A Conversation with Rob Has a Podcast’s Rob Cesternino

Rob Cesternino made his Jake’s Take debut as he talked about the Rob Has a Podcast Network. (Photo courtesy of Rob Cesternino)

By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com

It is a pleasure to welcome Rob Has a Podcast (RHAP) creator Rob Cesternino to Jake’s Take.

I became a fan of RHAP when Big Brother 20 was on the air. I looked forward to his commentary about the show with his contributors such as Taran Armstrong, Brent Wolgamott, and Melissa Deni. He also made me laugh when he teamed up with Big Brother 8 alum Eric Stein for the Summer of Stein podcast.

However, when Survivor returns, Rob Cesternino truly shines. The two-time Survivor alum remains one of the best color commentators on the long-running CBS Reality TV series as he analyzes the gameplay with fellow two-time alum Stephen Fishbach on the weekly Survivor Know It All podcast series.

Outside of the Reality TV podcast series, Rob co-hosts News AF with fellow Survivor alum Tyson Apostol and Danny Bryson. He also tries out different podcasting concepts with Akiva Wienerkur in the Rob and Akiva Need a Podcast series.

In this edition of A Conversation, Rob shared the RHAP origin story, talked about his chemistry with podcasting partners Stephen Fishbach and Eric Stein, and his picks for a potential Big Brother: All-Stars 2 season.

Jacob Elyachar: Next year marks Rob Has a Podcast’s tenth anniversary. Could you describe the RHAP origin story to my readers? How has it evolved over the past nine years?

Rob Cesternino: I cannot believe that it has been almost 10 years of doing the podcast, but it was something that I just started up when I had absolutely nothing going on. I had done Survivor two times, and then I moved out to Los Angeles and started working at a production company that was working on projects with people that had done reality TV shows. That production company eventually went to a pivot to working on YouTube videos and online video. I was working on creating a bunch of web series for a few years, but eventually, that company ended up losing all of its funding, and I was completely out of work around the beginning of 2009. I didn’t know what I was going to do but I thought that if I had something that was a bit of a resume piece that might help me get some jobs producing online video. I started up the website, robhasawebsite.com because I have a last name that is difficult to spell and was sort of my solution for that. Then I have always enjoyed talk radio. I really enjoy listening to podcasts as well, which were somewhat new around that time, and I wanted a podcast where I could also put on this website where people that could potentially hire me for jobs felt like, “Okay, well at least this guy has something going on. At least he is creating stuff, and so this is somebody that we should be working with.” That’s where the idea of doing a podcast ended up starting. I was messing around with podcasting during the summer of 2009, and it really was very amateurish, and something I was just calling up my friends, and talking to my fiancé, who’s now my wife, at the time. I don’t even know who was listening to these, but it was in the beginning of 2010 that there was the Survivor 10 Year Anniversary Party because they had Heroes vs. Villains was coming on and I thought that, “Well, maybe the podcast should be a little bit more accessible. I should talk about things that are on television as opposed to just whatever I felt like.” That was really the birth of Rob Has a Podcast as we know it.

Jacob Elyachar: What makes the Rob Has a Podcast network stand out against other podcasting networks?

Rob Cesternino: There are a ton of podcasts and podcast networks that are out there, and I am sure there’s a ton of great stuff. I listen to a bunch of podcasts. I think that what makes Rob Has a Podcast stand apart is I think first off just the depth of coverage that we do on a lot of these shows like Survivor and Big Brother. There is only so much content. We are there to over serve the audience that loves these shows and shares the same passion that I have for these shows like Survivor and Big Brother, so that you may like these shows, but we are catering to the people that love and obsess about these shows.

Jacob Elyachar: Even though I do not watch Survivor and miss episodes of Big Brother, your team fills me in on what I miss. That’s the reason why I am an avid Rob Has a Podcast super fan.

Rob Cesternino: I appreciate that, and I can understand why you would miss an episode because there’s a lot to keep up with.

Jacob Elyachar: Many of the Rob Has a Podcast hosts such as Taran Armstrong, Melissa Deni, Brent Wolgamott, and Josh Wiggler have become fixtures on both the Rob Has a Podcast network and on social media. What goes through your mind when it comes to selecting talent to host your shows?

Rob Cesternino: The number one thing that I am looking for is people that have an engaging personality and have something to say. I want people that have an extreme knowledge base, but I also want them to be able to combine that knowledge base with fun, and also being interactive and talking with the people that are engaging with them on social media and the podcast. I love the idea of this being an immersive experience for the people that are the listeners where I do not want it to be a passive experience where you listen to the podcast. I want it to be an interactive experience where you are listening to the podcast, and also chatting with us on social media.  Fans can also come up with questions or ideas for us to talk about on the show. They feel like you are part of the fun and not just listening to people talk about something.

Survivor fans turn to Rob Cesternino and Stephen Fishbach for their thoughts about the latest episode. (Video property of Rob Has a Podcast)

Jacob Elyachar: The Rob Has a Podcast community has embraced your respective collaborations with Survivor Know It All’s Stephen Fishbach and Summer of Stein’s Eric Stein. What are some of the similarities and differences between both partnerships?

Rob Cesternino: Eric and Stephen are two people that are pretty different, two different people that are from these shows that I get to collaborate with. Stephen is super analytical in terms of how he looks at the show. He looks at every single move that happens on Survivor through the prism of right move, wrong move, and is a great person to come on after a Survivor episode and be able to really dig into what just happened, and how that moves the game forward in terms of one person ultimately being a winner at the end.

Whenever Big Brother goes south, Rob Cesternino & Eric Stein try to make fans laugh at the game’s absurdity with the Summer of Stein Podcast. (Video property of Rob Has a Podcast)

Eric is almost the opposite of that, as of Stephen as a podcaster, where Eric embraces the silliness and the absurdity of what’s going on these shows. While Eric is also a great strategist in being able to talk about the game, the game of Big Brother is really so long, and there are thousands, and thousands of little, tiny moves that get made, and often they are lost on the live feeds. The actual of Big Brother does not focus a ton on the strategy, and so Eric is a perfect person to be able to come on and discuss with me all of the nonsense and insanity that goes on during the Big Brother season.

Jacob Elyachar: What have been some of the challenges that you faced throughout your career? How did you overcome those obstacles?

Rob Cesternino: There’s a lot of challenges that go into podcasting, and I am trying to where I’d like to go. Overall, it’s just enjoyable to get to do this. There are so many hours that go into all of the work that goes into the pre-production and the post-production of the podcast. It is a grind, especially in terms of how many times you are going through the same process of the setup and posting. There’s a lot of technical details that go into it, but the thing that I found that gets me through it is just what a rewarding experience it is to be able to make these shows, and then have people receive them, and be able to let me know how much they are enjoying the content that we’re making. That’s what gets you through the times that are not as fun.

Jacob Elyachar: Earlier this year, the hashtag #Survivor40 spread like wildfire on social media, which speculated about an all-winners season. As a Survivor alum and aficionado, why is the show’s fanbase ran wild with this speculation?

Rob Cesternino: Any time Survivor talks about bringing back former players, it captures the hearts and the minds of the Survivor fans. Unfortunately, in recent seasons, the idea of bringing the All-Stars in practice is not always as exciting as just the idea of bringing people back into the fold. Although the Reality Stars edition of The Amazing Race was pretty well received by most of the fans that watch those shows. People love the idea of bringing past their past favorites; it’s just unfortunately on the screen; it doesn’t always live up to the expectations.

Jacob Elyachar: Since the Big Brother 21 Live Feeds have started, fans voiced their outrage over the way several of the houseguests (particularly Christie, Jack, Michie, and Nick) have ostracized their fellow cast members particularly David, Kemi, Nicole, and Ovi. Both fans and former houseguests have called out the mistreatment on social media, while several aggressive fans attacked the Christie and the guys’ personal and professional lives. As members of the media, we try to stay professional as possible during this emotional roller coaster television show known as Big Brother. Also, as commentators, we can call them out, but do you see a thin line between being aggressive with our commentary or joining the social media lynch mob? 

Rob Cesternino: That’s a great question, and it encapsulates a lot of what’s going on. Big Brother used to be a show of okay, let’s put these people into this fishbowl and observe what’s going on. It’s hard also then to see what’s going on but then even be policing what’s going on in the house. The people that are having this bad behavior in the house, you know, there will be a reckoning in terms of what they have to deal with outside of the house. But I do think that there is a fine line with how far that we and who cover the show and the people who are the fans of the show should go because I think that what you like about Big Brother is that you have the ability to witness people in what is supposed to be an unfiltered environment. And so that more that we try to be able to, “Hey, this is happening. This is not right. This is bad.” Well, the more that people have to be aware of everything that they’re doing inside of the house I think the less you will get unfiltered people. If you like the idea of being able to watch people 24/7 in this environment you’re going to see things that you don’t like, but I don’t know if you could have both things be able to be happening at the same time where people are being very conscious of how they are acting, but that also get to watch people in this unfiltered environment.

Jacob Elyachar: I agree with you, Rob. It’s tough because I saw Jack and Michie and their behaviors remind me so much of Season 19’s Cody Nickson.  I remember how he treated Josh (Martinez, Season 19 winner) and said those derogatory comments about Audrey (Middleton, Season 17 houseguest) on the live feeds. I jumped in with my opinion on Twitter and criticized both the Jacks and Cody Nickson.  It is difficult to not only to be a fan of the show but also as a journalist because you want to interview some of these peoples. It’s a fine line.

Rob Cesternino: I think that this is one of the trickiest things about Big Brother, and it’s something that comes up less on Survivor, but we do not see people 24 hours a day on Survivor. We are only seeing them on the one hour of a TV show. It is tough for the Big Brother contestants to go into the house and then be followed on what they are saying 24 hours a day. Then, there is terrible behavior like we are seeing in the house from individual house guests, and then that stuff is followed so closely where in the early days of the Big Brother live feeds there would be a thread on Joker’s Updates, and that stuff ends up being on social media now, and on YouTube videos, and there are things that get said in the Big Brother house which really could ultimately follow a person for the rest of their lives.

Here are some of the Big Brother legends that both Rob Cesternino and I talked about potential contenders for a possible Big Brothers: All-Stars 2 season. (Photos property of CBS & layout courtesy of BrantSteele)

Jacob Elyachar: Big Brother has not done a second All-Stars season in over 13 years. In your humble opinion, if the Big Brother producers decide to do another All-Stars season which houseguests would be top contenders to play again?

Rob Cesternino: Okay, do you want big personalities or great players?

Jacob Elyachar: A combination of both because we all know that if we have all the best strategists it’s going to be like Big Brother 20 where it was like we were happy on the first half but then it got so boring at the end of the season.

Rob Cesternino: Yes, yes. My number one Big Brother person will always be Dr. Will Kirby.

Jacob Elyachar: Agreed.

Rob Cesternino: Then, Danielle Reyes is always going to be my 1A on my ultimate Big Brother people, and then I will not just completely rip off the cast of Big Brother 7, but I feel like those are the two people that you would love to have back.  Obviously, Derrick Levasseur, Dan Gheesling, Rachel Reilly, and Tyler (Crispen) from last season are certainly iconic. I would love to see Kaitlyn Herman as well. Paul (Abrahamian), I think would have to be there if you had a second Big Brother: All-Stars season.

Jacob Elyachar: What about other former houseguests that were polarizing such as Amanda Zuckerman, Swaggy C, and Scottie Salton?

Rob Cesternino: Amanda, I think you would have to have there. I think it’s been a crime that she hasn’t been back. I think Vanessa (Rousso, Season 17 finalist) is somebody else that would be really incredible to have back there. My pitch for a Big Brother All-Stars has been for the last couple of years. I like Celebrity Big Brother, especially the first time around. It was very fun, but why not take that time slot in January and it’s three weeks, and then how many people would say no for a chance to get back into the house.

Jacob Elyachar: I would also like to see Janelle (Pierzina, three-time Big Brother player) and Jessie Godderz in the same house.

Rob Cesternino: Yes, Mr. Pec-Tacular and it would be great to see Eric Stein back in there.

Jacob Elyachar: Absolutely!

Rob Cesternino: I think that for three weeks I think that you could get the best of the best over 20 years. Next summer will be Big Brother’s twentieth year on television . I mean, if you want to be official about it like the (Allison) Grodner and (Arnold) Shapiro era kicked off in 2001. They count Big Brother 1 in terms of the numbers, but boy, January 2020 would be a great way to celebrate what’s coming up. You can get the jump on what’s going on with Survivor 40 with a Big Brother all-time houseguests of 20 years of the show.

Jacob Elyachar: There is one more houseguest that I would definitely like to add to the list: Big Brother 16 and Celebrity Big Brother UK’s Frankie Grande. He is one of my favorites.

Rob Cesternino: There would be no problem with him being in the All-Stars cast. However, he is not my all-time favorite Big Brother personality, but he did play a strong game in Big Brother 16.

Jacob Elyachar: In addition to the CBS Reality TV series, you also have two original podcasts called News AF and Rob and Akiva Need a Podcast. How do these podcasts stand out in the RHAP world?

Rob Cesternino: I have been always looking for things that I could do that are outside of the episode recaps because the shows go out of season. It is nice to be able to have things that I can talk about whether or not there’s a TV show on. News AF really started as a podcast with my former Survivor colleague Tyson Apostol, and then also Spencer Pratt who was part of, famously, of the TV show The Hills. We were doing a podcast when Tyson and Spencer were on the TV show Marriage Bootcamp, and then when that ended we decided to keep it going. We started talking about the crazy news that was going on every week, and it really turned into then talking a lot about what was going on in Spencer’s life as well, a lot of the drama that he had going on. Unfortunately, we ended up having a parting of the ways with Spencer but Tyson and I really like the format of talking about the news. Tyson brought in a long-time friend of his, Danny Bryson, who is a very funny guy. Then we ended up shifting the format to be more talking about all of the crazy news that’s going on every single week. We have been going just about nonstop with that and we are closing on 200 episodes of News AF.

Jacob Elyachar: Congratulations!

Rob Cesternino: Then, Rob & Akiva Need a Podcast is a podcast that I do with my co-host Akiva Wienerkur. He and I did a weekly recap of the TV show Seinfeld. Five years ago, we went back and watched every single episode of Seinfeld. We finished the comedy series a year and a half ago. We were looking for a podcast to do. We were not really sure on what the format would be, and we ended up landing on an idea which was going to be a podcast with a format that changes every week where we would get ideas from the listeners sent us, and then we have them on a wheel of ideas, and later every week we spin the wheel and then do whatever comes up on the wheel so that the first half of the show is whatever came up on the wheel last week, and the second half of the show is talking about new ideas to put on the wheel, and then ultimately spinning the wheel to see what comes up next week. It’s an entertaining format where it’s something new but also a repeatable format week after week.

Jacob Elyachar: Why should my readers check out the Rob Has a Podcast network?

Rob Cesternino: I think your readers should check out RHAP if they are somebody who is a serious fan of competition Reality TV shows such as Survivor and Big Brother. We are going to cover those shows in way more depth than you have ever experienced before. We are going to talk to the players that were the standouts from these shows, and most of all we are going to have a lot of fun and really enhance your experience of watching these shows that I hear from people for many years, “I look forward to the podcast more than I look forward to the actual shows,” and when that happens then I feel like we are fulfilling the mission of Rob Has a Podcast.

You can also check out Rob & Rob Has a Podcast  on social media. Visit his Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & YouTube channels.

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