If you haven’t listened to the Top 5 of Death podcast, you’re missing out. The concept sounds a little strange the first time you hear it:
Top 5 of Death is a weekly podcast where the hosts share their personal top 5 lists on any given topic. After the episode, the lists go up online where fans can vote for which list they agree with most. On the following episode the winner is announced. That person then tells a story about how the other hosts “die” using subject matter from the previous week’s episode.
I shared my love for this podcast in a previous article. I’ve been a fan since episode one. Each week, I look forward to listening to Matt, DJ, BWK, Dooley, and Fro just like I would be excited to hang out with old friends.
Listening to their podcast is almost like eavesdropping. That’s why, when I got to interview Matt, DJ, and BWK a few weeks back, conversing took some getting used to. I kept getting caught up listening to their comments and would forget I was the one directing the conversation.
Matt, DJ, and BWK were all nice enough to chat with me before they recorded the podcast. Fro was upstairs, “dying” according to Matt. But we’ll get to that later.
Death: Live on Stage
I wanted to talk with the guys about their first live show. It was held November 28th at the Riot Theater in Boston, Massachusetts and served as a launch party for their Patreon site. The topic: Top 5 pick up lines.
Tickets sold out in three days, shared BWK, who also confided that he’d never been on stage before. He referred to the situation as “my personal Hell.” The second the show started and BWK sat down, though, all that disappeared. “He was a natural,” said Matt, the show’s founder.
“I was a God!” joked BWK. “Yeah, I’m groveling at my feet,” interjected DJ, their 17 years of friendship showing.
The last time DJ was on stage was during The Nutcracker in first grade. He didn’t have to say anything. Surprisingly, years later, he wasn’t “as nervous as I should have been.”
When they started the podcast, Matt figured the group might do a few episodes and it would fizzle out. Going from that mentality, to recording the 100th episode, to recording in front of an audience was a cool moment, says Matt.
Launching the Patreon
Already, the group has raised more than $470 a month in donations on their Patron website.
Their milestone goals are:
- $100/month: This will cover the cost of running the podcast.
- $250/month: Upgraded website that will include articles, photos, reviews, and editorials.
- $500/month: The gang will regularly produce “majestic moving web shorts.”
- $750/month: The podcast will be streamed on a live video feed. The group joked that if they get to $750, they’ll shower at your house using caviar, obviously. But don’t hold them to that.
- $1,000/month: 12 months from when this goal is reached, the guys will release a fully produced documentary on them, the show, and everything in between. “It will def be all 100% fact…like most of our fact-based episodes…”
Getting to almost $500 in donations so quickly was a shock. Matt shares that he was just hoping they would clear $100 a month to cover hosting, “and then it went cuckoo bananas.” They added more reward tiers. “It makes me feel like it’s a worthwhile venture,” Matt says.
“It makes me feel guilty,” says BWK. He feels obligated to listeners and wants to make sure the group is providing them with incredible content. “These people really care. This made me see that.”
Matt says that crossing the $500 mark will mean more milestone goals, although the guys are already stretched pretty thin with what they’re offering. “If people want more, though, and if they’re willing to pay, who am I to say no? Who am I to deny them content?” says Matt, a self-proclaimed workaholic. “I just don’t want to overcommit everyone. I’m a bit of a lunatic.”
Majestic Moving Web Shorts
The $500 milestone goal promises “majestic moving web shorts.” Matt shared that fans can expect the same quality from these videos as they get from the show. “Quality helps content speak,” says Matt. If a podcast sounds bad, no one’s going to listen. He takes the same approach to video production. Matt’s already got a camera, but plans to use the Patreon money for lighting equipment—
“and CGI for muscles!” adds BWK.
“Yeah those aren’t cheap. BWK is a small guy,” says Matt. In the end, Matt hopes that the website will be a place to go for everything “nerdy and comedy.”
“We’re kind of stepping on your toes—taking your ideas!,” says BWK, referring to Nerdy but Flirty.
For the most part, the group hopes to bring the ideas they “throw around” and the bits they do with each other to life. They also hope to use the funds to travel to conventions such as PAX East to meet fans.
Although the show has welcomed female guest hosts, some listeners think the show could benefit from a more permanent female voice. Matt recently said on the podcast that he’d love to see an all-female Top 5 of Death and he’d even produce it. “There are just some topics we have no business talking about,” he says.
According to him, he has some people in mind to do it. He just needs to get the right group together. “I want to set them up for success,” he says. “It’s all in the casting,” says BWK, “its definitely a voice we’re lacking.”
“I’m thinking of calling it Top 5 of Death: Femme Fatale,” announces Matt, “we could even challenge each other to topics.”
It seems like the guys have good taste in other podcasts as well. Matt enjoys Laser Time, BWK enjoys Lore, and both he and DJ love Comedy Bang Bang. Matt also mentioned two newer ones that I’ve been listening to: The Black Tapes Podcast and Tanis.
All of them seem thrilled about the possibilities that come with the podcasts that fans can subscribe to by pledging to the Patreon. For $5 a month, you can get one of these directly to your ears. For $10 or more per month, you get access to all five podcasts, including:
- Fro Got a Podcast? How’d that Happen?: Join Fro and his co-host Matt as they discuss the current landscape of all things geeky. Matt said this includes Batman, the Ninja Turtles, wrestling, Magic the Gathering, comic books, and current events.
- Interpretunes: DJ and Jeff sit down with a respective song that they each pick to reconstruct. Whether it’s a song they love or a song they love to hate, they’ll try to get into the mind of whoever wrote that masterpiece or masterpiece of garbage.
DJ shares that he and Jeff had a lot of fun riffing on “Sk8er Boi” in early episodes of the Top 5 of Death. He looks forward to taking apart terrible songs. Matt chimed in that they should try to get Meat Loaf on the show. “You know,” inserted BWK, “the singer of Blues Traveler tweeted at us once!”
- Conspira-seeking the Truth! Matt asks the questions everyone is afraid to ask. Conspiracies, U.F.O.s, demons, Big Food…there’s no topic or story Matt won’t get to the bottom of. He’ll host experts and firsthand witnesses to the world’s most secret happenings.
Although this podcast is “shrouded in secret,” Matt did share some specifics with me. “It’s going to be totally over the top. It’ll be my vessel for really produced stuff. The podcast will be very funny—kind of a cross between improv comedy and actual information. We’ll be talking about real theories and information, but in a hilarious way.”
- BWK is WRONG!!! A guest will easily prove BWK wrong on topics he knows little about.
This was BWK’s idea, for the record. No one is coercing him into it. “They’ll prove me wrong in minutes,” BWK explains. It’s basically all set up. An expert on a certain topic will come on the show. “They could be a dungeon master, for example,” says BWK, “I don’t know anything about that. But, I’m comfortable telling them everything I do know. Then they’ll tell me how wrong I am!”
- Stranger Danger. Dooley will interview someone he doesn’t really know on the podcast. It could be a family member he doesn’t really know, someone off the street, or a complete stranger.
I expressed concern over Dooley’s safety. Although he is a well-travelled man, what if he’s taken hostage in Matt’s home (that’s where he’ll be recording)? “If anyone is concerned, it’s me,” says Matt jokingly, “I’m the one giving out my address.” In reality, the guys are just working off of the Top 5 Questions to Ask a Stranger episode of the show, says BWK. “Don’t worry though,” says Matt, “I’ll buy Dooley a taser with the Patreon money.”
The gang doesn’t see any of these podcasts becoming quite as popular at the T5oD, but Matt hopes that everyone will put just as much effort into their own shows as the main one. BWK agrees, “the Top 5 of Death definitely has more mass appeal. But can you imagine if my show is the one that blows up and does the best?”
The Adoring Fans
Not everyone who hears about the show has the most sane reaction. Matt shared that the other day, he was at Guitar Center buying some equipment for the podcast. When a guy asked him what his show was about, Matt explained it in a nutshell. All the guy said in response was: “Did you talk about heroin yet?”
“Uh, not yet. We’re going to get there hopefully by the end of the season,” jokes Matt.
Aside from that anomaly, the group is excited about what the Patreon means in terms of getting to know their fans better. The opportunity for a monthly dinner with the guys is on the table for the first 9 people willing to give $25 or more per month.
Matt thinks, “it’ll be a lot of fun. We’ll check in with them and everything. Like, ‘hey last time I remember you said you were going to a job interview—how’d that go?’”
BWK explains that this isn’t just hanging out with random people, “these are people who listen to the podcast and they really do care.” Matt remembers that, when he first brought the idea up, BWK’s first question was if they really had to eat dinner.
If you’re really dedicated, you can even pledge $100 or more a month to pick a show topic, then be on the show. Are they concerned about running into someone that wouldn’t quite fit into the group? Nope.
DJ explains, “Matt can handle anyone and turn a trainwreck into something great. But if the person is cool enough to donate that much money,” he thinks they’ll be fine.
“The show itself is very conversational,” says BWK. “It lends itself to just popping it. We haven’t had a bad host yet. We could even put this interview up as a show!”
Matt has considered the worst case scenario and he figures, “at least it wouldn’t be live. I could always just edit it. As long as the person doesn’t have a bad sense of humor or is degrading, it shouldn’t be a problem. That’s really just stuff we don’t have to worry about. I’ll just have DJ handle it.”
Speaking of people who have been edited on the show — back to Fro being sick upstairs:
Anyone who listened to the live show knows that Fro’s last pick up line was “dreadful.” Emphasis on dread. To make it less dreadful, he cut off his deadlocks, right on stage.
“I tried to cut his hair. It’s impenetrable,” said Matt. When Fro told Matt his plan right before the live episode, Matt responded by saying that he was “game for anything.” “I was totally shocked,” said BWK.
Matt decided the conversation couldn’t end without me getting the chance to chat with Fro. He brought the phone up to Fro’s room, whispering that I should ask Fro if he regretted cutting off his dreads; I think he was hoping for an emotional reaction.
There was scuffling. I gathered that, for some reason, Fro had to put on pants before speaking with me. If Fro was upset about his sudden lack of dreadlocks, it didn’t show. In fact, he has a pretty good attitude as he deals with the “weird awkward point” as it grows out.
I’ve been there Fro. I feel you.
Before we could finish talking, a fire alarm began blaring. Total chaos ensued as Matt rushed downstairs to see what was going on. BWK, the “pyromaniac” as Matt yelled, decided to “light a candle right under the smoke detector.”