Bestcasts asks podcasters to discuss the three most memorable episodes of their podcast. Ties are allowed/encouraged. For more podcast coverage, see Podmass, The A.V. Club’s weekly roundup of the best ’casts out there.
The podcasters: Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds might be friends, but that doesn’t mean they have similar interests. Anthony, an actor, writer, and comedian who previously co-hosted Walking The Room, is a bit of a history buff, having spent much of his life investigating the weird and surreal corners of the global timeline. Reynolds is also a comedian, but has spent a good portion of his life thinking about Wisconsin sports, nature, and his other podcast, Point Vs. Point. Together, the two set up the perfect dichotomy for The Dollop: Anthony, the scholar, spends each episode educating Reynolds, the bewildered and amazed newbie, about one of history’s weirdest little tidbits. Laughs are had, and listeners are both educated and entertained. It’s everything a podcast should be, and with over 165 episodes under their belt, it’s clear that Anthony and Reynolds have it down to a science.
Episode 5: “Hugh Glass”
The A.V. Club: It’s interesting that you picked this one, considering Hugh Glass was the inspiration for The Revenant.
Dave Anthony: It’s timely but also it was the first one where I was like, “This will be a big epic thing,” and it was also the first one that the fans jumped on and were saying, “This is great.”
The other ones I picked I sort of knew something about, but this was one I stumbled across. I had no idea who he was, so for me a lot of this was research, and the more I enjoy researching stuff, the more it comes across in the podcast. It was one of those ones where I just kept going “Oh my god! Oh my god, there’s more!” You just keep mining and going, “This is crazy!”
Gareth Reynolds: And knowing you, I feel like it’s one that you love because he’s just such a badass.
DA: He’s such a badass. I love these stories about people who just go through hell and come out the other side. It’s just amazing. Then that in the end he doesn’t do what you think he was going to do makes it all that much better.
GR: It’s a long walk for spite.
DA: It really is. It’s a long walk to go, “You’re a jerk.”
GR: “Ah, you’re underage? You’re a vet? Goddammit! Yeah. Well I’ll just get a coffee.”
AVC: Have you seen the movie? They definitely took some artistic liberties.
DA: They certainly did.
AVC: They added a kid.
DA: The kid is such a bad idea.
GR: It doesn’t feel like you need the kid.
DA: You don’t need him at all and it sort of spoils the—
DA: The true story is better because he is just surviving for spite, and now he’s got a real reason to kill someone. It doesn’t have the same feel.
GR: No, they took liberties. The truth is that it’s a better story when a guy is just pissed off about what guys did to him and wants revenge. Because it really was just about going to kill these fucking guys, because fuck those guys.
AVC: How do you research a show?
DA: Well, it’s changed. It used to be a lot harder because I used to have to find this stuff on my own, and that was really difficult, especially because there’s so much stuff on the internet that’s just not true. You think you’ve found something and then you really start to research and you go, “Oh, none of it’s real.” And people send me stuff all the time. The classic one people send all the time is that Edison killed an elephant, which is completely not true.
So originally it was all was me trying to find stuff. But when you come up with an idea, it’s thinking, “How do I find stories,” and you can’t type in “crazy” whatever into Google, and any sort of keywords you use can send you down this hole of nonsense. So I had to find history blogs like history.net or stuff like that, and then you’re going down a rabbit hole. You get to a blog you like, and then they link to another blog and then they link to another blog, and then someone will mention a blurb of something, and you go “Okay, that’s a story,” and then I go back and research this tiny thing they wrote about and often it can fill an hour.
So that’s one way. But also now I have a researcher, Christine, who’s amazing. She’s a graduate student and I’ll give her topics and she’ll go back and pull all the old actual newspaper reports and books and stuff. She’s amazing and has been totally saving us as far as research, because it’s super time-consuming.
AVC: You could end up reading dozens of books for every episode.
GR: You’d have to get rid of the family.
DA: There have been a few times I’ve read a book, but it’s so hard to do it that way. It’s the hardest way, because it just takes so long.
GR: And I just show up at the time we arranged.
AVC: Gareth, do you know at all what you’re getting into or does he just surprise you?
GR: No. I never know. I think people like my reacting to it, which is authentic.
The truth is that history has never really interested me that much.
DA: He likes documentaries.
GR: Yeah. And I like nature stuff.
DA: Someday we’ll do a podcast where he just tells me things about nature.
GR: That’s what we do when we’re on the road. “Man, you have to go see this hedgehog.”
It’s helpful that in high school I was always like, “What the fuck is he talking about?” Because there are so many things where I just don’t know anything. So it’s good to just sit there and soak it in. A lot of times, there will be so many things going on that I’m just swimming. There were a couple where I was like, “I want to take notes,” just because there are so many names and stuff like that.
DA: I try to limit the names. I also try to use first names because I think it helps people remember.
AVC: First names also make the story seem more personal.
DA: Yeah, I think it does. People get more hooked into it if you’re using the first name.
Episode 12, “The Rube”
AVC: Speaking of names, your next pick is “The Rube.” All your picks skew early in the show’s history.
DA: They do. I was thinking about this the other day. It seems that as it’s gone on—I’m more into the research now, and I don’t know which ones pop out anymore. There are still some recent ones that are my favorites, but I think because it was so new back then that these ones are my favorites.
The Toxic Woman one was insane, speaking of recent episodes.
AVC: What happened with her?
GR: This is a woman who… [Laughing.]
DA: This happened in 2000 or something like that?
GR: Just recently. [In 1994. —ed.]
DA: This woman went into a hospital in Riverside, and all these nurses and doctors started passing out from whatever was in her, and I just was at home thinking, “What happened to that woman?” And I did all this research and I was like, “Oh my god!”
GR: This poor woman!
DA: It’s insane what happened to her.
I think the more people kind of know something and then you actually tell them the truth, they get really blown away.
GR: It’s more depressing, too, if it’s really recent. There’s stuff that we’ve done really recently that, when you’re living in it and you hear it you’re like, “Oh fuck.” It’s one thing if you just are looking back at a time thinking, “What a bunch of psychopaths!” But it’s another thing when you’re hearing about like how Ferguson was really created, how it became a powder keg and the Iraq War and shit like that. Those things are super frustrating and it’s hard to be even funny during them.
AVC: Do you guys listen to Hardcore History with Dan Carlin? That’s one where things just seem so brutal and so extreme, but I guess you’ve still got dead people hanging off bridges in Juarez and stuff like that.
GR: Think about the time we live in now. I’m sure there’s tons of shit that we don’t know yet that we will in ten years, and the whole circus that we live in will just be shocking.
DA: Americans seem to think we’re this civilized, great country, and where we came from is completely insane, and a lot of it is still happening, you know?
GR: And has holidays based around it.
AVC: For “The Rube,” you had to explain a lot of baseball’s rules, just because you have a lot of Australian listeners?
DA: I did. That was hard.
I wasn’t sure about that one at first, because that’s one of my favorite people of all time, always has been, but I got a little leery. I’m a huge baseball nut, and so I can really go down that rabbit hole and bore people to death. But with that story, I tried to really stay away from the things about baseball, and focus more on the character.
GR: That’s what’s great about “The Rube.” It’s not so much about the baseball tactics. It’s about the man behind the arm.
DA: But he’s a lunatic. If he was playing today, he’d be the greatest. Stadiums would sell out to watch that guy. He’s just insane.
GR: He’s Kenny Powers. A grounded Kenny Powers.
DA: He wrestled alligators! He’s crazy!
AVC: That’s also a time in baseball too when people didn’t make that much money.
DA: You didn’t make any money.
AVC: You had to wrestle alligators.
DA: You had to. In the summertime.
GR: You’d need two jobs. A two-job athlete.
DA: And you could be a fireman or live in the firehouse.
GR: Someone holds up a puppy, you lose your shit.
AVC: You could still take a dog into the stadium.
DA: You could take dogs into the stadium and hold them up to distract professional athletes.
GR: “The Rube” is my number one because every single thing you can look up about him, it’s a crazier, more insane fact. Every moment is more nuts.
AVC: You can think, “Oh, that can’t be true,” but then it is.
DA: It is true. You can read about it. It’s true.
GR: But also, Cy Young is a name that I think anyone who knows baseball loosely knows who Cy Young is. I don’t really watch that much baseball, but you know the best pitcher gets the Cy Young Award every year. The idea that there was a better pitcher who just can’t have an award named after him because of what he did outside of throwing a baseball—it’s pretty amazing.
AVC: It’s like a Barry Bonds award. It’s tainted.
GR: Totally. Like the Lance Armstrong cycling award.
AVC: Rube is from an era of baseball that people don’t know a ton about. It didn’t really get going in the public mindset until the ’30s or so.
DA: He’s pre-Ruth. It’s on the cusp of it becoming really big, but the turn of the century was super weird because the fans were close. Sometimes they’d just stand around the outfield.
AVC: You could drive your car right up to the outfield.
DA: It was a crazier time. I think that’s also part of why that story is so crazy to me. The access of the fans to the players is sort of mind-boggling.
GR: Yeah. The Rube is sort of the Jackie Robinson of the mentally incapacitated. And doesn’t get enough credit.
AVC: It also says a lot when you find a truly dumb baseball player, because there are a lot of really dumb baseball players.
DA: It’s so great to me to find a guy that’s that good at sports, and that stupid. It’s just the perfect mix.
AVC: There’s also so much media training now. Then, you could get an honest answer out of an athlete. You could know who he really was.
GR: Honestly it is a little bit like Johnny Manziel, just without all the ownership and the media, when people can just do whatever the fuck they want. If Johnny Manziel were playing then, they’d be like, “Well, shit. Hopefully he’s good for Sunday. I know he’s concussed and drunk in Vegas, but I hope that cannon’s ready.”
AVC: “As long as he shows up by game time.”
GR: Yeah, as long as he’s there by game time. Drunk or not!
DA: I guess that’s the thing. It’s just a person being his pure self. And now we have a time where you don’t know who anybody is who plays sports.
GR: Can you imagine if the Rube had a Twitter?
Episode 15, “Ten Cent Beer Night”
DA: I just realized I picked two baseball ones, didn’t I?
The “Ten Cent Beer Night” story to me—I love the things that encapsulate a time period, and it’s so ’70s.
AVC: And so Rust Belt Cleveland.
DA: No one had any rules. There were no boundaries. They were just like, “Yeah, get as many beers as you want!” And just the fact that they would sell 10-cent beers is mind-boggling!
AVC: Even if you do the conversion, and think, “What was 10 cents in the ’70s?”—
DA: It’s still nothing!
GR: It’s asking for problems. You need to be a well-oiled machine at getting beers out there.
DA: You could buy as many as you wanted. And the fact that they did it on this night when the two teams were having this fight already coming in, it’s just insane.
I guess the reason I really tapped into that was because I remember going to Giants/Dodger games and there were riot police all over the stadium and people were getting plowed out of their minds, but this was the ultimate example of that.
GR: No limits.
DA: No limits at all. It was just complete madness.
AVC: Speaking of Giants/Dodgers games, remember when the guy got stabbed in the parking lot? It was a few years ago. It’s amazing that stuff like that or like the 10 cent beer riot doesn’t happen all the time.
DA: All the time. I know. I’m amazed it doesn’t happen all the time. Because people get drunk, and there’s a guy from another team and…
GR: The difference is that they try to control alcohol consumption more at games. It’s not that we’re better people or anything like that. It’s just that after the seventh inning they’re like, “No, you drunk fucks, you have to go out to the parking lot soon.”
DA: The ’70s are a perfect example of the lack of boundaries between the fans and the players, because the players are going into the stands all the time to fight fans. It happened constantly. Or fans would throw their full beer cups on players when they were going back to catch a ball—
GR: Which is a great move. “It’s 10 cents, fuck ’em! It’s cheaper than water!”
DA: I remember watching a game when Dusty Baker went back into the corner and people just dumped beers on him. Ten-cent beer night is like it all happened on one night. The fact that fans were on the field? That’s another thing—fans used to always run on the field.
AVC: That was a hot streaking era, too.
GR: It was when you didn’t get tased for streaking. You got a slap on the wrist. They were just like, “Get the fuck out of here. We’ll see you next week.” Not anymore.
AVC: My dad was at Ten Cent Beer Night.
GR: Get out of here! Oh shit. Wow, that’s crazy.
AVC: I only learned that recently, and then I sent him this episode to listen to.
GR: “Ring a bell?”
AVC: He was saying “It didn’t get out of hand until the sixth inning,” and, “I don’t remember things getting crazy.” But I said, “You know, The Dollop says it started a lot earlier…”
GR: “Oh, now that rings a bell!”
DA: I can see how, if you were there, it might not have seemed like it was getting out of control. Because it was sort of not.
GR: If you’re watching the game…
AVC: They were on the third base line, too, so maybe if they’d been in the bleachers.
GR: Or they had tried to get some beer near the bleachers.
AVC: He said he remembers that it was mostly dudes, which I can understand.
DA: Not a doubt. Ten-cent beer night is going to be mostly dudes. And not the cream of the crop.
GR: The guys who hear 10-cent beer are like, “Fuck yeah, let’s make a profit!”
AVC: Knowing Cleveland, I imagine it was a lot of college kids and blue-collar, hardscrabble workers looking for a cheap night out.
DA: And looking for someone to mix it up with.
GR: If you think about it, if you were to unite 70 thousand people in a cause—it’s very hard. But the fact that, without any planning or anything, that full stadium knew, “Fuck this, we all just want more beer, and we’ll do anything to get it”—
DA: It’s quite a war cry.
AVC: What’s a story you haven’t done, but you’ve wanted to?
DA: I can’t say because he’s here.
AVC: Have you asked him about stuff, Gareth? Like, “I’d like to know more about—”
DA: He doesn’t, really. He lets it happen. I think it’s the best way to do it. Because if he knows anything about it… we’ve done a couple like that, and I don’t think they’ve worked as well.
GR: It’s different. But no, I’m totally comfortable having no knowledge of any of the stuff, just sitting down and going, “All right, let me into the matrix.”
AVC: Do you go home afterward and tell people about what you just learned on the podcast?
GR: A lot of my friends, just over the course of it, have become fans of the podcast. And so there are some days where we’ll have to record a bunch of them just to get ahead of it, and if I meet up with a friend of mine after, it’s like history drove a train through your head. I’ll be like, “I don’t even know which one I’m talking about.” Most of the time my friends will be the ones to text me, like, “What the fuck!”
DA: And then there are some that are depressing. He did one to me, a reverse one, and it took me a day to recover.
GR: Really sad. People won’t let me forget that one. But the truth is if you have something that people listen to and you can try to make a difference on stuff—there’s this terrible story about Nim The Chimp that just really shows you, again, how terrible people can be to animals. I’d like to get that one out there.
DA: It’s like the movie Room but it’s about a monkey.
GR: It’s really unbelievable.
AVC: Are there stories you do just because you think they have a message to get across?
DA: All the time. I just did one on Frank Rizzo from Philadelphia, and the reason I did it is because he’s Donald Trump, you know? I really like to draw parallels because people are like, “This is crazy,” or “This would never happen now,” but it’s like, “Bo, it happened and it’s still happening.”
GR: It’s happening. Turn on your TV.
DA: You could go through the Red Summer—in 1919 I think it was—and what we did to black people is just straight-up ISIS stuff. It’s horrific beyond words. And it’s crazy. I did a version of that about something that happened that summer, and it’s like, “This is what we were. We weren’t that far off.”
GR: That was a depressing one.
DA: There were entire cities wiped off the map. Eight-hundred people were killed. And people say, “Talk about that! You did the one about the one guy getting killed!” and I’m like, “A whole town is a little bit different… not as funny.” We have a rule. I’ve done a couple where a lot of people got killed but…
AVC: Do you ever decide a topic is too depressing?
DA: Yeah. A lot of people send me sexual assault stuff.
GR: I’m smiling already.
DA: Or child molestation, serial killers. I won’t do any of that. It’s just not funny,
GR: It’s so dark.
DA: It’s just gross.
AVC: Even if you made a joke, you’d feel bad about it later.
DA: We did one where a guy ended up sexually assaulting and killing a woman. I just wanted to see how it would play out. And the whole story is crazy up until that point and then you’re like, “This is hell for her. This is not fun.”
GR: Which happens. I think one of the things that makes the podcast good is that we’re both trying to make it light and funny, but there are times when stuff just has too much gravity to it and you have no choice but to be like, “Eh, there’s not a lot of jokes coming to mind right now. I feel really bad for these people.”
DA: The main thing I’ve always tried to do with the podcast is show the building blocks of America. This is all the stuff that went into what we are. You’ll get some of that in history class, but the common guy doing some weird stuff out there—I think you learn more from his story than if you’re learning about some leader.
GR: And like you said, it’s the parallels, too. There are so many times when there’s just something that is so obviously crazy that we’re living in, and we just live through it because it’s happening right now. But if you look back in time, you can see that these things are crazy, but there’s always been tons of crazy shit going on.
DA: I can guarantee you that in a hundred years you could do a Dollop about gun violence and people would be like, “What are you talking about?!”
DA: Without a doubt that’ll be a thing.
GR: And you have people doing that now, but we still take it and live in it.