Will the Doughboys Scarf Jucy Lucys While Dressed as Prince at The Fillmore?
"A fuckin' shotgun of hot cheese into my mouth? I'm a fan of that. I think you are too Wiges," co-host Mike Mitchell says of our state's top culinary export.
12:35 PM CDT on June 19, 2023
Through the happenstance alchemy of running a tiny newsroom, this month has become... um, let's call it... Yuk-tastic June here at Racket. Welcome to Yuk-tastic June! That, of course, means we've run comedy interviews with the multitalented John Early, breakout Saturday Night Live star Sarah Sherman, and, finally, Nick Wiger and Mike Mitchell of hit podcast Doughboys.
A 2015 business meeting at a Cheesecake Factory would forever change the creative and financial lives of Wiger and Mitchell. The two comics were the only parties in attendance that day inside glitzy L.A. mall The Grove, where they met to gameplan a potential podcast. The setting proved prophetic. At the time, Wiger and Mitchell were members of two cult-loved improv troupes—A Kiss From Daddy and the Birthday Boys, respectively—that would collaborate monthly on a live show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. The double-bill would draw around 100 comedy nerds, they report.
This Friday, the chain restaurant review podcast Wiger and Mitchell hatched over those voluminous Cheesecake Factory menus, Doughboys, will headline the 1,500-capacity Fillmore in downtown Minneapolis. (At least a couple Taylor Swift fans probably had to think long and hard about whether to hit up Doughboys or U.S. Bank Stadium.)
“Do you want us to be honest? Zero. There were zero business aspirations,” Mitchell says of Doughboys, his eventual hit podcast that features eps with celeb guests like Scott Aukerman, Nicole Byer, and Minnesota's own Chris Pratt; today it’s among the 100 highest-earning podcasts on Patreon, according to Graphtreon. And it’s not just riffing on cheeseburgers: The hilarious interplay between its two hosts inspires comedic worldbuilding that has attracted a passionate listener fanbase—aka The Freaks—over the past eight years.
Their special guest Friday, the effortlessly funny comedian/actor Carl Tart, is a favorite of The Freaks. Wiger, Mitchell, and Tart just announced they’ll be reviewing Taco John’s which, while not a Minnesota-based chain, does have its largest footprint here. Will the Wyoming-headquartered Potato Olé vendor enter the hallowed halls of the Golden or Platinum Plate Clubs? If so, only one word would suffice: wow.
Ahead of the show, we chatted with Wiger and Mitchell by phone about Jucy Lucys, Pizzagate, and Charlie Chaplin's missed podcast opportunities.
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What were the business aspirations when you first came up with the podcast, the lightbulb moment?
Mitchell: Do you want us to be honest?
Yes, please don't lie to me Mitch.
Mitchell: Zero. There were zero business aspirations. Nick had kind of come to an end of doing live stuff at the UCB Theater, where we both did sketch comedy and improv, and I was kinda getting close to that, too. We had always wanted to do things together, and it felt like a thing of, "Hey, podcasting is in." We of course thought we got into late. We both like trash food, and it was Nick's idea to do fast food and chain restaurants.
Wiger: Yeah, it wasn't like, "Hey, let's build a fucking rocket ship, we're taking this thing to the moon!" These days, every celebrity has a podcast as a side hustle because it's guaranteed revenue. Almost in a bad way. That was an era when there wasn't a promise of any sort of money. In fact, we were out-of-pocket financially, basically losing money on it, for the first year and a half.
When did it first occur to you that there is revenue potential, that this could become something approximating a full-time job?
Wiger: It really was the emergence of Patreon to supplement what you're getting in terms of add money from paid subscriptions. It really was a flip for us, in March 2017 I believe; we were stunned.
Mitchell: It never felt like There Will Be Blood, where we struck oil. It kept growing. He's a writer and I'm an actor; you never know where you next job will come from. Side hustles have become more and more of a thing. It is that fucked up thing of like: If Charlie Chaplin had a radio show where he was like, "Ah, I had a great steak dinner last night..." That sucks!
Wiger: [Laughs]. I don't know man. I'd wanna check that archive of Charlie Chaplin reviewing steakhouses in the Golden Age of Hollywood. But yes, 100%, we know people more talented than us who struggle to string together enough jobs to pay your living expenses. There was a time when you could be, say, a commercial actor or a staff writer, and you could do alright for yourself. It has kinda reached a point where you have to find a way to supplement your income. [Doughboys] started as something where we can argue about Taco Bell, and it turned into something where were can make a living. We're extremely grateful and fortunate.
Mitchell: I have a question for ya: If we didn't make a living on it, do you think it'd still be going? Sorry Jay, I'm now asking questions.
Wiger: I don't know... It's possible we would, but I think with the eating of it, the thing we've most gotten burned out on most... the show would have turned into something else.
Mitchell: Which it still might. [Laughs.]
I feel comfortable saying this because you guys have made fun of the production value of the live show, where's three or sometimes four folks sitting at a folding table talking about food. And now, you're about to perform a 1,500-capacity venue doing that, about the same size as First Avenue, the club that Prince made famous a few blocks away. Were you ever self-conscious about the live show?
Wiger: It's the strangest thing to be like, "OK, we're going to go out and talk to in front of an audience for 90 minutes to two hours, and that's what people are paying to see." Where I made peace with it is, like, ya know what? People listen to us two times a week, they've gotten used to our voices, and part of it is just like: I just want these voices I've heard to be real. We still try to have a little bit extra, but by and large, people wanna see us just do the podcast.
Mitchell: Ya know, it never really scared me until you just asked that question! It is that weird thing, where there are 15-minute stretches where we're talking about a cheeseburger. People are liking it, they find it interesting, but you get that need to say something funny more while you're on the road.
Wiger: Yeah, and then we don't do that. [Laughs.]
Mitchell: And then we bomb!
Wiger: The secret of the podcast, in general, is that we bring in heavy hitters, people that are funnier than us like Carl Tart, Nicole Byer, Jon Gabrus. We have a format, we have a template for how to do the show, and we know to hit the beats. But it helps to have an agent of chaos.
Have you guys been to Minnesota?
Wiger: We went to Dave Ferguson's wedding in St. Paul.
No shit! A Birthday Boys wedding in St. Paul.
Mitchell: I also went to the Super Bowl in Minnesota. The Patriots lost to the Eagles, but I loved the city. I've had Jucy Lucys. I think I've had 'em at both places at this point. I had Matt's Bar the last time, because I had the other spot [the 5-8 Club] the time before. It was freezing cold so it was hard to see a lot of the city.
Have you guys done any game planning for what local chain you might eat at here?
Wiger: We've tested the waters, sort of polled the audience and got a bunch of pitches. Usually we'll go with one of the top three consensus picks.
Mitchell: What are they Jay? Let's hear 'em.
The most interesting one is Leeann Chin; this Chinese woman launched sort of a proto-fast casual Chinese place in the '80s. It's not great, but in terms of being an early progenitor, it's definitely interesting. Dairy Queen is actually headquartered in Bloomington, Minnesota, even though it wasn't launched there, but you guys have done it a bunch.
Mitchell: That is huge, we love DQ. But I'd love to get more local.
Wiger: You mentioned the 5-8 Club and Matt's Bar, but neither of those are chains...
Mitchell: Here's the thing, I'm gonna throw this out here Jay: Nick and I decide which is the better Jucy Lucy between the two, and we do it live onstage... a thing that has probably been written about one billion times. [Laughs.]
Honestly, if you talk to locals, you'll hear that Jucy Lucys are kind of overrated. But it's become our thing, and that's fine.
Mitchell: I kinda loved 'em. But also, a fuckin' shotgun of hot cheese into my mouth? I'm a fan of that. I think you are too Wiges.
Wiger: Sure. That's how I hope to go.
[Laughs all around.]
Wiger: Is Taco John's a Minneapolis thing?
No, I wish. I think it's Nebraska. But it's our Midwestern Taco Bell competitor, and it's really great. They have things called Potato Olés, which are tater tots with a tiny bit of seasoning, but people go fucking crazy for 'em. Caribou Coffee would be probably the biggest one you could do. It's like a Starbucks knockoff with a North Woods cabin aesthetic; it's not very exciting. Another one you could do is Punch Pizza, it's like a Neapolitan fast-casual place and it's really good.
Mitchell: So it's part of the Pizzagate scandal?
[Laughs.] Yeah they're tied to it somehow, don't poke around too much. That about covers your bases. Anything Minnesota-related we didn't talk about.
Wiger: One more question. Did you say the venue we're playing, Prince played it at a certain point?
No, I may have spoken too quickly. Prince made First Avenue famous, where Purple Rain was filmed, and it's about 1,500 capacity. You're playing a new place called The Fillmore, and it's about the same. So you're outdoing Prince in some ways, better artists in some ways.
Wiger: Do you think that's a microcosm of the decline of culture?
Mitchell: We should come out dressed as Prince. Maybe they'll take it as the greatest insult of all-time, but we should come out in a purple get-up.
Wiger: Some purple pants are gonna get split onstage.
Mitch, I know pandering to the home crowd is a big part of your live-show persona, and if you came out dressed as Prince and eating Jucy Lucys... I don't know what more you could really add.
Mitchell: [Laughs.] I know what I'm gonna do.
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: The Fillmore, 525 N. 5th St., Minneapolis
Tickets: $39; find more info here
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