Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy reflect on 10 years of their flagship podcast — and look ahead.

By Evan Lewis
February 28, 2020 at 07:00 AM EST
Sarah Deragon

Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy have turned their boisterous family dynamics into a multimedia enterprise. Between the many popular podcasts they share with their wives and father, an upcoming tabletop game based on their role-playing show The Adventure Zone, a best-selling graphic novel series (releasing its third installment, Petals to the Metal, in July), a planned streaming adaptation of that franchise on NBC's Peacock, and plenty of other projects, the brothers have managed to dip their toes in basically every arena of entertainment, making a slew of A-list pals along the way. But the backbone of their brand remains the podcast that started it all: My Brother, My Brother and Me. In honor of MBMBaM’s 500th episode, premiering the first week of March, EW chatted with the three hosts about the podcast’s past, present, and future.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’ve done podcasts, journalism, streaming TV, live shows, books, and movies, counting the upcoming Trolls World Tour. What worlds are left for the McElroys to conquer?

JUSTIN MCELROY: Yeah, you left out I was a chef at the Olive Garden for a month.

GRIFFIN MCELROY: I think we’ve reached the poorly advised pseudo-celebrity restaurant phase of our career.

TRAVIS MCELROY: I was going to say celebrity fragrance. I think it’s time for us to partner with, I don’t know, Dior? Is that something? And make, like, what do the McElroys smell like?

JUSTIN: I mean, the wine is right there, ripe for the picking.

TRAVIS: Celebrity wine! You know, 50 Cent has branded condoms, we could maybe do that.

GRIFFIN: There’s so many doors left open to us.

What can listeners expect from episode 500?

GRIFFIN: We tried to recapture the magic of a really foundational episode early on in the show called "Spaghettageddon," where we ate a bunch of spaghetti and it filled us with reserves of comedy juice that we did not know we possessed. So now, nearly a decade later, we tried to recapture that magic, only to find that our old bodies can no longer process carbohydrates in the same way that they used to. So we mostly get very tired. At one point we do have a pull-up competition, which I forgot about until this morning, so I think you do sneak just a little bit of the pasta fury in there.

JUSTIN: We brought on our family to talk about how great our show is and how it’s helped to change their lives. It’s pretty chaotic, I will say, and I will say also, as all great milestone episodes in all media are, hugely self-indulgent.

TRAVIS: Oh yeah, it’s the closest we’ve come to like… well, I guess we’ve done clip shows, so never mind, I take that back.

GRIFFIN: My son refused to be on it. Not a joke, he shot me down. The other children make appearances, but his rider was a little too intense for us to fill.

JUSTIN: He wanted a million bajillion gummy bears, which isn’t even a number.

GRIFFIN: Not possible, and it would also make him very sick.

Any plans yet for the notoriously skipped episode 420?

GRIFFIN: The truth is, nobody’s made a funny weed joke since like 1984, so there’s not much left for us to use there.

TRAVIS: Cheech and Chong literally burned up all the good weed jokes.

JUSTIN: Also, the last time we recorded something under the influence of substances, we made the ill-advised decision to try to appear in the film Trolls World Tour, so I don’t know what we would get ourselves into in a sort of weed-infused episode.

Let’s talk featured non-brothers: Do you ever stop to think how wild it is that Lin-Manuel Miranda has written no fewer than three songs in your honor?

TRAVIS: Yeah, it should be way more, right?

GRIFFIN: No, it’s wild. It’s very, very flattering, obviously, and very humbling. The songs, it helps, are bangers. I don’t know what we would have done if he’d turned out some real stinkers for us. We probably still would have been pretty polite about it, but fortunately we didn’t have to worry about that. He’s very close to the fam now at this point, which is a great thing, because he’s a super-good dude.

Can you explain a little how Jimmy Buffett became a part of the show’s canon?

JUSTIN: I am an unironic fan of James Buffett. Lin, for my birthday a couple years back, organized a trip for me and my wife, Sydnee, to go see a double feature of Hamilton and then Escape to Margaritaville. From there, Jimmy invited us to go to the [Broadway] premiere of Escape to Margaritaville, on the blue carpet, as it turned out, and we recorded an episode from there. Last year when he played in Cincinnati, he snuck a reference to us into "Margaritaville," which is probably a highlight of my existence here on this planet. It doesn’t get much better than that for me.

Knowing what you know now, would you ever agree to record an episode at a Broadway premiere again?

GRIFFIN: In a heartbeat.

TRAVIS: Absolutely!

JUSTIN: Yeah, in a heartbeat, it was great. At this point we’ve been doing this for long enough that we know where our limits are, and we know that if we push ourselves just past those, it can often be a really entertaining place to operate.

TRAVIS: And the nice thing is, if you take all three of us and kind of average out our comfort zone, it’s the blue carpet premiere for the Margaritaville musical.

Looking back, what’s your favorite bit from MBMBaM’s run?

TRAVIS: There was a bit where Griffin was talking about how Tim Curry couldn’t get a kid to take ice cream from him if he was hanging out with Pikachu and Charmander in an ice cream truck, and Griffin’s Tim Curry impression while saying "Pikachu" and "Charmander" made me laugh so hard for so long.

GRIFFIN: I just think looking back, like the most uncontrollable laughter, like we needed to stop for a bit because I didn’t know how to recover from this, is probably still Amélie. Justin’s spot-on impression of Amélie just went so long, and I could not contain myself.

JUSTIN: The best joke that has ever been on My Brother, My Brother and Me, concretely, is we were having a discussion about hunger, and we said, "Do you guys know what they say the finest sauce is?" and Travis said, "Worcestershire," and I laughed for two minutes. To me, that was the funniest thing we have ever done, and we will never top it.

GRIFFIN: I’m not sure I understand how it’s funny, and I’m gonna admit that now in this interview.

JUSTIN: The idiom is that hunger is the greatest sauce. We were having a discussion, and we asked what the greatest sauce is, and Travis says Worcestershire.

TRAVIS: You see, it was a subversion joke, Griffin. I subverted expectation.

GRIFFIN: I’ll have to go back and listen, man. It sounds f—in’…

JUSTIN: If you hear it, the timing of it, this isn’t going to be funny in print, but the timing of it like, nails it. It’s choice. You can link out to that. People will hear it and be like, "That’s good."

You three have a history of using your platform to do good. What is the MBMBaM accomplishment you’re most proud of?

JUSTIN: Pretty much all the charitable stuff that we’ve been able to do is just a refraction of the generosity of our listeners. We’re really blessed to have a listenership that actually gives a s— about people and actually cares. I am proud to have created a kind of show that engenders that sort of audience full of kind, generous people.

GRIFFIN: Yeah, MBMBaM Angels is tough to beat. There’s this list that’s published in our local paper in Huntington, West Virginia, called Empty Stockings, where people would request Christmas or holiday needs. As soon as this call is put out to help these people in our hometown, our very spread out audience all sort of comes together to just annihilate the list. It makes me very emotional to think about.

What should fans expect from the next 500 episodes of the show?

JUSTIN: You know, if they have any ideas, we’d just love to hear ’em at this point.

GRIFFIN: [Laughs]

JUSTIN: The thing I will say about My Brother, My Brother and Me that has made it continue to work, I think, is that it continues to be a reflection of who we are as people, and as we inevitably sort of grow and change, and our listeners grow and change, the show itself sort of evolves to keep up with us and who we are. It’s weird to go back to listen to early episodes, like when we didn’t have kids and some of us weren’t married, et cetera, et cetera. I don’t recognize the people who made that show. I wish I knew what the next 10 years would hold for us personally, but I think My Brother, My Brother and Me will continue to be a reflection of whoever we are as people. Probably fewer boner jokes. If you average it out, probably fewer dick jokes in the next 10 years.

TRAVIS: Hey, he doesn’t speak for me.

GRIFFIN: You can mark pretty clearly the transitional period where we all started to have kids, and then I think we definitely changed as human beings. So again, the show reflects that. But pretty soon, we’re going to enter the age where now our kids are going to be old enough to understand the kind of stuff that we’re saying on the show.

TRAVIS: Oh, yeah!

GRIFFIN: And I would anticipate maybe even more changes coming down the line. It’s not going to become, now, acceptable to run, let’s say, on Nick Jr., if such a thing still exists. But man, I don’t know, there are certain parts of my brand that I will be sensitive about when my child understands what is up.

JUSTIN: My kid is very close to the point where she can Google me, and after that, I’m pretty well boned as a figure who can provide, like, authority and stability in her life. It is going to be very easy to type like 15 characters into Google and see an absolute damning litany of me as an adult human being. I will have no more solid ground to stand on.

TRAVIS: I’ll just say that I really enjoyed when we were able to transition into making dad jokes, but I can’t wait to be able to make granddad jokes and talk a lot about, like, "Back in my day we didn’t have podcasts piped directly into our brains while we slept." I look forward to being able to make those and people saying, "Well, yeah, he’s 160, of course he talks like that."

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