Mike Quackenbush is the Stan Lee of Professional Wrestling. His company, Chikara Pro, is one of the most unique, inventive, and fun professional wrestling organizations in the world. He has created a rich, nuanced mythos for a cast of–sometimes wacky, sometimes strange, always compelling–characters to ply their trade.
Though now retired from the ring, during the active portion of his career, Quackenbush was one of the most respected wrestlers in North America. He has since assumed the mantle “Director of Fun” as the on-screen commissioner of Chikara. Behind the scenes, he runs the promotion.
Man, however, does not survive on wrestling alone. Multi-time author, industry journalist, trainer, and lecturer, Mike Quackenbush is a modern day renaissance man.
Enter The Grizzly Bear Egg Cafe podcast.
The show, hosted by Quackenbush and childhood friend, Clayton Morris, is a melting pot of discussion about film, music, comic books, and cartoons. The show is insightful, informative, and infectiously entertaining.
Much to our delight here at the Super No Bueno offices, Mr. Quackenbush recently took some time from his busy schedule to grant us an interview about the show. Enjoy!
For the uninitiated, describe the Grizzly Bear Egg Cafe podcast. What can a new listener expect from a typical episode?
It’s a dialogue between two best friends that have known each other for over 30 years. We like superheroes. We like pro-wrestling. We like coffee and classic rock and complaining.
The show began in 2008, what were the early days of podcasting like? How long until sponsors came aboard?
The first 30 episodes or so…are pretty rough. We didn’t know what we wanted to do, really. Technical blunders were frequent. But Clayton, my best friend, and co-host, he works in broadcasting and he’s pretty quick on the technological uptake. So once we got things ironed out, we sounded smooth, and we found our voice, the sponsors came. Probably by Year Two, now that I think about it. We had Yoo-Hoo on pretty early, all things considered.
How does that process work?
In an average week, 75,000 people hear our podcast. It’s a predominantly male audience. So, it’s just a matter of finding good matches for the audience we can deliver. If you need tween girls to hear about your product, we can’t really deliver numbers on that.
You have an encyclopedic memory for pop culture. However, the interactions between yourself and Clayton Morris (co-host/television personality/best friend) are essential to the show. From your point of view, what does he bring to the table?
At the heart of the show is our friendship. Over 30 years of shared experiences. We’ve never had a phase where we didn’t get along, or we lost touch with one another. We can talk nerd culture and reminisce until we are blue in the face, but distill that to its core, and you are left with two best friends that still find time every week to chat about the things we enjoy. I never think of it as-what does he bring? What do I bring? It’s what we collectively bring to the podcast. Clayton is just brilliant; whenever I need insight or advice, I know he is a trusted voice and a confidante. That aside, I love the man. I know I can joke with him, and bust his chops, and rib him a bit because no matter what, we have a deep love and respect for one another. You can hear that camaraderie in every single episode.
Is it difficult to balance the work required to maintain the podcast with your other career in professional wrestling?
It can be. Certainly when projects like “Daddy on Board” or “The Trending Show” required me to do lots of research and writing, it was difficult. “The Grizz” though, we can largely just talk. No preparation. That’s how we really talk to each other. It’s what we would say to each other on the phone when catching up. “Hey man, you get the new John Mayer album? It sounds a lot like Born and Raised, doesn’t it?” If you see Clayton on TV, or you hear me give a speech, that’s us with our public-facing voices on. On “The Grizz,” that’s what we sound like when the cameras are off.
Talk a little about some other podcasts that you have hosted?
Well, “Daddy on Board” lasted maybe 2 or 3 years. Sometimes it had video, once I got my way, it was audio only. It was meant to fill an obvious gap. Podcasts, blogs, magazines, and media aimed at New Moms are abundant. Media aimed at New Dads? Scant. So, we wanted to fill that void in our typical bungling manner.
Then came “The Trending Show,” which was originally Clayton and his wife Natali co-hosting together. But Natali went to work for CNN or some such, and Clayton had to bow out…but “The Trending Show” had better numbers than anything else on our network at the time. Sponsors loved it. So I took over, and I wanted to make it a little more Daily Show, maybe a little more The Onion. At first, there was a definite push-back. The people that liked the straight news reporting style of Clayton and Natali did NOT like my style at all. They were adjusted to the repartee between these two newlyweds, and then I come in and crash the party. But once I found my own audience, the numbers were better than ever. I think I did about 100 episodes of “The Trending Show.” There are a few of them that I am really proud of. And a few I am embarrassed to say are mine.
I have been disappointed with the handling of the G.I. Joe films. Do you think Hasbro will get things right with M.A.S.K.?
That’s hard to say. Some things aren’t broke, and they don’t need fixing. G.I. Joe should probably be more relevant in a post 9/11 world than any of the other big properties from our childhood. If M.A.S.K. gets the Michael Bay makeover a la Transformers, you’ll find me sobbing in my latte at the local Starbucks.
More than any other artist, his stuff feels like the soundtrack of my life. I discovered it in my teenage years. It’s been with me ever since. If I was more clever, or musical, or eloquent, maybe I would have written And The Hits Just Keep on Comin’. Some of his stuff, don’t get me wrong…I don’t understand it at all. But that man has made some albums that strike such a deeply personal chord with me that I can excuse The Oceans and Rays. His solo catalog is relatively unknown. I think that somehow contributes to it feeling more personal to me.
As a father, what is a favorite moment you have of sharing an element of pop culture from your youth with your son?
My son really knows his theme songs. Especially superhero genre ones. If we’re in the car, and some track comes up on shuffle mode, I can say to him-“what is this?” and he’ll think for a moment and come back with-“this is the theme from Batman ’89.” That warms my frosty heart. Not just because he knows “Batman ’89″…but because he’s right.
New episodes of The Grizzly Bear Egg Cafe podcast are posted most Monday mornings at http://grizzlybearcafe.com/