A Conversation with ‘Challenge Mania’ co-host Scott Yager

Scott Yager (left) visited Jake’s Take to talk about the Challenge Mania podcast that he co-hosts with fan-favorite contestant Derrick Kosinski (right). (Photo courtesy of Scott Yager)

By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com

It is a pleasure to welcome Challenge Mania co-host Scott Yager.

I was first introduced to Scott when he co-hosted a Big Brother recap episode with Jake’s Take friend, and Rob Has a Podcast (RHAP) creator Rob Cesternino. I loved his take on the Big Brother universe, and as a newly minted fan of MTV’s The Challenge, I needed to check out his podcast: Challenge Mania.  

Challenge Mania is an in-depth podcast that Scott co-hosts with one of the show’s longtime stars, Derrick Kosinski. Since its first podcast episode, the duo breaks down several seasons of the long-running reality TV show with a plethora of guests. The guests ranged from franchise newcomers such as Paulie Calafiore, Jozea Flores, and Georgia Harrison to show legends such as Johnny Bananas, CT Tamburello, and Cara Maria Sorbello.

In this edition of A Conversation, Scott opened up about the show’s podcast preparation, which Big Brother and Survivor alums would make great Challenge competitors, and the Challenge Mania live shows.

Jacob Elyachar: Could you share the Challenge Mania podcast’s origin story with my readers?

Scott Yager: The CliffsNotes versionis that I am a lifelong Challenge viewer with a background in Reality TV production. Derrick is of course, Derrick. He is a three-time Challenge Champ and maybe the most beloved cast member ever. Derrick and I knew each other through a mutual friend and had partnered on some podcast stuff around 8-9 years ago. We stayed in touch and in November 2017 when Dirty XXX had just got done airing, the timing lined up for us to try to do a Challenge podcast. Derrick had just made his return after a 7 year layoff and come in second place. I was taking some time away from my Line Producer gig to get married. Had no idea it would turn into what it’s become, with touring live shows, a shop and many other elements to it. I basically took all I saw working for the dozens of podcasts I am a loyal listener and supporter of and mimicked what they do. With some good advice along the way from super successful mentors like Susie Meister, who started her own podcast and podcast network years ago, and Emily Schromm, who is a branding machine with 10 or so businesses and products…we had a good recipe for success, with my background in podcasts, comedy and journalism and Derrick’s legacy and relationships within The Challenge world.

Jacob Elyachar: You have had a plethora of The Challenge alums on the show. How do you and Derrick prepare for their visits?

Scott Yager: We take a lot of questions from our audience, the Maniacs. We call them that because they are just that…Challenge MANIACS. They have better memories than either of us will ever have. Most guests we know well enough to base our prep on a quick scan of their Challenge Wiki Page, but a lot of the deeper stuff comes from seeing what our audience wants to hear them talk about. A lot of the time, it is an episode, elimination or moment from years ago that we even forgot about. 

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

Scott Yager: Not to speak for Derrick but when your fate is ultimately decided by a team of casting producers, that can probably be challenging. You sit around waiting for the call. You can only do so much. I think that’s what is great about what we do now. We make the rules. We provide the content. We are on cruise control and if they call, great. If they do not, also great. For me, initially there was a “who is this guy?” element to it…but that subsided over time when people saw how much I care about the podcast and in turn, the show. No one wants to see some cookie cutter TV guy or radio guy take over their dream job. But once they realized I am a Maniac just like them, enough of them like me now…I am pretty sure. You will always have haters or detractors, but I learn to process that as a positive. No one who casts THAT wide of a net is going to have 100 percent approval. If you are getting that, your net isn’t wide enough. Our audience is amazing. Many travel to all of, or most of our shows. We have gotten to know a lot of them. They are genuinely good people who have formed relationships through the community we have created via a podcast and that is absolutely incredible. 

Scott Yager & Derrick just released a Challenge Mania episode that broke down The Challenge: War of the Worlds 2‘s premiere. (Audio property of Spreaker)

Jacob Elyachar: Let’s talk about The Challenge: War of the Worlds 2. What are your initial thoughts about this season? 

Scott Yager: We all have the people we were hoping to see, and when they do not show up, it’s disappointing. But for every Derrick, Da’Vonne (Rogers), Tony (Raines), Marie (Roda), Kailah (Casillas), Mark (Long), Kendal (Sheppard) or Darrell (Taylor) that we did not get this time around…we got a lot of people back that I am happy about. I love Josh Martinez on this show. As a Big Brother fan, he would not have been someone who initially made sense as a Challenge crossover, but I think he’s a perfect fit. I was pleasantly surprised to see Dee (Nguyen) back from War of the Worlds. She will be at our show in San Francisco on September 7, and we love her. This guy, Rogan (O’Connor), who got eliminated episode one on Vendettas during the purge race is absolute gold. He was probably our best podcast guest last year, and we are thrilled he’s back. Same goes for Laurel (Stucky) and Jordan (Wisely). I think their presence is something we are all excited for. I am excited about the team format.

The show has not had one in a while. Not sure if it will last the whole season but whether it does or not, with all these broad alliances and “Team U.K.” playing a big part narratively on last season, I think it made sense. I am glad we have Georgia back. She was my favorite last season. I am excited to see some of these U.K. rookies, as we have heard good things. Wes (Bergmann) was just on Challenge Mania and talked up Jennifer (Grijalva) and Idris (Virgo) quite a bit. I think we are in for another well-produced, exciting and wild ride. I look forward to covering it every week. 

Jacob Elyachar: Thanks to Da’Vonne, Josh, Jozea, Morgan Willett, Natalie, and Paulie’s success on The Challenge, many Big Brother alums have come on and competed on the MTV staple. In your opinion, which former houseguests and Survivor players would be strong candidates to compete on future seasons?

Scott Yager: There are two ways to answer this question. There are people who fit the typical Challenge mold. I think Brett (Robinson) from last year, maybe Rachel (Swindler), this year you have Jack (Matthews) and Jackson (Michie), even though they are both pretty hated (but does that make it better?). But as I said above, I love when someone comes over and kills it even when you necessarily see it begin with, like with Jozea or Josh. I would love to see Scottie (Salton) on there. We do not have many people like him on The Challenge, and I think on Big Brother, he showed he could compete too. Fessy (Shafaat) & Tyler (Crispen) from last season are more natural fits. From this year’s Big Brother cast, I would love to see Kemi (Fakunle) and Kat (Dunn). Survivor has a few as well, especially since they have begun to cast so young recently. I think Michaela (Bradshaw) would be perfect. I know Jay (Starrett) got close. I still think he’d be fun if they can make it work. He appeared on Ex on the Beach and has some history with Morgan, who now seems to be in the Challenge rotation. I think Chris Noble from Ghost Island could be fun too. I got to chat with him at the Big Brother Premiere Party in NYC. He is tailor-made for The Challenge. I will say that.

Challenge fans across the country head over to various locations to see Derrick Kosinski, Scott Yager, and the show’s iconic players talk the game at Challenge Mania Live. (Photo courtesy of Scott Yager)

Jacob Elyachar: Throughout this year, Challenge Mania has traveled across the United States incorporating live shows with Challenge alums as your guests. What have been fans’ reactions towards these live tapings?

Scott Yager: They are not so much live TAPINGS as live SHOWS. That is part of our hook. You cannot stay home and then listen to it on iTunes the next week. You have to go. You have to be there. It frees the cast up to say stuff they would not usually say (or be allowed to speak) on the podcast. We have to cut a lot of things out of our podcast. We obviously cannot do that live in a comedy club. As for the reaction, everyone loves it. It is an element to THIS show that had been missing. Rob Cesternino does it for Survivor and Big Brother. Wrestling has it; Marvel has it. There was not someone you could show your Challenge fandom and enjoy it in person with a room filled with people who love it just as much. It’s basically like attending a live reunion taping that is not 12 hours long and does not suck — just kidding. But TV tapings can be grueling for audience members. We do a pre-show Meet and Greet too where people get to meet the cast, take pictures, and share stories. I think we have given people a great experience so far. They keep coming back, and that’s a good sign. 

Jacob Elyachar: Why should my readers check out the Challenge Mania podcast? 

Scott Yager: I will tell you what I say to my friends and people I meet at cocktail parties if you love or even watch The Challenge, you kind of NEED to be listening to Challenge Mania. If you don’t, figure out what podcasts are talking about what you DO love, and listen to those. We have worked hard to be a cannot-miss companion piece and community of viewers of The Challenge. But by no means, listen to us if Game of Thrones is your thing. Listen to Binge Mode. If you like Survivor or Big Brother, listen to RHAP and check-in if we do a bonus episode with someone from those shows. If you like wrestling, listen to Dave Meltzer. BUT, if The Challenge is your thing, we have over 140 episodes with long-form interviews with almost everyone who has ever been on the show & we do bonus podcasts at Patreon.com/ChallengeMania breaking down each weekly episode of The Challenge — looking for more Challenge content? We like to say…CHALLENGE ACCEPTED

You can listen to Challenge Mania on and connect with them on Facebook!

For more information about Challenge Mania, visit their website! You can also connect with Scott Yager on Instagram and Twitter!

Speak Your Mind

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Copyright 2019 Jacob Elyachar