Professor Theo's Mystery Lab

Contributed photo

The cover artwork for the podcast that Jonathan Joy produces, Professor Theo's Mystery Lab.

HUNTINGTON — The concept of telling stories to children is as old as civilization itself. Whether it is a tale of woe, a cautionary tale or a parable, stories are a tool we have used to pass along history, teach lessons and in many cases, entertain one another. In an age of digital story-telling, Jonathan Joy and his family are using modern concepts and methods to continue the story-telling tradition.

Jonathan Joy is a Marshall University graduate and current professor of English and Writing at Ashland Community and Technical College in eastern Kentucky. Joy also writes a column for The Greater Ashland Beacon newspaper in eastern Kentucky. The recurring column, Read Me A Bedtime Story is the inspiration behind the Joy family’s new podcast, Professor Theo’s Mystery Lab. The stories preserved on the podcast are based on the tales he has written in the column for years.

“I have been writing the column for about three and a half years,” Joy said. “About a year ago my friend suggested I put those out there in podcast form.”

That friend is a podcaster named Justin McElroy. He is primarily known for his work on the podcasts, My Brother, My Brother and Me, The Adventure Zone and Sawbones. Joy said when Justin suggested converting his column to a podcast form, he knew nothing about the business. Now, Joy and his family produce two episodes per month.

“I did not know anything about it and he took me step by step through it,” Joy said. “He taught me how to edit it and helped with the promotion of it.”

The podcast itself has become a hit over the past nine months. It is a family-friendly podcast that is also family-produced. Jonathan’s nine-year-old son, Levi helps with production as a co-writer and voices different parts and recurring characters on the podcast. Levi’s mother and Jonathan’s wife, Rissie Joy also helps produce the show.

The Professor Theo’s Mystery Lab Podcast is set in a fictional W.Va. town called Splendid. It revolves around a mysterious science professor whose experiments at Splendid University may or may not have a lot to do with the town’s “higher than average number of kid superheroes, giant bugs, time-traveling teens and much more.”

“At its core, the show is about heroic kids and animals doing amazingly fun and imaginative things,” Joy said. “It is playtime, but often with a positive message for young ones.”

Jonathan Joy said that the stories for the Read Me A Bedtime story column always felt like they belonged in the same universe, but he could never figure out a way to fit them together, until Professor Theo’s Mystery Lab.

“I had all of these stories and I was looking for someplace for them to live. I thought, maybe they were in this town and they were connected and they might not be directly linked but they could fit together,” Joy said. “I had been writing for a couple of years on them and I had started to link them together and then the podcast came along and because of the podcast, they do now.”

Jonathan and Levi started out with a goal of recording and producing 40 episodes, as of this printing they have reached that goal.

“We generally record one episode per and week and they are about ten to fifteen minutes long on average and I have close to 100 stories that I have written, we have 40 total,” Jonathan Joy said. “Our new goal is to get to 100 episodes total.”

Levi Joy is a fourth-grader and voices the part of kid superhero Buck Travers, a central character.

“It is fun, it is something we all do together which is fun and Levi has endless cool ideas,” Jonathan Joy said.

Joy said that part if what he enjoys about the podcast is that it can be enjoyed by families, together.

“I have had positive feedback from a lot of families that listen weekly and have incorporated into their family time and a lot of adults have said that they can get into it also and that is not easy to do,” Joy said. “There are certainly references that I think adults enjoy in the same way. The key is telling stories in a fun way to children that talks up to kids and not down to them.”

According to a press release, Professor Theo’s Mystery Lab is heard by hundreds of other families from all over the world. The podcast has hit iTunes Kids and Family charts in Italy, Norway, The Philippines, Great Britain and the United States.

To get in on the fun, search for Professor Theo’s Mystery Lab on iTunes, Spotify, Pocket Casts, IHeartRadio, and more. The podcast is free, fun, family entertainment.

— Contact Emily Rice at erice@bdtonline.com and follow her on Twitter @BDTrice