They know stuff
Down-to-earth style and wacky content add up to a top-ranked podcast
Have you ever wondered how mummies work or if you should eat gluten? Josh Clark (M ’95) and Chuck Bryant (AB ’98) have, and they’ve found the answers to these and many more questions.
In 2008 the duo started a podcast called “Stuff You Should Know,” and since then they have been answering such mind-bending questions as, “What sorceror creates zombies in the religion of Voodoo?” (a bokor), “Which country measures its success in terms of gross national happiness?” (Bhutan) and “What are the names of Chuck’s cats?” (The Wizard and LaRon).
“All sorts of people listen to it,” Bryant says. “It’s people who are inclined to have MP3s or be connected to the Internet, but we have listeners from all over the world. That’s one of the differences from being on the radio.”
“Stuff You Should Know” began as an experiment from the creators of HowStuffWorks.com, a website owned by Discovery Communications. The website explains a wide range of subjects in engaging ways, and podcasts offered a promising new way to inform readers.
“I had never listened to a podcast before we started,” Clark says. “We started out doing 5-minute podcasts. Since then we’ve let the topic inform how long we speak for, so the time has increased exponentially.”
“Stuff You Should Know” has also increased in popularity. It has consistently been ranked in the top-5 iTunes podcasts and has even reached No. 1. In response to such high approval ratings, Bryant and Clark have done live shows and hosted trivia events in Atlanta and New York.
“I guess the podcast has been successful because of the way we interact,” Clark says. “We’ve had lots of people tell us that they like our chemistry together or that we remind them of their friends from college.”
Bryant and Clark set the casual tone of “Stuff You Should Know” by chatting like old friends at a bar. They joke. They laugh. They stumble over words. The difference is their conversation centers on thorough research rather than idle small talk.
“There are not a lot of places you can go to learn something and have a good laugh,” Bryant says. “Those things don’t tend to go hand in hand.”
While the pair speaks in everyday language, they address scientific topics like lobotomy and delve into news stories like the Gulf oil spill.
“We’re presenting complex ideas in an approachable way so that people aren’t intimidated,” Clark says. “We try not to think too hard about it or second guess our jokes and tangents. We just go with it.”
Bryant and Clark usually record two podcasts a week, ranging in length from 20 minutes to an hour depending on the topic. Most of their topics come from articles published on HowStuffWorks.com, but they also take requests and draw from events in the news. Each podcast concludes with “Listener Mail,” a segment where people call in with more questions inspired by Bryant’s and Clark’s dialogue.
In addition to live audience feedback, they receive more than 350 pieces of mail every week. Listeners write in with questions, but many also praise their down-to-earth approach.
“We don’t come off as experts, because we’re not,” Clark says. “We’re just professional researchers.”
For more on “Stuff You Should Know” and to take Bryant’s and Clark’s quiz go to http://www.HowStuffWorks.com.