: Today on Follow Friday, we're going to talk about Bruce Willis, boba tea, #goals, hair products, very British words, bad art friends, and monarchs! They're just like us. That's in a minute with Dana Schwartz from Noble Blood.
But first, today's show is brought to you by The Edit from Timber. The Edit connects podcasters with industry professionals who will listen to their work and give them constructive feedback. Check them out at followfriday.net/timberERIC
: I'm Eric Johnson. Welcome to Follow Friday, the podcast about who you should follow online. Every week, I talk to a creative person about who they follow, and why. This is a guided tour to the best people on the internet, led by your favorite writers, podcasters, comedians, and more.
If this is your first episode of the show, please take a moment now and follow or subscribe in your podcast app. It's free and you'll get fresh interviews with your favorite creators every week.
Today on the show is Dana Schwartz, the host of the podcast Noble Blood
, where she tells the true stories of some of history's most fascinating royals. She's also the author of a memoir called Choose Your Disaster, a humor book called The White Man's Guide to White Male Writers of the Western Canon, and an upcoming novel called Anatomy: A Love Story. You can find Dana on Twitter
Dana, welcome to Follow Friday!DANA SCHWARTZ
: Thank you so much for having me. What a pleasure!ERIC
: It's so nice to meet you. I've followed your work for a long time. I'm a big fan of Noble Blood. I'm also a fan of a new podcast that you've just launched called Haileywood
. I was listening to the first episode yesterday. This is a fascinating story that I had never heard of. Could you explain for people what that show's about?DANA
: I also had never heard of it, until this podcast. It's a story about Bruce Willis from the late 90s when he was at the height of his power as a movie star and celebrity. And trying to get away from it all, he moves to this small town in Idaho called Hailey. But as you'll soon learn over the course of the podcast, he isn't just there to retreat, he decides he wants to remake the town in his own image.ERIC
: And a lot of it is bound up in his aversion to the press. He has this very combative relationship with reporters, even when no one's actually harassing him. He's paranoid about attention. There's a lot of very complex .... there's some psychological stuff going on there.DANA
: That's really it. I feel like has this strange relationship where he both wants to be anonymous, but also wants to be famous and have the power of fame, but only on his terms. As a character study, if nothing else, it's incredibly fascinating, but then you also get this wild saga of this tiny town in Idaho being taken over by a movie star.ERIC
: That show is called Haileywood. Then we should also encourage folks to pre-order your next book, Anatomy: A Love Story
. What should people expect from that one? Why should someone pre-order that?DANA
: In my podcast, Noble Blood, I tell true stories of the dark periods in history and nobles and what goes wrong. I took the same fascination I have with European history and sort of dark history, and I wrote a love story, sort of ... I'm not pitching it well, I feel very bad as I'm talking. It's a love story that takes place in 19th century Edinburgh, between a young woman who wants to be a surgeon and a body snatcher who steals dead bodies from graves. So that's what you could expect, I say, after the long and confusing introduction.ERIC
: I was looking at the description on Amazon and as I'm scrolling down it's like, "Oh. Oh! OK, body snatchers. We're doing this? All right."DANA
: That is exactly what we're doing. It's like my favorite things in the world all pushed together.ERIC
: All right. Well, let's find out who Dana Schwartz follows online. You can follow along with us today. Every person she recommends will be linked in the show notes and in the transcript at followfridaypodcast.com.
Dana, 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 "someone you have a non-romantic crush on", and you said Chris Fleming.DANA
: I mean, it might be a romantic crush, if I wasn't engaged.ERIC
: That's allowed! He's on Instagram @chrisflemingfleming
and Twitter @chrisfluming
. He's come up on the show once before, way back in episode six with Alie Ward
. For people listening who are missing out on Chris Fleming's genius, talk about what he does. Why do you crush on him?DANA
: To get into why I love Chris Fleming, there's an old story about Woody Allen and apologies in advance that it's a Woody Allen story, but someone wrote that he saw Woody Allen doing a standup set and completely bombed. This was before he was Woody Allen
-Woody Allen, and completely bombed.
Then a year later, Woody Allen was doing the same Woody Allen shtick, but nailed it. The audience was loving and it's like culture caught up with Woody Allen, even though he was doing the same thing the whole time.
I feel like that's Chris Fleming. He's been doing this absurdist, but specific and very physical and rapid-fire comedy. And he's been doing it on Instagram and YouTube videos and songs and stand up and Twitter. It's so funny and so singular and I feel like now culture is catching up with him a little bit. That's how I feel. I just think he's an amazing talent in so many respects. I'm just in awe of him. Everything he makes is so unexpected and hilarious.ERIC
: That's a really incisive point because his big break or modest break was a YouTube series called Gayle, I think? And it's very much the TikTok sensibility. It's the TikTok sketch humor, sensibility, exactly what you see all over the internet now.DANA
: I've seen TikToks that are imitating what Chris Fleming did six years ago, whether they know it or not; that rapid-fire character sketch, quick cutting. I think he's a genius.ERIC
: How did you first start watching his videos? Was there a specific video you saw or a specific way you started following him?DANA
: I don't remember. I feel like I liked his songs on YouTube. He has very specific, weird, amelodic songs. Then I followed him on Twitter and Instagram and have just watched everything he's done since. During the quarantine, he did a great stand-up show inside, streaming, that I thought was very smart and funny. And I will, in a non-platonic crush way, follow him to the ends of the earth.ERIC
: What about that style of comedy—this absurd high-energy, where he's singing and he's dancing and he's prancing around in these very well-fitted onesies...?DANA
: Yeah, that's exactly it.ERIC
: Is that style of comedy something you seek out generally? Do you find that that's something that runs through your comedy taste generally? Or is he this singular presence?DANA
: I think he is this singular presence for me because it is his specificity that really tickles me more than the absurdity of his movement or onesies. He has this video about how much he loves boba tea and how he needs to drink boba tea every day. Just the specificity and commitment to the premise, I think, is wildly funny.
Then he just throws very specific references in lines where you wouldn't necessarily hear them. I think the rhythm of his comedy is very good.
He also has a great song/stand-up act where he talks about a woman who files his taxes named Sick Jan, who always has a minor cold, and she's very theatrical about it. And the way he describes her being theatrical with her sneezes and coughs tickles me every single time.
Again, he drops these references that are very smart, like his glittery onesies belie how smart his act is. He's talking about going to jail for tax fraud with Sick Jan, and he's like, "Whitey Bolger's last Airbnb" is how he describes jail, which is just perfect and no one else would do it. I'm also a former theater kid and he has big theater kid energy, and that I find very funny.ERIC
: There's something that came up on Alie Ward's episode. She was talking about a video of his, where he's breaking down the movie version of Grease, the last song: You're The One That I Want. And he's breaking down John Travolta having a mental break. He freeze-frames it and it's advancing, showing the crazy look in his eyes.DANA
: Fully disassociating...ERIC
: Yeah. And it's like you can enjoy that movie and have never noticed how weird that performance is. He clearly celebrates and has watched that movie probably a lot to come to this very impassioned argument to be made about it.DANA
: He also has one in that same stand-up special where he jokes about how, at the end of Bennie And The Jets, it feels like Elton John is being held at the piano by a benevolent force, forcing him to keep going because that outro is incredibly long.
I have played Chris Fleming bits for people I've been dating, or friends of mine, and if they're like, "Okay. I just don't see it," it reflects poorly on them as people.ERIC
: Yup. I think that's fair. You guys just got to cut ties. DANA
: Yep. It's a sign.ERIC
: That was Chris Fleming, who's on Instagram @chrisflemingfleming
Dana, let's move on to your next follow. I asked you for someone you're jealous of and you said Victoria Aveyard, who's on Instagram @victoriaaveyard
. You and Victoria are both authors. Her first book was a big hit novel called Red Queen. Is that specifically what you're jealous of, or is it something else she does?DANA
: It's great that she has an amazingly successful book. Yes, I desperately want that. She has this very soothing TikTok presence.ERIC
: Oh, interesting.DANA
: I don't know if you're on TikTok.ERIC
: Only on my computer. I don't have it on my phone because I'm worried about getting addicted.DANA
: That's very smart. It's very addicting. I like the way she decorates her house. Her house always looks neat and clean, and she has a dog and her fiance... This sounds creepy as I'm saying it, but on TikTok, you do feel like you get to know these people.
I've never met her in my life. We're not friends. I want to make that very clear. I'm not stalking her. I have no relationship with this person, but she's an author. I'm an author. My life is a full mess. My house is covered in clothes and garbage and un-recycled boxes, and her life looks like a Nancy Meyers movie that I can see via TikTok, with her golden retriever and her cashmere cardigans. And I'm like, "I just want your life. How do I get it?"ERIC
: I was looking at her Instagram and I got the same vibe. I was like, "Wow, this is a goals aesthetic right here."DANA
: I think that's it. We're ostensibly in the same field. But her life looks ... I'm in LA, and I assume from her Instagram and TikTok, she's also in California somewhere, but her life just looks so curated and beautiful. And I know social media is not real, but her house is real. That's a nice house. ERIC
: The golden retriever's real.DANA
: Her hair and skin, gleaming, always.ERIC
: Yup. It makes me think of that... Did you ever see that New Yorker cover where it's the woman on a Zoom call and she's got makeup on, and the top is perfectly ironed, a business top, and everything around her is just a shambles?DANA
: That's basically it. If you think I look put together right now, that's what my life is like, but her life looks really put together. So I follow her on TikTok and Instagram, just to, one, make me feel worse about myself, but also as inspirational goals.ERIC
: Outside of the aesthetic inspirational goals, is there anything that you have learned from following her or something that you've gotten out of — not stalking her but sort of half-stalking her? Is there anything that has influenced you, that has caused you to make any changes either in your work or your life?DANA
: I feel like this is silly, but her hair always looks great and I'm like, "I want my hair to look that good." I've started blow-drying my hair more and I've bought all these expensive oils and skincare stuff that somehow I never end up using because I aspirationally purchase it and think it's going to make me feel organized. And I feel like looking at her good hair and clear skin has motivated me to want to do better.ERIC
: As I mentioned, Victoria's first novel was called Red Queen. We talked about your novel coming out. Maybe you haven't had time because you've been actually writing a book, but have you been reading anything recently, any fantasy or sci-fi that you loved?DANA
: I don't read a ton of fantasy sci-fi, but I'm reading Jonathan Franzen's new book, Crossroads, and it's great. Every time I read a Jonathan Franzen book, I'm like, "This will be the one that reminds me that he's overrated, and I'll have my cool take that, 'Oh, actually he's bad,'" but no, he's a great writer. He writes compelling characters and I'm really enjoying it.ERIC
: All right. Well, that was Victoria Aveyard ...DANA
: Do I sound creepy? You have to be honest. Do I sound like I'm stalking this woman who I don't know?ERIC
: No. I think if you had gone a little bit further and you'd been like, "Okay, in the corner of her living room, there's a specific ficus ..." it could have been worse.DANA
: Okay, great. You're the expert.ERIC
: That was Victoria Aveyard, who's on Instagram @victoriaaveyard
. We're going to take a quick break now, but we'll be back in a minute with Dana Schwartz.
Today's show is brought to you by The Edit from Timber. If you have a podcast, you're probably proud of what you've made, and that is great. You should be. But that doesn't mean you can't make it better with a little constructive feedback, and that's exactly what The Edit from Timber can give you. For only $20 a month, you'll be connected with industry professionals like Skye Pillsbury, Jenna Spinelle, Shruti Ravindran, and me, Eric Johnson, and we'll give you reasons to be even prouder of what you're making. Sign up today at followfriday.net/timber
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Welcome back to Follow Friday. Dana, I asked you to tell me about someone who makes you laugh. And you said Adam Hess, who's on Instagram @adamhess100
. He's a comedian and writer and his Instagram bio is "My granddad claims he invented bingo." So what do you like about Adam? Why do you follow him?DANA
: I honestly don't know how I found him. He's not a super famous comedian. I don't mean to disparage him, but he's not a massive comedian. I found him during the pandemic. He was making these short videos that were tutorials on how to do facial expressions in social situations. And the combination of how specific they were, and how British they were—like British people have all these social situations that they react to a certain way—just made me laugh to no end.
And I desperately was like, I have to be friends with this person. Again, I don't know him but I have watched every one of his videos. And if he ever comes to the United States or Adam, if you're listening to this, come hang out in LA sometime.ERIC
: I haven't seen the facial expression videos, but he has a series of posts he's doing on Instagram where he's inventing new words and then providing dictionary definitions for those words. And they're very British.
My favorite is "chassence," which means, "The desire for a particular person to push in front of you in a queue because you want to say, 'Sorry, there's actually a queue,' to the point where you start practicing saying it in your head."DANA
: That's so British and so perfect. He's the platonic ideal of the quirky British boyfriend I've always wanted.ERIC
: We won't tell your fiance. No one needs to know.DANA
: No. Again, it's a platonic projection. He also does very self-deprecating characters that I think are funny. So much of internet comedy has become so reinforced and flattened and everyone's imitating each other and doing the same thing. And I feel like Adam is very singular with what he's doing. It doesn't feel like he's imitating anyone and it doesn't feel like he's an imitation of an imitation.ERIC
: I don't know if this is typical of his comedy career, but I watched a clip from some of his stand-up and he was just going through these rapid-fire one-liners. It was basically like if Mitch Hedberg and just pounded a couple of Red Bulls. It was impressive the energy with which he was attacking these jokes.DANA
: That's what I love! And not to be too broad here, but I think a lot of standup comedy sometimes is people who know how to say things in a funny inflection to make people laugh. It's sort of the Dane Cook effect where people realize if you talk like this
people are cued as to when to laugh. And that sometimes leads to people not making jokes. So I really love someone who's actively making jokes.ERIC
: I do too. There was just an episode of the podcast Underunderstood where they're talking about the corny jokes on Laffy Taffy: Really bland, family-friendly jokes, but they found a guy who his whole life was just building up to writing these corny one-liners. They did this great interview with this guy, who every free moment of every day, he's just thinking of funny jokes that are just pure, simple jokes. And I admire that, when someone has that energy.DANA
: I love a joke! I'm engaged to a comedian. I feel like that's what I want.ERIC
: One thing before we move on to your next follow, and this is the first time this has ever happened on this show ... Literally while I was working on this part of the script, my questions about Adam, his Instagram account went from public to private. DANA
: Whoa! I'm so sorry.ERIC
: I was watching his videos and then I tried to open one and it wouldn't load. Then I refreshed the page and it's like, "This account is private. You've got to follow to see his videos." I don't know what's going on. I hope I didn't trip off some alarm bells.DANA
: Me neither. I hope that it's not this private secret that only I get. But if so, it makes me feel very cool and he's very underground.ERIC
: Exactly. Well, if you are cool enough to follow him, that's Adam Hess, who's on Instagram @adamhess100
: Good luck, apparently.ERIC
: We have time for one more follow today. I asked you for someone who makes you think, and you said Michael Hobbes, who's on Twitter @RottenInDenmark
. Michael is the co-host of the podcast Maintenance Phase
with Aubrey Gordon, and the former co-host of You're Wrong About
with Sarah Marshall.
I started listening to both of their shows this year. They're outstanding. Is one of those podcasts how you started following him, or did you start following him before?DANA
: Not to be hipster about this, I was a very early listener of You're Wrong About. ERIC
: Before it was cool?DANA
: Yeah, I do feel like it sort of blew up at a certain point. I just loved the podcast. I tweeted about it a lot. Then I think Sarah Marshall reached out to me at one point and asked me if I wanted to come on the show and talk about Marie Antoinette. So I've been on the show a few times.
And both as a listener of the podcast and as a fan, I feel like Sarah and Michael are just both extraordinary thinkers, journalists, and listeners and have taught me how to think critically about media and politics in a way that I think I'd gotten complacent.
And the reason I'm highlighting Michael in this Follow Friday—even though both Sarah and Michael do such excellent work, or did such excellent work together on You're Wrong About—is Michael is active on Twitter and he posts his take on news and politics in a way that ... he cuts out the bulls**t in a way that I feel like a lot of people tweeting don't. And I really respect and respond to that.
So I feel like if you are interested in politics in any way, or social justice, or progress, or liberalism, it's good to follow him just to get a smart perspective. I feel like he's always the smartest perspective on my timeline.ERIC
: Yeah, absolutely. Is there a specific thing that you remember him tweeting about, writing about, podcasting about that has changed your mind, pushed you in some way?DANA
: Yeah. Do you remember the — I hate to bring this up again — but the whole Bad Art Friend shenanigans?ERIC
: I opted out of this discourse cycle. I saw everyone on Twitter was posting about Bad Art Friend and I've still not read the original article. Maybe if you could summarize for the benefit of me and the other people who skipped it?DANA
: It almost doesn't matter, but all I'll say is it was like everyone on Twitter had their own jokes and opinions. And Michael, in this very cool, even-handed way wrote a long-form piece going through it in a way where I'm like, "He should be a Supreme Court judge. I want to hear his take on literally everything."
That's a recent one where if you read that Bad Art Friend and felt conflicted or felt like, "Oh, I want to be snarky about this," he was the one, at least in my mind, who was able to cut through the bulls**t and get to the heart of the matter in a way that was compassionate and empathetic and smart all at once.
And I feel like some people think that to be funny, you have to be mean or snarky or cruel. And I think he is both funny and smart and compassionate at the same time.ERIC
: I 100% agree. Another long read that I would recommend is a thing that Michael wrote for HuffPost a couple of years ago called Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong
: Yes, and his podcast, Maintenance Phase with Aubrey, is amazing. Sorry to interrupt.ERIC
: No, no. At Maintenance Phase, they mainly focus on the wellness industry and health fads, diet fads, things like that. This article, I guess, was maybe the genesis of him wanting to talk about that. I cannot recommend it enough. It challenged me to rethink some toxic assumptions and stereotypes that I had absorbed about fat people.DANA
: I feel the same way. Just living in society and in culture, people absorb s**tty bad opinions. I feel like Michael and Sarah and Aubrey altogether, their goal is, OK, society has given us that, but it's now your role to be able to think critically and reevaluate and move forward as a better person. And that social responsibility speaks to me. ... That feels gross: "really speaks to me." It makes me want to try harder.ERIC
: Yes, absolutely. There's a bit of overlap with Noble Blood here because a lot of the folks that you're covering on that show are famous folks whose reputations have been very much distorted by political rivals or by sexist historians or by God knows what.
Can you talk a bit about why you decided to go that route with Noble Blood? What is it about clearing up these historical misconceptions or stereotypes, why does that interest you?DANA
: I feel like royals have, especially in popular culture, become more symbols than people. I think people have this tendency to view people who lived a few hundred years ago as strange, different animals, like they're not even human anymore, and like their motivations are completely foreign to us.
And I find it very interesting to cut through the symbolism of what this person represents and try to get at the heart of who were they as an individual? What were their choices? What must this have felt like for them? And retell the stories that we maybe know or don't know, but through that lens.ERIC
: And I guess there's some applicability to non-historical figures as well, like present-day figures. You can maybe start to see modern-day politicians in a different way or just anyone in a different light and not through the way they've been filtered through media.DANA
: Yeah, it's interesting. I feel like a few people have accused me and people give me mean reviews. They're like, "We shouldn't have a monarchy. Why are you a monarchist?" And I'm like, "If you listen to my podcast and think that I think the best system of government is a random person being in charge ... That is absolutely not what I think the government should be."
The whole point of Noble Blood is me pointing out that these royals are just normal people. I think they're interesting people, because they've been given unchecked power, often throughout history, but for the record, I don't think that that's the best system of government.
I think you can look at them with empathy and be like, "Oh, this is a person of normal intelligence and very few skills who was not qualified to lead in any way. So isn't it interesting that they've been put in these positions?" And then also be able to think critically and be like, and also that's not how the government should work.ERIC
: There are some weird things with internet media and fandom culture. There are some weird layers where it's like, if you are dedicating a significant chunk of your life to a podcast about something, or a blog about something, a YouTube channel about something, some people assume that you are endorsing that thing.
There's this weird space where the nuances of criticism get lost online. I'm not articulating it very well, but you know what I mean.DANA
: No, I totally get it. I feel like the thesis that I'm working on through Noble Blood, every episode is like, "These people who were royals were just people." And through no particular skills or abilities, they were assigned this massively important role. And usually, it goes bad.ERIC
: Well, that was Noble Blood which is Dana's podcast. And her recommendation Michael Hobbes is the co-host of Maintenance Phase, and the former co-host of You're Wrong About, which is also excellent. Fill your queues with these wonderful podcasts. And also, Michael Hobbes is on Twitter at @RottenInDenmark
Dana, thank you for sharing these follows with us today. Before we go, let's make sure our listeners know how to find you online. Where do you want them to follow you?DANA
: Follow me @DanaSchwartzzz. It's the same username on Instagram
, and TikTok
if you're there, and also please pre-order my book.ERIC
: Yeah, that's Anatomy: A Love Story
: There we go. Thank you.ERIC
: Follow me on Twitter @HeyHeyESJ
. And don't forget to follow or subscribe to Follow Friday in your podcast app. If you liked this episode, then go listen to the episodes with Ologies host Alie Ward
, The Constant host Mark Chrisler
, and author/YouTuber Lindsay Ellis
Our theme music was written by me and performed by Yona Marie
. Our show art was illustrated by Dodi Hermawan
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!