The Dollop is a popular American history podcast. At least once a week (usually more), comedian Dave Anthony reads a story to his friend, comedian Gareth Reynolds, who has no idea what the topic is going to be about. After more than 250 episodes, that simple formula has made The Dollop an award-winning and top 25-ranked comedy podcast. The show’s popularity has resulted in a book deal and has taken its hosts around the country, and to places like Iceland and Australia (twice) to perform live shows.
On Wednesday, April 19, The Dollop will come to Milwaukee to perform a live (and almost assuredly locally-themed) episode of the podcast. Not only will this mid-week affair be the show’s Milwaukee debut, it will double as a homecoming for Reynolds, who grew up in nearby Brown Deer. Before The Dollop comes to Turner Hall, Milwaukee Record talked to Reynolds about the show’s origin, working at ComedySportz, getting wine-drunk with Mark Chmura on an airplane, his brother’s contribution to Milwaukee music, and how not knowing history has boosted his comedy career.
Milwaukee Record: As of this week, you’ve put out your 255th episode. You’ve done most of them in your home, but you’d also done live shows in Iceland, like a month in Australia, and basically everywhere in the U.S. except Milwaukee—where you’re heading in a couple weeks.
Gareth Reynolds: It’s crazy. I just never would’ve thought that something that you’re recording in an apartment that’s super low-rent would result in that much traveling for shows.
MR: Your lack of history knowledge has brought you all around the world.
GR: Yeah, the idea that I’m involved with anything historical is crazy because of how little I really do know. The idea that could be advantageous really never occurred to me. We have a book coming out that’s historical. It’s not a dense novel or anything, but it is a history book. If you would’ve told any of my teachers in high school that I would be involved in writing history of any kind, they would’ve laughed really hard.
MR: Into your own history, you grew up in Brown Deer. What was your initial exposure to stand-up or improv? Were there any tools you took advantage of, like ComedySportz?
GR: Yeah, it really was ComedySportz. I knew I liked being funny, but I was just a kid. When I was 14, a guy who was in my high school was like “you should do ComedySportz” and I knew what it was. I started doing the high school league there, then I worked there. So I was the valet parker and I would host and do shows every now and then. That was really the first time when I was doing comedy and really using my mind, over reading lines or something, and experiencing laughs through that. I got into sketch in college, but improv was really where I got my start.
MR: So after college, when did you ultimately move to Los Angeles?
GR: I think around 2003.
MR: And once you got out there, you did sketch and improv, and stand-up, but around 2014, you began this strange podcast endeavor. How did you and Dave [Anthony] start?
GR: I started doing kid’s birthdays when I first moved out here. Improv was a love of mine, but there wasn’t enough interest in it. I was late to stand-up. I started doing stand-up when I was around 30. Through that, I stumbled into podcasting through a friend of mine named Sam Tripoli who had me on his podcast. Through that, I met Dave Anthony. Still, two and a half years after I met him, we still hadn’t done anything. Then, yeah, I was guest hosting Dave’s podcast with him and that led to him telling me about another idea he had, which was The Dollop. I sat in, and he was going to have a rotating guest, but very quickly, we were having fun doing it, and there was a reaction.
MR: Is it hard to avoid learning? I don’t think you’re encouraged to seek out new information.
GR: Honestly, a very strange wrinkle to it is that. We were in Australia and I was watching something on Lincoln or something like that, and Dave was like “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, buddy! Let’s not get too deep into history now!” There genuinely is an avoidance for me where I don’t want to know stuff. I like going in cold, so I purposely don’t want to know anything.
MR: So this [Milwaukee] show is a little different because you’ve essentially spent your entire upbringing here. You were raised here and lived here for 20 years or so. Are you worried you may know what [the story Dave tells at Turner Hall] is?
GR: My guess is I don’t know it. History never interested me. I never pined for the knowledge of Milwaukee. So I guess we’ll see.
MR: Some Milwaukee history I’m sure you know about, isn’t your brother in the band Feck?
GR: Yeah, my brother’s in Feck. He’s a local Milwaukee bander. I really don’t know shit now, but I think that’s just music generally, but my brother got me into Nirvana. He gave me a copy of Bleach when that was really new. He got me really into grunge, essentially, which became a big influence. I had the shirt around my waist, the long hair, and I was like “Fuck it, man! If they don’t get it, fuck ’em!” [Laughs]
MR: Some more local appeal I’ve noticed is that when Dave mentions anything about Wisconsin, you tend to respond. And when you guys cover sports, you’ve talked about the Packers in a way that seems to imply you’re genuinely a Packers fan. Are you?
GR: I have one tattoo and it’s of the Packers. I’m a very big Packers fan.
MR: Since they have one of the longest and more storied histories in the NFL, what are a few of the tales you would highlight if you were hosting a reverse Dollop?
GR: I like that they were the Acme Packers. I like that in the Ice Bowl, the lineman would drink—I can’t remember what they would drink—iodine or something so their breath stunk, and they’d breathe on people. Lombardi’s life is fascinating, as the coach in general and also the end of his life was really interesting. He went to the Redskins and was like the dog that couldn’t go outside anymore.
MR: Then there’s Mark Chmura. He has an interesting history…
GR: When I was first going to college in Boston, I took a flight. I walked on the flight and I clocked Chewy immediately. I was like “Oh shit, Chmura’s on my flight!” Not only was he on my flight, I was sitting across from him the next row over. Me and him were drinking so much wine. I was just watching him, and me and him were hammering wine down—free wine—and I go up to him and say, “Mr. Chmura, I’m a huge fan. Would you sign my barf bag?” He laughed and signed his boarding pass. I was shitfaced and like “Oh my God!”
MR: In the over 200 episodes you’ve had, are there any that you look back on as really memorable or especially fucked up?
GR: There are ones that are straight-up crazy, like Oofty Goofty or when people tried to make a Pinto fly. But any of the ones purely based in hatred and people die from that, those are ones where it’s hard to shake the lack of caring that people have.
MR: Yeah, they can’t all be lighthearted stories Dope Lake or Whalesplosion. “Otto In The Attic” was a really crazy one too, and that started in Milwaukee.
GR: Yeah, or “Jet-Packs.” There are ones that you’re just immediately like “Joy!” I don’t really remember a lot of them, but the ones I do are pretty epic.
MR: Looking ahead, you have the book coming out in May and it seems like you’ll be on the road more. But what are your hopes for it going forward? Are you worried you’ll run out of stories?
GR: Well, Dave Anthony has assured me there’s a vault full of it. It seems like there’s a pretty deep well. You know, the plan with it is to keep doing it and to go out and meet fans and do shows in front of people. We have so much fun doing those. We have a book and we’re trying to get a TV show going. It already has shattered my expectations, so anything from now on is just gravy.
MR: Finally, the day after the Milwaukee Dollop, you guys are staying in town to do a stand-up show at Puddler’s Hall. Did you know that’s the oldest bar in Milwaukee that’s still standing?
GR: No history!
Gareth Reynolds’ podcast, The Dollop, will have a live show at Turner Hall Ballroom on Wednesday, April 19. On Thursday, April 20, Reynolds and Dave Anthony will each perform stand-up sets at Puddler’s Hall.