I get dropped off in front of where The Kirk Minihane Show is recorded. This Watertown, Massachusetts complex is also home to a church. Kirk Minihane, whose Twitter bio reads “Podcast Jesus.”, does not believe in God.
Kirk’s producer, Steve Robinson, wearing a Cleveland Indians hat, lets me in. The second floor is where, according to the show’s Twitter, the “Shukin’ and Jivin’” occur.
The studio’s left side houses Steve’s equipment. He records the podcast and occasionally chimes in with a line that annoys Kirk.
Sitting in a comfortable black chair, wearing a New England Patriots beanie and a red zip-up jacket, is Blind Mike. The former Barstool Sports intern is legally blind, but he had enough foresight to become Kirk’s sidekick. In public he wears sunglasses, but inside the studio his eyes are shown for the entire room to see.
Kirk’s desk occupies the right side of the room. His lean body is covered by a blue hooded sweatshirt. His nearly shaved heads includes spots of grey. His headphones of choice are white ear buds with the attached wire. While The 45-year-old man from Winchester, MA does own a pair of glasses, they are only needed for reading.
I sit down in a chair that mirrors Blind Mike’s. My seat is between Kirk and Blind Mike. I am about five feet away from Kirk. I am given a microphone and a pair of black headphones.
I am told I will be interviewing Kirk as part of today’s podcast. I assumed I would just be observing the show. If I was lucky, maybe talk for a few minutes afterwards. As I try to calm my nerves, I cannot help but think about how on brand this is for Kirk Minihane.
Kirk has cut open veins and bled out on the airwaves before. (I should preface that he has not actually done that.) When he lost both of his parents to cancer in a six-week span, Kirk talked about it on the air. After he was checked into McLean Hospital with suicidal thoughts, Kirk expressed his feelings on his show. Any source of content was to be discussed one place – on the air. Having some college student interview him for a class assignment? Kirk wanted it done on his podcast.
I am given the full Kirk Minihane experience immediately. As I start to explain how long I have been listening to Kirk, he cuts in, “I’m not interviewing you.”
Kirk asks me to start the interview, while adding some constructive criticism. “So fire away. Go ahead. It seems like you got a lot of notes. You have a f**king totally blank paper except for one sentence.”
So far, Kirk has enjoyed his time at Barstool Sports. Since June 15, he has been churning out five podcasts a week, with few exceptions. Episodes range from an hour and a half to four hours. While he has some issues with Barstool, his two biggest boxes have been checked.
“All I wanted when I went to Barstool was to be paid a handsome salary and to be left totally alone,” Kirk explains.
Kirk believes his audience understands the benefits that come with Barstool as opposed to WEEI, his former employer.
“I think the most important episode we’ve done, by far, is when we played the Murchison stuff.” Kirk is referring to Bob Murchison. He is an activist who started contacting WEEI’s advertisers in the fall of 2017. Murchison believed Kirk, and his radio partner Gerry Callahan, were making transphobic remarks. He would pull audio out of context and send them to local and national advertisers. Murchison did not stop contacting Kirk’s advertisers even after he left WEEI for Barstool.
Kirk has been clear that Murchison’s actions have negatively affected his mental health. In August of 2018, Kirk was suicidal. He considered ending his life by train. “I just felt like I was having a heart attack. All. The. Time. Like, somebody was stepping on my chest,” Kirk articulated on his WEEI podcast, Enough About Me, last April.
Kirk also highlighted the importance of discussing his battle with mental illness. “I think talking about it’s important,” Kirk explained. “And I didn’t [in August, 2018]. I let it build up (he says eight times), and then all of the sudden I’m at the f**king train station.”
Furthermore, Kirk described that as a teenager, he would sometimes play depressing music in his room at night, such as Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska. The music occasionally brought him to tears. “The crying, in a way, made me feel better,” Kirk described. “It was therapeutic, oddly.”
August, 2018, was the second time Kirk checked into a mental hospital. The first occasion occurred during the summer after he graduated high school. “[I] didn’t get out of bed a couple days, and then had an argument with my parents,” Kirk remembered. “And went in my room and just trashed my room and freaked out and said I wanted to die. I didn’t really want to, I don’t think. Actually, I know I didn’t. But I knew I didn’t want to feel like I felt.”
During the October 2 podcast, they played show clips Murchison was sending to advertisers. Kirk, Blind Mike and Steve were surprised by the audio chosen. They mocked Murchison’s sound bites and explained how his interpretations were incorrect.
“I think (we) embarrassed him and exposed him for what he is,” Kirk explains. “At ‘EEI, that would have never, ever, ever, ever have happened. So for that, I can’t say thank you to David Portnoy and Erika Kirk Nardini [Barstool’s CEO] enough for the support.”
While at WEEI, Kirk was not allowed to discuss the reality of the Murchison situation. Kirk could not even utter his name on the air. His current employers have never told the show a topic was off limits. His biggest career regrets were meeting with Murchison in-person and “trying to play ball with those corporate p**sies at Entercom for the few months that I tried to do it.” Kirk stressed he would not go back to WEEI for a billion dollars.
Kirk can be himself at Barstool, and his incredibly passionate fan base cannot get enough. Kirk’s fans are proudly titled “Minifans.” They run countless show-related parody accounts on Twitter. There is a podcast dedicated to discussing Kirk and his show. There is a YouTube program, hosted by Blind Mike, where fans can come on and examine everything happening in the Minifan Universe. Not to mention, their contributions often become show content. Fan-made parody songs are occasionally played on the podcast.
“I think there is an intimacy with this podcast, for the listener, that doesn’t exist anywhere else,” Kirk believes. “I have people who say they listen to it two or three times. If that gets you through a work day, f**king awesome, or through a run, or through a f**king drive that’s the whole point.” Kirk regularly supplies his rabid audience with tasks.
In October, Kirk demanded that they prank call at least one radio station in each state. He wanted the Minifans to incorporate show references into their calls; the more obscure the better. All 50 states were pranked before the deadline of Halloween, or more importantly known in this world as Kirk’s birthday.
“I think we have the funniest f**king listeners of all time. I mean they’re f**king geniuses, some of them.”
– Kirk Minihane
Kirk enjoys my next question regarding how he created such a dedicated following.
“Oh boy I hate answering questions like this,” Kirk sarcastically admits. He adds a dramatic inflection to his voice, as if he was Gene Hackman performing lines. “Let me think. Let me put my feet up and list the reasons why, Chad.”
Steve’s theory is, “it’s probably the miracles you performed over the years.”
Kirk acknowledges that is definitely part of his allure. He then asks me why I listen to him. I explain that I enjoy hearing his brutally honest thoughts on other media members. Authenticity is a vital component of his on-air persona.
“If I am frustrated with Mike or Steve, or they’re frustrated with me, or we’re fighting with somebody else, we bring it all on the show,” Kirk says. “This is what I think my job is. And if I think [WEEI’s] Rob Bradford’s been not loyal to me when I’ve been loyal to him, I’m gonna call him out for it. That’s life.”
Kirk’s thirst for honesty and drama often create uncomfortable conversations. To date, the tensest moment of The Kirk Minihane Show was when Steve asked Kirk not to mention his family on the podcast.
“That was a turning moment for the show,” Kirk believes. “‘Well, am I going to let this guy do this, or am I going to bring it on the air?’ And I brought it on the air. And Steve took it and has been, you know, the best producer I’ve ever worked with. And Mike’s one of the top 25 or 30 co-hosts I’ve worked with.” The passing jab at Blind Mike was a layup for Kirk.
Kirk gives more insight into his broadcasting philosophy. “It’s also important, I think, all kidding aside, to find what would make somebody you work with the most sensitive and upset and make sure you pick away at that as much as you can.” Blind Mike, having been the victim of this approach countless times, chuckles.
Since Steve and Blind Mike agree with Kirk on many topics, the show seeks out guests to provide dissenting opinions. Whether that would be O.J. Simpson’s lawyer or a journalist, Kirk welcomes debate. Unfortunately, they have struggled getting these people to actually come on the podcast. “I knew it would be difficult, I didn’t think it would be impossible,” Kirk admits. “So far, it’s been virtually impossible.”
So when Thomas Stackpole of Boston Magazine approached Kirk for a story in December of 2018, it was in his DNA to say yes.
“My thing has always been, I always want accountability,” Kirk explains. “So if somebody’s gonna write something about me, the idea that I’d be like, ‘I’m not gonna talk to you,’ doesn’t it seem like bulls**t?”
Kirk shows off his memory by recalling Stackpole ordered a meatball sandwich each time they talked at Firehouse Subs. Then the interview goes down a route Kirk is familiar with; off the beaten path.
Kirk notices Steve’s facial expression change. Steve says that ordering a meatball sub in that setting is unusual. Investigative journalist Kirk Minihane gets digging.
“It’s about the most common f**kin’ sub there is in America,” Kirk proclaims. He then searches the internet for the most popular sandwich at Subway, hypothesizing the meatball sub will be “numero uno.” Kirk finds the answer. It is in fact the meatball marinara. He then mocks his producer by saying the second most popular is the “ham Italian,” as Steve put it. Back to the Boston Magazine profile we go.
“So (Stackpole) wrote this story. And I was very nice to him and gave him plenty of time,” Kirk remembers. “Probably four or five interviews. Did a photo shoot. And they totally railroaded me. And part of me when I see that I get pissed off, but then part of me is like, ‘This is kind of what I want because it’s content. I can bring the guy on and slap him around,’ so you can’t lose.”
I ask Kirk if he gets more irritated reading stories about him when the author does or does not talk to him.
“I would say I’m more frustrated when they don’t, like Shirley [Leung of the Boston Globe] or somebody doesn’t reach out. That’s cowardice,” Kirk explains. “At least these people talk to you. I would say for sure when they don’t talk, ‘cause that’s what we always ask for.”
As the show ends, Kirk and Steve have a brief exchange. They agree that one part of the show was humorous but should be edited out. Kirk exists the building. His Mercedes is waiting outside.
I ask Steve if I could come back and just observe the podcast. He says that really would not work. Steve explains that if I was in studio I would be a part of the show.
To hear the full episode from November 19, 2019, click here. After a brief description at the beginning of the podcast, the interview starts at 1:27:30. Follow @shutupchadjones on Twitter.