Mario Bueno is a vocalist, actor, and producer specializing in web video and nerd culture. He has appeared on Anime News Network in their 2007-2008 webisodes, was recently a host for Frederator Networks’ The Leaderboard and Channel Frederator, and has spent over a decade as a professional emcee for everything from cosplay contests to wrestling-themed presentations (in particular Kaiju Big Battel from 2017-2018). He can also be seen reviewing (and playing with) toys for aNb Media’s TTPM blog, will be narrating the upcoming audiobook for Lyndsey Luther’s Greencloak later this year, and is the founder of NYC-based multimedia production outlet Digital Era Entertainment. (Bio From Crunchyroll) Here is our interview with Mario:
How did you get started in the business?
Mario Bueno (MB) – – Hahah, that’s a very loaded one (in a good way) for me. Honestly, it’s so weird to think about it that way even now because I still have moments where I feel like I’m still “just getting started” (or at what I’d consider the “starting line”) in different elements in my professional life, but if I have to say specifically how and when my professional journey with anime in particular began, it goes back specifically to 2007…hope you’ve got a caffeinated beverage handy, hahah.
Ignoring the rest of both my narrative (and that of Digital Era Entertainment’s) to this point for the sake of focus, I was on the verge of following a VERY different life path at the midpoint of this year…despite training and aspirations for a career in entertainment (both as talent and production), even taking on my first truly “professional” voiceover roles through Howcast Media, I found myself in the latter part of that year splitting time between repping Samsung as a Brand Ambassador in one of their two original Samsung Experience locations over at NYC’s Time Warner Center at the time as well as teaching martial arts at the local school I trained at for many years. (Buzz Martial Arts here in NYC for anyone curious!) At that particular time, I was also actively trying to walk away from cosplay in particular because despite my generally positive experiences up to then, I (at the time) wrongly thought I’d gone as far as I could with it and (again, wrongly) saw both cosplay and the convention scene as a whole as preventing me from achieving a healthy life balance personally and professionally, so I was determined to try and make myself a “proper adult” with a “respectable” resume following (in no particular order) a failed stint the previous year as a real estate agent, an unsuccessful Broadway reality show audition that thankfully got buried pretty quickly, and a string of unsuccessful auditions for roles/gigs that ultimately didn’t pan out.
Clearly, the universe had other ideas and was simply setting me up for the best to come, because during that Fall (shortly around when I secured the Samsung job), I got tipped off to the opportunity to audition as a co-host for Anime News Network’s upcoming web video series. I’d done small volunteer press gigs over the year prior (my interview with Patrick Seitz at VCRX will come back to this, actually!), so I saw it as a way to justify staying attached to the anime circuit if I secured it.
Needless to say, I did, and with that, I felt comfortable staying in the scene and continuing to participate both as both a competing cosplayer and a fledgling member of the anime industry proper by way of working as press through an established entity. I should say that I owe a LOT to ANN founder Justin Sevakis in this regard as he taught me many good lessons during that time as my director for the program, and I appreciated the trust he had in me to let me interview my favorite musicians (TM Revolution) during that time.
Meanwhile, as I eagerly hopped back in the cosplay scene I experienced one of the failures I’ll be bringing up in the DEE Kai (会) podcast panel at VCRX; specifically, one of two basically failed attempts at representing the United States in the World Cosplay Summit at the first ever New York Anime Festival (a predecessor to Anime NYC, which funny enough was put together by much of the same team). In the aftermath, I was introduced to the folks at ACParadise.com who, a few months from this point, started working on event promotions with companies like FUNimation (later, Crunchyroll itself, in addition to Bandai-Namco, Viz Media, Sentai Filmworks, and many more). In a weird convergence of circumstance and my newfound appreciation for field marketing (which, I cannot stress enough, I NEVER had interest or knowledge in prior) by way of my job at Samsung, I found myself working with people who’d become lifelong friends and business associates promoting anime both at events and through web video…which turned into 12 wonderful years “in the trenches” promoting anime and building a freelancing career both within and without the anime scene! (And also ended up having a positive impact on all my other ventures even to this day.)
…So basically, working for/through ANN and ACParadise, if you need it all wrapped up in a nice bow, hahah.
What is your favorite thing to host?
MB – – In general? As vocally strenuous as it is, wrestling shows! While my experience with Kaiju Big Battel was more of a two-hour improv show+vocal gauntlet combining proper wrestling commentary, ring announcing, and a HEALTHY dose of improv storytelling, at its core, it was run in many ways like a proper wrestling show with the trappings of an indie theater troupe. In simple terms, what makes these types of shows so fun is that there’s a very unique energy that comes with the live crowds (and the need for participation from them) during those particular types of performances.
What is your advice for those wanting to make a name for themselves in the space?
MB – – Have fun with what you do, don’t be shy to try things if opportunities are presented, but also be accepting that things may not always work out the way you want or expect, and that’s perfectly ok! Honestly, some of the best things can come from the worst times, and the unexpected twists and turns can sometimes lead you right back to where you hoped to be in even more meaningful ways!