Humor comes home to ‘This Small Town’

Writer and comedian Allison Page writes and hosts “This Small Town,” a humor podcast about her hometown of Thief River Falls, Minnesota. Her husband Al Kong recorded the theme song.

November brings homecoming season to small towns across America.

No, not high school homecomings or summer reunions. People choose to go to those. I’m talking about good old fashioned family holiday visits, the kind borne of obligation, ritual and guilt. And love! Of course!

Northern Minnesota’s Iron Range knows all about homecomings. For a century, we’ve flung educated professionals out into the world like a defective popcorn machine. Why would we be surprised when they come home to question the snow blower disassembled on the kitchen table? They weren’t here for how that all came about. Trust us, there’s a good reason. And don’t get us started on the squirrels. They’re out of control.

Allison Page is a writer and stand-up comedian based in Nashville. She spent years in San Francisco, too, but before that she was a proud daughter of Thief River Falls in northwestern Minnesota. Like many small town kids who loved the arts, she chased her dreams across the county. But her trips home became an unexpected source of material.

Every year Page returned to her hometown to partake in the family traditions. Her social media threads, tagged #6daysinthetundra, became a surprising hit as she detailed the unusual contents of Minnesota salads and the table banter of the home folks. After writing and performing a stage show around the idea, Page and her husband moved to Nashville to be near his parents. Unemployment led her to an idea: a podcast about Thief River Falls.

A podcast is like a radio show you listen to anytime you want. I mention that because Page had to explain this to many of her relatives. As a fellow podcaster from a place where podcasts are mistaken for fishing equipment, I understand.

The result is “This Small Town,” available on major podcasting apps and at “This Small Town” is an audio exploration of Thief River Falls. Each 20-30 minute episode dives into a theme. Page writes and narrates the stories of the real people doing cool, interesting or sometimes just weird stuff in her hometown.

One episode deals with finding love in a place where everyone already knows each other. Another delves into the ghosts of the past — no really, ghosts haunt the basement of a downtown building. In another relatable episode, Page recalls her childhood dream of drinking in the beer garden at the county fair. Spoiler: she turns fantasy into reality.

When talking about the culture of small towns like Thief River Falls, Page sees pitfalls in rural stereotypes.

“Just taking my hometown, there’s this idea that everyone who lives there lives there because they align with something, some idea, a way of life, a rural place or not being near people they don’t know, or far away from people in general,” said Page. But that’s not the full picture. That’s not the full reason. Some might. There are a lot of other things going on.

“People are caretakers for their family,” she continued. “Their parents. Their kid. I talked to two women who were divorced. One needs to be near the father of her child. Money. People can’t just pick up and go other places if they don’t have generational wealth. Some just like it. But there’s more depth to what’s going on there than people give it credit for. That’s a disservice, even dangerous to paint a whole area with a broad brush.”

“This Small Town” finds quirky people making life work in Thief River. Listeners join Page on a journey to a metaphysical store and later meet a woman who turned a family gun and electronics store into a haven for tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons.

“People like to be represented,” said Page. “They like to talk about their accomplishments. They like to talk about their lives and funny stories they have. Everybody wants that. In a small town, maybe people just haven’t asked.”

Over a span of six shows, Page asked. You can hear the answers — hilarious and heartfelt — in her charming podcast “This Small Town.” The season finale will be released next week.

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and co-hosts the podcast “Power in the Wilderness” on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023 edition of the Mesabi Tribune.


  1. “People can’t just pick up and go other places if they don’t have generational wealth.” Like grandma’s lake cabin got for County back taxes and now worth millions. Some of us got a chance to leave with nothing but historic artifacts, but the memory wounds of growing up IN great northern Minnesota lakes do not accept band aids. It hurts.

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