When was the last time you really thought about your meal at a chain restaurant? For comedians Nick Wiger (@Midnight, Comedy Bang Bang) and Michael “Mitch” Mitchell (Love, The Birthday Boys), a good portion of their day-to-day is dedicated to chains.
Mitchell and Wiger are the duo behind Feral Audio’s “Doughboys” podcast where the pair discuss and review chain restaurants with a guest. The two met performing at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater in Los Angeles. With the desire to partner on a low-effort project, the Doughboys were born.
“We were like, ‘what’s the thing we can collaborate on that’s the least amount of effort?’” Wiger says. “We’re busy, but also lazy men, and we decided it was a podcast.”
“We were wrong,” Mitchell laughs. “There was no comedy food podcast and we were like ‘that could be fun.'”
The weekly podcast elicits a mixture of feelings, from celebration to self-loathing, similar to gorging on Endless Apps at the local TGI Friday’s. As Wiger and Mitchell visit and review national favorites such as Burger King, KFC, Taco Bell and more, the two bicker and banter and sometimes even engage in verbal warfare, all while a guest sits idly waiting for the storm to calm. Fresh from their live show at the recent Now Hear This podcast festival, we met with Mitchell and Wiger over pizza at NYC’s Speedy Romeo’s. We discussed pizza toppings, podcasting and automatic toilet stalls.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. To hear an additional conversation between Food Republic and the Doughboys, check out this episode of their bonus series, The Doughboys Double.
Let’s play a quick game of yay or nay. Extreme food challenges.
NW: [groans] Nay for me to do them.
MM: I’m gonna say nay, too, but we’re both people who will eat probably almost anything and we’re two people who will eat a lot. We did a McNugget Power Hour on our podcast. But when I think of extreme food, I think of—
NW: Adam Richman, Man vs. Food.
MM: Yeah, but I also feel like it’s Rocky Mountain oysters or something. I just think of weird, extreme foods.
NW: To me, I just think of excess. I hate feeling too full. When I feel stuffed, I hate it, I’m non-functional. Especially the worst are the dessert ones, like a huge sundae and you can see it slowly melting over time. It’s so disgusting.
MM: It makes sense that Adam Richman stopped doing those.
NW: I think they should just shut that show down. Like the NFL, they should just be like this is not healthy for people to do.
MM: Here’s the tricky part of that, and we talk about it all the time on the podcast. Nick and I are both $15 minimum wage guys, and we’re all for the working man. There’s a part of me that feels like it’s cool, and another part that’s like a ton of people would lose their jobs, like delivery drivers and stuff like that. But I feel like that’s the way it will go.
NW: We’re already nearing this next step where there are apps where people — they’re not considered employees in places where they’re actually doing work for, like Postmates or whatever — have this fleet of humans that deliver things. I think I would land on a nay because drones are a thing that’s done so much harm to the world. I worry about taking this weapon-ized technology and turning it into food services. It’s just weird to me.
MM: I guess that’s scary in some ways. Like, these weapon-ized machines are flying around now and they’re carrying around pizza boxes but couldn’t they kill us dead, too?
NW: Yeah, are they just switching out a hellfire missile for a six-foot-long sub? Are they gonna launch that sub through your window?
MM: [laughs] I feel like it will go that way, so there’s nothing we can do.
NW: It kind of ties into this libertarian tech agenda where it’s just this idea of we have all these crazy technical advancements and we’re just going to implement them and we’ll figure out the laws and regulations later. It always seems like a backward way of doing things that’s created a lot of problems, particularly for labor.
Pineapple on pizza.
NW: You said nay? Wow. I like pineapple on pizza. I just think it’s a fun change-of-pace topping. I feel like, specifically, the Hawaiian pizza, which to my understanding was invented by a Canadian, but I just like that combination. I think it’s so distinct, so specific and so unique that it livens up a pie.
MM: Uh, I disagree. Pepperoni livens up a pie, too. I’m kind of a traditionalist with pizza. Everywhere I go, I get a slice of cheese pizza. I like cheese more than another pizza. I’ll eat Hawaiian pizza, but I’m always kind of bummed out when people get it. Pineapple’s one of my favorite fruits but on a pizza, it’s just too much of a mish-mash. I don’t want pineapple on my burger either, honestly.
NW: I get your point, and I understand it. I think on a burger is maybe the point where I agree with you because I feel like that specific flavor content is usually paired with teriyaki sauce and it’s too much sweetness with the meat and the cheese.
MM: I feel that way about the pizza. It’s too much. I actually don’t like Canadian bacon or ham on a pizza. The issue with Canadian bacon or ham is that it’s never cooked enough.
Outrageous Bloody Mary toppings.
NW: Nay. Because that’s all “dare food.” They start putting a slider on there.
MM: Why not have a slider on there? It’s a free slider.
The slider’s probably built into the price.
NW: It bugs me.
MM: It bugs you? Alright. I’ll say yay. It’s fun. It’s fun to me.
NW: The Bloody Mary, I feel, is a place where they should exercise some restraint. I feel like I just keep seeing it escalating. I saw short ribs on one. It’s just too much.
MM: I’ll say yay to pumpkin pie and nay to almost everything else. I ate a whole pumpkin on stage once for a comedy bit.
MM: Yes. [laughs]
How did it taste?
MM: Almost like how you would think it would: not good. My sketch group, there are seven of us, so for a Halloween bit, we were like we’re going to eat a pumpkin. We went out on stage and for two minutes we tried to eat it. It was not good, but that’s not what made me hate pumpkins.
NW: Big yay. I love SPAM.
How do you usually eat it?
NW: The first time I had SPAM was SPAM musubi. My classmate at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, his mom made some. I didn’t even know what it was. I thought it was some SPAM sushi, but man it was so good. I ate it cold. I feel like I’m always having SPAM in the context of Hawaiian food. It’s huge in Hawaii, and I like it when I have it prepared in that fashion. So, yeah, I’m a big SPAM guy. I also really like salt and it’s super-salty.
MM: I’ve come around on it because I remember I was at my godparents’, they do a luau every year. They had SPAM and pineapple, just uncooked, out of the can. It tasted so much to me like cat food or something. Then I went to a Thai restaurant and my friend ordered Spam fried rice and it was so good. It has to be cooked, then I’ll give it a yay.
Did you ever imagine the podcast gaining such popularity?
MM: The podcast world is so new and also getting huge. When we started two years ago, we never thought so many people would be listening to this or that’d we go on tour. But we’re happy for it. We’re also in that weird area where we’re like, “So how many listeners do we have?” We don’t know the exact number, ever. Jon Gabrus is a good buddy, he was saying that it’s a new platform for comedians. More and more comedians are doing it and making money off of it as an outlet to get their stuff out there. It’s a weird, weird world.
NW: Short answer, no. Longer answer, what is success in this fragmented landscape? Even though this podcast is not getting as many listens as a mid-season episode of Picket Fences on CBS in 1993.
What was your first thought when you realized that there are loyal fans to the podcast?
NW: My first thought was, oh that’s cool. My second thought was I genuinely feel guilty when people like the show because I feel like you should not be spending time listening to this. I feel like I’ve done you a disservice by participating in this podcast.
MM: Yeah, I think our second thought was why?
We were like, what are you doing? Alright. [shrugs] But it’s been awesome. We did a [live] show today and we did a meet-and-greet afterwards and it went almost as long as the show. It was cool to see people who do love the show. Some people come up to us and say, “I listen to you every single day.” Then they are people who are like, “I just got into the podcast,” and they’ve listened to the entire backlog within two weeks.
NW: Which is like playing through a [Japanese role playing video game], like we’ve accumulated so many hours.
MM: So many hours, it almost seems impossible that someone could do that. But it’s flattering, it’s cool and it’s awesome. I think the thing that we found out was that people are so opinionated about fast food. Nick pushed for fast food chain restaurants [in the beginning] and I was a little bit more nervous, like people won’t care that much, but they care so much. There are even people who don’t eat fast food or [people will say,] “You guys are my outlet to talk about fast food.” They just like to hear it, it’s weird.
What’s the craziest fan interaction that’s come from this?
NW: Mitch and I will insult each other a lot on the show. We argue a lot. Then I’ll get people insulting me with something from the show.
MM: I joke around and called Nick a c*ck before it turned into a bad word, I swear. We would go into a show and this nervous fan would come up during Q&As and go, “Nick, you’re a c*ck.” Like, what are you doing? Why are you doing this? That’s always strange.
If you could open up a chain restaurant, what would it be like?
NW: We weirdly had an audience member at our live show today ask us a similar question.
MM: And your response was — do you remember?
NW: What did I say?
MM: “Closed immediately.”
NW: [laughs] Right. This is a thing that Mitch and I have talked about. One thing we’re both on board with is the idea of the sit-down pizza parlor.
MM: We’d try to mix the old-school fun vibe of a pizza parlor or a beer hall with something that’s cooler and very good food. When we went to Shakey’s [pizza restaurant for the podcast], it’s a big fun atmosphere, big open ceilings and a lot of space, a lot of wood, it just feels like a fun place where you want to cheers people. But it’s not cool, for one.
NW: Not even ironically.
MM: Two, the food is just not good, compared to what we ate tonight. The food is kind of bad.
NW: It’d be great to capture that kind of atmosphere, kind of like a gastropub of pizza, like an elevated pizza parlor where it feels like a fun place. You can get a pitcher of beer, wings on the table, breadsticks and big pizzas that everyone’s sharing. I really like the idea of this pizza place that you go to, instead of this delivery place.
MM: You know what else we could do? And this isn’t criticism of places that do this because I’ve been to a ton of places that do this that I like, but it’d be nice if the place was well-lit.
NW: Here’s another thing, a restroom where you didn’t have to touch the door handle on your way out. You could just push with your elbow or whatever.
MM: What about automatic doors?
NW: Yeah, we’d have automatic doors.
How would you lock it? Wouldn’t you have to touch a lock?
MM: It’d be stalls. They’d be automatic too.
NW: Yeah, everything would be automated.
MM: There’s a lot of technology going on. We’d drop millions on the bathrooms alone.
NW: Speaking of technology, let’s get one of those Pac-Man flat-top tables.
MM: Yeah, like a Pac-Man versus game.
So you guys are heading out for a tour soon. Are there any chains that you’re excited to encounter?
NW: More and more, I’m getting amped for Wawa because our friend Christine Nangle who was just on the podcast today who lives in New York still, is originally from Pennsylvania, is such a Wawa advocate. I’ve never heard anyone say bad about Wawa. People love Wawa. So when there’s a regional thing that people are just so passionate about, I have this curiousness.
MM: Can I say one I want to get over with? Whataburger.
NW: People are mad that we haven’t covered it yet.
That seems unreasonable. You two haven’t been to Texas as the Doughboys yet.
MM: I know! They’re just always like you gotta go to Whataburger. [I’ve gone before] and I’m sort of tepid on Whataburger. I even said, the way I described it — and I thought I was being nice — was that it was a much better Burger King and I like Burger King! People were so mad about that. But people who message me about Whataburger are like it’s not as good as In-N-Out or Shake Shack. So, I’m like why do you care? [laughs] I feel like when we go we’re going to have to just say five forks or whatever so we don’t get beat up.
So the ratings are rigged?! Is that what you’re telling me?
NW: The Doughboys can’t be bought.
MM: But I’m afraid we might get beat up in Texas.
NW: So, the thought for these live shows in different regions and we’ll try a regional chain while we’re doing that. It’s like a major f*ck you for someone come out to your live show and you tell them that their regional chain is overrated tripe. Makes them feel bad about themselves.
MM: We need a big security team.
So, Mitch, you’ve spoken about this on the podcast. You’re somewhat of an environmentalist.
MM: Yes, in the sense that I very much love animals and the world. I feel like between acting and doing the podcast, I don’t do any good for the world. I hope to one day. I hope to be more of a leader in that respect. Nick, too, he’s a pretty progressive guy and it’s an issue because of what we do.
Right. Chain restaurants are a huge proprietor of factory farming and greenhouse gases. How do you balance doing the podcast while still thinking about that?
MM: That’s the hard part. We both have talked about how we should stop eating meat, stop going to fast food restaurants. It’s hard because I do genuinely love it, I love the taste of meat. I know that’s one of the biggest issues with climate change, these gigantic cattle farms. I think it comes down to what can you do? I think we can talk about it and try to have some solutions to it, make more people aware of it, but I don’t think we’re doing too, too much.
NW: I always feel guilty about this podcast because we’re indirectly profiting off of a very bad industry. Agriculture, very environmentally unsound, very labor-unfriendly, a lot of workplace abuses at places like slaughterhouses and just misery for the animals raised in these environments, which just makes me ill.
MM: Also, we should add the CEOs of these companies. Every single one of them are awful.
NW: Right, both big agribusiness and the chain restaurants themselves, most of them are run by bad people.
MM: Or at least have bad reputations.
NW: The food service industry is at the forefront for the Fight For $15, it’s well-documented how so many food service employees can be paid below minimum wage because of the exception for different employees, which is really f*cked up. Minimum wage is also far too low.
My overall thought on this is with something like driving a hybrid car versus driving a gas car, or recycling aluminum cans versus throwing them in the trash, ultimately the individual actions are less of an issue than the system. Like this is systemic, it’s a problem with capitalism, that’s what’s creating environment. It’s the incentives for corporations to raise animals in cages where they can’t turn around and to pay their employees sub-standard wages where they can’t pay them a living wage. That derives from capitalism. What we as individuals do is important, largely symbolically, because whether or not you as an individual are opting out of meat or not, what is happening with climate change is the result of 100 global corporations. So, ultimately to address these things, yeah, we should be aware, we should be conscious, we should aim to not be hypocritical, but we should acknowledge that the system is what needs to be fixed.
That said, I am fully willing to say that Mitch and I are huge hypocrites, and that we are also part of the problem. I am 100% confident we are making the world worse.
MM: I’m not on board for this. [laughs] We call stuff out. We throw them in the “Shit Pit,” is what we call it, which is our lame social justice way of making a point about something. We try to make people aware of it. That’s not doing a lot but I feel like that’s what we can do right now.
NW: We definitely try to acknowledge that aspect of the chain restaurant industry when we’re on the podcast.
What’s your dream guest and chain pairing?
NW: I would love to get Bob Odenkirk on to talk Cinnabon because that’s such a big thing on Better Call Saul.
MM: I know Bob well, I’ve worked with him for three years, but I feel like he’d be like, “What? What is this show?” [laughs]
NW: Yeah, I feel like he’d just walk out.
MM: We’ve been wanting Jonathan Gold on for awhile.
NW: Yeah, because he actually has some thoughts. He’s talked approvingly of Cheesecake Factory. I feel like he has some interesting insights. I mean, the big elephant in the room is President Trump. Maybe he would come on the podcast, because that’s what happens in world now. Things just don’t make sense anymore.
MM: If he came on, I feel like we’d be adding to the chaos to the world.
NW: We’d make the world worse.
What’s your spirit food?
MM: Alright, we’ll give one for each other. I think that’s the best way to do this.
NW: Mitch, I feel like you have got to be a big slice of pizza.
MM: I love it.
NW: You’re loaded up with toppings, all that cheese, you look delicious, but you’ve also been sitting out awhile.
MM: What the hell?
NW: So, you look a little sad.
MM: [laughs] F*ck you.
[laughs] So, when you pick it up it kind of droops and things fall off.
NW: Yeah it droops and it’s kind of apologizing to you.
MM: Nick, you would be chili cheese fries. Here’s the thing. The chili and cheese, they seem exciting, but underneath all that, it’s just boring Nick. Old, boring French fries. Also, I know that’s one of the foods that he loves.
NW: I do love chili cheese fries.
MM: Sometimes you can spice up the conversation. You’re also a mess to look at.
What’s your best food-related memory?
MM: Mine is easy. Friday night pizza dinners with my family. Growing up, Friday night was pizza night, we’d go to Villa Rosa, we’d get boneless buffalo fingers, then we’d get a cheese pizza, a sliced tomato pizza and we’d do that every Friday. As a kid I’d look forward to pizza every single Friday.
NW: This is event-related, but when my wife, Natalie and I eloped, we went to Vegas and got married on a whim, afterwards we went to this restaurant, Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood, and had a fantastic seafood dinner. It was a great moment to be sharing with someone over a meal. It was our thing that we did, just the two of us having a meal. For a time it was a very private sort of thing. Afterwards, we walked out to our car and we saw Hubert Keller, the famous chef. We were like that’s a twofer! We just saw Hubert Keller on top of this fantastic meal.
MM: And Natalie cried the whole way home. “What did I do?!”
NW: [laughs] I kept saying, “You can’t take it back now!”
What is a food you could banish from the face of the earth?
NW: My real answer is high fructose corn syrup. Get high fructose corn syrup out of there, make all drinks have real sugar.
MM: Get rid of capers. I could send capers to outer space and be fine with it. Are people mad at me now because I said capers?
NW: I’m mad at you. I like capers.
NW: Oh, I’ve got one! Bacon desserts. I’m so done with bacon desserts. It’s so overdone at this point, that’s a crutch. Let’s stop doing that.
MM: I hate bad sushi, just middle-of-the road sushi.
NW: Like a bad chain sushi restaurant.
MM: Yeah, it sucks. I could banish that because then I wouldn’t have to eat it anymore. I feel like I have to eat that more than I want to.
NW: Yeah, no more sushi for the masses. Let’s keep it so where only the rich can have sushi.
MM: [laughs] There are a couple of things I always dislike, but it’s always good to keep it around. Maybe I don’t want to banish anything after all. Let’s keep it all here.