Podcast guru Ben Walnick is all about breaking things down—way, way down. Known in various circles as The Bracketologist, Walnick likes to take the most mundane topic(s) and dissect them into varying random and hyper-competitive categories. If you can think up a subject (Worst Crayon Color! Best Dance Song From the 80s! Best FLOTUS Hairstyle!), chances are Walnick has it in the works.
We caught up with Walnick—who conveniently co-founded his own content emporium, Let It Fly—to find out more about the weird art of brackateering.
People are obsessed with brackets. Why is that exactly?
“Brackets are simply organized arguments. Our world is built around conflicts and arguments—but most of that is no fun. Whether it’s a sports matchup or the random topics we tackle, brackets are fun arguments—and people love to be passionate and defend their stance.”
You’ve taken brackets to a whole new level—what exactly is Bracketology?
“You can come up with an argument about anything, so I thought—why not make that entertaining in a format people can enjoy—e.g. a podcast? I tend to think that I am very good at ranking random things. From sports to food to pop culture, I have a knack for coming up with pretty good rankings for everything. But lists are so overdone—fortunately, conflict is entertaining which makes the matchups that much better. That is how the Bracketologist was born. Now people can argue with the voices they are hearing.”
You pick some mighty obscure things to, um, bracket. What’s garnered the biggest response?
“My most downloaded episodes? 1) ‘Ice Cream Flavors’ and 2) ‘Weapons for the Zombie Apocalypse.’ Polar opposites. The zombie episode was really interesting because there are so many factors. You gotta think long term—so ammunition, finding food, keeping zombies away, and ultimately also fighting humans for survival. We had a very unexpected winner in that bracket.”
Any controversies? Dish!
“My listeners were very, very angry about ice cream flavors. Turns out that people enjoy strawberry ice cream a lot more than my guest and me. Also, the coffee lovers were outnumbered defending that flavor. (Sorry, it had a tough matchup with Cookie Dough.)
What’s on your bracket wishlist or to-do list?
“So many! I have a list of about 75 ideas right now. Obviously, I would love to do a podcast with the subject of a bracket, like Paul Rudd movies with Paul Rudd. That’s a dream. A few random ones that jump out are letters of the alphabet. I mean, some letters are pretty useless and just ugly. And I want to do a small bracket on the ‘days of the week.’ Clearly Friday, Saturday and Sunday are the top seeds but people probably have wildly different opinions on which of those should win. I’ve got a lot of weird ones in mind; I just need the right guest. Feel free to send me ideas!”