I brought my friend Julia to a live show of the comedy podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me
last Friday. She was visiting New York from Washington, D.C., for the weekend. As a long-time fan, I'd bought two tickets to the live performance a month before, hoping to rope someone into going with me. Julia had agreed, though warily. She had never heard the podcast before; she later confessed that, perhaps because she's an only sibling, she finds it irritating when people talk over or interrupt each other.
I am not an only child. My Brother, My Brother and Me
is a comedy advice podcast founded on the idea that siblings have a unique chemistry, where siblings' attempts to encourage each other's funniness is a catalyst for explosive laughter. I find the way that Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy exclaim jokes at each other weirdly familiar. But not too familiar.
"Lin Manuel Miranda's a big fan of the show," I told Julia, by way of mollifying her, as we took our seats in Flatbush's Kings Theater last Friday. Everyone likes Lin Manuel Miranda, I thought, as the lights dimmed. He wrote Hamilton
; everyone liked Hamilton
. He wrote the music to Moana
. Everyone liked Moana
. If Lin Manuel Miranda likes anything, it's a good sign.
A moment later, a friend posted a Facebook status that he'd seen LMM giving out high-fives before the show. And a moment after that, Lin Manuel Miranda himself walked onstage and began performing a rousing rendition of "Shrimp! Heaven! When? (Now!)" (I made this title up).
"This is just like seeing Hamilton," I said to my friend Julia.
"Sure, dude," she said. She sipped her chardonnay. She'd bought a double pour.
The McElroy brothers, hosts of My Brother, My Brother and Me
, took the stage as LMM's song closed and the Hamilton
playwright left the stage, to thunderous applause. As always, the McElroys began their show with 10-ish minutes of banter unrelated to advice-giving, before clarifying that they receive questions from listeners and netizens and turn them alchemy-like into wisdom. It is worth noting that, if you have not listened to the show, their advice is also generally very bad.
Like Julia, I was not a fan of My Brother, My Brother and Me
the first time I heard it. It was jarringly informal and spontaneous, relying on inside jokes based on references to past episodes and childhood stories about each other. It was like hearing a highly colloquial version of English for the first time. I'm not sure why I kept listening; I think I left the feed for the podcast on for a few hours, just long enough to indoctrinate me.
After answering advice questions submitted by listeners via email, mixed with the bizarre questions that can only be found on Yahoo! Answers, the McElroy brothers opened up their forum to questions from the audience. Thirty or so people queued up in the rows leading to the stage.
This was this part of the show I was most interested in: though the McElroy's jokes feel especially off-the-cuff in their podcast, I'd always wondered if they don't write down a few ideas for jokes as soon as they receive a question. I should clarify that I don't think this makes them inauthentic--the jokes are still theirs, whether or not they are improvised, and I very much doubt that they have to the time to write anything more than a few notes down for a couple of the questions they receive each week. If anything, I'd expect three people who are, at this point in their careers, seasoned performers, to prepare as much as possible for a show. I wanted to know if they are as funny when confronted with a question they have had no opportunity to prepare for, because they are extremely funny in their recorded shows.
They were very, very funny. They invited John Hodgman, whose podcast Judge John Hodgman
runs on the Maximum Fun podcast network, which also hosts My Brother, My Brother and Me
. Julia and I both cracked up at an audience member who confessed that he's dropped a $16 dollars in change in a tip jar on accident, and then attempted to retrieve it. The brothers joked that his mistake was dipping back into the jar--that his money was as good as gone, and that he should consider it a down payment on future tips at the same establishment.
The McElroy brothers will continue their tour of the states in October in November, appearing next at Cobb Energy Center in Atlanta, Georgia on October 20th and Andrew Jackson Hall, in Nashville, Tennessee on October 21st.