Deacon Peter McKenney and Dr. Christopher Drumm like to say they started their podcast with a $25 microphone, a few beers and a great head of hair (Drumm’s). But they’re leaving out a key factor: chemistry. It’s what led to 35 episodes (and counting) and a TV pilot they’re currently pitching to networks.
Drumm is a family practitioner in Norristown with the Einstein Healthcare Network. McKenney is a lay leader at Store House Church in Plymouth Meeting. The two find common ground in their irreverence toward some pretty touchy subjects. “The topics are already serious enough,” says McKenney. “For us, it was, ‘How can we approach them in a lighthearted way?’ We never planned the funny.”
Rest assured, the Doc and the Deacon podcast is funny—and raw. Ask these guys to pull up a barstool for a plate of wings and a pitcher (or two) of beer, and they’ll join you. Just keep in mind that they’re a sounding board for some of our biggest foibles and fears. “People keep their medical histories and their sins fairly secretive,” says McKenney, stating the obvious.
That’s exactly where their two professions intersect. And comedic tension ensues.
Drumm moved with his family to Collegeville from Philadelphia seven years ago. Soon after, he met McKenney at Molly MacGuire’s Irish Restaurant & Pub in Phoenixville, and the two hit it off. “We both have big personalities,” McKenney says. “We’re both addition-by-addition people.”
It was at another bar (Eagleville Tavern) that they decided to launch the podcast in March 2018. Drexel University medical student Christine Mrozek created the logo, and Tucker Butler, the son of a nurse, serves as editor and producer. Dave Tuturice, a nurse’s husband,
wrote the show’s intro rap:
It’s the doc and the deacon, stethoscope and hope / Talking everything from poops to the Pope / One believes in spiritual miracle, the other believes in curing bowels that are irritable / Two dads … more like two brothers.
Medicine and faith are topics everyone can relate to in some way. And while the thirst for knowledge is good, it’s always best to consult your physician—or deacon—for a professional diagnosis. “I have patients that come in all the time, and they’ve Googled their symptoms and think it’s cancer,” says Drumm. “I have to tell them about the ibuprofen rule: If you have a pain, you take ibuprofen and your pain is gone, then you don’t need to tell me about it.”
The internet has also changed the way people express their faith. McKenney points out that some churches are even incorporating virtual reality into their programming. “Our goal is to find ways to be relatable,” he says. “The point of the podcast isn’t to be an encyclopedia—it’s to spark conversation.”
Drumm interjects: “I heard there’s now a version of the Bible where Jesus says ‘jawn’ a lot and boos Moses.”
“He’s ridiculous,” says McKenney, shaking his head.
But it’s not all about jokes. Drumm and McKenney have decades of experience in their respective professions. “People ask, ‘Is God real? Why is this happening?’” says McKenney. “Being able to minister to people every day allows me to be better at the podcast.”
McKenney points out that it’s the same with Drumm. “When you’re experiencing life with people, you get stories because you’re seeing what they’re dealing with every day. We see how they apply through the lens of faith or the lens of medicine.”
John Wollman’s an actor and a producer—and one of Drumm’s patients. Wollman heard a Doc and the Deacon podcast and thought it would be a great reality show. He contacted Paul Fishbein, a 1982 Temple University alum who runs Plausible Films, a full-scale production company in Los Angeles. A few months later, Drumm and McKenney were on a flight to the West Coast to shoot a pilot co-produced by Fishbein and Wollman.
The premise of the pilot is simple: People facing significant life issues come to Drumm and McKenney, who offer advice based on their experience. “We were never trying to be on television—it wasn’t the goal,” says Drumm. “I’m here to be helpful and maybe have ways for people to learn and laugh at the same time.”
Both Drumm and McKenney are honest about the stressful, heart-wrenching aspects of their jobs. “I get calls from people, and they aren’t funny,” says McKenney.
And much like putting off a visit with the doctor, some of us wait too long to speak with a member of the clergy. “People will get to a dire situation and wait until the end to pray,” McKenney says. “I see that more often than not. The Bible says you should pray continually. Prayer isn’t a ritualistic thing—it’s actually a conversation with God.”
These days, it’s not uncommon for Drumm’s patients to ask if their ailments warrant an episode of Doc and the Deacon. It’s also part of his job to deliver diagnoses that are sometimes dire. “In medicine, they want to know you care more than they want to know how much you know,” says Drumm. “The podcast has actually kept me from burning out. It’s given me an expression of how I feel toward medicine, which I love. By trying to look at it in a different light, it’s kept it fresh and given me a release.”