Monday, July 2, 2018

"When your job is to constantly share your life, even your worst moments are an opportunity to please your audience"

Entering a restaurant, he wraps his left wrist around the door handle, so that he can pull the door open while still looking at the phone.

Chaos follows him. The restaurant starts getting a lot of unusual phone calls. The callers say that they are Paul Denino’s father or his mother and they urgently need to talk to their son, who is autistic. An employee asks the man if he is Paul Denino. He says yes, but then explains that the callers are pranking him. He is live-streaming through the camera on the stick, and some of the thousands of people watching are trying to fuck with him. The calls grow more disturbing. Callers claim that Denino is a pedophile trying to lure children to his lair, or that the large backpack he’s wearing contains a bomb, rather than a two-thousand-dollar cellular transmitter. The restaurant manager asks Denino to leave. Almost immediately, the restaurant’s rating on Yelp begins to plummet. Dozens of one-star reviews flood the page within seconds. They’re full of obscure references to Denino and to the Purple Army, the name of the legion of virtual fans who follow him wherever he goes.


When I first met him, in January, he said that he was on track to make sixty thousand dollars that month, through sponsorships and donations from viewers.


Everyone in his life is part of the show. “If I don’t know what to do on a certain day, I’ll just call someone over and we can develop their character,” he told me. These characters are given names like Anything4Views, Hampton Brandon, Salmon Andy, Mexican Andy, Asian Andy, and Motorcycle Andy. (Andy is a nickname that his viewers like to apply to minor characters.)


There was a time when he was swatted every day for a month. Things reached a crisis point when someone called in a bomb threat on a plane he had just boarded in Phoenix, on his way to a video-game convention, and several of the airport’s runways had to be closed. The episode led to Denino’s permanent banishment from Twitch, which is why he now streams on YouTube.