The McElroy brothers just wanted to stay in touch.
Travis, the middle child, and Griffin, the youngest of the three boys, had recently moved to Cincinnati, Ohio and rented a place together, while Justin, the oldest, remained in Huntington, West Virginia, where the three had grown up.
Sure, Justin knew they would talk on the phone sometimes and that occasionally his brothers would come home to visit. But he wanted something more regular, a reason for them to set aside time every week to talk and goof off.
“Let’s make a podcast,” Justin suggested. He and Griffin were already working on a podcast for the video game company they worked for at the time. He knew how to do it. They had the equipment – well, sort of. And coming up with a concept? That wasn’t too hard.
We’ll make an advice podcast, the three decided, answer random questions, banter back and forth, see what happens.
When the trio started “My Brother, My Brother and Me,” they used mics from the video game “Rock Band” to record their parts. Travis and Griffin would go to their separate bedrooms so they could record while they spoke on a call with Justin from Huntington.
“It was pretty much the wild west back in those days,” Justin said of their approach. “… We have no idea what we’re doing. That does not make sense. That is a nonsensical way of doing this.”
But something about it worked. The comedy show grew in numbers quickly and by the beginning of 2011, just months after launching the podcast in April of 2010, Maximum Fun, an independent podcast and radio show production organization, picked up the show.
“I think right off the bat we were kind of surprised by how much people seemed to like it and support it,” Travis said. “But I don’t know how much at the time that any of us were like ‘And some day, this will be our full-time job.’”
Six years later, this is Travis’ full-time job. Griffin and Justin have kept their day jobs writing and producing videos about video games, but Travis is now working full-time recording and producing five to seven podcasts every week from his home in Cincinnati, including “My Brother My Brother & Me” and “The Adventure Zone,” a spin off from their original podcast where the brothers play Dungeon & Dragons with their father Clint.
These days, “My Brother, My Brother & Me” pulls in around 600,000 downloads every episode, Travis estimated. Since the show launched in 2010, they’ve had a total of 72 million downloads. The brothers have even hosted a number of famous guests on the podcast, including the creator of “Hamilton,” Linn Manuel Miranda and the author of “Eat, Pray, Love,” Elizabeth Gilbert.
And in February of 2017, a television series based on the podcast was released on Seeso, a comedy video streaming platform owned by NBC. The brothers returned to Huntington to shoot the series. Rather than answering several questions every episode, like they do on the podcast, the brothers focused their efforts on one question, ranging in absurdity. They tackle everything from helping a viewer improve his resume to helping a man try to convince his wife to let him get a tarantula to going ghoul hunting for a listener who is worried her college dorm room will be filled with haunted artifacts.
The brothers hang out at Huntington High School to mentor some teens, they all interview for a job that Griffin was fired from years ago, and they host a pro-spider parade through the center of downtown as a way to help spiders get a better name. Huntington’s Mayor Steve Williams appears often on the show as well as the brothers’ father Clint.
“A big reason why we wanted to film here in Huntington,” Travis said, “is because it doesn’t look like L.A. It doesn’t look like Vancouver. It looks like Huntington. And that’s a strength because it gives our show something different that other shows don’t have. That’s the way you’ve got to look at it.”
As for the common narrative that many young people growing up in West Virginia face – the idea that if they want to go do cool, creative things, they’ll need to leave the state to do it – it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, Travis said.
“People leave to go do cool stuff because there’s no cool stuff in West Virginia, and that’s because they left to go do that cool stuff other places. You need people to start doing the cool stuff where they live rather than go to where the cool stuff is so that the cool stuff can start happening in West Virginia,” he said.
When Justin and Travis were graduating from college, both with theater degrees, the common assumption was “So now it’s time to move to Los Angeles, Chicago or New York,” the two said. But there’s opportunity to create everywhere.
“The big difference is there are roads for people to do cool stuff in bigger places,” Justin said. “And if you’re going to do cool stuff in a place like this, you’re going to need to make the road. But that’s cool too because you get to decide what the road looks like and where it goes and all that stuff.
“You get to be the one making the rules. It’s harder, but, I think, ultimately more rewarding.”
Anna Patrick is a proud member of the UpThink team. A journalist by trade, she is currently based in Charleston writing for a handful of magazines and helping nonprofits, like Generation WV, tell their stories. When she isn’t hunched over a keyboard pecking away, she’s probably hunched over her puzzle table trying to find that next piece.
Like party favors, but for your brain. Enjoy these weekly goodies including viral videos, interesting articles, curated playlists, and more!
- JAM OUT: To our favorite ‘Hamilton’ tunes in honor of Linn Manuel Miranda’s appearance on the brothers’ Seeso show.
- LISTEN: The McElroy brothers tackle Dungeons & Dragons in a spin-off podcast
- BINGE: My Brother, My Brother & Me on Seeso with a free, 7-day trial now!
- WATCH: Things I Bought at Sheetz – a brainchild of Justin McElroy.
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