Need some hope, some community, some escape? I know I do. Fortunately the tenth annual Desert Bus for Hope starts tomorrow, November 12th at 10am pacific. You can watch at twitch.tv/desertbus and follow the blog at desertbus.org.
Desert Bus for Hope is part comedy telethon, part gaming marathon, and part group hug. A bunch of entertaining nerds play the worst video game of all time, and the more you donate the longer they are forced to play.
I wrote a more general introduction to the event last year, now I want to dive a little deeper. This annual stream has been the highlight of November for a long time, but this year it feels more important than ever.
I’ve been a fan of Loading Ready Run since discovering the first Desert Bus. They began as an internet sketch comedy troupe thirteen years ago – before youtube even existed – and they launched their streaming marathon during Ustream’s first year. I don’t just love them because they’re cutting-edge internet pioneers, though. I love them because of their good-natured comedy and friendly, welcoming community. I can’t think of a single better place to weather the storm for a while and get back on our feet.
I can’t wait for #DesertBusX to start.
I think the organizers and volunteers need this about as badly as the viewers.
— Graham Stark (@Graham_LRR) November 11, 2016
Donations go to Child’s Play Charity, an organization devoted to providing toys and games to children in hospitals and shelters. The charity operates year-round, but there’s a big push during the holiday season as they work to ensure all those kids get some comfort and joy. Desert Bus for Hope is quality entertainment for a very good cause.
So what kind of things can you expect from the stream? Pop culture references, weird stunts, costumes, challenges, singing, dancing, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria. Stuff like this entrance from last year.
But wait, there’s more: Desert Bus also features some of the coolest prizes and giveaways I’ve ever seen at a charity event. They do a mix of auctions held live on stream, silent auctions on the website, and various giveaways. The giveaways aren’t always donation-based; sometimes the drivers will organize art or writing contests. Everyone gets a chance at a win, no matter what their charity budget might be.
Between the stunts, auctions, and celebrity guests there’s also insomnia-driven improv comedy of every flavor. During Desert Bus 7 the gang invented QWERPLINE, a fake morning radio show that later developed into one of my favorite comedy podcasts – like Welcome to Nightvale if instead of being mysterious and sinister everything was just deeply absurd. The original Desert Bus iteration isn’t the polished comedy machine it would eventually become, but for a bunch of sleep-deprived nerds goofing around it’s pretty damn hilarious.
It’s impossible to tell you everything about Desert Bus in a single article. I can talk about the dance marathons, the heartfelt expressions of thanks, the running gags and shared in-jokes – but all those things are best enjoyed in the moment, with the community. I can’t pull them apart and post them here and expect them to have the same impact. You have to be a part of it. You have to watch to understand.
There are also times when Desert Bus is different from most streams, most charity events. There are times when it gets odd and thoughtful and beautiful and profound. Every Desert Bus ends with a small, strange goodbye – and everyone remembers DB7’s goodbye the best.
See you soon Cam. See you soon, everybody.
We’ll drive through the night together.