Overwatch's Anjali Bhimani Discusses I Am Fun Size, And So Are You! Kickstarter, D&D – CBR – Comic Book Resources

The Overwatch and Critical Role actor shares the origins of her hit YouTube series turned book and teases what stories fans will find inside.
Anjali Bhimani has become a household name. From her performances on beloved shows like Modern Family and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to her voice acting work on popular games like Overwatch and Apex Legends, she has found many different paths into the audience’s hearts. One of the most supportive and wholesome of these methods is through her YouTube series I Am Fun Size!, where Bhimani and guests share stories to encourage audiences to live more fun lives. With Kickstarter’s help, Bhimani is now turning this series into a book.
CBR talked with Anjali Bhimani about her upcoming book, I Am Fun Size, And So Are You!, and her life experiences that made the project possible. She also shared insights into the role of humor and storytelling in everything from her Dungeons & Dragons games to her marriage and the importance of recognizing community and the value of knowing you’re not alone.
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CBR: Where did the idea for I Am Fun Size, And So Are You! come from?
Anjali Bhimani: That is a great question and it makes me very happy to share it with people. So it’s twofold: for a very long time, I had wanted to put something out into the world, either a blog or a vlog, and I was trying to figure out what is my unique take on things. I am a petite human being and so I thought, “Oh, maybe I’ll put out a petite person’s blog. Or I’ll put out a petite person’s vlog.” But it never sat right with me. There’s something about it, where I was like, “Eh, this just doesn’t feel like a good fit.” So I just kept tabling it and pushing it and saying it’s not perfect, it’s not perfect, it’s not perfect.
And then, in February of 2017, I for the last several months had been connecting with the amazing online gaming community that I had found through Overwatch and through other projects that I’ve been on, but particularly through Overwatch at the time. And I was just randomly on a Thursday asking like, “Hey, guys, you want to do fan art Friday?” And I thought I’ll wake up in the morning, there’ll be a couple of posts, no big deal. Well, I woke up, and immediately people were throwing beautiful art, beautiful things, just being wildly generous with themselves. And immediately I thought, “Okay, who are you to be sitting on your ass, not putting something out in the world when these people literally within seconds are sending their art out and putting that out in the world? Who are you to not be giving back to them?”
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In the same vein as wanting to give back to them, and being frustrated that the fun-size moniker was so exclusive of so many other people, it dawned on me — and it was like a giant wave hitting me — that fun size really applies to all of us because we’re all built for fun. We’re all built to live these huge, magnificent, wonderful lives. The problem is, life has a way of making us feel small. You can be the biggest person in the room but something inside your heart is just not sitting right and you feel like you’re alone or you feel sad or you feel not connected. I very much wanted to create something that would help people who maybe were finding themselves in those positions. So I immediately put out a video saying I’m going to be doing this web series, send me your questions and I will answer them to the best of my ability from my own experience. I’m not a doctor, I just play them on TV, but I am someone who has experienced a lot of life. The one unique thing I have to offer the world is my set of unique experiences and the lessons that I have learned from them.
So it became a very popular series, much to my joy. I have a wonderful time. I’ve had people come up to me nonstop at conventions and tell me this episode changed my life or this episode changed my life. It means the world to have that. So as an extension of that, I decided — after being asked for several years, I decided that I would turn it into a book form. This is inspired by this series but certainly not an exact replica of the series on paper. We definitely dive into some of the same topics as the episodes and some new ones. But it’s more of a deep dive into insights I’ve learned and stories that I’ve lived through in my life. It’s really meant to be an easy, fun, laughing — an easy read. It’s meant to be something that you keep handy, you flip to any page and you’ve got a story. You can read it out of order. You can read it all at once. You can read it over the course of months. It’s something to let people know that at any moment you may feel lonely but you are not alone. As long as that book is on your desk, you are not alone because I’m right there with you.
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Why is that message of not being alone, that sense of community, so important to you in particular?
Like many other people, I’ve been on the other end of that. There are times in my life where I felt very disconnected — whether at a young age when I felt left out for many reasons or even as an adult. We all have these demons that we fight with. We all have different paths, but we all have demons that we fight with. The only way I know to be able to step out of my own head that consistently works is to reach out and see who else needs help. By help, it could be who else just needs to know I’m there? Who else just needs someone holding their hand, not saying anything, but just being there? Because if I’m hurting, someone else’s out there hurting, and chances are there’s someone else out there who’s hurting more. So I can do something for them and get out of this place where I think that what I’m experiencing is the only thing that exists right now.
I honestly think that — it sounds very trite when I say these words — but I think it’s the kind of thing that changes the world when we’re all just kind of looking out for each other and taking stock and taking care of each other and being accountable for the words we use with each other and the way we are with each other. I’ve been very fortunate throughout my life. I have an amazing family. I’ve had wonderful experiences. There are so many things that I have never longed for because I have them in my life. Yet, I have had so many of those dark moments. So I know if I have, there are millions of people out there who have. It’s my mission to let people know: I may not have all the answers, but I guarantee you you’re not alone.
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You have such genuine and serious advice and then this fun sense of humor. How do you balance those sides in your book?
I don’t balance anything because I think balance is boring. When you balance on a seesaw, nothing’s moving, right? There’s always tipping one way or the other. But, just like in great drama, there are always moments of laughter. I think it’s important to take things seriously but not always take ourselves seriously. I honestly think that having a great sense of humor about yourself is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself. We all need a break sometimes and we certainly need a break from the ridiculous voices in our heads that tell us things like, “You’re not enough.” I find that cracking a well-timed joke in the middle of a dark moment can shift everybody’s kaleidoscope, can shift your perspective in a way that allows you to take on challenges and allows you to take on difficult circumstances.
My husband is the master of it. He’s like the King of Rock when it comes to so many things, but particularly humor. It’s very effective when you’re having a fight to just make each other crack up and then be like, “What were we fighting about? Oh yeah, we were fighting about something stupid, the dishes or something dumb.” That’s kind of the best way that I know.
Also, again, so many times in life we think that if someone is having a problem, the way to help them is to tell them what to do. I am so not that guy. I would so much rather be there with you, let you have your experience, maybe share a few stories or experiences of my own, but just sit there with you and be like, “Oh my god, dude, you’re right, that sucks. Let’s laugh about it, or find something to help you through it. But let’s not try to prescribe something to fix it because this is your journey. So I’m going to be here with you and we’ll have a good time while we’re doing.” Really it’s also life should be a good time even in the dark periods. Overall I feel like life should be a good time. If we’re not here to enjoy it, one way or the other, then I don’t know why we’re here.
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I Am Fun Size started as a video series, so what role do visuals and illustrations in particular play in your upcoming book?
The same way I like to use humor, I think that illustrations can give you a sense of levity. Certain kinds of illustration can give you a sense of levity to very difficult or hard topics to digest. My illustrator — an incredible artist named Vivian Truong — I met her through her sending me art on the internet. She was one of those people where like I would say her name and three seconds later she’d have drawn something. She’s absolutely amazing. She is the co-creator of a graphic series called City of Dragons that just came out from Scholastic.
Her art, her artistic style very much captures that sort of whimsical feeling that I’m talking about — we can look at even difficult situations as a game rather than a crucible that we are having to deal with or rather than some kind of massive stress. We can look at life as something like, “If this was a game, even a very hard game, how would I be facing this? How would I be facing this if I was coming at it with a sense of wonder, with a sense of play, with a sense of creativity versus a sense of panic or a sense of weight or a sense of something being so dire?” So the illustrations in this book, they’re absolutely adorable. Also, she has captured the magic of my little doggy sidekick, Charley the Best Dog, incredibly well. Thanks to her I have so much art with me and Charley in it, which is a beautiful thing. That dog — I learn so much from just having this little guy in my life and so he’s in the book as well.
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Speaking of Charley, does he play a role in the stories in your book?
There’s one episode that I also expand on in the book that he is pivotal to, which is all about how to learn to love yourself. Because I — for so many years I was like, “I don’t even know what that means.” People always throw that around, “You have to love yourself, you have to love yourself.” I’m like, “Well, okay, but what does that look like? What does that mean?” I needed practical advice that no one would give me. It wasn’t bubble baths and candles. That wasn’t my thing. I realized, “Oh, treat yourself with the care and attention that you treat this little creature.” There can be a bone sticking out of my leg but I will make sure that he is walked, he is fed, he is snuggled, he is eating the best food, his medications are taken care of, he’s going to the vet… All the things that we chalk up to self-care are the hardest things for us to do for ourselves, but we’ve got no problem doing it for the people or the things or the pets that we love.
So when I had that moment of realization and I put up that episode — if you watch that episode, it’s kind of hilarious because I feel like you should see the light bulb over my head just go, “Bing!” — I realized that that was the simplest way to put it. It all of a sudden just became so clear to me. I do feel like animals in general have answers that we humans don’t have because they are much more intuitive beings. So many of them, whether it’s dogs or horses — there are so many things that we can learn from the animal kingdom. I definitely learn a lot from Charley, including that snuggles are non-negotiable. One must snuggle, one must have snuggle somewhere in your life. Whether it’s a comforter or a dog or a human, one must have snuggling in one’s life.
It’s crucial.
It is crucial. It’s like the top 10 self-care things in my life. I do not go a day without water. I do not go a day without food. I do not go a day without snuggles. Everything else is whatever, negotiate.
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How important was it to you to bring the community into funding this book through Kickstarter?
Well, one of the reasons is that I could have gone through a traditional publisher but I don’t love the idea of handing over the reins to someone else because I’m a bit of a — I don’t know if I want to call it a control freak, I just don’t love that. But also because the series itself was so built for and written and created as a love letter to this community and the book was going to be as well, I wanted to be able to start there and start with being able to offer not just the book but other things to people who might be interested in the book. Also just to see is this something you guys really want? I’ve heard from a lot of people that it is, but is this something you guys really want? I’m humbled and so grateful by the response to it, I can’t even begin to tell you. I’m so excited because now we get to announce stretch goals and I have so many cool things planned to be able to do for the book to add to people, to give people more value.
While Kickstarter is ostensibly crowdfunding and other people are helping me to create the book and pay for the book and it’s nice because I’m not going to have to take out a second mortgage on the house now. It’s also largely because it enables me to give more things to the community along with the book. That’s exciting to me. I feel like especially the creator and gaming community really understand the value of supporting other creators. Actors in general, we do that for each other as well, but the film acting world and the TV acting world that I’m a part of and the theater world — they all operate slightly differently.
But this world, this gaming and creator world does seem to really understand that none of us can do this alone. I’m really grateful for the chance to be able to share more things with people this way. Then we’ll do a full book launch somewhere down the line, but for now, I’m going to print these up myself. We’re going to be putting on this special Kickstarter exclusive extras and all sorts of stuff. It’s going to be a factory in this house pretty soon. My poor baby’s going to be like where’s the bedroom? I don’t know, we had a bedroom, now it’s full of books.
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As all good bedrooms should be.
As all good bedrooms should be, this is true. My office is definitely — my whole wall over there is books.
You’ve worked in theater, movies, video games, TV, voice-over, live action — what sort of benefits do you find you get from getting to span so many different media and formats?
The benefit is you never have to stop, which also can be a curse if you’re not careful. Not a curse, but it can also be a challenge. It’s never a curse. I love storytelling. I think it’s not only very fulfilling, but I think it’s very powerful. The benefit of getting to do it in so many different ways is that you get to touch so many more people. There’s always a way in with someone.
I remember a friend of mine once saying, an actress friend of mine saying, “Well, I don’t want to go on YouTube, I don’t want people to know me as a YouTube person.” I was like, I don’t care how people find me, I care that people find me and that we get to go on the journey together. So wherever you find me, cool. If you see me on TV and you know me from a video game, awesome; if you see me in a video game, and you know me from TV, awesome! One way or the other, we’re gonna hang out. We’re going to tell stories together. Honestly, that’s one of the greatest benefits.
Also, something that was definitely thrown into relief, especially this last year during the pandemic, is that its career diversification. Rather than having a separate career fallback, being able to diversify within all of the different genres of storytelling, I think, is a really beautiful thing. While it wasn’t necessarily encouraged when I was younger, I think the world has changed now — especially with streaming and all that stuff. The world has changed where I think every actor I know is exploring different media. We all just love doing it and there are so many opportunities to do it now, as well.
There are so many wonderful things, particularly with the advent of streaming and all the cable channels and even networks as well. You’ve heard it said a lot recently that it’s the golden age of television — the storytelling that is being done on screen these days, on the small screen, on TV, or on streaming, is so powerful and so engaging. It’s like being in a long-term relationship with these characters, right? Because you get to see them every week, or you get to at least have six episodes with them if it’s a limited series, you get to have an ongoing time with them rather than just the kind of one-night stand of a movie. Which is special in and of itself, and I love movies, but it’s just a different experience. Having all of those options to be able to share and take in stories, I think is a blessing for people on both sides.
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Did that sort of diversification, that flexibility that you have make it easier to transition from your YouTube series into a book format?
That’s an interesting question. I think it’s not so much the diversification in particular as I have gotten used to saying to myself, “I don’t know if I can do that, let’s try!” Because that’s usually how every step into a new medium has been. I’ve never done it before, which means I don’t know that I can’t do it. I might as well find out if I can rather than saying I’m too scared of change and I’m just going to do the thing that I’m good at, or that I know I’m good at because I’m afraid I might not be good at that thing. One of the I Am Fun Size! episodes that I love so much, my friend Jen Cohn says, “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good.” We tend to do that to ourselves a lot when we’re trying new things, we think we have to be good at them when we start when it’s ridiculous, you’re a beginner you are allowed to find your way.
Thankfully, I’m not completely new to writing as well, it’s something that I’ve been doing for myself for many years. Only now I am putting it out into the world in a larger form. I’ve been doing some articles here and there for people, so it’s not completely new territory. I also write in a very conversational style. Reading the book is very much like one would imagine having a conversation with me would be. Even when I read certain sections out loud, I’m like, “Yep, that pretty much sounds like you.” I think that transition has been pretty smooth for that reason, that my voice on the page is very similar to my voice in life.
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You’ve been involved in a number of Dungeons & Dragons projects, including the recent Exandria Unlimited. How did you get started with D&D?
My D&D origin story is that when I was eight years old, my awesome older brother got me a D&D basic rules set.
I still remember I had the little red dice and you had to color it in with the white crayon in order to be able to see the numbers. I devoured it. I did the first campaign because there’s a little campaign that you could do with yourself, and then that was it. I launched into it, I loved it — I went into the advanced rules and found friends to play with and fell absolutely in love with it all. Then end of high school, I started to play more of the RPGs that were like the Forgotten Realms, Baldur’s Gate stuff on the computer because scheduling was starting to be hard. Then I went away to college and finding people to play with was a little weird. [In an old voice caricature] Back in my day, back in the ought fives, I feel like there were a lot fewer women players and it was also a lot less mainstream to play. There were a lot fewer people playing D&D that were telling people that they were playing D&D, so finding other people to play with was very difficult. So I moved away from it and pretty much played video games for a long time and then I stopped playing video games when first-person shooters came out because I don’t have that skill.
My re-entry to it — god bless my patron saint of role-playing — was when I met Marisha [Ray]. And I met Matt [Mercer] and Marisha because of Overwatch, and one day Marisha called me up and she said, “Hey, there’s this new show we’re doing on Geek and Sundry with my friend Ivan Van Norman, who is going to be the Game Master — would you be interested in doing a play test and seeing if you’re a good fit?” I immediately said yes. It sounded like such a great thing. And then We’re Alive: Frontier was born, which was a really, really wonderful two-season series that we did on Geek and Sundry, using the Outbreak: Undead gameplay system. The rest is history. Marisha called me in blessedly to do UnDeadwood, which is in my top five acting experiences of all time, for sure, because it was just such a just an incredible, incredible experience shooting all four of those episodes. Then of course the Doom one-shot and Exandria Unlimited.
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This is a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg question here, but is it your love of storytelling and skill in storytelling that drew you into D&D? Or did D&D help hone your skills in improv and storytelling?
It is the chicken-or-the-egg story, isn’t it, because as an eight-year-old, how do you know? I loved telling stories when I was eight. I wrote my first play when I was six. We did it in my first-grade class so it’s not like the whole idea was new to me. But, you know, role-playing games are long-form improv. If you’re playing with a group of people who are as committed to the story as you are, then obviously it helps hone your skills because you are there playing roles and playing stories. Yes, the dice are telling you what to do, and yes, there’s a set of rules. But when you’re doing long-form improv there are different rules. When you’re doing it on stage or whatever, or UCB, there are rules. They’re just a different set of rules. I say this all the time that role-playing games are just long-form improv — the only difference is you’re not getting suggestions from the audience. You’re getting them from your game master and the dice.
So it’s definitely something that I love because of a love of storytelling and a love of stepping into and inhabiting other worlds. It’s improved my life in so many ways. I can’t just say it’s improved my improv skills — you improve your connection to others, your listening skills, your ability to work as a team. There’s so much that people can learn from RPGs, so, so, so much. I would think that anyone who saw Stranger Things would understand that. I remember watching the first episode of Stranger Things and just being like, “See? See? See everybody? These kids are brilliant.” It’s because they played D&D, among other things.
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Can you tease any stories from I Am Fun Size before you go?
Oh, goodness — well, I’ve already told you the “How the hell do I love myself ?” section — which I’m very, very proud of. I will tease that there are two very excellent stories in the book involving two very well-known ladies whose names I’m not going to disclose right now because I still don’t have their legal approval yet to put them in the book. But there are two women with who I had a connection with and in various ways that inspired me to get past some very big fears that were blocking me. I’m very excited about those two sections because I want people to realize that it doesn’t matter where it looks like you are in terms of your success, there’s always someone you look up to. There’s always someone you admire who can help you blast through something inside more. There’s always someone you can do that for on the other end of that ladder. So you can reach down the ladder and you can reach up the ladder, there’s always someone on both sides.
There is a story about how I got over a sort of paralyzing fear of singing that I had had for a short period in my life. I have Sara Bareilles to thank for getting me past that. I can at least tell you that because that story’s out in the world. I’ve said that online a million times and it’s in the series as well. But Sarah Bareilles has helped me get past that and get back into singing as one of the many branches of that storytelling tree, and I can’t thank her enough because she took the time to make such a huge difference in someone’s life. She didn’t have to, she’s Sara freakin’ Bareilles, but when you have someone who has that much heart, who is that giving to people, then you can’t help but not only be transformed by them. Remember that you have the power to do that for other people too.
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E.L. is a writer who unironically believes that most things are games. She is currently a graduate student in the history of the exact sciences in antiquity, and *has thoughts* about ancient math and modern astrology alongside good tutorialization and immersion. She has shared these thoughts (and her writing) with digital venues like Eidolon, Lady Science and First Person Scholar. In her downtime, E.L. enjoys puzzle games, ARGs, lyric TTRPGs, handstands and trapeze. You can follow her (and recommend GM-less storytelling games) on Twitter.