Build a community around your podcast. We call it giving the show handles, things for people to grab onto and tell others why they like your podcast. In addition, we don’t pretend to know all the answers. Sometimes a listener will know more about a topic than we do, and we encourage them to reach out and share their experiences.
As part of my series of interviews about “5 things you need to know to create a very successful podcast”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kat and Jethro Gilligan Toth.
Kat & Jethro Gilligan Toth bring their irreverent brand of humor and unique chemistry to an exploration of the strange, the bizarre and the unexpected. With ten million downloads since its 2018 launch, The Box of Oddities has become one of the fastest growing comedy podcasts.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit of your “personal backstory? What is your background and what eventually brought you to this particular career path?
Well, we both come from a radio background, primarily, but we both have experience in other fields. Jethro once loaded 36-pound boxes of frozen asparagus onto a refrigerated boxcar and Kat used to mow cemeteries for a living. We think these are the experiences that really helped us get to where we are today. We were drawn to podcasting because it’s something that we can do from anywhere and share with everyone.
Can you share a story about the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started podcasting?
I think our live shows have been the most interesting thing that has come out of our podcast. We’ve been able to perform at some incredible venues that have hosted top comedians and we’re just blown away that we get to perform on the same stage. After the shows we get to meet the VIP ticket holders and one of them once brought us a wet specimen of a snake through a racoon’s heart — that was hard to explain at the airport.
Can you share a story about the biggest or funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaways you learned from that?
We had a really interesting experience at our first podcast convention we were asked to speak at. We were booked on a panel about social media promotions with the host of another podcast and they didn’t show up. Someone else had to step in at the last minute, which they were very nervous about. So, to calm themselves, they had a few drinks before we went on stage. It was an interesting panel, to say the least. Looking back, we met some incredible people on that panel, and some made connections that have been invaluable in growing our podcast. The lesson there is to show up — even if it’s out of your comfort zone. Also, don’t drink whisky at 10 am.
How long have you been podcasting and how many shows have you aired?
We dropped our first episode in March of 2018, so we’re coming up on our third anniversary. We’ll be in the studio recording our 307th episode later today.
What are the main takeaways, lessons or messages that you want your listeners to walk away with after listening to your show?
We have an underlying theme that we think has been really important in building our community and that is “If you are kind, you are welcome here”. Really though, we have learned a lot over the last three years like, “Never Leave a Prosthetic Leg at a Travelodge”, “Don’t Climb on Boxes Full of Dead People”, and “Never Hurl a Toilet Bowl into a Major Sporting Event”. These are not only things we’ve learned, they’re episode titles.
In your opinion what makes your podcast binge-listenable? What do you think makes your podcast unique from the others in your category? What do you think is special about you as a host, your guests, or your content?
I think one of the things that makes our podcast bingeable is that so many things can fit inside The Box of Oddities. Anything that is strange, bizarre, or unexpected like the mysterious disappearance of a pirate ship or abandoned funeral homes. It’s been hard for us to decide what category we fit in. We’re listed as comedy on one platform, history on another, and true crime on another. All three really work so I suppose that makes us unique! As far as what makes us, as hosts, special… we try to be as “real” as possible. We’re married and our vibe on the show is very much how it is “in real life”. A conversation that you’ll hear on any given episode is most likely exactly like a conversation that we’d have at home when there are no mics around.
Doing something on a consistent basis is not easy. Podcasting every workday, or even every week can be monotonous. What would you recommend to others about how to maintain discipline and consistency? What would you recommend to others about how to avoid burnout?
Absolutely, consistency is key. Though, of course, researching, recording and producing two episodes every week can get grueling, we approach it like it’s our job. In three years, we have never missed a drop date, though we cut it close sometimes! We are lucky that it’s something that we get so much gratification from doing and that we have each other to help keep us accountable. As far as burnout goes, I think being passionate about what you are sharing is important. Also, a weekend getaway with cheesecake is the self-care we all need to stay focused sometimes.
What resources do you get your inspiration for materials from?
We have an ever growing, eclectic library, of course, the internet is a treasure trove of weird, but more and more we are getting suggestions from listeners.
Ok fantastic. Let’s now shift to the main questions of our discussion. Is there someone in the podcasting world who you think is a great model for how to run a really fantastic podcast?
If we are talking about a team — We love Dan and Lynze Cummins from the Scared To Death Podcast. Cristine and Em from And That’s Why We Drink is another great example of a two-person podcast that just works. If you are talking interview style podcast, we love Jim Harold, and Jordan Harbinger is a straight up genius when it comes to interviews.
What are the ingredients that make that podcast so successful? If you could break that down into a blueprint, what would that blueprint look like?
As far as the co-hosted podcasts, chemistry is so important. Also, the co-hosts’ ability to balance each other — be relaxed and loose and conversational, without losing focus. If you’re talking about an interview style podcast, researching the topic, knowing how to ask great open-ended questions and when to let the expert be the expert.
You are a very successful podcaster yourself. Can you share with our readers the five things you need to know to create an extremely successful podcast? (Please share a story or example for each, if you can.)
- Consistency is key. Decide how often your show is going to drop and follow that schedule religiously. Listeners want to be able to depend on you being there when you say you will. Part of our demonstration to potential listeners that we were serious was releasing 5 episodes when we launched.
- Focus on what you can control. That can be content, audio quality, gear and production.
- Niche is nice! With so many podcasts out there, sometimes, the more specific your focus, the better.
- It’s not all fun and games. If you want your podcast to be successful, maybe even make a little money, treat it like a job.
- Not everyone will like you and that’s okay. Don’t base your self-worth on reviews or download totals.
Can you share some insight from your experience about the best ways to: 1) increase listeners; 2) produce it in a professional way; 3) encourage engagement; and 4) the best way to monetize it? (Please share a story or example for each, if you can.)
- The best way to increase listenership is to create good content. From there, word of mouth can be the most beneficial for you.
- Invest in the best equipment you can. And learn as much you can about production and editing, if you’ll be doing that yourself. YouTube is a wonderful resource!
- Build a community around your podcast. We call it giving the show handles, things for people to grab onto and tell others why they like your podcast. In addition, we don’t pretend to know all the answers. Sometimes a listener will know more about a topic than we do, and we encourage them to reach out and share their experiences.
- There are many ways to monetize. We found paid ads worked best for us, as well as offering premium content on Patreon and to a lesser degree, merchandise.
For someone looking to start their own podcast, which equipment would you recommend that they start with?
That would depend on what your budget is! I would not recommend waiting to start a project because you can’t afford a two-thousand-dollar microphone. Start where you can and grow it from there, improving your equipment along the way. We use Shure SM7b microphones, coupled with a RodeCaster Pro.
Ok. We are almost done. 🙂 Because of your position and work, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The community that has grown up around this podcast has impressed us so much and the lesson we’ve taken from them is that it’s okay if you don’t fit the mold or if you have interests that are considered “fringe”, if you are kind, you are welcome here. I think we could all use a little more empathy and understanding in our lives and sometimes the place you find it is in a group of people who want very much to hear about the frozen, severed head of baseball legend Ted Williams.
How can our readers follow you online?
TheBoxOfOddities.com is a hub for all of our social media and such!
Thank you so much for sharing your time and your excellent insights! We wish you continued success.