Thirteen years ago, before podcasts were their own career category, the three McElroy brothers were looking to just stay in touch while living apart for the first time.
Now, in 2023, the guys—Travis, Justin and Griffin McElroy—have found critical acclaim with their podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me, and have taken their successes on the road for live podcast tapings across the country, including a stop this Friday at the San Jose Civic.
Eldest brother Justin jokes that it’s felt like “too long” of a journey since their start back on April 12, 2010. “Someone should stop us,” he says. All kidding aside, of course, the group has enjoyed their endeavors into podcasting and all of the doors it has opened in the time since.
It all began back in 2010, Justin explains, when Travis and Griffin moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, from their native Vermont, separating the trio for the first time in adulthood. At the time, Griffin and Justin were working for Joystick, AOL’s video game blog, and had contributed to their podcast.
Stemming from their experience with the tech company, all three decided that launching their own podcast—aptly named for their sibling bond—was an easy and joyful way to stay in touch with one another at least once per week. Aided by their father’s radio expertise—Clint McElroy of the morning program on Virigina’s own WTCR-FM—the podcast took off.
“Radio was something we’d always been involved with, so we started [MBMBaM],” Justin says. “It was really just an excuse to talk.”
While the family’s patriarch had broadcast experience, the three brothers were in different fields: Griffin and Justin in video games and Travis in theater. Because of the lack of professional overlap, the topic of a podcast was a bit tricky to come up with—until someone suggested an advice show.
The brothers kicked off their podcast by responding to questions on online forums, primarily Yahoo! Answers, to really get a feel of their brand. Over time, listeners began to send in their own questions for the McElroys’ advice, and the brothers continued to gain traction.
“We were really bootstrapping it originally, and it just sort of organically started to expand, which caught us by surprise,” Justin says.
He recalls a few early live shows in New York City, where the podcast kept selling out a 100-seat theater. “We kept adding more shows. Why didn’t we get a bigger place?”
Over time, the podcast has gone on to flesh out its varied aspects, including recurring segments. In particular, Justin enjoys the segments “Haunted Doll Watch” (“It’s always fantastic, with these twisted narratives that are out of control”) and “Munch Squad,” in which he reads press releases from fast food companies.
Additionally, the brothers have received plenty of odd listener requests and queries, one of the most memorable for Justin being a young child at a farmers’ market yelling “Shrimp Heaven Now.”
“It’s been five or six years since I’ve read that question, and it is still in my mind—what was happening,” he asks through laughter.
Another aspect of being a wildly popular podcast is of course the celebrity fans and guests. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the brothers had the chance to chat with Jimmy Buffett, who shared that he was learning French while sheltering in place. Author Elizabeth Gilbert, of Eat Pray Love fame, was Justin’s “favorite guest-pert,” largely because of the excitement surrounding her fandom.
“It’s people that we really like and find really funny and entertaining,” Justin says. “It’s a weird group of people, but it’s a hoot.”
Now, over a decade into their originally unplanned career pivot, Justin says that the podcast’s success continues to surprise the family, albeit with glee and joy.
“The energy we’re putting into the world, these people appreciate an atmosphere of basic positivity, which we always strive for without being too Pollyanna about it,” he says. “When people say that this is a bright spot for them, it makes us feel really great. If we can make their lives a little better, I feel like I am helping the world a little bit.”
Fri, 7pm, $39.50
San Jose Civic, San Jose