Travis McElroy never thought gabbing with his two brothers would be a major part of his full-time job. But since the sibling trio launched their beloved My Brother, My Brother and Me comedy advice podcast more than a decade ago, the 38-year-old West Virginia native has made a career doing just that.
“The beginning of the show was us moving away from each other across the country. We weren’t even hanging out in person anymore,” McElroy says of the podcast’s early days in 2010. “So the thought never even crossed my mind. But there were milestones along the way, when it started to feel like a thing.”
Chief among those milestones was signing to the Maximum Fun network a year after the show’s launch. The platform founded by podcasting trailblazer and NPR host Jesse Thorn (Bullseye, Jordan Jesse GO!) gave McElroy and his brothers the opportunity to make inroads with a bigger audience and expand the possibilities of what My Brother, My Brother and Me could be.
“People started wanting to schedule meetings with us about what a live show would look like. Then we signed with an agent, and I quit my job [as technical director at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company] in 2014,” McElroy says. “That’s when it really clicked for me. It was like, ‘Well, I’m going to throw my hat over the fence. This is what I’m doing full time.’”
Now regularly staking out prime real estate in top podcast rankings, the brothers’ funny and foul-mouthed, Dear Abby-style comedy hour — dubbed “an advice show for the modern era” — has since developed a deep and devoted fan base. When the show was adapted as a live-action TV series through NBCUniversal’s short-lived comedy streaming channel Seeso in 2016, it premiered as the No. 1 television show for sale on iTunes.
But the McElroy family affair doesn’t end with brotherly advice. Travis and his siblings Griffin and Justin also host The Adventure Zone fantasy-adventure podcast with their dad, Clint, featuring family-run campaigns of the tabletop roleplaying board game Dungeons & Dragons. In addition to that runaway hit (whose graphic novel spinoff landed at the top of the New York Times bestseller list) McElroy also hosts the polite-society send-up Schmanners with his wife Theresa.
“When you think about family bands or whatever, you always think they secretly hated each other,” McElroy says. “But for us, I think it’s sometimes the other way around. Our impulse is often to be gracious and gentle. But we’re all very comfortable together, so sometimes we’ll give each other a hard time and people in the comments will think there’s serious tension.”
That family dynamic will be on full display for Front Range comedy fans when McElroy and his brothers return to Denver for a live taping of My Brother, My Brother and Me at the Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre inside the Denver Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Oct. 1.
But the brothers’ path to performing their oddball brand of improv comedy in spaces like The Buell Theatre — ranked among the highest-grossing theaters in the country with fewer than 5,000 seats — wasn’t without its hurdles. Initially acting as their own booking agent, the siblings had to carve their path to such hallowed stages at a time when a live model for podcasting didn’t really exist.
“In the beginning, it was absolutely thrilling — but also, looking back, we did it so wrong,” McElroy recalls. “One time we rented a sort of barn-slash-theater in Austin, and when we showed up, a lady just handed us the keys and was like, ‘Lock up when you’re done!’ There was no one there to do anything, so our friends ran lights and our wives took tickets.”
For McElroy, the upcoming Denver show is an extension of the long arc that took My Brother, My Brother and Me from a low-stakes family goof-around to one of the most successful comedy podcasts in the history of the medium. Mostly, though, it’s a chance to do what the trio does best: crafting live improv comedy around listener questions and quandaries, and bringing more people into the fold.
“I think people have fun at our shows. And it’s not like there’s a lot of lore. There’s not a lot of inside jokes, because we never remember them,” he says with a laugh. “You don’t need to know anything about us to have a good time.”
ON THE BILL: My Brother, My Brother and Me. 7 p.m., Oct. 1, Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre (Denver Performing Arts Complex), 1350 Curtis St. Tickets here.