Stuff You Should Know is one of the most well-known podcasts in the short history of podcasts. This has much to do with the hilarious and calming personality of Charles W. “Chuck” Bryant. After a live performance in Cleveland’s Playhouse Square, Chuck and I chatted about his time in the city, his new solo podcast, and the (then still alive) great Aretha Franklin.
How did you enjoy your Cleveland performance?
Chuck Bryant: Cleveland was great, it was a highlight from this year. I have family and friends there and it felt like a hometown show in a lot of ways.
This was not your first time in the city was it?
CB: Oh no, I’ve been there probably 20 times over the years.
Do you enjoy yourself when you’re here?
CB: Yeah, I love it. It’s a home away from home for sure.
Do you have any memories off the top of your head that stick out from here?
CB: I’ve done all the great stuff in the Cleveland/Akron area, from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to Browns games. We’ve seen live music and the Christmas Story House. I’ve boated on Portage Lake. I’m trying to think of what else… Football Hall of Fame, we’ve kind of done it all. I went to an Indians game once. I like the area a lot.
Until you’ve experienced our winters. Then you’ll be begging to go back to Atlanta, I’m sure.
CB: Well, I used to go every Christmas so I have a slight idea.
Yeah just take that and make it stretch eight months.
CB: Yeah, no thanks.
PressureLife started its own podcast and we’re about 11 episodes in where we are highlighting different people around the city, all different backgrounds and ages. It’s catching on slowly and I was wondering since you’ve been doing Stuff You Should Know for over 10 years, what are some of the things you had to figure out in the beginning?
CB: With Josh and I, we had to work on our rapport, even though it was pretty good from the beginning. I think we just had to gain confidence. Also, when to stop messing with stuff and just lock it in and repeat that experience as much as you can.
I’ve been listening to Stuff You Should Know for about seven years now. You guys really nailed down that feeling where you’re already all of our friends. It feels like we’re having a conversation but you two are doing the talking. Is that something that is premeditated?
CB: I think it comfortably flowed from the beginning. I think we were smart enough to not mess with it too much. The nature of the show is very conversational and organic. People responded to that from the beginning. If it feels like a conversation that two dudes are just having, that’s because it is. We don’t script anything out, we always do our research, sit down, and talk about it. Like I said, we’ve just been smart enough to stick to that over the years.
Did you think when you started that you would be hopping on a plane and going to all these places because you were sitting at a table with a microphone?
CB: No, you know, the live component, I mean we started so early in podcasting no one was doing live shows back then. We figured we’d give it a try and we booked a few shows in Canada to see what it was like, and they were a big success from the beginning. It was a really fun new thing we could do and sitting in that studio for ten years can get a little monotonous, so getting out and meeting people face to face is the most fun part of it for sure.
Is it what you enjoy the most?
CB: Yeah, I mean I still really love every aspect of the job, but there’s really nothing like going out on stage in front of 1,200 people and making them laugh. It’s definitely the most fun, but you know, with a family at home it’s not something you can do too much.
You’re doing Movie Crush now. Was that something working in the back of your head for a long time?
CB: We were both happy just doing SYSK but, when our company started growing and wanted to add more shows I think both of us thought , hey let’s go do a solo album and see what that looks like. I started Movie Crush because that was an obvious one for me to do something movie related. And Josh has his own solo show coming out soon. I think it’s good to go off and do your own thing. We do have the SYSK bond together, but I do liken it to a band; I think it’s healthy to go out and do your solo record.
Movie Crush is a little bit more R-rated than Stuff You Should Know. Is that kind of a relief for you?
CB: Yeah, I have a potty mouth in real life. We were kind of forced into clean language when we first started the show because we worked for Discovery Channel, which is a family-friendly network. It ended up being a blessing in disguise because the show ended up being accessible to everyone. We have families that listen and teachers that use it in classrooms, and we love that aspect about it. But when Movie Crush came around, I definitely made the decision [to be more R-rate], especially because I’d be interviewing people and I didn’t want anyone to feel like they had to censor themselves. I certainly like to loosen it up a bit myself too.
Through promoting Movie Crush on Stuff You Should Know, you turned me on to My Favorite Murder, which is now one of my favorite podcasts. Is that cross pollination in the whole podcast community, as far as finding new podcasts and getting people to listen to other podcasts, super important to you?
CB: I think so. I’ve done that from the beginning. Our place with SYSK is about as secure as it gets in podcasting, so I’ve never had any problem promoting podcasts on other networks or our own network. I just think it’s good for the industry if we all chip in and try to push one another’s shows out there. It’s just good for podcasts. It’s just stuff we like; I’m just pumped about it.
If you have time in your day to listen to another podcast what are some of your top choices?
CB: I listen to My Favorite Murder, Judge John Hodgman, Unschooled (another movie podcast), Friendly Fire (another other movie podcast), and I listen to We Know Parenting with two friends of mine that our comedians and parents that I think are hysterical.
What music have you been listening to lately?
CB: I haven’t gotten into anything new in awhile. I’ve been reaching into old Motown and soul vaults lately for some some reason.
That stuff does make you feel a little more connected with natural rhythms.
CB: For sure. I feel like you put on some Aretha Franklin and you feel feel something in your gut.
What advice do you have for new podcasts?
CB: I always have the same advice, which is first make it sound good and just be natural.