In the second part of BLIX’s interview with League of Legends personality Mark "MarkZ" Zimmerman, he goes in-depth on the best moments of producing "Catching Up With Doublelift", what it was like producing the season finale with Peter “Doublelift” Peng himself, how he will look to produce content for the 2023 LCS Summer Split and more.
Looking Back at Spring 2023
Pedro Romero, BLIX: What would you say has been the wildest episode of Catching Up With Doublelift that you've done so far?
MarkZ: Most of the pros were very good sports about it. I don't think any of them complained or hated it as far as I'm aware. I know a couple of them said, 'Man, I wish I knew that was coming,' but of course, I'm like, 'but that ruins the gag,' so I didn't feel too bad about that. If I actually did bother a player, I hope that somehow I get that feedback. It obviously was not my intention.
Most of them were very good, but I think Berserker was one of my favorites because, again, and this is one of the times I'll say I think we did a good job being unique. Since he's a Korean pro player, we wanted to have a translator on site in case there were communication issues. which is very common for an interview. But then, I also said [to the camera people], 'Hey, make sure you frame up on the translator so when I'm doing ridiculous shit, we can get his reactions as well.'
That was a very fun experience knowing that there's someone behind me reacting to the fact that I'm shaving my head but I can't look and see what he's doing. I think that one was very fun as well as the fact that I just love Berserker as a personality. He laughed and I felt really bad. It looks like an intentional gag where Daniel opens a Red Bull and hands it to him and then we jump scared him onto the table with someone grabbing his leg. Berserker got scared and spilled Redbull on himself and I actually felt so bad in the moment, but I can't break character in the interview.
We didn't do that to make him spill on himself. It was just Daniel had a gag set up where he wanted to keep giving him drinks and I had a separate gag set up and I just didn't think about how they were going to interact with each other. As soon as it happened in my head, I'm like, 'Oh my God, that looks so intentional and I want to apologize for making him spill on his outfit,' but like I'm in character and I couldn't do that. It was just a wild experience.
In terms of the person who got the weirdest end of the stick, it was definitely Busio. This [scene] didn't end up making the cut because it was just too weird and my producers wouldn't let it go through, but I asked him to explain how Ivern jungles to me while I had a pen gag with electric pens. It looked like a joke where I'm just trying to get him to shock himself, but it was actually a set up for a gag that got cut where I then cut nipple holes in the shirt that I was wearing and I jokingly taze my nipples, which was supposed to be a deep cut reference to when Meteos had a really famous clip of him pretending to pinch his nipples while talking about how Riot designers design champions.
I did it to him and his brain was like, 'what the fuck is this,' and then it didn't even get used. I just felt bad that I subjected him to something so weird and it just didn't end up getting used, but I thought it was hilarious. It was so uncomfortable though. That was probably the weirdest thing of anything.
Finishing Things Off With Doublelift
"Before we record, I'll step out into the hallway and talk to the guys to make them feel comfortable and I was like, 'Have you watched this?' and they say, 'No, but I heard about it. I heard it's like the Eric Andre Show.'...and then they’re like, 'Well, I've never watched the Eric Andre Show,' so [internally] I'm like, 'Okay, perfect. You have no fucking clue what I'm about to do to you.'"
BLIX: I also want to talk about the fact that you had Doublelift for the final episode and It's interesting because, beforehand, when he was watching an episode in one of his co-streams, he didn't really like it that much. He was calling it cringe or something like that. I want to know how were you able to get that together for the series fin---or the season finale? I can't be sure to put words into your mouth.
MarkZ: I would say, if it's a season or series finale, it's probably not series. We'll probably do something. I don't know if it's exactly in summer split, but I don't like beating jokes into the ground. Even with this series, I think the fact that we were releasing it on a weekly cadence may become a little bit too much so I think we want to be very intentional on, when we do bring it back, exactly how we do that. Separately from that, [the episodes] had begun airing and people had told him that the show existed but he never had watched an episode that we made as well as never having watched the Eric Andre. Before we record, I'll step out into the hallway and talk to the guys to make them feel comfortable and I was like, 'Have you watched this?' and they say, 'No, but I heard about it. I heard it's like the Eric Andre Show,’ a'nd I'm like, Oh, shit. Yeah.' And then they’re like, 'Well, I've never watched the Eric Andre Show,' so [internally] I'm like, 'Okay, perfect. You have no fucking clue what I'm about to do to you.'
When he went on stream later and had that thing with Meteos and Sneaky, that was, I think, a week or two after I recorded with him. And at that point, he probably went and watched the Eric Andre Show or watched 'Catching Up With Doublelift' and realized he hated it. I don't know if he would have done it if he had actually properly researched what the show was prior to agreeing to do it. Maybe he would have done it anyways because he's a decent sport. I saw those Reddit comments where people were talking about how much he hated it on the Berserker episode, and I'm very curious for feedback so I watched the whole segment with him and the co-streaming people, and my takeaway was actually Doublelift dislikes it for the right and wrong reasons.
He said it was for 40-year-olds. I'm not quite sure I agree with that. If one of us is out of touch, I don't know which one, but I think if you look at the demographic of the Eric Andre Show, it's not for 40-year-olds. He then said he didn't like it because it makes him feel uncomfortable since he gets second-hand discomfort and the show is built on that. That is a totally valid reason to not like this. It is a polarizing kind of content.
My fiancé hates it and the more uncomfortable she is when I show her one of the things I'm doing, the better I know it is, whereas if she's enjoying it, I'm like, 'wait a minute, this probably didn't hit the mark quite right.' I am totally down with people not liking the show. I don't find it offensive if people find it cringe, but I want people to dislike it for the right reasons, if that makes sense.
BLIX: In having him on set and you did the interview normally as possible up until the very end, did you take that into account? Did you make it as normal as possible just to throw him off at the very end?
MarkZ: Oh, that was definitely intentional. For the whole time, we started with the premise of the show before we even knew that we were gonna get him for the finale, and as we were getting close to recording for the finale, we're like what should a Doublelift episode [look like]. There's a lot of pre-planning that goes into this stuff. It feels really random but these are actually some of the highest pre-production — meaning planning that goes into shooting. Getting all the props ready, getting the people who are going to help me fire off cannons or burst through tables, and making sure all that stuff's timed correctly. It's pretty heavily scripted in a sense that it looks very unscripted, but when it comes to the big moments, those are rehearsed a little bit.
With him, the question was, 'Well, what do we do because this one needs to be different. It's him.' I am a huge fan of anti-comedy so my initial pitch was that it is just a normal interview and there's nothing weird. I think that's so funny but I understand it's more like a letdown 'I can't believe someone had the balls to do that' funny than 'I'm actually laughing in the moment' funny. That's my own personal brand of comedy and probably would not have matched what the show should be so that's when we went for more like 'alright, let's pretend like we're doing that and then we'll actually fuck with him.'
Then it just became about how can we do some of the crazier things so we definitely wanted the table break with him. I was just doing research by watching a bunch of different Eric Andre Shows. I saw how the Blake Griffin episode ended and I thought that seemed like a pretty good thing to do to him; act normal the whole time and then just slam a bunch of things all together at the end.
BLIX: Throughout the episode you were looking up at the ceiling. Were you giving him a hint as to what was going to happen?
MarkZ: It was me making sure that we were ready. With the guy who was going to throw the dummy from up above, I was making sure he had cleared and was ready to throw the dummy before I said 'like, comment, subscribe,' because it was coordinated to for me to say that and we all intentionally started clapping extra loud and making extra noise. I had told the cameramen to make sure that they're clapping and making those too so that Doublelift is looking out into the cameraman and not looking up so I can then shoot up and look at my eyeline to see we're ready to go.
That's what I mean when I say this is all very coordinated. We're thinking about misdirection. You're thinking about how you can get the pro to look somewhere so you can do something else. We're thinking about framing to make sure the guy throwing is not gonna hopefully be in the shot or something until we do. You have to think about a lot of different things. That was not me trying to give a tell to Doublelift. Unfortunately, he didn't catch it. It was me being like, 'I don't want to do my sign off before the guy's ready to throw the mannequin.'
Looking Ahead to the Summer Split and MSI
BLIX: Thank goodness for Doublelift being clueless the entire time since it made for an excellent season finale. You already mentioned it about wanting to keep the momentum going but relying on this series for too long before it gets stale. How are you going to change the direction for the summer split and also the future?
MarkZ: Without tipping my hand too much, the format of season-long narrative building up to a thing which, by the way, Eric Andre Show doesn't do that. That's a ripoff of the Jimmy Kimmel thing. Some people caught on to that with the whole 'Matt Damon was supposed to come on tonight but he can't do it' kind of thing. When you're referencing other influences. That's another clear one that I forgot to mention. I like having some sort of framing device like that and I don't think 'Catching Up With Doublelift' will be that in the future.
It'll probably take on a new framing device. Of course, that does run the risk of rebranding if you have to rename it and stuff like that. It's something where it's up in the air and we haven't decided yet as a team. At some point, we'll probably all sit in a room and brainstorm pitches, but I think the overall form of fucking with pros will probably be something I want to keep doing.
BLIX: LCS has been having new blood being pumped in to the league with new casters and talent working alongside the old guard like yourself, Jatt, and Dash. These people include Raafa, Cubby, Joushi, and Decerux among others. How have you viewed their contribution into the LCS so far this year?
MarkZ: It's been fun working with new people. I will say that, a lot of times, there's a bit of a divide not socially but just in terms of workflow between analyst desk people and casters. You don't want a 'too many cooks' situation. When we're planning what we're going to do on the AD [analyst desk], it's mostly just the AD people, and we were pretty set to split. Rafa was in a lot of meetings. I don't want to make it sound like he wasn't there and not contributing because he was and he did his music stuff, but I would just say I didn't work as closely with a lot of the newer people this split, especially the academy guys. I think we can do a better job integrating them and maybe make some segments that show off their personality on the days that they show up. I think it's something that we can do a better job of, but it was cool.
BLIX: I got one more question: MSI is coming up and the narrative about North America is always NALUL and how they can't do anything against international competition. How do you think NA will contend with the rest of the world at MSI?
MarkZ: Oh boy. I don't know. I do not know. I think Golden Guardians should be good enough to get through the play-in stage. They did get the tougher end of the bracket so I'm not going to be shocked if they lose to Bilibili. You then have to go through the last chance qualifier or whatever it's called, but I think they can do it. It's probably the case where North America will struggle versus LPL and LCK but I think there's a chance to maybe beat Europe for once. Who knows though because EG got clapped up last year so I don't want say anything too soon.
BLIX: What is your prediction for the best performing NA team be it C9 or GG?
MarkZ: I think it's more of just like I would like us to win a best-of-five. I'll take a best-of-five dub.