski Events Team, and PGL venture to Premiere International Dota 2 tournaments here in the Philippines. It is a breath of fresh air for Fallout Gaming to actually consider the PH, regardless of all of the issues they faced. “You try to do it the healthiest way. Because if you try and make it about yourself, like saying ‘I gotta shine, I gotta do it, it’s me, me, me.;, you’re just going to dig yourself in a place where you will never be open to people.”

The comedy of Eri Neeman

For Eri Neeman, hosting esports events kind of came natural. It all made sense, he loves video games and hosting. “I grew up playing Video Games. I always enjoyed hosting for that sort of crowd. If it was gamers or if it’s about anime, I always got along with the guys. It’s like me growing up. When you see these kids, you get reminded by your young self. That’s why it’s easy to get along,” he mentioned.

However, the path to becoming a top-tier esports host didn’t come off easy. Not that anything’s easy, though. After being a host for a long time, Eri decided to level-up his craft and learning something else that could help him improve: “I did stand-up because I thought that it will make me a better host. I always thought people who made people laugh were amazing.”

En route to being a TV comedian, Eri was learning and applying improv and stand-up comedy. “I got into it. I studied it. I did Improv for three years with SPIT I did stand up for 7 years,” Eri recalled. “I co-founded a production company called Comedy Manila. We produced stand-up comedy shows. Just performing at a restaurant for no money. That’s your grind. All of those things lead up to these moments.”

There came to a point where he was performing in a crowd of one table. There came to a point where no one was laughing. Eri has been through the lows of comedy, but his resilience kept him in the business. “Like right now, would you think that think I’d be here without all those grinding moments of failing, doing stand-up, doing open mics for no one? “ he said as he was telling me stories of his comedy show United Colors of Comedy.

He marketed United Colors of Comedy — a show focused on Universities in the Philippines namely De La Salle University, Ateneo de Manila, and University of the Philippines which donned different and iconic colors each — by going classroom to classroom delivering five minute comedy shows. “It was so much fun. It was like one new room every time. We would do stand-up for just like one minute for a few jokes, each of us would have three jokes and that’s it. We each had a joke and we would just go around, I think there were two of us, minsan ako lang. This was three years ago.”

The big challenge of comedy, is that not everyone will laugh. Some will even cringe. Some will even throw you rotten tomatoes or eggs. That’s totally applicable even for Galaxy Battles II. Not everybody were pleased with the segments. Some people don’t even get it. This was the risk that Eri Neeman was willing to take when he executed his ideas.

Some might even find it offensive. Esports icon Redeye expressed his disagreement with a segment that made fun of the distance fans had to travel to Philippine Arena where an “audience member” had a seizure and got cured when he got a free t-shirt through a twitter post and added, “I wouldn’t have done it that way, having gone through years of epilepsy with one daughter I find it hard to laugh at.”

Eri said, however, that he understands where Redeye was coming from. “I get it. That’s Redeye. Redeye wouldn’t do that, but I would. Slacks would probably think I’m f****** crazy. And I know where Redeye’s coming from. He’s like, hey man, maybe that’s not the best thing for esports. And Redeye loves esports so much. And also, that’s just not his style. I respect it.”

“That’s Redeye dude. That’s a guy who freaking hustled, and a guy who’s faced a lot of things committing to esports before it got this big I’m sure he got questions like, “What are you doing with your life?” He went through all of that. Wherever he’s coming from, he’s just thinking like it’s not probably the best way to do it and it’s just looking out for the scene. I respect and understand where he’s coming from.”

Galaxy Battles II segments were crazy enough, and everyone who watched those segments have to right to feel what they feel about it. There were a number of people who didn’t like it still, despite a large part of the community laughing it out loud.

Then again, one might ask, how does a comedian actually deal with this? How do they actually accept the silence after a joke? How can a talent like Eri Neeman live through the day and realize that there are actually people who hate his craft?

“You accept it. People will hate you for no reason. When you come into the public eye, do you think it’s going to be easy? No. They’ll hate you for no reason. They’ll hate you for being yourself,” Eri just gave me the best the advice I’ve had in a while.

Esports as a community is arguably toxic. There will be a lot of fun times and a lot of good vibes, but because of the keyboard warrior nature that most people in esports grew up with, well, toxicity can easily ooze out of it. Then again, Eri Neeman always saw the better picture and knew how to handle with it: “They’ll hate you for being yourself. But they’re people like that. What can you do? A person is a person. But why let that person affect who you are? There are people who love you as well. Why focus on two truths? Focus on the better truth.”

He also admitted that it’s easy to let ego swallow people in this industry, and that he, himself, went through that. “I went through that. Everyone who gets thrusted into the spotlight will. I’ve been in showbiz here in the Philippines for 10 years. And once you get big, that’s the question you’ll have to ask yourself continually. Are you gonna let it swallow you, are you gonna believe all the hype about yourself? You’ll eventually have to learn how to make a decision. Do you wanna be about the bigger picture or do wanna be about yourself?”

Esports in the Philippines is still in its youth, and with youth might come energy but in it comes propensity to make mistakes as well. Galaxy Battles II might be a testament to that. Then again, it’s still going to be about how its stakeholders managed to overcome the challenges presented to them, and still put up such an entertaining show for everyone to see. Say what you will about Galaxy Battles II, but it will forever be listed in the history books as a lesson that everyone should learn from.

“Just keep hustling. Because you’re doing something different. You’re doing you. And you have to do you,” Eri Neeman concluded. “Because who are you going to be if you let a bunch of people who don’t know you influence how you behave? Who are you gonna be? You’re gonna be no one. You’re gonna be a piece of everyone’s opinions.”

Follow this writer through @caisamyvez and Wolf Casts.

Now Reading: The Comedy of Eri Neeman: How PH’s Boy Back Up put up a show that entertained international esports
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