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Radio and television shows that interview actors and have millions of listeners each month typically originate from New York or Los Angeles. But what about St. Albans, West Virginia?
A fun effort that started out as a Facebook page to discuss comic books and science fiction has blossomed into a podcast with millions of listeners.
Eric Douglas spoke with Michael Wall about how the podcast “Too Opinionated” began and an upcoming audio drama based on the pandemic.
Douglas: Tell me who you are first.
Wall: My name is Michael Wall. I’m West Virginia raised. I grew up in Winfield, I live in St. Albans and have been here my entire life. I graduated from Marshall University. I’ve got 30 years of management experience. But none of that is the fun stuff, right.
Douglas: Which begs the next question, how does a typical West Virginia life lead you to now be the host of a podcast with, according to your website, 5 million listeners a month? How does one make that transition?
Wall: I’ll give you the quick version. The thing to know is that it’s always been about wanting to connect as a family. In 2013, I’m looking for a way to connect with my son to share all this nonsense that’s banging around in my head. So we came up with a Facebook page. And we just started sharing stories and memes and things that made us laugh as a way to connect, you know, father and son. Five years later, the page is doing really well. Brett, my son, comes to me and says, “I’d like to start a podcast.” I’m like, “Yeah, let’s do that.” We didn’t know anything about it, had no idea how to go about it, or what kind of technology we needed. It was terrible. But we never hid the fact that we didn’t know what we were doing. I think that just being authentic helped us grow an audience.
Douglas: So let’s unpack a couple of things here. First off, the website and Facebook page are called MeisterKhan. Explain what that means.
Wall: Growing up, my favorite Christmas show was “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”. MeisterBurger Burgermeister. So when I was growing up, every competition we had, a group of guys, we would compete to be called the Meister. That meant you were the best. So that’s the Meister. My favorite Star Trek movie is “Star Trek: Wrath of Khan”. When I started that Facebook page with Brett, I said nobody else is gonna have this name. Nobody.
Douglas: That definitely sets it apart.
Wall: And then we called the podcast “Too Opinionated” because, we thought, we’re generational, and we would have differing opinions on things and we will kind of battle that out. It’s changed some over time, but we’ve kept the name.
Douglas: For about five years, you were sharing memes on Facebook and entertaining yourselves and just having fun. Three years ago, you decided to do a podcast. When did it take off?
Wall: It’s been a slow roll, if you consider three years a slow roll, and it’s taken a lot of hard work. It’s been a lot of researching who’s representing someone and then reaching out, developing a pitch, reaching out to try to get that person on the show, and developing that relationship over time.
We’ve gotten to the point now where we’ve got a couple of dozen publicists/agents/managers that are actually sending us guests, so we’re not having to do as much legwork. We’re still trying to get what we would call bigger names, although we have had absolutely unbelievable guests.
When we started, it was mostly shows from the 80s and 90s, big names back then. Now, we’re getting people that are on shows that are on TV right now. I think that started to really open things up. We were kind of strategic about it, we tried to target people that already had a big audience on their own. So that when they were on the show, and then they shared the podcast, it would already have an audience waiting. And it just kind of snowballed.
Douglas: So, how many shows have you done?
Wall: About 350 episodes. We try to release at least four episodes a week. I’m still working during the day, but each episode between getting the guest, putting the editing in, plus actually recording the episode, we’re probably talking four to five hours of work per episode.
It’s not like most podcasts. They’re putting out an episode a week, or bi-weekly or monthly. We’re not like that. You’re going to get 15 to 20 episodes a month out of us. I’m biased, but I don’t think there’s anybody else there that’s getting the quality of guests that we’re getting, and putting out the content that we’re doing, which is part of the reason I think it’s starting to catch on.
Douglas: Tell me a little bit more about the audio drama that you’re doing?
Wall: So we got a good friendship with Jennifer Nash. She played Patrick Stewart’s daughter on an episode called “Inner Light” of “The Next Generation of Star Trek.” She was Bob Saget’s girlfriend in an episode of “Full House,” she was on “Home Improvement.” She had this idea to write an audio drama, based around stories around the pandemic, but in a positive light. So she solicited our little group of friends, and asked if we had any good stories, and I submitted one. Other people submitted them, and she wrote this just incredible script. And then we went out looking for actors. It’s so good that it wasn’t that hard to get really big name actors to agree to do it.
It took a while to get all of it done, especially during the pandemic. In LA, you couldn’t do anything together. So you had to do it by Zoom or remotely. It’s 10 episodes, they’re short. So the whole thing’s probably a couple hours long. We’re deciding if we’re gonna release it weekly or all at once. But I mean, it’s amazing. I got to act with Ed Asner, which is probably one of the last things that he got to do. Sherilyn Fenn is our main star. Wait till you hear Eric Roberts on this thing. It’s so good. It’s called “The Last Saturday Night”.
It gave us a chance to really work with some big names Ed Asner, Sherilyn Fenn from “Twin Peaks,” Eric Roberts, Charlene Tilton, she played Lucy on “Dallas,” Tim Russ from “Star Trek: Voyager,” it’s just some big names.