but this place is just right.
In Britain, the greeting “alright?” is not actually a question. It’s an acknowledgement of your presence rather than an inquiry into your wellbeing. Accepted replies are “not bad” and/or repeating the question, anything else is considered rude oversharing. Here, we know everyone has endless crap to deal with so we mustn’t offer up our own. It’s a bit of etiquette hundreds of years in the making, one that allows us to turn off our brains, just for a moment, to the tenacious pounding of reality.
“Y’alright troops” is how Scottish comedian Limmy, aka Brian Limond, starts his Twitch streams. It’s an announcement that for the next three hours you can slip into stand-by mode, ignoring the news cycles of endless shit relentlessly piled on top of one another while we try to spin the plates of our daily lives while also worrying about whatever existential threat is on deck for today. It’s a sign that for the next three hours, you can watch a man adequately play Truck Simulator.
As you might expect, the game simulates the experience of long-haul truck driving. First released by CSC Software in 2008, its incredibly low-octane action involves reverse-parking articulated trucks and being overtaken by passing motorists. It might sound boring, and to be perfectly frank, it is. But it’s so mundane, and Limmy’s demeanor so mellow, that it becomes something quite captivating.
As the digital landscape drifts past, Limmy, whose comedy tends to deal with the cripplingly mundane and awkwardly surreal, potters through questions and tells rambling, stop-start stories, taking backroads down anecdotes and observations of the world while obeying the rules of the road, mostly. There are no real jokes, no rehearsed gags, just harmless, disposable “patter” and a Glaswegian accent.
For non-Scots, Glaswegian, with its rapid, rhythmic slang and condensed phrasing, can sound incomprehensible and scary. Limmy’s Glaswegian, though, is soothing. He’s always whispering so that he doesn’t wake up his girlfriend and wean (FYI, “wean” is Scottish for “child”), who sleep in the next room while he streams. Add to this the hum of the engine, the soft grind of tires, and the clacking of indicators as he stops for red lights, and a sense of complete calm will invariably wash over you.
Unlike other video game streams featuring younger and more abrasive internet personalities, the humor of Limmy’s stream isn’t brash or loud, and not just because his girlfriend will bollock him if she wakes up. If you’re familiar with his books or sketch show, Limmy’s Show, you’ll know Limmy loves humor about difficulty and disappointment of real life. The stories Limmy tells are often of his own history of substance abuse and difficulties with mental health. His humor is about being down, not punching down.
Admittedly, that sounds like heavy stuff. But Limmy’s honesty and breathtaking openness about his own life, as well as the fact he’s trying to relay his story while responding to viewers and safely getting frozen goods from Texas to northern California while not waking up his family, creates a sense of familiarity. It’s description without prescription. Just hearing someone else talk about their difficulties is cathartic.
Don’t get me wrong — it’s still funny. Limmy is often distracted by trying to remember songs from the ’80s, annoyed that he has become a 40-something “dah,” or getting really into roleplaying as a truck driver. Limmy, like Hitchcock, easily switches to extreme close-ups on, allowing us to see the nuance of his reactions, usually annoyance or confusion.
When traversing the internet, it’s always best to tread lightly anyplace marked “here be gamers.” A bad apple spoiling the bunch is truer of no other subculture. This makes Twitch terra incognita of the internet. Or at least it would be if Limmy didn’t enforce his zero-tolerance approach to anyone using hate speech, making the community pretty safe. He hasn’t thrown ads on his stream and regularly uploads it to YouTube. This means it’s free to watch if you’re a bit cheap or don’t fancy staying up until the wee hours of the morning, but chuck him a few bucks if you can.
It also means Limmy constantly — and earnestly — thanks new subscribers and donations as they roll in. The intermittent “thanks for the subs, mate” from him are little reminders of the casual, friendly and homespun nature of the stream. The wink and smile down the barrel of the camera with each thanks is a tiny, genuine gesture of appreciation. It’s made lovingly… and for the money. But still, it’s honest and comforting. Its tranquility isn’t constructed, it just happened.
It’s the perfect excuse to turn your brain off. Simply put, it’s alright.
A previous version of this article misidentified the name of Limmy’s sketch show. We regret the error.