CHICAGO — Have you-bob been approached by a waist-high creature-bob who insists that every single thing-bob is a bob, Bob?
Do not be alarmed, fellow human-bob.
Bob-talk is a normal response to the addictive new science fiction podcast for kids “The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian.” Created by Chicago writer Jonathan Messinger, edited by his 7-year-old son, Griffin, and recorded in the basement of their Portage Park home, the podcast is the story of 8-year-old Finn, who explores new planets with his loyal friends Abigail, Elias and Vale.
After a rollicking opening involving scary space monsters and a fall from a very high place, our heroes come to the aid of a series of memorable aliens-in-need, among them the order-obsessed two-headed bobs, all of whom are named — you guessed it — Bob: “If everything’s labeled the same, nothing is out of order, and if nothing is out of order, then there’s no room for chaos to enter,” Bob242b cheerfully explains.
The explorers join forces with a pair of socially awkward space serpents and solve a mystery threatening the very existence of their home ship, the Famous Marlowe 280 Interplanetary Exploratory Space Station.
Along the way they encounter exploding eggs, weaponized bunnies and a giant winged robot so magnificent he amazes even himself.
“I consider it Scooby-Doo in space,” says Messinger. “My feeling is that it has that Mystery Gang feel to it, where it has kids going on adventures and hopefully it’s funny.”
Messinger, co-founder of the indie publishing house featherproof books, says he turned to podcasting when he couldn’t find a podcast to match Griffin’s age and interests. He started a kids podcast company, Typedrawer Media in January; “Finn Caspian” is Typedrawer’s first podcast.
The following is an edited transcript.
Question: You’ve done a lot of writing and performing for adults. Why do a kids podcast?
Answer: There are a few answers to that. For me, as a writer, the challenge of writing an episode every week was really interesting. I used to run “The Dollar Store Show,” which was a reading and performance show (at the Hideout). I always really loved writing a story for that show, performing it and getting the immediate feedback of the audience. So the podcast sort of scratches that itch as well.
But also, I think, when you become a parent, whether you like it or not, you start consuming a lot of entertainment for kids. You watch one too many episodes of “PAW Patrol” or something like that. So that was kind the idea too: wanting to make something that if parents put it on with their kids, hopefully they could enjoy it too.
Q: At what point did Griffin sign on as your editor?
A: That’s a good question. (Laughs.) There was a long negotiation. I knew that I wanted kids to have a voice in the show, and he always has opinions about what we’re reading at the time or listening to at the time. I wanted listeners to have some ownership of (the podcast), and I was hoping that if they heard a kid on every episode, they’d be like, “Oh, this is something I can really be a part of.”
Q: The bob planet was hilarious. Has bob-talk caught on among Griffin’s friends?
A: It has. There was one time where I met friends I hadn’t seen for a while, and their kids were talking in bob-talk to me, and it was really funny. That’s sort of what I mean about how much fun it is to make things for kids — there’s no shyness. If they really like something, they’ll just like it. They’ll own it, and that’s really gratifying.
Q: Are you going to do more kids podcasts?
A: Yes. “Finn Caspian” has more episodes left. And we’re going to take a short break and then come back with Season 2. And I’m working right now on doing another show — I think it’s probably going to start late November or early December — that is going to be “choose your own adventure.” At the end of each episode, the main character will have a choice: They can either do this or do that — and then (we’ll) have listeners vote on which way the stories should go. I’m going to bring on more writers for that show, because (laughs) writing every single episode has been a beast.
Q: How is “Finn Caspian” doing with listeners?
A: It’s been doing really well. I had an expectation for how many subscribers it would have in the first couple months, and we’re double that number now.
Q: You’ve gotten some great feedback from parents.
A: I’ve had several parents tell me that the show is now part of their weekly routine. I had one mom tell me that, every Tuesday night, she and her kids, they have dinner, get into their pajamas and then listen to the show before bed. And then I just got an email yesterday from a dad who told me that every Wednesday they have breakfast, and they put his phone on the kitchen table, and they all listen to the show. Another one told me that they play it for their son because it’s the only way to keep him in the bath for more than 5 seconds.