Meet the Creators of Three Minnesota Podcasts
Root Beer Radio, Dungeons and Dweebs, and Take It With You are entertaining audiences across the state and beyond
MINNESOTA – A podcast is kind of like a radio show, but on demand.
They’re all-original online content about specific subjects produced by people around the world, including here in Minnesota.
Dave Herdan and Matt Holton have recorded thirteen episodes of their podcast, Root Beer Radio.
“We went to middle and high school together and then after college or during college, Matt started dating my twin sister, which is cool, totally cool,” said Herdan.
“We’re now brothers in law, so things worked out,” added Holton.
“Root Beer Radio is a podcast about root beer,” explained Herdan. “We talk about all things controversial and exciting in the world of root beer and, believe it or not, there’s a lot.”
Herdan is a root beer aficionado. Holton is a home brewer.
The subject may not seem like enough to talk about for an hour a month, but it’s something the creators have a passion for.
“Every single person, at least in Minnesota and Wisconsin, has these memories from childhood of drinking root beer, either in a glass bottle or from a tap and just feeling so happy,” said Herdan.
Their episodes are full of reviews and debates about things like carbonation, containers, and sarsaparilla.
“The last time we walked into the Blue Sun Soda Shop, a bunch of people recognized us. And I’m like nowhere else in my life do people stop and talk to me over something that I do,” said Holton.
They say starting a podcast is relatively cheap and easy — just get a couple microphones, an audio interface, and use a computer with Garage Band or similar program for editing.
“Figure out if what you want to talk about is enough for a podcast and you’re like, ‘but Dave, your podcast is about root beer.’ I know,” said Herdan.
Meanwhile, in a basement in Hoyt Lakes, four friends come together every month to record a podcast called Dungeons and Dweebs.
“Actually it was my wife who came up with the name Dungeons and Dweebs,” explained podcast co-creator Bob Saumer.
“I think she was making fun of us,” said co-creator Luke Nikunen.
“Yeah, but I took it as a complement,” joked Saumer.
The show opens with a segment where random nerd topics are discussed.
“We wanted to be like a discussion where we’re around a tavern table and that even plays into one of our pieces on the show called Tavern Talk,” said Saumer.
Then, the cast has an in-depth conversation about a book.
“We go chapter by chapter, practically line by line and talk about every nuance of the book,” explained Saumer.
The podcast has reviewed about sixteen books over the last two years.
“It is very difficult to month by month say you are going to read an entire novel, take notes, make intros, record episodes, edit them all and get them out on a monthly basis,” said Saumer.
Dungeons and Dweebs is uploaded to the website Podbean where it’s attracted listeners from all over the world.
“Podbean tracks it for you and all a sudden I’m like, Lichtenstein?!” exclaimed Saumer.
The dweebs now have followers in places like Australia, Luxembourg, and Scotland.
As the show continues to grow, the creators are looking to add new dimensions to the broadcast.
“The plan is to eventually bring it around to have a live streaming video component while we’re recording to get more listener interaction, and then still edit it, put it out as a podcast,” said Nikunen.
Dungeons and Dweebs already has their own makeshift set filled with some of the nerdy stuff Saumer and Nikunen grew up with.
“I’m a child of the 80s, he’s a child of the 90s, but growing up in a small, rural area, we basically both had 80s childhoods,” said Saumer. “Kmart sold the same crap for three decades.”
And in Duluth, Take It With You has been entertaining audiences for six seasons.
“My wife and I and our friend Andy Frye wrote a musical together when we lived down in the cities and it was called Stay Tuned and it was in 2013 and it was about a fictitious radio show and then we moved up here to Duluth specifically to take that idea of a fictitious radio show and bring it to life,” explained Take It With You creator, Blake Thomas.
Every month, Thomas and his cast write an original fifty-page script and five all-new songs.
“There was a tune that I wrote called Sex in the Barn,” recalled Thomas. “That’s a good one.”
Then, the group performs their creation in front of a live audience at Teatro Zuccone in Downtown Duluth.
“The feedback that you can get from a live audience, the energy in the room is so different,” said Take It With You creator, Mary Fox. “I think it gives us that adrenaline we need to get through a show that we’ve only rehearsed one time.”
Stylistically, it’s a throwback to old radio dramas like Gunsmoke, but rated R for modern audiences.
“I’ve actually had people tell me that it’s kind of like church for them except without the religious part of it,” said Thomas.
The podcast is technologically complicated with as many as thirty-two separate audio tracks used in each episode, but the cast says the product isn’t meant to sound like a studio album.
“These days, especially with music and theatre, things tend to get over produced,” said Fox. “They tend to get really perfect and I think that we should celebrate the process of how new shows happen and how original music can take place and how a group of people can come together on one night and do the show the next day.”
After the recording, Take It With You is uploaded to their website, where iPhone and Android users can subscribe and listen to every performance, complete with audience participation.
“You think of back in the day people gathering around a radio and now it’s sort of people are literally taking it with them,” said Fox.
Worldwide, podcast ad revenue grew to more than $400 million last year.
But these Minnesota podcasters tell us the market is still growing.
They say whatever your passion, a podcast is a great outlet to reach friends you never knew you had.