As a writer and interviewer, I am always excited about talking to interesting people. When they are also extremely genuine and pleasant—like Yeardley Smith, co-host and co-producer of Small Town Dicks—it’s just icing on the cake. Even though I had just met her, Yeardley made me feel like we were old friends sitting down for a quick chat over a glass of wine or two. Her natural ability to make people feel so comfortable speaking with her is just one of the reasons Small Town Dicks continues to grow in popularity.
Many know Yeardley as the voice of Lisa in The Simpson’s, but podcast fans know her as the host who asks intriguing questions about big-time crimes that happen in Small Town, USA. The show is anchored by identical twin detectives, Dan and Dave, who provide an in-depth law-enforcement-based perspective on their cases and those of their fellow officers.
As someone who has personally worked with police officers for nearly two decades, the unique insights from two detectives makes the show particularly intriguing. I appreciate that Dan and Dave’s involvement puts law enforcement in the proper (and often positive) light. Early in our conversation, Yeardley commented on that aspect of the show. “It wasn’t one of our mandates, but it is really one of the wonderful artifacts of the podcast. When we hear from law enforcement who listen to our podcast,” she added, “they say, ‘thank you for doing that.’”
Yeardley expounded on the police officers who have been guests on the show. “I feel like my job is [to discover] who the guests are, how they do what they do, and why they do it. Particularly, in a profession like that, as the person who is going to see the horrible things people are willing and able to do to each other day after day, I have to ask where those things live inside you. Where do you put them? All of the officers and detectives we have spoken to say, ‘You just put them in a box. You compartmentalize.’ But the truth is, the lock on that box isn’t that good, because they all also say that eventually [the memories] will find a way to come out and deal with you at some point. So, they find great solace in talking to their peers about it.
“With each episode, my empathy and admiration for those who are willing to do this job increases just a little bit more,” Yeardley added.
It’s clear that her empathy and admiration begin with and for her co-producers—Detectives Dan and Dave. I asked how she connected with both of them. “I was doing an event for The Simpsons, and Dan was assigned to my security as an off-duty, plain-clothes detective,” she answered. “He had a quiet confidence about him that was very impressive and very unusual.” Intrigued by the way he made her feel comfortable without being overbearing, Yeardley got to know him, thereby learning about his brother, Dave, and their shared dream of retiring, living in a cabin, and playing a lot of golf. Dan and Dave were detectives at the same agency, in the same town, and even had desks across the bullpen from one another. Dan worked violent crimes, and Dave—who was recently promoted to sergeant—worked sex crimes and child abuse.
Yeardley shared that she began dating Dave shortly after they met, and with Dan living only a block away from Dave, she soon became involved in their conversations as “they ‘downloaded’ their day or their week.” As an active listener, Yeardley quickly determined their stories could easily lay the foundation of a podcast. “That’s how it came about. Every time you sit down with Dan or Dave, they’ll tell you a story that is so offhand for them, and you’ll just be like, ‘Save it!’” (For the podcast, that is.)
We discussed a few of the episodes in detail. One in particular, “Friend Request” released on April 5, 2019, reveals much of the work police officers do to build a case against a criminal. It was obvious that the suspect in this particular case had no idea how deep a hole he had already dug himself before even landing in the interrogation room. “One of the many things I’ve learned from this podcast is, when a good detective sits down and starts to ask you questions, he or she is [already] five answers ahead of you,” commented Yeardley. It is these types of insights, along with the absorbing stories themselves, that make Small Town Dicks addicting.
While these stories are based in small towns, many of the accounts are big-time cases. Though we can’t reveal the town where Detectives Dan and Dave work, I was interested in the population size that constitutes a “small” town. “Their small town is about 80,000,” Yeardley shared, also offering that generally speaking, they “try to cap it at about 100,000” in population, when choosing cases to feature.
That, of course, led me to ask about the process they undergo for choosing cases. To that point, Yeardley shared something very interesting. When it comes to the detectives they bring on as guests, “We want to know about the cases they are most proud of,” she stated. “We want to know what it meant [to the detective]. Was it the first case you broke? Was it the one everybody said, ‘You’ll never break this case’? Was it [the discovery of] one piece of evidence that made you say, ‘Oh my God, this is how all the dots connect!’?”
She also revealed that Dan and Dave choose the cases, meet every guest, and request “audio assets” like suspect interviews or 911 tapes. These assets give the podcast “authenticity, an extra layer of texture, and a real window into the world of law enforcement that we civilians often don’t have,” Yeardley states.
During my conversation with Yeardley, I learned two very compelling things.
First, as a fan of the show, I got an ‘insider’s peek’ into the new season coming out this February 28. One of the cases is a child homicide. We talked about how these types are especially difficult for producers and listeners alike. Yeardley shared, “The reason we kept it was [because] it leads to a really interesting, valuable, and hopeful conversation about what you should look for in terms of signs of child abuse, whether you’re a neighbor, teacher, or someone who comes in contact with a kid who may be in trouble.” She also mentioned that there will be another case with fan-favorite guest Captain Terri, as well as an update from Paul Holes on the NorCal Rapist case. “We have some more murder. Some more burglary. We have great stuff!” she exclaimed.
Second, and equally really “great stuff,” is that Yeardley and Dan are engaged to be married in 2021! I, as I am sure all fans of Small Town Dicks, wish both of them congratulations and nothing but the very best. No word yet as to whether the wedding will be held in a small town, but I’m sure it will be a special event in whatever location they chose.