Follow Friday
Smuggling drugs in fish, the end of the universe, yelling at "Cats"

Alexandra Petri (The Washington Post)

A colorful illustration of Michael Tucker underneath the words "Follow Friday: Michael Tucker"
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Washington Post humorist and avowed pun enthusiast Alexandra Petri writes columns with headlines like, "Are you a Brood X cicada, or just someone emerging from pandemic isolation?"; "We must get everyone in America a yacht to protect them from gun violence!"; and "I do not wish to learn anything more about my wealthy husband's near demise (which would have been sad)."

Her interests extend far beyond comedy and wordplay, however. Today on Follow Friday, she talks about being a diehard fan of newspaper comics, what she learned from visiting a UFO convention, why philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a "nightmare person," and more.

Alexandra also talks with Eric Johnson about four people she follows online: A self-proclaimed "comics curmudgeon" who has hot takes about Mark Trail and Mary Worth; an astrophysicist studying how the universe might suddenly end (whatever!); a mysterious YouTuber who reads creepy stories from Wikipedia and Reddit; and a literature phD who also celebrates trashy movies like 2019's "Cats."

Follow us:
- Alexandra is @petridishes on Twitter, @petrifying on Facebook, and @thisusernameisterrible on Instagram
- This show is @followfridaypod on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok
- Eric is @heyheyesj on Twitter

Like the show? Please visit and leave a review on any of the platforms listed there. Your review encourages new listeners to take a chance on Follow Friday.

Subscribe to the free BumbleCast email newsletter — big news coming soon!

Theme song written by Eric Johnson, and performed by Yona Marie. Show art by Dodi Hermawan. Additional music by Purple Planet Music.
Full transcript of this episode
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ERIC JOHNSON: Today on Follow Friday, we're gonna talk about the joy of puns, smuggling drugs inside of fish, jet packs, UFOs, spooky stories, Hannibal Lecter, the naughty parts of literature, and the universally beloved film musical "Cats." That's in a minute, with Alexandra Petri from the Washington Post.

But first, I'm gonna let you in on a secret: In the near future, I am going to be making some big announcements in the email newsletter of my podcast consulting company, BumbleCast. If you want to be the first to hear them, then go sign up for the newsletter at Thanks!

[theme song]

ERIC: I'm Eric Johnson. Welcome to Follow Friday, a podcast about who you should follow online. Every week, I talk to writers, podcasters, comedians, and other creators about who they follow. They will be our guides to the best people on the internet, who we should be following too.

Today on the show is Alexandra Petri, a humorist and a columnist for The Washington Post. She's also the author of the books "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences" and a recent book of essays about American politics called "Nothing Is Wrong, and Here Is Why."

You can find Alexandra on Facebook at and on Twitter at

Alexandra, welcome to Follow Friday!

ALEXANDRA PETRI: Thank you for having me.

ERIC: We were talking earlier before we started recording about how often I screw up pronunciations of people's names. And you really threw me for a loop there with the correct pronunciation of "Petri," [p-try] versus how I thought it would be pronounced, going by your usernames.

ALEXANDRA: I know, you had to Petry very Pehard. It's my fondness for puns that has gotten me into this position because all the Petri puns are Petri puns, not Petry puns, even though it's spelled the same way.

ERIC: I was going to ask you about the puns. You tweet about puns. You've written columns about puns. I think you have competed in pun competitions. Is that right?

ALEXANDRA: Yes, I was nodding and then I realized this is a podcast, an audio medium. I have to do a verbal assent in order to convey what I'm saying. Yeah, no, I love the pun community. They say that an inveterate punster follows conversations like a shark follows a ship. And that's certainly how I feel.

Fortunately, there are places you can go if you're like that, where you can be among your kind. There's Punderdome 3000, which is based in Brooklyn, but they've gone on the internet. Now they just exist in the pixel space. Then there's also one in Texas that I've competed in a number of times, the O. Henry Pun-Off

ERIC: That's the really famous one, right?

ALEXANDRA: Yeah. I won "Punniest in Show" one time and I'm going to cling to that laurel until the day of my demise.

ERIC: That's huge. I saw a musical once that was like, "The Annual Pun-Off." Do you know this one that I'm talking about?

ALEXANDRA: I heard about this musical, because everyone was like "This is us, this is our life," but I didn't see it. How was it?

ERIC: It was really good! It was obviously filled wall-to-wall with puns, and I think it's based on the O. Henry Pun-Off because it's a big gathering. It's supposed to be the most prestigious gathering of this very dorky, very niche passion. I'm also a fan of puns. And the sound you just heard is my girlfriend turning off this podcast because she cannot deal with two of us.

ALEXANDRA: What was the eleven o'clock number in the pun musical about? Was it, "I can't think of a pun" or something?

ERIC: I can't remember. I mainly remember the main theme of it because it's an earworm. It's, "The annual pun-off, it's not a one-off..." And that one gets stuck in my head all the time. But gosh, that was such a weird, delightful musical.

ALEXANDRA: I love a good ... like, the annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, but what if it's people who are voluntarily this way? I feel that energy.

ERIC: How often are you punning in real life? Are you terrorizing friends and family, like the shark with the ship?

ALEXANDRA: I think less than you would expect, based on how much I do it online, but still a consistently high amount. My husband, who's been locked in the house with me for the past 14 months, can really attest to whether or not it's awful, but …

ERIC: Congratulations to you for still being married after this pandemic.

ALEXANDRA: We'll see!

ERIC: Well, let's find out who Alexandra Petri follows. You can follow along with us today. Every person she recommends will be linked in the show notes and in the transcript at

Alexandra, before the show, I gave you a list of categories and I asked you to tell me four people you follow, who fit in those categories. Your first pick is in the category, "An expert in a very specific niche that you love." And you said Josh Fruhlinger, also known as The Comics Curmudgeon. You can follow him on Twitter @jfruh or at So, The Comics Curmudgeon, I had not heard of this, but I'm immediately obsessed with it. Explain what Josh does here and why you love following him.

ALEXANDRA: I feel like we're doing a really good job of establishing I'm a very cool person with hip normal mainstream interests, because The Comics Curmudgeon is for people like me who don't really let a day go by without reading the print comics in the newspaper, in their entirety. I feel like doing that is a fun, yet isolating activity, because you have a lot to say about what's going on with Mark Trail these days? What's happening with Beetle Bailey? All of these very strange, hermetically sealed…

Some of them have been going on for decades, and you pass your comic strip down from one generation to the next. And there are families who are like, "Someday you'll take over Beetle Bailey, my son." That's going on. So it is just a wild, fascinating, novel place. Fortunately, Josh has been doing this for the longest time and it's this amazing blog where you can basically go to it. And he's like, "Here's what the Baltimore Sun comics page has on it today, and here's what I think of Mary Worth."

The frustrating thing about the internet is that people are always getting to the good jokes first, but it's actually reassuring to know that he's always gotten to the good jokes first. And it's like this is someone who's there to make the good joke about the comics so that my day can be... He's taken that off of the shoulders of the other comics readers. So I'm a big fan of the public service that he has been providing for, I think, decades at this point.

ERIC: I think he started in 2004, which is just incredible. Most people can't keep up a blog for a month, including the former president of the United States. So the fact that Josh has been doing this for that long is incredible.

ALEXANDRA: It truly is a public service and it's very funny.

ERIC: There was one recently on Memorial Day where it's the Beetle Bailey comic and it was just a very lame golfing joke and then just scribbled hastily in the margins, "Happy Memorial Day to all who serve," or something like that. And he was saying, "Gosh, you'd think someone might have thought about this, for a military-themed strip, but guess not."

ALEXANDRA: Nope! I think this got a broader [pickup] through the internet, but Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, the 9/11 memorial comic strip that they did is just the stuff of legends.

ERIC: Are they the Beetle Bailey authors, or who are they?

ALEXANDRA: No, they're different. It's set in a little holler and it's full of folks who drink moonshine. And the whole thing is they're in a holler drinking moonshine. It's not in The Post, I think, except maybe on Sundays, but I don't think even on Sundays. I have fallen out of touch with it, so I may be giving you very bad misinformation about Barney Google and Snuffy Smith.

ERIC: Oh, no. How will I ever get by?

ALEXANDRA: But their 9/11 comic; look it up. It's just a masterclass in every choice you probably shouldn't make when commemorating an event.

ERIC: How did you first start following Josh? Do you remember? He's been doing this for so long, maybe you don't.

ALEXANDRA: Honestly, it was one of those things where, like, when you leave a movie theater and you're like, "I want to see what people thought about this?" I was trying to Google; does anyone else have an opinion about..? I think it was Beetle Bailey, and there was a whole website called The Comics Curmudgeon, or somebody recommended it to me, knowing that I'm obsessed with comics.

And he did a Mark Trail live show, which I wish to this day... Give me a time machine. I'd have to consult with the best historians, what's the good thing to do with the time machine? Should I go and talk to Marlon Brando? That's not a good thing, but I would also go and see the Mark Trail live read.

ERIC: For the benefit of readers who are not up-to-date on Mark Trail, I don't know how you could possibly not be, but could you explain for folks... ? I remember Mark Trail mainly as the comic I skipped over in The Post, but can you explain what Mark Trail and Mary Worth, what these comics are, and why they are maybe not what people think about normally when they think about newspaper comics?

ALEXANDRA: Well, my favorite newspaper comic story, and then I will explain both of these because it would be my delight, is: I think the most mail The Post ever got, it was not like somebody wrote a column and they were really mad about it, but because they decided to remove Judge Parker, the comic strip. And everyone was like, "As a newspaper, you can do many things, but removing Judge Parker, that is a bridge too far."

So they got bucket-loads of mail. These are all teetering on the edge of soap opera strips. Judge Parker is a judge. He's got a family and there's a lot going on. Recently, a new person took over who's a very good, funny writer, but attempting to infuse reality into the Judge Parker world, I think, is a fool's errand. But he's doing a good job.

Mark Trail is a nature and adventure outdoorsman-type guy. He's got one of those shirts that have multiple pockets. He looks like a park ranger, but I don't think he's a park ranger. He has a lot of animal facts. Every Sunday, he'll tell you animal facts with a big colorful, illustrated thing about martins, and are they a member of the weasel family, or what are they a member of? He'll put his finger on it.

But he's always hunting drug kingpins. He has his wife Cherry, but there's also this temptress that he sometimes goes on adventures with. My favorite Mark Trail comic strip is not amazingly the one where ... he spent a good like three months of daily strips, just yelling in a cave. It was incredible. But there was another one where he was trying to get to the bottom of a drug-smuggling situation. There's a taxidermied fish and he sticks his fingers into the Plaster of Paris of the fish. And he goes, "That isn't Plaster of Paris! That's cocaine!"

And just the idea that Mark Trail, outdoorsman, was like, "By tasting this Plaster of Paris, I've identified it as cocaine." And that's Mark Trail in a nutshell. Oh, he's got a child named Rusty and a dog named Andy, or maybe a child named Andy and a dog named Rusty. No, I think I got it right the first time.

Anyway, there's a new generation of Mark Trail going on, so a new writer, a new illustrator. And he's cool now, and he's making TikToks. I'm also interested in this Mark Trail, who's maybe the son... I missed when they explained his relationship to the original Mark Trail so I need to catch up on that. But he's fun and he makes wisecracks, and he has a rivalry with a cricket guy.

ERIC: This is some insane continuity. And yeah, these soap opera comics have been going on for so long that I guess if you have been a lifelong reader of Judge Parker or Mark Trail, or one of these, the idea of them stopping is just impossible to fathom. I get that part of it, at least.

ALEXANDRA: And Mary Worth is an old lady who likes to metal and everyone around her benefits from that. It's kind of like Murder, She Wrote, but also kind of not, in the sense that if somebody were to tell you that she'd done a lot of murders, you'd be like, "I'm not surprised."

ERIC: Well, that was Josh Fruhlinger, who's on Twitter @jfruh.

Alexandra, let's move on to your next follow. I asked you for someone who makes you think, and you said Katie Mack, who is on Twitter @AstroKatie. She describes herself as a "cosmologist, a pilot, and a connoisseur of cosmic catastrophes." She's also the author of a book called "The End of Everything: (Astrophysically Speaking)." How did you start following Katie? And what do you say she makes you think?

ALEXANDRA: We were actually on a nerd cruise together, which was super fun, called the JoCo Cruise.

ERIC: Oh, that's the Jonathan Coulton thing?

ALEXANDRA: Yeah, the Jonathon Coulton cruise. And she was a designated I-will-just-answer-your-astronomy-questions-for-hours person. We were excited that finally, we've got a cosmologist who will tell us what's going on. And she's super good at talking about science and no question is a dumb question.

I was about to be like, "As an English major, this absolves me of any responsibility to know anything about science," which I feel like is ... Both knowing about science or not knowing about science are affectations in their own ways. I'm somebody who tries to know about science. I think that's how I identify. And she's got a great book, which you just mentioned, for people who like me are trying to know about science, about all the different ways the universe could just end. It could be a bubble. This is going to be the world's worst explanation of a scientific thing.

A good, cogent, beautiful explanation is in the book. And a bad explanation is like, just at any moment, this bubble could just go through ya and whoops, there goes the universe. If you want someone who's smart and also funny and very patiently explains to you why the world is the way it is, or why the universe is the way it is, and just curiously cool, she's your individual.

ERIC: I'm going to quote something here from her website. One of the things that she researches is vacuum decay, which is, I think, one of the things she covers in the book. I haven't read the book yet, but I'm going to, because I'm fascinated by her. She says, "With the discovery of the Higgs boson, particle physicists found out something disconcerting about our universe. It might not be entirely stable." So the basic idea is that "the mathematical structure that determines the laws of physics might not be the one that the universe 'prefers'" and there's a chance that the universe will suddenly transition to the state that it actually prefers, destroying everything in the process.

ALEXANDRA: It's been stable here for so long, but it could, at any moment, be like, "This is really a better configuration."Like when somebody suddenly comes in and puts a rug in your house and you're like, "I didn't know that we needed a rug, but now that it's here, I like it." Except, the rug destroys the whole universe. This is why she makes the analogies and I don't make any analogies.

ERIC: There's also another thing I found on her website that I really like, which is, she's done Twitter threads where she's talking about space and science and astrophysics. And I can see why so many people love following her. My favorite of these threads is called "We need to talk about the future." And it's her explaining why all of the sci-fi technology that we whine about not having is impractical or dangerous or impossible.

"Jet packs exist. They've been around for decades. No one uses them because they are expensive, inefficient, extremely loud, and fantastically dangerous. You want to get somewhere fast? In many cities, you can now walk down the street and rent an electric scooter with your phone. Enjoy." "Flying cars: Terrible idea"; "Teleportation: Much bigger disappointment"; "Faster than light travel: Would be amazing. It might also break the universe in some unspecified way."

ALEXANDRA: Will we break the universe? I have a friend who's obsessed with teleportation. She's like, "If I had a power," hands down, never has to hesitate. Like other people, "Maybe I'll fly, maybe I'll be invisible." She's like, "No, definitely teleporting."

So it was sad to discover that actually it will disassemble and rebuild your whole self in a way that probably just damages your continuity.

ERIC: Like if scientists invented an actual teleportation machine, it would disassemble and reassemble your body.

ALEXANDRA: If you were a monist, it's just like, "Well, I can't do that," but if you were a dualist... So really, you have to get to a philosophical question.

I do like the idea of you having to get a philosopher to sign off on your decision to enter the teleportation machine where it's like, "What's your framework for reality?" "Is your soul and body one?" If they're dual, then go on it.

ERIC: "What is your framework for reality and have you been to any of these countries in the past 14 days?" You said that Katie makes you think. Is there something that you've seen her do that has changed your perspective or has made you stop in your tracks and just reevaluate life, the universe, and everything? What's the thing that she does that really gives you pause or makes you think?

ALEXANDRA: To really mangle a Ray Bradbury quote about space travel, where he has this guy who's like, "I hate to not be on terra firma, and the more firma, the less terra." Like, "I like to stay down here" and she's like, "Send me to Mars! Put me in, Captain!"

I feel like seeing the enthusiasm for doing the exploration is nifty, and also, people can understand science. I felt for the moments after reading the book, I was like; "I do understand the science!" And now I'm like, "It is all quantum decayed, or regular decayed, or brain-decayed." I like somebody who's like, "No, I can explain this to you in a way that'll make sense." To me, that's an optimism-making condition.

ERIC: Sometimes reading a book like that, while you're reading it, it's like, "Wow, I'm a genius. I understand all of this." And then you put it down and it's, "Wow, that was a nice dream. What happened in it? I'm not sure."

ALEXANDRA: There was a phase when all of the English majors of this world were like," We're going to read Stephen Hawking and we're going to get it." And then you see all this entropy as a metaphor, it just enters everything. And it's like, "What does time mean? Where does the difference between the past and the future come from?"

It's such evocative metaphors. So it was nice to have a new set of evocative metaphors, even if you don't use them for…

ERIC: Even if you don't retain them or wind up using them ...

ALEXANDRA: For jetpacking.

ERIC: Coincidentally, certain corners of the world are very hotly anticipating the declassification of what the Pentagon knows about UFOs. This thing has been in the news for the past couple of weeks of, "The Pentagon's going to say, 'Here's what it's been keeping secrets about UFOs.'" Of course, some folks on the internet are like, "Finally, we're going to find out everything they've been hiding from us." Alexandra, do you believe in aliens?

ALEXANDRA: I actually went to a UFO conference. I've been to a couple of UFO events. I went to one that was for people who believe that they've literally been abducted by aliens and got to be in a room, just sharing that experience with other people who'd had that experience. It was useful for understanding the Trump era, in the sense that you can get a room full of people and it can all be, "We're definitely onto something because, look, there's a room full of us," whether or not that's the case.

I wrote about the other one which was a UFO disclosure hearing where there was a thinking that Bill Clinton was going to be the big disclosure president, but then the Lewinsky thing occurred and that got in the way of the alien disclosures that he was going to do. It was the theory that I heard. But I do keep getting messages from people who are like, "Your coverage of that UFO convention does not hold up because, you see, they're about to acknowledge it."

I'm sure that there are things that are flying around that we don't know what they are. There's a whole more complicated world. Speaking of day-to-day print comics, if you spent 40 years just investing yourself in this world, it's like, "Well, they have all this great technology that they're keeping from us because it came to Roswell and then they put it in a vault." And there are all of these very complicated things and there are different tiers of aliens.

I got myself read by a person who was like, "What kind of alien were you before you were reincarnated into your present body?" And she was like, "You're an Arcturian." I think I had something to do with Napoleon, but it was unclear what. I wasn't Napoleon. I just had something to do with him ... for whatever that's worth.

But I do feel like there are a lot of accretions of lore and wishful thinking about technology, and all this stuff. So being like, okay, there are unidentified flying objects. Sure, but is all the other stuff that people decided was correlated and caused by that, is that also going to be true? I'm not as sure about that. So I think my article does hold up. That was a long way of saying I am excited, but I'm skeptical.

ERIC: That was Katie Mack, who's on Twitter @AstroKatie. We're going to take a quick break now, but we'll be back in a minute with Alexandra Petri from The Washington Post.

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ERIC: Welcome back to Follow Friday. Alexandra, I asked you to tell me about someone you're embarrassed to admit you follow. And you said Lazy Masquerade, who is on YouTube. The username is a little bit hard to spell. So I would just recommend people search for Lazy Masquerade. You will find them.

The tagline of their channel is "The best things happen in the dark." Explain what this channel is all about and why you are embarrassed to admit you follow them.

ALEXANDRA: I guess embarrassed is the wrong word, but it's closest to the right word. So I really enjoy horror. There's nothing more soothing, or at least, recently, my brain has been finding that there's nothing more soothing than just lying down in your bed and curling up and having a soothing, beautiful British accent tell you horrible, creepy things that have happened on the internet and true tales from Reddit.

I think something is broken in my brain is the larger takeaway from this. But the smaller takeaway is that if you want a YouTube channel that's just a very exquisite accent reading you bad things that have happened, creepy tales, undiscovered mysteries, going through Wikipedia and extricating details, this is the place to go.

At the end of every episode, he's like, [British accent] "And remember, the best things happen in the dark." It just... I have no idea. One day I was like, I'm going to Google, what's the deal? How did this get started? And all I found was And I now know what the birthday is.

ERIC: Of the person who runs the channel? You know their birthday?

ALEXANDRA: And then I got distracted. So I have no further information. It could be that there are all kinds of things going on, but for the limited value of I enjoy hearing a spooky tale being read to me by a mellifluous voice…

ERIC: It may be helpful if you can think of an example of one of their stories. Do you remember one that really stuck with you? What level of horror are we talking about here? Are we talking about axe murderers? Are we talking about the Loch Ness monster, in the distance? I'm trying to get the temperature.

ALEXANDRA: There's different vibes. One of my favorites was American road trip horror. It was like, "You're in a car..." and these are all told as "This probably happened," or to the extent that somebody posted it on a Reddit forum. "Here's a thing that occurred to my aunt." Or "My aunt gave somebody a ride at a filling station and we looked at the backseat and there was a knife. Then we looked at the news later, and it was this man who was responsible for all of these killings and my aunt just barely got away."

Or somebody gets pulled over in the middle of a cornfield for no reason. They start seeing people approaching through the cornfield. Some of them are "true" first-person narratives and then some of them were just like, "Here's an actual unsolved mystery," or somebody went climbing on the mountain and never went away. So he'll be like, "According to Wikipedia, we still don't know what's happened to so-and-so."

ERIC: Interesting. So it's a mixture of fiction, or what we assume is fiction, and stuff that's actually documented, like news stories, like actual missing persons and things like that?

ALEXANDRA: Or it'll just be like, "here's the nine creepiest Wikipedia pages that I've visited." Then each Wikipedia page, one of them will be like, "Here are all the faces of missing people that have been generated by sketch artists." And you get to see all these faces.

ERIC: I should say that I am not as much of a horror fan, as it sounds like you are. I'm a big scaredy-cat on most things. Basically, the only exception is critically-acclaimed horror movies. I have posters on my wall here for Alien and Parasite. I don't know if you can see those. That's my one carve-out for anything horror-related.

I'm just trying to meet you on your level, which is, what is it about hearing scary stuff that soothes you, that helps you fall asleep? I don't know if this may be a ridiculously difficult question because it's baked in at a deep psychological level, but do you find that it makes the real world less scary, or is that unrelated?

ALEXANDRA: Part of it is escapism into this very specific ... especially the fictional. "This is happening in a different room." I feel there's a great security to knowing that something is happening in a different room.

So it's like, "This happened in the cornfield." Well, I'm not in the cornfield, so already I feel safer. But also, being scared deliberately in a way that you have control over can be kind of ... Instead of being frightened by an actual thing that's occurring that's a threat to me, I'm going to choose to find something that I hope will have the effect of giving me goosebumps of terror.

My other bedtime ritual for a long time was I was just going to /r/nosleep or /r/shortscarystories, to subreddits, and just read whatever was there. But I also am not so good with jump scares or your typical horror movie. I like written horror. Give me that Shirley Jackson or that Edgar Allen Poe type.

ERIC: More creepy than necessarily scary; a little bit sinister and there's something weird happening in the cornfield. That sort of horror.

ALEXANDRA: Or the twist. Or when we have a two-sentence horror story where it's like, "I was in my house and I heard my mother calling me from downstairs. And as I was going downstairs, a hand shoots out from the closet and grabs me. It's my mom. 'I heard it too,' she says." That's a classic two-sentence horror.

ERIC: Have you tried writing any horror yourself?

ALEXANDRA: Every so often, I will. I feel like writing in a creepy Gothic vibe can be useful if you're trying to do humor, because it's like, "This is a recognizable trope."

There's a weird heightening of language that can be useful if you're trying to do a satire or something. So sometimes I'll do something that's as scary as I can make it, while still being somehow about Lindsey Graham.

ERIC: Well, that was Lazy Masquerade, which is on YouTube. We have time for one more follow today. I asked you for someone you don't know, but want to be your friend. And you said Anthony Oliveira, who's on Twitter @meakoopa. Anthony is a writer, a podcaster, a literature PhD, and a fan of trashy cult movies. So there are a lot of different angles there. How did you start following him? And why do you want to be his friend?

ALEXANDRA: Among the other things I've been doing during the pandemic while locked in the house, reading the comics, and failing to retain books about science, I've just watched "Hannibal" over and over again. So I feel like it's a good transition from horror into ...

And every time I would have a thought about "Hannibal" and Twitter, Google it, Anthony had already had that thought.

ERIC: Wait. Specifically, "Hannibal," the sequel to "Silence of the Lambs?"


ERIC: Oh, the TV show, okay.

ALEXANDRA: I feel like this is very common because people are like, "That's in the culture. I know what that thing is." And I'm like, "I'm not that into Anthony Hopkins." Bless him. He's doing good work. But no, I want atmospheric, 39 episodes of eight people commuting back and forth over long distances.

ERIC: But so Anthony has been writing or tweeting about the show at the same time as you've been watching it?

ALEXANDRA: Apparently, he was super into it for a very long time and had all the locations. And every hilarious, correct thought about it, it's a similar thing like Josh where it's like, "This thought was already out there and somebody had it."

Also, he's really into Milton. He's a Milton scholar. And he wrote this gorgeous essay about Milton and cormorants and despair and it was just beautiful. And I'm like, "This is a very cool person who also has entirely correct opinions about Hannibal." I feel like that could be the basis for a friendship. Milton and Hannibal, what do you need?

ERIC: Yeah, his podcast was him reading through, I think, it was Paradise Lost and then Paradise Regained. And now he's doing the Gospels from the New Testament where he's reading through them and then providing commentary and remixing them. I don't know, I haven't listened to it yet, but it seems like he really has a wide breadth of interests where he's really looking at media in a unique way. It's very interesting.

ALEXANDRA: As an English major and a word nerd, I love people who... I forget who tweeted or said this, "You can divide all people who are into literature as the people who were forced to read it for school and the people who were reading it to look for where the naughty parts were." And I definitely fall into the latter category.

So people who approach it with, "This is fun" and, "Who is this idiot?" ... [That] approach to Milton, "Who is this guy?" "What's he doing?" I feel like that energy keeps it very alive and is sort of the fun of getting to read old books. These people were sort of just grappling with the same things that we're all grappling with, and some of them were just dirtbags, in a fun way, that we can now enjoy.

Over the pandemic, I read Rousseau's Confessions and it was just like, this man is a monster. By page 12, he's telling you he likes to be spanked, and it just escalates from there. I know so much more about Rousseau than I want to know. He abandoned six children at a foundling hospital because he's too busy writing a book on how to rear children correctly. He's a nightmare person and he's like, "I didn't plagiarize my symphony, but I did go to this patron's house and he was, 'Here, look at this music and maybe copy some of it and put it into your symphony.' And then he accused me of plagiarizing."

I'm like, "No, what sounds like it happened is..." It's just a big, old mess. I just love people who have that chaotic energy, or recognize that all these classics have that chaotic energy. So I feel that's something that I enjoy. Also, having correct Hannibal opinions.

ERIC: That's very important to a friendship, absolutely. I mentioned that Anthony is also into trashy cult films. He organizes screenings in Toronto for movies like "Flash Gordon," "Barbarella," "Cats." He calls it Dumpster Raccoon Cinema, which is an A-plus name. Are you into these sorts of movies?

ALEXANDRA: Of course! Yeah. The best cinematic experience I had pre-pandemic was going to see "Cats" with a bunch of people who were all there to see Cats for the right reasons. At least 50% of the theater was definitely high. The other 50% was definitely drunk. Maybe 100% of the theater was in some combination. ... Yeah, that's good math. 78% were a combination. And everyone was just like, "We are here to yell at the screen."

First run movies, you seldom get the experience of "We're here to yell at the screen," instead of having to be like ... Now that we know what kind of movie Rocky Horror was, everyone will now go back, or The Room, or something like that. But this is just, "It's out now and the cats are all CGI and Taylor Swift is here, doing her best for Olivia, her cat and her other cat, whose name I'm forgetting, which is so embarrassing for me." Although in a deeper sense, it's not embarrassing to not remember the name of Taylor Swift's second cat out of the three cats.

ERIC: You're talking about not the character she plays; you're talking about the cats that she owns in real life?

ALEXANDRA: Yeah. She played Bombalurina, the cat, but she actually has three cats in real life whose names are ... oh no, I think it's Olivia and Meredith? But I don't remember what the third one is. It was just a whole theater full of people who were just screaming at the screen, insulting all the cats, but pausing respectfully during the points when Jennifer Hudson was singing her heart out because the rest of the movie wasn't ready for her, but she was bringing it.

And Dame Judi Dench was just doing things. I miss that about the movies, just sitting in a room full of people who are like, "We're all here to yell." I wish you could sign up for screenings. Maybe that'll be a post-pandemic innovation. I don't want a comfortable chair...

ERIC: I think it was for Cats. The problem was Cats came out just before the pandemic started, but I think there were intentional rowdy screenings in some places where it was like, "Do not show up to this if you actually want to understand what's happening in this movie. You will not be able to hear the dialogue. People will be screaming the entire time," which I'm very supportive of. So long as it's advertised clearly, go for it.

ALEXANDRA: No exactly. I went to, I think, "Mamma Mia II" with a friend and we were just having a great time. And there were some ladies who were like, "How dare you talk during Mamma Mia II." There needs to be a screening for us, and for you, because movie theaters keep giving me things I don't want. They're like, "What if your chair was bigger?" "What if your chair also reclined?" "What if you had to choose which seat you would be sitting in, in advance?" I don't want any of these features. I want to just be in an uncomfortable chair, surrounded by people who are also yelling.

ERIC: There's a new theater here in San Francisco where it's like being at an amusement park where the chairs were pitch and sway and vibrate in time with the movie. And it's going to cost like $25 a ticket. And it's just like, "No, I just want to have a comfortable seat and watch a good movie. Is that too much to ask?"

ALEXANDRA: I saw Solo, which I regret seeing, but I also regret seeing it in a 4X chair, which is like ... Not only am I seeing Solo, which is unpleasant, but also, the chair is hitting me. It's just hitting me and spitting at me. I understand this is what I deserve for having voluntarily paid money to see the Solo prequel in which we learned his name is Han Solo because he was traveling alone one time. But why is my chair hitting me?

ERIC: Insult to injury. Or injury to insult, I guess.

ALEXANDRA: Yeah, both, 78%, everything.

ERIC: Well, I am rooting for Dumpster Raccoon Cinema. I hope Anthony and all of his folks are trying to get back to that soon. That was Anthony Oliveira, who is on Twitter @meakoopa.

Alexandra, thank you for sharing your follows with us today. Before we go, let's make sure listeners know how to find you online. Where do you want them to follow you?

ALEXANDRA: Follow me on Twitter @petridishes. I'm also on Facebook, if your mom wants to follow me. No, I'm kidding. I'm sorry. If you or a cherished Facebook user ... if your uncle who's on Facebook wants to get into something different, I'm at petrif ... -ying? -fied? One of the two. I'm super prepared.

ERIC: Let me look back at my notes ... Petrifying.

ALEXANDRA: -Fying. Don't follow Petrified, she can't be trusted.

ERIC: Your evil twin.

ALEXANDRA: Yeah. I'm also on Instagram, but I'm very bad at it. So I never tell people to follow me there. Every six months, I'll post a picture of something really dull. I'm like, "I'm going to be active on Instagram. This fork is just the beginning." And then I forget. And then six months later, "Here's another uninteresting fork. You're welcome." If you're into that, that's what my Instagram is.

ERIC: That sounds great to me. Alexandra's username on Instagram is @thisusernameisterrible. Follow me on Twitter @HeyHeyESJ. And this show on Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok @FollowFridayPod. And of course, please follow or subscribe to Follow Friday in your podcast app to get new interviews like this one every week.

Follow Friday's theme music was written by me and performed by Yona Marie. Our show art was illustrated by Dodi Hermawan. Additional music by Purple Planet Music.

That's all for this week. This is Eric Johnson, reminding you to talk about people behind their backs, and when you do, say something nice.

See you next Friday!

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