The internet has pioneered the way for modern reviewers in the past decade, and no site has been the Moses leading the charge for others to follow in its footsteps than that of Channel Awesome. Since 2008 the site, headed by Doug Walker, Robert Walker and Mike Michaud has been the inspiration for many online reviewers, including myself at one point in time, to lend their voices on all types of media like movies, comics, video games and television. Many aspired to join the team thinking it was a utopia for reviewers to meet each-other and share their opinions in peace. But on April 2nd, 2018, 40 former contributors of the site came together on Twitter to release an 87 page document entitled “Not So Awesome” (Link Bellow). It went into great details from many eyewitnesses during the early years of the website about the unprofessional abuse the content creators suffered at the hands of management that steadily grew over the years. Shortly after it went viral, then contributors like Chris Stuckmann, EROD The Blockbuster Buster, Film Brain, and Angry Joe severed ties from the site. Yet despite all the uproar, Channel Awesome endured even when their subscriber count fell and everyone abandoned ship. Only four people remain managing the site, but it has barely sustained any damage in the long run. A year has gone by and the fire has seemingly died down…until recently.
Youtuber Cinematic Venom, released an 80 minute documentary on Youtube chronicling the events with videos from internet celebrities who previously worked on Channel Awesome (Link Bellow). These include the likes of Marzgurl, Lindsay Ellis, Linkara, Animerica, John Page, HopeWithinChaos, FoolFantastic, DoctorGonzo, Todd in the Shadows, Rap Critic, Mike Jeavons, Phelous, Spoony, ChaosD1, Iron Liz, JesuOtaku, Benzaie, SadPanda, Obscurus Lupa, and Holly Christine Brown. Many of these listed reviewers have been inspirational. And should the chance to meet them in person ever become a reality, I’d jump at that chance without hesitation.
If this was only one person spawning the accusations, there’d be a lot of questions surrounding their credibility on the subject. But with 40 people sharing their stories, chances are they have a bit more substantial evidence and eyewitnesses to back their claims. After all, they did spend a good amount of years working for the site during its infancy while millions of fans, including myself, only see the comedy sketches on YouTube, and not the behind the scenes interactions save a few times at conventions. This was just a group seeking a simple apology after suffering a good chunk of their lives so the website they no longer work for could grow into the most recognizable online personality it is today. But apparently an apology is asking too much from the current management.
Doug began the tradition as a hobby in his parent’s house from 2007 to 2008. Despite rapidly growing a fan-base, Youtube remained a stubborn obstacle to overcome with numerous copyright claims spawning like weeds in a garden (Today not much has changed). So he built a website to combat this and within a year, he was able to generate enough income to quit his job through a now infamous sketch of announcing his resignation via the painted words on his chest, “I QUIT!” in sync with a music piece most famously associated with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
After burning that bridge, Doug hosted a site along with his brother Rob that included both his own review videos as the Nostalgia Critic and a plethora of other reviewers with their own stamp. While having trouble emerging from Doug’s shadow, many then unknowns got their big break from this website and are still prominent content creators today. They even went so far as to have a crossover with Doug’s biggest inspiration, James Rolfe, also known as The Angry Video Game Nerd. Keep in mind, this was three years before Marvel’s The Avengers took the world by storm. As time went by, more anniversary specials were produced with varying reception on both the fan side and behind the scenes. Kickassia seemed to spark a successful tradition, but it was during the production of Suburban Knights and To Boldly Flee where things started to take a nose dive. Doug decided to retire the Nostalgia Critic shortly after To Boldly Flee, but brought him back six months later after Demo Reel bombed and site traffic started to evaporate. During the hiatus, he hired Malcom Ray and Rachel Tietz to take part in his Demo Reel sessions. They eventually stayed on as regular supporting cast until Rachel left the site to pursue acting opportunities in Los Angeles. In her placed stepped Tamara Chambers who’s a regular to this very day. So where did things go wrong?
The Female Scapegoating
What the title refers to is the many instances where male co-workers acted out of line, yet the blame was directed to the identified female instead.
The Spoony Incident
In 2012, Noah Antwiler AKA Spoony posted a very inappropriate tweet to JesuOtaku which angered Lupa. Spoony lashed out with even more tweets, but at the end of the day, Lupa received death threats even after Noah made it clear that she was innocent. It was later revealed that Spoony was bipolar and while he chose to quit after suspension, he was given a send off by management, was still well respected by peers, and brought back for cameos in the anniversary specials. But no one, not even Channel Awesome itself, defended Lupa on the subject instead opting to keep silent about it for a long period of time. At one point they considered suspending her despite the fact she didn’t cross any lines, only to keep her on because her boyfriend, Phelous, was working on the anniversary movie. So why was Lupa caught in the cross-fire? Why did management consider firing her even though she didn’t write tweets on the same creep level as Spoony? Why was Spoony protected more than Lupa when all was said and done?
The Firing of Obscurus Lupa
According to the 87 page document, one of the events that triggered the distrust in management was the firing of Obscurus Lupa. It was around January 2015. Lupa was in need of more money, so she enabled mid-roll ads on her content. Mid-rolls are advertisements that can play during the middle of a video. This infuriated Michaud who stated that he didn’t care because people were using ad block, effectively decreasing Channel Awesome’s income. But rather than just talking to her about it, he allegedly went a step further by intentionally leaving public insults on the site targeted at Lupa. Doug did consult her over the action and claimed to look into the situation, but even then Michaud’s rampant, unprofessionalism wasn’t brought up in a Skype meeting.
During this time, Patreon was relatively new to the internet. On the verge of quitting, Lupa decided to use it to help support her content. However the management, particularly Michaud, saw Patreon as a way of e-begging and began instating rules against using the platform. Mike Jeavons had previously used the same site to finance his film, but he was also blocked by Michaud and company. What doesn’t make sense is at the same time, Brad Jones, AKA The Cinema Snob, was allowed to use it even after Channel Awesome lambasted Patreon with derogatory words like E-Begging. Why were both Jeavons and Lupa forbidden to use Patreon when Jones was doing the same E-Begging that Channel Awesome associated with the new site? To this day that question has yet to be answered.
After consoling Doug a second time, he told her to simply make more content, but manners didn’t improve by that point. While she was busy for 15 minutes making more content for the site, Michaud fired her without warning simply because she wasn’t available for a call. Shortly afterwards all her content was removed which resulted in Phelous quitting the site in protest. All this was kept from the public eye until the document was released. So why all the secrecy? Why was Brad Jones given special treatment regarding Patreon compared to Lupa and Jeavons? Why tell someone to make more content if they’re just going to be fired for missing one call because they’re doing what you said? Why was Michaud’s unprofessionalism never brought up during the skype meeting?
Unlike Spoony’s debacle, this isn’t an isolated incident as Mike Michaud has been cited by many female producers as the source of many unprofessional episodes. From his aggressiveness on female blaming, to only being available through Skype and willing to fire anyone who used any other form of long distance communication, no one knows why he is still the head of the company after mistreating so many people over the years.
The Blistered Thumbs Shutdown
One of the early subdivisions to the site was Blistered Thumbs in June 2009. A page dedicated to video game reviews by then newcomers like PeanutButterGamer, HopeWithinChaos and the now gigantic personality, Angry Joe. By October 2010, the site gained so much traction it became its own separate entity on November 5th, 2010. However despite reaching over a million subscribers on Youtube, the page was shut down on January 16th, 2014. A somber end, except Channel Awesome management failed to inform prolific content creators like Mike Dodd about the action, instead opting to post an article on the website about the shut down. Michaud even failed to deliver his own Sega Genesis to a fan from Russia who won a contest held by Tom White. Michaud never answered back to both the fan or White, who was caught in the middle of the debacle for a number of years. At the very least, White sent the winner a gift card and later left the site after being furious over Michaud’s treatment of everyone. If Michaud can fire people who aren’t available for a call, why can’t he take responsibility for miscommunication or failing to deliver a contestant their prize? Why does he use other people to take the fall for him in the long run?
The Anniversary Incidents
Iron Liz’s Injury
During production of Suburban Knights two groups of cast and crew would switch off each day for filming. However Iron Liz was the exception, being worked to the bone everyday between driving Linkara, working on the set, and even playing one of the hooded figures. She was even denied a cup of coffee simply because she wasn’t the talent despite having a role on camera. Even with travel and hotel costs covered, that kind of work with no break deserves some financial compensation or at least a thank you, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Later on she suffered an injury on set, but for some reason was given a waiver to sign exempting responsibility from Doug, Rob, and Michaud for any accidents during filming before any necessary medical attention. Why? Was it because Doug didn’t acquire film permits and told everyone to shut up if it was brought up? Even worse, she wasn’t allowed to be in the group photo, was excluded from the wrap party, and didn’t even get a single thank you from Doug himself. This isn’t just worker abuse this is ungratefulness at full capacity. For all the hard work she put into helping others on this anniversary video, this is how management thanks her for putting in twice the effort than everyone else? Would it have killed Doug to say Thank You at least once? Especially after they forced her to sign a contract before giving her medical attention? Could it get any worse than this? Stay tuned.
Everyone VS To Boldly Flee
In addition to NOT providing food or water while filming Kickassia, something that’s even required on student productions, filming on To Boldly Flee has been sited as one of the worst experiences everyone had. Production usually lasted from 18 to 19 hours in the one week they had to film a four hour movie. Doug was known to have poor scheduling skills and at the time of filming, no one knew he was planning to kill off the Nostalgia Critic because they were given the script at the last minute with no time for rehearsals. With so many producers on set, the Walkers took no advice from anyone, which led to Ed Glazer refusing to work with either Doug or Rob after wrapping up because they broke every rule in film-making throughout the entire experience. There was also an infamous confrontation with Linkara and Lindsey concerning the script. Lindsey’s character was roboticized by Linkara, but it was played out in the form of a rape joke which angered them both. However Doug refused to cut the scene instead opting to tone down the content. He even yelled at Lindsey on set after she objected to the cat fight scene. From how the documentary describes the situations, it sounds like everybody except the Walkers were completely miserable when making To Boldly Flee.
The Firing of Holly Christine Brown
Now comes the biggest stab in the back surrounding the website involving one Holly Christine Brown. She was the mediator behind all three anniversary movies urging Doug to continue working on Suburban Knights when he was close to calling it quits. Even so, she still experienced some unwanted attention behind the scenes. One of the producers, Mike Ellis, would pursue her romantically despite being married and at one point he threatened to fire her for rejecting his affections. It got to a point where Doug and Rob kept her in a safe house with baseball bats, swords, a golf club, and pepper spray. Despite management knowing full well what was going on, Ellis wasn’t let go until August 2010.
During production of To Boldly Flee, Holly was undergoing surgery yet still working weekends and holidays. Despite receiving a bouquet of roses at the tail end of Suburban Knights, she was fired one day after surgery for not being able to drive to the studio, even if it went against doctor’s orders. Afterwards, she was forced to sign a contract, otherwise she wouldn’t be paid for her work. Said contract would prohibit her from getting work in the industry for three years. The worst part? Doug Walker himself was the deciding person who fired her after all she had contributed to the site’s success. Show of hands of people who still want to defend Channel Awesome? Iron Liz’s situation was bad enough, but to go one step further in betraying the person who made everything workout through all the production troubles of two anniversary specials shows how selfish Doug was when it came to putting these videos together. In fact, it feels more uncomfortable re-watching them after learning about what happened to those who gave everything to make these specials a reality. Why did management not fire Ellis when they knew what he was doing? Why did they demand Holly go against doctor’s orders when she had surgery? Why did they hold her pay for ransom unless she signed the contract? Why did they prohibit her from getting work in the industry for three years? And most importantly, why did Doug Walker himself have the final say in the matter after all she had done for him and the site?
The Indiegogo Campaign
Come August 2013, Channel Awesome started a fundraiser on Indiegogo to raise money for a pop-culture video game show. Having a goal of 50,000 dollars, the campaign ended up raising 90,000 dollars. 12 episodes were filmed, but the recently purchased studio wasn’t sound tested and thus the contest was rigged so those participating would win. Despite this idea originating from Michaud, no one wanted to participate and none of the episodes were aired online or on the website. After failing to release the show for two years, Indiegogo opened an investigation against the company in March 2015 (See the documentary). None of this wouldn’t have been so bad if the Indiegogo rewards didn’t arrive six months later than promised. And when the show was finally uploaded online, many felt it resembled a high-school classroom rather than a big budget extravaganza. So why did no one want to participate in this? Where did the money end up going to if the set looked so cheap? Why were the Indiegogo rewards six months late?
The Awesome Comics Wages
One of the more recent people brought on to the site was Beth Elderkin for the series Awesome Comics, during which she was promised a certain wage by the hour. But come payday she was only paid for her total on camera time rather than the hours she spent during filming, with the excuse being that the website needed to save money. If the website needed to save money, why wasn’t this brought up before hand? Was that also the reason why Michaud went so far as to sell limited copies of artwork he stole from Benzai’s girlfriend that she made for Suburban Knights? Because that’s three criminal acts: lying on a job, underpaying an employee and plagiarism. Who here is still defending the site?
Marzgurl vs Channel Awesome
Marzgurl is another content creator who had been with the site since the very beginning. But right from the start, she was told by management to hand over her videos so they could upload them and take the ad revenue, with promises to reimburse her later. Needless to say, they didn’t hold true to their promise. This is especially important because the documentary presents screenshot evidence of a message by Rob Walker saying, We are providing you guys a place to post your videos, a large amount of site traffic, and aren’t asking a cut from the producers. This led her to start her own channel which caught the attention of the immature and unprofessional Michaud. Michaud did back off since it was Linkara who gave her the idea, but that didn’t stop him for berating Marzgurl for mispronouncing her titles as if she broke a house made of glass. He also saw her affiliation with then website Screwattack as unwanted competition, even though Doug more often than not guest starred James Rolfe, who was also associated with the site, on more than one occasion in his videos.
During production of Suburban Knights, the content creators were forced to pay out of pocket to make their own costumes with promises of reimbursement. However they were told to hand over their costumes once production had wrapped, and Marzgurl flat out refused to do this. She considered leaving, but her manager told her to stay so she could make appearances at conventions, but she finally left the site in September 2017. Less than an hour after leaving, all of her content was removed and she didn’t even get a proper send-off from the site equal to Spoony’s. So why was Marzgurl never reimbursed for her videos? Why was everyone expected to pay out of pocket for their costumes and then told to hand them over after production wrapped? Why was Michaud so quick to berate her on anything?
Linkara’s Final Straw
After many people left the site, Linkara began to realize that Channel Awesome was destroying itself from the inside. He remained hopeful that things could be turned around with new producers, and contacted management with ideas to improve the company such as better communication, sharing the studio and bringing back the anniversary movies. All of these requests were turned down. A confrontation with Michaud himself about his toxic attitude ended with the petty CEO responding with, Okay. Afterwards he set out to make a movie adaptation of his Atop the Fourth Wall. While his fan base funded the movie, the studio space was to expensive to afford to the point where he asked Rob and Michaud to use the Chicago studio. Rob was open to the idea, but not surprisingly, Michaud outright refused his request claiming it would interfere with Doug’s schedule without supervision. Linkara offered to reimburse any lost revenue . It seemed like everything was water under the bridge, but on March 24th, 2018, Linkara finally parted ways with Channel Awesome, just a week before the Not So Awesome document was posted on Twitter.
As of now he runs his Atop the Fourth Wall Website with all his content. But after 10 years of working on the site, why did Linkara still need supervision to film his movie in the Chicago studio? Why was Michaud so nonchalant about his toxic work ethics? And why did management refuse all of Linkara’s requests to improve the site?
The Case of Justin “JewWario” Carmical
Come January 2014, one of the producers of the site, Justin Carmical, AKA JewWario, committed suicide via a bullet through the head with his wife on the other side of the door. This came as a shock to everyone who knew him because he was apparently a very positive person, but suffered severe depression when no one was around. One Dr.Gonzo wanted to make a memorial video dedicated to Justin, but Michaud out right shot it down because he wanted Doug or Linkara to make it simply because they garnered more views. Taking away the shocking discovery that we’ll get to in a moment, that’s an incredibly petty excuse to someone who just wanted to make a memorial video. Wouldn’t having multiple tributes work in the long run? Everyone coming together, in addition to Doug and Linkara, to say their own words to their followers surrounding a person who was well respected. But let us draw a curtain on this for the moment.
The Nostalgia Critic Himself
During all this, many believe the Nostalgia Critic himself, Doug Walker, was simply the talent caught up in the drama, but he’s actually one of the CEOs who made many important decisions. Despite being the face of the website, Doug himself has been described as the opposite of tech savvy to the point where he couldn’t record his own commentary and has only used Skype once according to HopeWithinChaos. Even after re-branding the site from Thatguywiththeglasses to Channel Awesome, the majority of attention was diverted to Doug’s videos even when welcoming new talent.
On lookers were hoping the Walker Brothers would quit the site following the post, but as the videos continued to spawn on Channel Awesome’s Youtube Page, no one seemed to care about it instead defending the site. One suggested theory, according to former contributors, is because Michaud himself owns the rights to the Nostalgia Critic and the Walkers leaving would mean they would have to start from scratch. If so, why did he sell the rights to the Nostalgia Critic if his current movie reviews get as much views on Youtube? Or any of his other videos like Disneycember and first viewings? There seems to be more to the Nostalgia Critic than older movies with the line between nostalgic and current movies constantly being blurred.
The Channel Awesome Response
A few days after the document was posted to Twitter, Channel Awesome posted this response:
Many questions were thrown around on whether or not the Walker brothers were just as guilty or if all the blame fell on Mike Michaud. When a fan asked Doug for a response to the allegations made against Channel Awesome, Doug replied with the following statement that can also be heard on the documentary:
“It’s something I can’t give away right now. It’s only right now, alright? I would love to talk about it, about my work and the people I work with, and the awesome boss I have, but I can’t right now.
Since then, he has never brought up the situation again. A couple of days later, the site posted another article titled, Our Response, which attempts to counter many of the accusations they now call lies. Why they’re now calling them lies despite the eyewitnesses and evidence to back them up is anyone’s guess at this point. There’s a ton of counter arguments made on both sides that we’d be here all day going over them and you can watch the documentary for the entire dissection, but there’s a few I want to point out.
In the Our Response document people found a name of a sexual groomer that wasn’t entirely censored which turned out to be the previously mentioned suicide victim, Justin Carmical. If Channel Awesome knew he was a predator, then why did they still protect him? Why did Doug go on camera knowing full well what JewWario did and still pay tribute without disclosing that knowledge to other content creators that worked with Justin? Marzgurl eventually raised $10,000 to make a tribute to him, yet the truth was still kept hidden. Why? Which leads to my next statement. Just because Rachel Tietz and Tamara Chambers never experienced any sexism, doesn’t mean the Walkers are off the hook for what they did to Obscurus Lupa, Holly Christine Brown, and the other female producers who were bullied by Michaud. And it definitely doesn’t excuse them protecting Justin Carmical who was a creepy stalker while married.
And let’s say participating in the anniversary specials was optional and traveling accommodations were covered by management. Why was everyone still treated poorly on set? Why was there no catering or water when filming took place? Why did Iron Liz need to sign an insurance contract that exempted responsibility from the Walkers and Michaud before getting any medical attention for her injury? Why was Doug so bossy about not having film permits on Suburban Knights? Why was Doug so arrogant while filming To Boldly Flee? Why was no one given the script in advance before filming began? How come no steps were taken to improve the company? And why is Michaud still in charge? That’s a lot of questions left unanswered by management and whatever statements they have on the matter leads to even more questions as they continue to not accept responsibility for their actions. Is this the internet edition of The Disaster Artist? If so, it’d be very ironic considering the history Channel Awesome has with Tommy Wiseau. In fact, if we’re using DVD bonus features as defensive evidence like they did with Obscurus Lupa, allow me to retort with this image:
Brad Jones had his own response to the incident (link bellow), but in short he said the contributors need to get over the entire decade of misery. Easier said than done. While the attacks on his family weren’t justified, one could say Brad needs to get over that in the same way he told the former contributors. From what the documentary points out, it seems Jones was given the most special treatment over the years and had it easy compared to everyone else. And in the grand scheme, the Walkers and Jones seem to display more statements than eyewitnesses and evidence on the matter. I’ll give Doug credit for pioneering the way for modern reviewers and even fighting some of Youtube’s copyright abuse in recent years, but if this is what it took to get there, then what’s the point if you live long enough to see yourself become the villain?