Minnesota Now with Cathy Wurzer

Minneapolis 'Kings and Kweens: The Date Night Podcast' makes speed dating hot again

contestants on the date night podcast in minneapolis
"Kween" Belle talks with contestant Nick on the Date Night Podcast.
YouTube / The Date Night Podcast

Speed dating has been around for a while. In the 1800s, single women held “open houses” and invited eligible bachelors over for visits not to exceed 15 minutes.

And then in the 1960s, that concept made it to television. Put a single person in front of a slew of potential dates to see what sticks.

A Minnesota pair of podcast producers is making the concept new again.

The podcast is called Kings and Kweens: The Date Night Podcast, where folks listening at home — plus an entire live audience in Minneapolis — get to listen in to a series of dates. Yes, it’s as fun as it sounds.

MPR News host Cathy Wurzer spoke with producer Declan Brown about what it takes to make the show.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation. 

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Audio transcript

INTERVIEWER 1: And speed dating has been around for a while now. In the 1800s, single women held open houses and invited eligible bachelors for visits not to exceed 15 minutes. And then in the mid-1900s, that concept made it to television. Put a single person in front of a slew of potential dates and see what sticks.

Well, a Minnesota pair of podcast producers is making the concept new again. Kings & Kweens-- The Date Night Podcast, it's based on a show where a live audience in Minneapolis-- and folks listening at home-- get to listen in to a series of dates. Let's listen to a clip.

INTERVIEWER 2: So what's your biggest green flag?

SUBJECT: My biggest green flag? I have this massive heart. And I would say, like, I care very, very deeply for all my friends. I don't know. I have a very big heart, and that can sometimes get me in trouble because I just love so deeply.

INTERVIEWER 2: OK. You gotta find somebody to just match your energy.

SUBJECT: Yeah.

INTERVIEWER 2: Good thing I'm him.

SUBJECT: All right, let's go.

INTERVIEWER 1: Declan Brown is the producer of Kings & Kweens-- The Date Night Podcast, and he spoke with Cathy Wurzer about the podcast.

CATHY WURZER: It's so nice, Declan, that you're here. How are you doing?

DECLAN BROWN: Oh, I'm living the dream, Cathy. Thanks for having us on.

CATHY WURZER: So this is a podcast. It's also a YouTube series. You've got a live show. You've got a lot going on here. Tell us about it.

DECLAN BROWN: Yeah, so it is a podcast, but it is a live show, and it's also an event because, quite frankly, if you're going to pay for all this equipment and all these different things to record a podcast, you might as well do something that is a little bit more immersive and can go to more places at once. And so now we're going on tour.

CATHY WURZER: Wow. OK. So tell me, is it kind of like The Dating Game back in the 1960s? It was kind of a campy show on ABC. How do you run your show?

DECLAN BROWN: I've actually never seen The Dating Game. I hate to say that.

CATHY WURZER: Oh, you should. You should.

DECLAN BROWN: I should go back and watch it now, now that you said that. And I loved your history behind speed dating. I thought that's just fantastic, some information that I probably should know if I'm creating a dating show.

The concept is we pick a king or a kween or a royalty, and we have that single person go on three speed dates. They're going in blind, so they're blind speed dates. Each contestant will have 10 to 12 minutes per date. And then at the very end, that king or kween or royalty will pick a winning contestant to go on a second date.

Now, I know most dating shows are not very successful. We've found somewhat of success we have from our first season when we started it two years ago. They are still dating, and they have a house together. The team is really putting the pressure on the guy to bend the knee, maybe they really seal the deal here.

65% of our dates end up on second dates. So when someone picks someone at the end, like you saw in that clip, that clip actually was a winning contestant that she ended up picking, and they did go on a second date. So we were known to match-mate, I guess. It's working.

CATHY WURZER: It is like live matchmaking. I mean, this is pretty intimate stuff in front of a studio audience.

DECLAN BROWN: Yeah. So we host out of Graze in the North Loop in Minneapolis. And instead of making it like a private event, we rent out silent disco headphones. Anybody can show up. And then they can opt in to listening to the show. So basically, we'll have our mixer, and we'll put the audio signal out on Bluetooth connection, and people can purchase headphones.

That's how we sell tickets. And it also creates a little bit more of an intimate atmosphere for the date because not everybody, when they hear blind speed dating show in front of a crowd of 200 to 300 people, potentially 400 people, most people are, like, that is not me. You wouldn't believe we have over 300 or 400 people that we've casted for the show. There's people that definitely want to sign up.

CATHY WURZER: So do you give the contestants questions or are they on their own?

DECLAN BROWN: I'll explain the casting process because that's a bit of a-- like, people need to be prepared if they're going to be up there. So you can sign up for the show. You can just go to datenightpod-- P-O-D-- dot.com. There's a casting link right there. You fill out your information, why you want to be on the show, or someone can nominate you and you put your contact information in there.

We'll set up a Zoom call. And we have casting producers that will hop on the call and explain the show, get to know you a little bit. And then myself and Andrew and a couple of people will watch these Zoom calls and evaluate people. And then we have this big whiteboard or virtual whiteboard and we start matchmaking, like, OK, this person is really interested, and these types of people, let's see if they would be interested.

And then we usually plant some wild cards or some other things like that. But we really try and foster a true date for people that would make a great match. Now, if it isn't going well or if there's times where the conversation's a little bit lull and not as entertaining, we do have a host who is there helping moderate. So we're live streaming the show.

And usually, the people that are watching are asking questions. They're submitting a constant Rolodex of questions. And our host has a laptop in front of him, is looking at this feed, and will usually interject with a question if he needs to or have the king or kween or royalty expand on it, or the contestant, whatever it is.

CATHY WURZER: So you're kind of a lifeline if the date's tanking then.

DECLAN BROWN: Correct. Yeah, because we've had plenty of those.

CATHY WURZER: It's OK. I mentioned The Dating Game, obviously. There was also, I think, what, Blind Date back in the 1990s or something like that. Since that time, dating culture, obviously, has changed, and most people use dating apps. So it appears, though, that you guys are going a little bit old school, and it's working. Why do you think so?

DECLAN BROWN: I mean, people just crave some sort of real connection, I think. The dating apps are great, but it's also giving you a very easy opportunity to say no and a very easy opportunity to really pick your perfect type. This kind of flips that on its head, provides a unique experience for not only the person going on the date, but for friends getting to watch their other friend go on a date.

CATHY WURZER: And it's like person-to-person, right? It's not on a dating app. It's not so impersonal that you just swipe and you're done or whatever. You know what I mean? Or you're talking to somebody via Zoom or whatever. You're face-to-face, and that's a whole different thing.

DECLAN BROWN: Exactly. And the dates are short. How much can you really get to know someone in 10 minutes? But how we try and do is make sure it's just enough to see if that person is worth it or not.

Sometimes, it's very obvious it's not. Sometimes, everyone is like, whoa, wait a second. We might have something here, which is why it makes it fun for the final selection. People are always following up to see if people stay together and whatnot. So that's cool.

CATHY WURZER: So what kinds of people are the most successful at playing the game?

DECLAN BROWN: Hmm. I would say the best shows to watch are ones with people 50 years or older. We've done three of those shows, two or three of those shows so far, and they've been fantastic.

CATHY WURZER: Stop it. No way.

DECLAN BROWN: It's great. It's so great, Cathy, you have to watch one of the old episodes. They're fantastic. I think it's just because they have so much more to talk about. And dating in your 50s is just a tad different in the sense, like, they're really-- they kind of know what they want and they don't want, I guess.

And they have a lot of energy going into what they do want. And the conversations that we've had with the kweens that we've had on the show has been really fun. And I think those shows are always our most engaged with because people are really curious about 50-plus year old people going on dates. We call them our "fab 50 episodes."

CATHY WURZER: And also, folks over 50 tend to not put up with a lot of BS. So I'm sure that's also plays into it.

DECLAN BROWN: Right. And it's like something they've never done before too. So they come into it with a very positive attitude, and it makes for a great time.

CATHY WURZER: So you're kicking off season four.

DECLAN BROWN: Mm-hmm.

CATHY WURZER: Wow.

DECLAN BROWN: Yeah, season four is going to begin here in May. We'll be launching it again at Graze Provisions & Libations in the North Loop. We usually run the shows every Tuesdays.

CATHY WURZER: So you look into your crystal ball here, Declan, where do you want to take this?

DECLAN BROWN: I would like to expand to obviously multiple locations and continue to do-- using it as kind of like a dating service, matching random people with random people. But I think another north star would be to-- with the internet and social media, there's a lot of influencers and various people that have massive audiences that are very successful.

But there's so many of them that there's definitely a chance that this famous person doesn't know this famous person. And so if I can get a show where it's all famous people, they all don't know each other, I would think that would be a fun concept to see, especially if there's a match.

CATHY WURZER: All right. So if folks are listening and they're thinking, I think this would be great fun to participate, where do they go for information?

DECLAN BROWN: Best place to go is our brand new website, datenightpod-- P-O-D-- dot.com.

CATHY WURZER: All right. Declan Brown, it is a pleasure. You are so much fun. Thank you and best of luck.

DECLAN BROWN: Thanks, Cathy. I hope you can make it out to a show for season four.

INTERVIEWER 1: That was Cathy Wurzer talking with Declan Brown. He's the producer of Kings & Kweens-- The Date Night Podcast that tapes live in Minneapolis.

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