Podcast hosts the McElroy brothers bring all goofs, no bummers to San Francisco

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As the crowd waited for the McElroy brothers — Justin, Travis and Griffin — to take the stage Thursday night, the entire theater joined in for an impassioned “Come On Eileen” karaoke session. Everywhere there were people clapping, stomping and even head-banging — unintentionally forming the most concise scene of what it’s like to be a fan of McElroy podcasts.

The brothers took to The Warfield Theatre for a live taping of their advice podcast “My Brother, My Brother and Me,” or “MBMBaM.” They were joined on Friday night by their father Clint McElroy for a taping of their Dungeons and Dragons, or DnD, podcast “The Adventure Zone.”

At first glance, the shows might be easily boiled down to some dick jokes and other similarly themed comedy. This humor certainly plays a large role in the McElroy repertoire, but as the live shows in San Francisco proved, the appeal of these live shows is a little more complex than that. While the Thursday night show had plenty of crude humor, it also featured the infamous Munch Squad — a podcast within a podcast and an example of the nuance that came to develop within these shows.

The Munch Squad consists of the oldest brother, Justin, interrupting the show to share some outlandish new campaign by a fast food company. Thursday night saw a bit about Domino’s new campaign to fund pothole repairs in various towns. While this yielded the opportunity for some good jokes, there was also wry commentary on how weird late stage capitalism is getting. The McElroys’ irreverent humor does not preclude the genuineness of their shows; in fact, it is one of the things that makes the shows all the more sincere.

Though one might expect “The Adventure Zone” to be very different from “MBMBaM” — it is, after all a DnD podcast — the trademark McElroy sincerity carried over to Friday’s show. The first campaign — the world and story the characters are in — of “The Adventure Zone” lasted for more than two years and spanned 69 podcast episodes. The characters are well-loved, as evidenced by the elaborate and varied cosplaying present in the audience. Arguably, the ultimate reason “The Adventure Zone” has resonated with so many people is the effort put forth by the McElroys to create a fantasy world in which someone can see themselves represented.

“The Adventure Zone” features diverse characters, including a transwoman, a gay elf and a lesbian dragonborn, to name a few. The aim of the live show of “The Adventure Zone” is to present an accessible stand-alone story, but of course most of the jokes and references assume a familiarity with the lengthy arc that established these characters. So, although the story for the live show was fairly straightforward, it was still met with significant enthusiasm. Still, there is something to be said about how the simple act of naming certain characters or items was enough to elicit rousing cheers from the audience.

Ultimately, the McElroys’ philosophy of storytelling is a testament to how and why a group of podcasters managed to sell out The Warfield Theatre. After the initial 69 podcast episodes were completed, Justin, Travis, Griffin and Clint came together to reflect on the themes of “The Adventure Zone.” The shows are imbued with an attitude to always “choose joy,” which according to Clint, is a theme that should be attributed to the brothers’ late mother.

There is something incredibly liberating about aggressive positivity. To be in The Warfield last Thursday and Friday was to be a part of such positivity. It was made richer by the way this positivity did not exist in a vacuum. The world kind of sucks right now — it’s still OK to laugh.

Contact Danielle Hilborn at [email protected].