It’s an afternoon in downtown Conway and two friends walk into a coffee shop … no, it’s not the setup for a good joke, but Todd Cate and Leo Cummings III will, indeed, make you laugh.
The two good friends have known each other since junior high school, but reconnected eight years ago working out at Conway Regional Health and Fitness Center. Spending time together, the banter was easy, Todd says.
“We’ve been pretty connected since that time,” he says. “We just have a lot in common.”
Both men grew up in Conway, have many mutual friends and knew each other from church. They are both husbands and fathers.
Being an outsider to the two-man team, it is obvious the pair never runs out of topics to unpack, and it’s fascinating to watch. One stream of conversation might go on for a long while over an afternoon with some caffeine.
Two years ago, an idea to package their energy and conversation into a podcast seemed like the most natural thing in the world, and “Black Dude, White Dude” was born.
“I feel like I got Leo into podcasts,” Todd laughs. “Remember, Leo? You listened to ‘How Did This Get Made.’ It’s a podcast about old movies from the ‘80s.”
Leo brightens up, “Oh yeah! That’s a good one.”
Their first podcast episode, they admit, was rough. One computer, one microphone, two dudes and a garage studio.
“Todd brings the technology,” Leo says. “I put on the headphones and start talking.”
Since that first podcast, though, the format has some basic elements. They also have upgraded equipment and have a semi-permanent studio in Leo’s home.
“We had some things we wanted to cover,” Todd says. “I think we have done that. We’re both parents, husbands, into fitness, we like talking about sports. We talk about race.”
The name of the show wasn’t originally meant to send any real message, other than the idea that some topics of discussion were ripe for social commentary from both a black dude and a white dude.
“There’s something to be gleaned from having certain conversations face to face,” Leo says. “Todd and I are good friends. And we’re such good friends, we can talk about things sometimes that make other people nervous.
“Sometimes, we take the opportunity to take opposing views just to talk through stuff we think is relevant. Two different perspectives. And, we’re in the South. And, there’s nothing else out there, really, like this.”
Not all discussions are controversial. Much of the show’s content is fun and uplifting. But if there is an issue on the table, the two dudes will work it out on the air.
Both admit they use caution but are never dishonest about how they perceive the world around them.
“Our friendship is such that it’s often no-holds-barred off the air, but we do hold back a little bit when we’re recording,” Leo says. “We use some caution because we still live and work in this community and the people we know and see every day, whether at work or at the [grocery store], will hold us accountable.”
Black Dude, White Dude is always evolving, Todd and Leo explain. But for the most part, there are two formats. One is a guest-interview format, while the other is just two dudes talking.
“We like the guest shows because we hear from people with life experiences we don’t have,” Todd says. “When it’s the two of us, we deal with social issues, and every time we do it, we get a little more comfortable. We’ve had a lot of success with our guest shows.”
Two most notable guests were Laura Davis, a kidnapping survivor, and Mitch Mustain, a beleaguered former football star.
“Laura had a very impacting story,” Todd says. “It was cool on a couple of levels. First, we actually interviewed someone who this happened to and that was compelling. We had a number of people respond to her story. And, it was the first time she publicly told that story.”
Leo says the interview with Mustain created some initial anxiety because neither host had ever met him before.
“People in the sports world or who follow sports know this guy,” Leo explains. “But he got to tell his side and he was so forthcoming. It was great!”
The future, according to the dudes, should be more format evolution, gaining sponsors and reaching a larger audience. Several strategic partnerships, with the Log Cabin Democrat, Palmer Music Company and Rock City Outfitters, are among those who have helped the dudes go the distance.
“We’ve come a long way since that first podcast,” Todd says. “We want to set realistic goals and generate more of a following.”
Leo echos, “Sometimes, we will get a text or a message telling us people are listening. Other times, people will recognize the logo. It’s a good feeling. We plan on growing from here.”