DULUTH — Jeremy and Kara Manthey sat near an Ewok, R2-D2 and baby Yoda.

Jeremy opened a “Star Wars” book, a gift from a viewer, and approached the camera for a close-up. Chris Brown sat at a table behind the camera, fielding comments from fans, and the three shared a laugh over a character’s name.

“Star Wars” swag is one part of the Duluth-produced Rise of the Podcast, but the trio touches on everything from fan theories to Batman trivia to pets for their podcast and YouTube channel.

A huge Lego ship sits on a shelf at the Rise of the Podcast studio in Cloquet. It's the largest set the podcast has ever worked on. Lego builds are one of the offerings on their YouTube channel, along with local content creator interviews, game reviews and DIY how-tos. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com) 
A huge Lego ship sits on a shelf at the Rise of the Podcast studio in Cloquet. It's the largest set the podcast has ever worked on. Lego builds are one of the offerings on their YouTube channel, along with local content creator interviews, game reviews and DIY how-tos. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com) 

The Mantheys launched Rise of the Podcast more than a year ago after attending Star Wars Celebration in Chicago and helping host DuluCon, a local convention “for all your nerdy needs.”

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They saw there was a market for something like this, and they approached Brown, who is also a commercial producer for KBJR in Superior, Wis.

Brown has seen many efforts like this start and die out, so from the get-go, they committed to quality and consistency — and it shows.

Rise of the Podcast has highly produced graphics, a podcast trailer, time lapse “Star Wars” Lego builds, a stop-motion vid, DIY how-tos, and interviews with local content creators.

Jeremy Manthey holds an oversized Ewok Funko Pop placed on set for a viewer as his wife, Kara, watches during the live taping of Rise of the Podcast. The couple, along with their producer, Chris Brown, aim to create a wholesome, light-hearted podcast. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Jeremy Manthey holds an oversized Ewok Funko Pop placed on set for a viewer as his wife, Kara, watches during the live taping of Rise of the Podcast. The couple, along with their producer, Chris Brown, aim to create a wholesome, light-hearted podcast. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

“At the end of the day, if people don’t like us, it’s because they don’t like the content we’re making. It’s not because it’s unwatchable,” Jeremy said.

Keith Hopkins has been a guest on Rise of the Podcast to talk about his film “Gravedigger Dave’s Halfway House.” As an independent filmmaker, Hopkins said he appreciates what goes into the work of the podcast — and the platform the trio allows for others.

“It’s good to be in mainstream local news like the Duluth News Tribune and KBJR, but your sound bites are just that: sound bites. Being on a longer-form program where you can dig in and talk about the movie for 15-20 minutes at a time before moving on to the next subject, it allows viewers to get inside my thoughts, processes …

“There’s no other platform other than podcasts that allows you to do that,” Hopkins said.

Of the crew, he added, “They’re the nicest people, and I think they’re on the cusp of big things.”

Producer Chris Brown (left) shares a laugh with Kara and Jeremy Manthey during a live taping of Rise of the Podcast. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Producer Chris Brown (left) shares a laugh with Kara and Jeremy Manthey during a live taping of Rise of the Podcast. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

The Mantheys and Brown moved into their studio space in Cloquet. They covered its walls in donated audio foam and gathered quality-but-older equipment.

The first podcast lasted around 14 minutes, and they worked with a hard script, but it stifled the conversation, Kara said, so they opened it up.

They now set a weekly theme, and they aim for a casual conversation that rides the line of not going too deep into “Star Wars” lore but never straying far from their fandom.

Producer Chris Brown gets the “Rise of the Podcast” ready before going live in Cloquet Tuesday evening, Oct. 6. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Producer Chris Brown gets the “Rise of the Podcast” ready before going live in Cloquet Tuesday evening, Oct. 6. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

They riff on food, video games and cosplay. The latter is Kara’s specialty.

She’s featured on their YouTube channel in a parody of Billie Eilish’s “bad guy." In it, Kara is dressed as Ahsoka Tano from “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” in orange paint, and a white headpiece with blue stripes.

She was introduced to the franchise when she was in diapers, and started making her own costumes as a kid. She said attending the “Star Wars” celebration dressed as Ahsoka was a positive experience, and she has plans to expand their channel’s DIY content.

In the studio, Kara’s Ahsoka headpiece sat on a shelf along with other memorabilia, a row of Funko Pops, wall hangings and oodles of completed and boxed Legos. Their decor matches the wholesome nature of their content.

Producer Chris Brown watches the screen while Kara and Jeremy Manthey talk during the live “Rise of the Podcast” in Cloquet. They have hosted local content creators in the past, but with the pandemic, they have adjusted with some video conferencing visits. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com) 
Producer Chris Brown watches the screen while Kara and Jeremy Manthey talk during the live “Rise of the Podcast” in Cloquet. They have hosted local content creators in the past, but with the pandemic, they have adjusted with some video conferencing visits. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com) 

There can be a lot of tearing things apart online, and they wanted to build a positive, light-hearted nerd podcast that encourages fandom, Jeremy said.

They’ve built a fan base or more than 300 subscribers from Puerto Rico, Los Angeles and Georgia, and more than 3,000 followers on Facebook. And all who interact play a part and improve the product, he said.

During a recent livestream, text bubbles floated to the left of Brown’s screen, showing comments from an active group of viewers. Kara refers to one by name. “David, you have been driving Jeremy nuts. Gamer scores,” she said.

“I get on to play some relaxing video games last night, and I see that David is leading the month with 3,000 gamer score. … I was going to be in bed by 10 o'clock last night. I stayed up till 11 trying to get as many achievements as I could,” Jeremy said to the screen.

Considering the amount of time they put into the podcast, it means a lot when someone engages, Jeremy said during a phone interview with Forum News Service. There’s so much online content to compete with in Netflix and Hulu, it really creates a special place in your heart for those viewers who keep coming back, he said.

Jeremy Manthey laughs as he points out “this racer,” an unnamed character, in a "Where’s Waldo"-type "Star Wars" book during the live taping of Rise of the Podcast. The book was a gift from a viewer. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com) 
Jeremy Manthey laughs as he points out “this racer,” an unnamed character, in a "Where’s Waldo"-type "Star Wars" book during the live taping of Rise of the Podcast. The book was a gift from a viewer. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com) 

The podcast and a biweekly shooting schedule comes with its challenges.

There can be technical issues — they’ve had lights go out, a hard-drive crash. It’s a large time and monetary commitment for which they budget. It comes with its cost and benefits.

Jeremy’s day job is very left-brained and logical, he said, but the podcast allows him to engage his creativity every week.

“This is like our mini therapy session,” added Brown. “We talk about the things we want to talk about, hang with the people we like hanging with for 90 minutes … a little bit of mental catharsis at the end of the week.”

Which 'Star Wars' character are you?

The people behind "Rise of the Podcast," a podcast and YouTube show, shared which "Star Wars" characters most hit home. Here's what they had to say.

HAN SOLO, “STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE”

(Disney / starwars.com)
(Disney / starwars.com)

“Han was a leader in his own regard. As much as he doesn’t want to do the right thing, he ends up doing it. … (and) he has to overcome personal obstacles and problems in order to do the right thing.”

— Jeremy Manthey

AHSOKA TANO, “STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS”

(Disney / starwars.com)
(Disney / starwars.com)

“She’s a little bit sassy, but she’s very loyal to her friends.”

Kara Manthey

LUKE SKYWALKER, “STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE”

(Disney / starwars.com)
(Disney / starwars.com)

“You can have your ideas about what you’re supposed to be doing, but you want to hide on an island until everything goes away. To come back to do what you need to be successful in the end, that’s really strong. I’d go with Luke, the original hero.”

Chris Brown