My Brother My Brother and Me (MBMBaM) is a weekly comedy/advice podcast by the McElroy brothers. On March 18th, 2017 I wanted to do more than attend the Portland MBMBaM Live Show. Inspired by the amazing MBMBaM community the McElroy brothers have cultivated, I wanted to give back in a major way. And with only 2 weeks to plan, my seedling of an idea unexpectedly flourished into a bountiful success.
MBMBaM Live Show: A Portland Fundraising Success
With help from The Sweet Baby Sisters, the Portland My Brother My Brother and Me (MBMBaM) community raised $869 for Portland Homeless Family Solutions, had a successful letter writing campaign, and spread those good good vibes. This blog is to capture my incredible experience with the MBMBaM Live Show, describe The Sweet Baby Sisters’ origin story, and highlight many lessons learned during my whirlwind of an adventure.
MBMBaM and McElroy Content
About 3 years ago I was introduced to the MBMBaM podcast. While getting ready to go on a bike ride, a friend recommended that I listen to MBMBaM. Soon after I started my long bike ride with the McElroy brothers (Justin, Travis, and Griffin) goofing in my ears, I found myself smiling and sometimes uncontrollably laughing. From that moment I have been hooked on McElroy content.
The McElroy Family
So how did these 3 brothers from Huntington, West Virginia capture the hearts of so many good good fans? Well, before I attempt to answer that question, let me first attempt to capture the essence of the MBMBaM community.
MBMBaM started in April of 2010, and was picked up by the amazing Maximum Fun network in 2011. The 3 McElroy brothers, living in 3 different cities across the country, started this podcast partially as a way to stay in regular contact with each other. Now 348 episodes later, MBMBaM is still going strong. And the McElroys’ inclusive view of family is palpable. The list of podcasts the McElroy brothers currently produce is quite extensive, and also includes other family members such as each of their wives (Sawbones, Shmanners, Rose Buddies), kids (Charlie and Daddy Show), father (The Adventure Zone), and other members (Still Buffering, Things I Bought at Sheetz). And when the McElroy brothers had the opportunity to create their Seeso MBMBaM show, they decided to film back in their home town of Huntington, West Virginia.
But the inclusive McElroy family doesn’t stop there. Simply by being associated to the community, the McElroy brothers will refer to someone as a ‘friend of the family’. Dancing ever so gracefully, the McElroy brothers purposefully blend their flavors of absurd silliness with mindful humor. The brothers strive to make their humor as inclusive as possible. (Well, except for jugglers.)
The MBMBaM Community
As the podcast started to grow in fame, the McElroy brothers also chose to grow in their awareness and acceptance. The first few episodes of the podcast were a bit clunky with making general assumptions about various lifestyles; the most notable example was their misinformed discussion of furries. But, instead of the brothers saying something unknowingly offensive and moving on from the topic, the brothers chose to respond positively by listening to fans’ feedback and grow in their knowledge. The 3 brothers’ genuine awareness and acceptance continues to grow and evolve even with their increasing fame 7 years later.
MBMBaM Fans, MBMBaMbinos
The McElroy brothers’ awareness and direct connection with their fan base is incredibly obvious to any MBMBaMbino, which has directly carried over into their fan communities. (MBMBaMbino is a fan of MBMBaM). Their Facebook Appreciation Group is one of, if not the most positive online communities I have ever experienced. The Appreciation Group now has close to 30,000 Facebook members, and is just one of several MBMBaM inspired online communities. Somehow these virtual communities have found a unique blend of humor and inclusiveness. The self-moderation is awe-inspiring. Generally, the only trolls found in these communities are pictures of actual trolls.
While the inviting environment displayed by the brothers and the MBMBaM community is incredible, for me the most amazing aspect is the unexpected outcomes. I started listening to MBMBaM while greatly struggling with various aspects of my mental health. Finding a space to allow myself to drift in sometimes completely obscure and unexpected thoughts, highlighted by the brothers’ shared laughter, kept me motivated to get through yet another day.
Similarly, a good majority of MBMBaMbinos will openly admit that they not only listen for the goofs, but also as a way to manage their mental health and/or find the courage and motivation to improve their lives. (Zag on ’em!) As the brothers strictly enforce, MBMBaM is a place for ‘no bummers’.
And the support from the MBMBaM community, including celebrities such as Lin Manuel Miranda and Elizabeth Gilbert, is overwhelming and unfathomable. Collectively we exist together to enjoy the goofs, and promote weird ideas. Because, why not.
Portland’s MBMBaM Live Show: Forming The Sweet Baby Sisters
I have been an avid MBMBaMbino for almost 3 years, and actively a part of various online communities. However, it has only been within the past few months that I have met local MBMBaMbinos through meetups. My primary hesitation of becoming more locally connected sooner was out of fear that I had naively built up the MBMBaM community. I wanted to preserve my potentially unrealistic perspective.
My First MBMBaM Meetup
Soon after meeting my first local MBMBaMbinos, my fears quickly subsided. What I may have naively hoped for, became a wonderful reality. I connected with several empathetic and lovely human beings that shared the same McElroy inside goofs and good good nature. It felt cathartic to finally share esoteric goofs with fellow MBMBaMbinos. I found myself quickly befriending a whole new group of wonderful humans.
Within just a few short months of infrequent in-person interactions, I knew I could rely on the Portland MBMBaM community. I had big hopes for giving back to the McElroy brothers at their Portland MBMBaM Live Show on 3/18/17, but I didn’t know exactly how. I floated some ideas, but with a new job, I did not have the time to focus on the how.
Brainstorming for the Portland MBMBaM Live Show
Then, almost exactly 2 weeks before the show, a fellow MBMBaMbino contacted me asking about plans for the MBMBaM live show. Our brainstorming session ended up lasting hours, and included another MBMBaMbino joining in on the conversation. By that evening we had a solidified idea of what we wanted to pull off, complete with an assigned to do list for everyone.
Over the next week a few more MBMBaMbinos stepped up to help plan and add to the fundraising idea. It became obvious that the 5 of us (Kari, Emily, Jenna, ‘tori, and me), even with busy lives, made planning for the show a high priority. The local online MBMBaM communities took notice of and supported our leadership, and a fellow MBMBaMbino dubbed us ‘The Sweet Baby Sisters’.
I have a variety of experience planning for various events, but never have I worked so flawlessly and quickly with another group of people. Doubly so for a group of people I had never met before!
The Portland MBMBaM Live Show Extravaganza
Within 2 weeks, The Sweet Baby Sisters had arranged quite the MBMBaM Portland Live Show Extravaganza. Events for our extravaganza were inspired by the overall MBMBaM community vibe. The 2 general sources of fuel to ignite the events originated from 2 separate quotes by Justin and Travis. Both quotes were stated within the past few months as a way to compassionately reach out to the community during the stressful political climate.
Finding the Right Charity
The brothers have a history of raising money for charities, so The Sweet Baby Sisters explored various charity options. After conducting a quick online poll within the Portland MBMBaM group, the majority supported raising money for a local charity, Portland Homeless Family Solutions.
And with that, The Sweet Baby Sisters went to work contacting local organizations to donate MBMBaM inspired prizes for a raffle. The idea for the raffle would be one giant prize pack raffled off during the show. Raffle tickets would be $1 per ticket and all money raised would go directly to the charity. Though, The Sweet Baby Sisters were so successful with rallying prizes within 2 weeks, that we ended up having another prize pack raffled off right before the show.
“I Am Holding Your Hand” Letter Writing Campaign
I also wanted to honor and promote the “I Am Holding Your Hand” idea from Travis by having space to do 2 different letter writing campaigns. First, I wanted to give the opportunity for any MBMBaMbino to hand write a letter that we would give directly to the brothers. Second, I wanted to create a space for MBMBaMbinos to “write a letter, take a letter”, as a way to further promote good vibes and community. MBMBaMbinos were encouraged to write a letter to a random fellow MBMBaMbino. We placed the letters into a box and at the end of the show people could take a random letter out of the box.
Getting McElroy Approval
Both the raffle fundraiser and letter writing campaign were promoted during a pre-show meetup organized by The Sweet Baby Sisters. Wanting to get some sort of official validation for our efforts without ruining the surprise to the brothers, I tweeted many non-brother McElroy family members. I did this because I wanted to make sure by coordinating a surprise fundraiser and presentation, we weren’t intruding on the brothers. I was shocked with how quickly their dad, Clint McElroy, responded to my random tweet with his approval.
Meeting the Portland MBMBaM Live Show Producer
And, let me reiterate, that all ideas were organized within 2 weeks. Somehow, during this time, I was also put in contact with the Portland show producer, Andy. In the midst of planning, I met with Andy to discuss The Sweet Baby Sisters’ hopes. Andy, also being a self-described MBMBaMbino, helped us to setup a table at the theater as well as coordinate a way to surprise the brothers with a presentation during the show. (I am still in shock that this actually happened.)
Planning the Presentation
Next on the to do list became determining how to flawlessly execute our presentation. So, I contacted a local well known MBMBaMbino celebrity, Rachel Rosing (game recognize game) to be the face of our campaign. Rachel Rosing graciously accepted this responsibility and highlighted that I basically trusted a total stranger to present all of the hard work put in by The Sweet Baby Sisters. I got to such high levels of ease and trust with coordinating the event, that my default mode switched to inherently trusting any fellow MBMBaMbinos. And I am so okay with this.
Thinking Way Outside of the Box
Given how well the organizing was going, I started to think way outside the box. Just for the heck of it, I also tweeted some celebrity MBMBaMbinos, Lin Manuel Miranda and Elizabeth Gilbert. I sent the following tweet: “My dude, PDX is planning a sweet sweet extravaganza for the MBMBaM live show this Sat. Whatchya up to this weekend?” Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, I did not get a response.
On a whim, I also contacted the local Mounted Patrol Police Unit (i.e. cops on horses) to be a part of our potential parade from the pre-show meetup to the theater. Because, as inspired by the Seeso MBMBaM show, apparently it’s easy to have a parade. Though, in retrospect, it was probably good this didn’t come to fruition during our last minute planning.
Portland MBMBaM Live Show: The Presentation
On the day of the Portland MBMBaM Live Show, everything came into place. The Sweet Baby Sisters finally got to meet each other in person and setup for the event. But, we didn’t know how effective our efforts would be. As the saying goes, “You can only lead a horse to water, you can’t make them drink.” Well, boy howdy did the Portland MBMBaM community drink our sweet sweet water.
Through the raffle Portland raised a grand total of $869 (nice.) for Portland Homeless Family Solutions, the letter writing campaigns were a success, and hijacking the MBMBaM live show couldn’t have gone any better.
And, thanks to coordination with Andy, the brothers fell into our sweet sweet honey pot set-up. Andy prepped the brothers to call on Rachel Rosing first during the usual audience questions portion. Andy later told us that he falsely reassured the brothers that this was not a set-up.
Here is the full MBMBaM live show presentation. I especially wanted to make sure during the presentation Rachel Rosing highlighted all of the important information as fast as possible, without taking away from the show. To which I have to say, *great job* Rachel Rosing!
Portland MBMBaM Live Show: Meeting the Brothers
The Portland MBMBaM Live Show was incredible. Coordinating the successful fundraiser and letter writing campaign felt amazing. And having a few minutes to meet the brothers after the show only made the night feel even more surreal.
At the end of the MBMBaM live show the McElroy brothers did a meet and greet. The line of people wanting to meet the McElroy brothers took about 2 hours. I purposefully waited at the end of the line with The Sweet Baby Sisters. I wanted to allow for time to finish the final touches on our fundraising and letter writing campaign. Also, I wanted to soak up as much of the night as possible to enjoy.
Though I did not have a lot of direct interaction time with the brothers, their kind gestures made a lasting impression. During our Portland MBMBaM Live Show presentation, the brothers seemed supportive and excited by our fundraising efforts. So much so that Griffin, probably the most socially awkward of the brothers, decided to give each of us a hug on stage. Later at the meet and greet I said to Griffin, “You know I only coordinated this fundraiser in 2 weeks, and with complete strangers. This community you 3 have created is incredible.” To which Griffin humbly responded, “Yeah, every fan is equally awesome. It’s a great group of people.”
MBMBaM Meet and Greet
Even though the brothers appeared quite exhausted by the time I got to do the meet and greet, their spirits did not waiver. Each brother had his unique flavor of making me feel important and that my time with them mattered.
But, nothing sticks out more in my mind than Justin directly saying thank you to me for coordinating the fundraiser. He stood up, looked me in the eye and said, “Thank you for coordinating the fundraiser. What is your name?” Taken aback by his formality I fell into normal introduction pleasantries and said, “My name is Alice.” To which Justin extended his hand for a handshake and said ever so genuinely, “Hi Alice, I’m Justin. Nice to meet you.” In that moment, I could not have felt more validated as a human being. I hope to never forget the power of honoring another person’s existence simply through an exchange of names and kind handshake.
The McElroy brothers are every bit of the personae they put forth in the world: genuine, compassionate, and appropriately socially awkward. At no point did they feel like ‘celebrities’ to me who were on another level. Being in the presence of the McElroy brothers felt similar to spending time with a close friend or family member that I knew I could inherently trust.
To paraphrase a fellow MBMBaMbino, “People say you should never meet your heroes. I think those people need better heroes.”
Portland MBMBaM Live Show: Reflections and Lessons Learned
It wasn’t until about a full week after the Portland MBMBaM Live Show, when dropping of the donation check, that my eyes filled with tears of joy. What the Portland MBMBaMbinos accomplished in such a small amount of time still seems so impossible.
And, less than a week after the show, an Austin MBMBaMbino contacted me asking for help with coordinating a similar fundraising event at the upcoming Austin MBMBaM Live Show. To which Iexcitedly offered any help I could. Now with hopes of continuing this fundraising live show campaign, I have recently contacted the McElroy brothers’ agent to try to make it more official. Though I have yet to receive a response from their agent, I am keeping my fingers crossed.
The MBMBaM community gives me hope that there are people that are even more kindhearted and compassionate than I could ever hope. And I am even that much more thankful for the McElroy brothers for creating a space in our chaotic culture for us to connect.
Laughter may make the world a better place, but the McElroy brothers have in turn created a community of laughing human beings inspired to give back to the world.
Reflections from The Sweet Baby Sisters
The day after the Portland MBMBaM Live Show I asked if any of The Sweet Baby Sisters wanted to reflect on their experience. Three of the sisters responded and below are some of their reactions.
“Honestly I really loved how connected I felt to everyone in our Sweet Baby Sisters group, before we even met. And I loved connecting with the local MBMBaM community. I loved seeing peoples faces light up when they got participate in the raffle, or when they dropped off their hand written letters.”
“The Sweet Baby Sisters are the most wonderfully bad-ass folks I’ve met in a long time. The whirlwind of prep and event set up was surreal, and one of the best experiences of my life. Even though I was confident in our cause and execution, and I knew we had McElroy family approval (Thank you Clint!), I had so much anxiety about presenting to the brothers. But the support from everyone there, and also those who couldn’t make it, helped me through and it went swimmingly.
Anyway, thank you brothers for being amazing and doing what you do. I am so excited to have The Sweet Baby Sisters and all of the MBMBaMbinos in my life. To the folks I’ve interacted with because of this, I am not sufficiently eloquent to describe the magnitude of fantastic that emanates from all you.”
“The emotion I felt the most yesterday was joy. Joy that I felt in myself and the joy that I could feel radiating off of literally every single other person there. It was like we all knew each other. You could feel the camaraderie whether you were standing in line next to a stranger, casually joining in a conversation happening next to you while smiling and throwing your opinion in, or even just by seeing all of the amazing MBMBaM inspired T-shirts that people were wearing. Everybody was so welcoming.
Sometimes you can go out to a gathering, a show or a con, and there’s always someone grumpy and self-centered that just wants to ruin everyone else’s day. But not last night. Last night the joy and family was palpable. Whatever role we played we were all part of something big and beautiful, and it breaks my heart that I might never feel that again. All 900 of us… Together.”
MBMBaM Community: MaxFun Drive
Finally, to capture the unaltered, unsolicited expressions of gratitude from other MBMBaMbinos that I personally have never met before, I looked in the MBMBaM Facebook Appreciation Group. I am but one drop in a sea of many that love MBMBaM, and gratitude posts are commonly found across the community. Given that we are still in the 2 weeks of MaxFun Drive, a time for people to financially support their favorite Maximum Fun podcasts, the stream of gratitude is overflowing.
(All quotes are posted with permission by the author.)
Thomas S. Posted 3/2/17
“I love the MBMBaM group… I mean it. This group, of whom I know exactly zero actual people (not even sure how many are from Cincinnati), makes me incredibly happy. When I’m having a bad day, someone posts something that makes me smile. Lately I’ve been having a few bad days in a row, and this has made all the difference.
I’d like to think it’s not just the humor. We all love the goofs and jokes, and we love the brothers, sure. But (and maybe I’m projecting here) the thing I love about the brothers most is their hearts. Justin, Travis, and Griffin have some of the biggest, kindest hearts I’ve ever had the privilege of witnessing. And I feel like the people who “get” them are people with a similar humanity. That is astounding. That is amazing. And that is worth a thank you. Thank you, you cool babies.”
Carina C. Posted 3/24/17
“I am a very, very broke community college student, but MaxFun podcasts, and especially MBMBaM, have helped me through some rather rough times. Not to be too blue but there were weeks that I genuinely couldn’t see myself getting to the end of, and a lot of the time, I would convince myself to keep going long enough to listen to the next new episode. This show has helped me laugh and feel happy when everything else has been so dark in life, and I appreciate it more than anything. Honestly, I owe it a lot. Scraping up tip money each month is the least I can do, and I wish I could donate more. Someday!”
Matt W. Posted 3/21/17
“The MaxFun network, especially these good goof boys and their families, have helped me make new friends, kept me company on long rides to work at insane hours, and taught me to believe in myself and keep zagging. Thank you Justin, Travis, and Griffin for being awesome upstanding human beings. I hope next year I am in a place financially to up my donation to the network because while I can’t put a number on the joy you’ve brought into my life I do know that $10 a month seems a paltry sum.”
Becca S. Posted 3/23/17
“After being a MaxFun donor for 5 years, I upped my donation this year, partly because I can, but mostly because of the McElroys. I am a big believer in directly supporting content creators but they go so above and beyond for their fans…These are the kinds of good good humans I want to support.”
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