Q: The Choo-Choo Bob Show—is this a Thomas the Tank Engine thing?
Bob Medcraft (wearing glasses): No, the premise is that Bob is a train enthusiast hanging out with these engineers. Naturally, there’s also a friendly rat puppet.
BM: Here’s what happened. I was making videos for acts like the Barenaked Ladies when the film industry collapsed here. I’ve always loved trains, but so many model-train stores were run by crabby guys who basically said, “No kids allowed.” So I opened the Choo-Choo Bob Train Store in St. Paul. Now we’re doing this show. In retrospect, I probably should’ve opened a Jimmy John’s.
Rich, you play a different character on every show. What drew you in?
Rich Kronfeld: A guy like me who has sold a couple screenplays, did Let’s Bowl on Comedy Central, and is now acting in a kids’ show—you think he’s washed up. But we’ve shot on location in Colorado and California. We’re getting bands on the show. This is as fun as anything I’ve done.
Is there an inherent value in local TV?
BM: I remember going to Western Airlines’ holiday party at the Thunderbird Hotel and meeting Casey Jones, the WCCO-TV star. He was the guy back then, and a kid like me could meet him.
Can you bring that back?
BM: We’re lucky to have a patron who believes in us: Bob Vince, the scientist at the University of Minnesota who created the basis for an anti-HIV drug.
RK: But we’re up against the likes of Hasbro. We’re not animated. We’re not edited fast. We’re the show you can watch with your kids and not want to kill yourself.
The Choo-Choo Bob Show premieres June 2 on channel 45 in the Twin Cities, 11 in Fargo, 6 in Duluth, 3 in Rochester, and 12 in Mankato.