Travis McElroy and The Adventure Zone's Success

The following is a video transcript

Todd Kenreck:                   In part two of my interview with Travis from The Adventure Zone, we talked about his amazing podcast and what it's meant to so many people.

Travis McElroy:                  So Magnus isn't my main, because, well, I would say so we played the whole series, the whole arc, the whole campaign, and then that finished and so like I really feel like I beat that ... you don't beat D&D, but I feel like beat that.

Todd Kenreck:                   Explored him?

Travis McElroy:                  Yeah, right? And I'm playing a new character now that is not Dungeons and Dragons, but she's a spell caster and she's young and very impulsive and she's based off a lot of my favorite wizards and stuff in media of like "I can help!" And like flinging a fireball into the scenario and but like, "That didn't help!" Like that kinda thing. And so I really like playing ... well and I think I actually do know what this says about me, is all my characters end up being impulsive because I have ADD. And so like that's kind of a thing of myself that I carry over into all of my characters, is like impulse stuff. And because I like to play characters that are only thinly veiled not me. Like there's like, "No that's me, but me if it was this person."

Travis McElroy:                  And so all of my characters always end up being me, but they're 18. Me, but they're an elf. Me, but, you know what I mean. And mostly because I just like myself so much. I really like playing myself.

Todd Kenreck:                   For those that don't know, what is your show and why did you start it?

Travis McElroy:                  So Adventures Zone started oddly. So we do a podcast called My Brother My Brother and Me where it's me and my older brother Justin and my little brother Griffin. And then my older brother, his wife was having a baby so we were banking a bunch of episodes like for his paternity leave. And so Griffin had the idea like, well, we'll do this like one off so we bought you know like the D&D starter pack and we just played that. So we just pulled pre-rolled Fighter, pre-rolled Healer, and we put out one episode of it, intending it to be like, "Oh that was a fun experiment!" And then people really liked it!

Travis McElroy:                  And so we started doing it more, and I would say it probably took us until the second arc of the campaign to really find what the show was. Because at first, it was just about us being bad at D&D, or being goobers, and not knowing what we were doing, and like probably breaking rules that we didn't know existed.

Travis McElroy:                  And then over time, our audience started to take it seriously and care about the characters and get invested in the story. And then that reflected back of us of like, "Oh, okay! We're like writing collaborative narrative storytelling!" This isn't us ... it's still a comedy show but it's also like we're building a story, we're writing a story.

Travis McElroy:                  And so we started treating it more like, you know, with characterization and backstory and how the characters interacted together. And so we did it, that campaign, for like three years. And so it really built this where they started to where they ended, was really satisfying. So then it also finished. You know, we were like, "That's the characters." And so we then did a couple experimental arcs, four episode arcs, of one set in kind of the Old West, but like an old Universal Old West with like werewolves and vampires and stuff. And then we did one that was like a superhero campaign. And then we did one called Amnesty, where it was kind of a Buffy supernaturalesque, "Oh there's a new bad monster in town and we gotta stop them." And it's set in modern day West Virginia, and it's like very crypto zoological.

Travis McElroy:                  So it started as four goobers role-playing game playing, and then it became collaborative fiction storytelling podcast.

Todd Kenreck:                   What's been the reaction with the fans?

Travis McElroy:                  I mean they love it. Like if-

Todd Kenreck:                   Because you didn't start out doing D&D. You started, well, role-playing.

Travis McElroy:                  Yeah, and the interesting thing about it is, so we'd been doing My Brother My Brother and Me for a couple of years before that. And we'd do live shows and everything and people would show up. But then with doing the Adventure Zone, people started dressing as our characters and showing up in costume, and doing fan art. And it was a completely different kind of experience versus basically being a comedian to then being a writer of characters taking on this importance to people beyond us doing it, beyond the show, was like, "This character means something to me because of how I interpret it and how I see it, and how it reflects to me something within myself."

Travis McElroy:                  And so it was a really interesting kind of learning experience to kind of realize that I only have so much ownership of the character before it then goes into how somebody else feels about it and what that means to them. And so everybody kinda owns a piece of it for themselves. And it really is a very truly inspiring and humbling experience to get messages from people like, "This is what this meant to me in a time when I really needed it." And to think like, "Wow! That's way beyond I told a funny joke and somebody laughed and they felt better", to like "There was something within this character, something you said or did that really impacted me in a way", that is, it's very cool.

Travis McElroy:                  You know I just like making people happy. There's something very gratifying to me ... well, you know what? Listen. I would be lying to you if I said I didn't like making people laugh and applause and stuff because I like attention. So a big part of it is I like attention.

Travis McElroy:                  But at some point, I think it was when, I don't know if it was when I became a dad or when ... whatever, this build up to it went from ... so we'd been doing My Brother, My Brother, and Me for over eight years and 400 episodes. And at some point it stopped being this fun thing we were doing to doing a job to then this is our legacy almost in a weird way, that ... Oh, Justin and Griffin are gonna roll their eyes at me saying that! But like this idea of like this is a thing, there's over 400 episodes of it, and when my daughter's old enough, she'll be able to listen to it and be like, "My dad did this."

Travis McElroy:                  And then with Adventure Zone, I mean, we're working on the Adventure Zone graphic novel now and that's gonna be a thing. And there's something about me learning the difference between being at a party and making a joke, and making my friends laugh, versus creating a thing that's going to grow beyond what I do with it and instead grow into what people ... what it means to them, is like, "Wow! That's much bigger than me!"

Travis McElroy:                  And I hope that I'm doing something that is improving the world that there's ... I used to say, and this is really gross, but, not gross but I hope it doesn't make me sound too pompous, but I like the idea of, even if it's just one person, there's somebody out there that's gonna be inspired by something I do to then start doing things themselves. and to kinda keep that chain going, of I listen to this thing ... because that's the thing. I do this because of things I listened to and enjoyed and so I started doing it. And then I hope that there are people that feel the same way and that keeps going and people continue that kind of chain of creation.

Todd Kenreck:                   Thank you, Travis, for being on the show. I'm Todd Kenreck your host. Thank you so much for watching.


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