: Blow out the candles! Cut the cake! Because today is Follow Friday's first birthday! I am honestly kinda surprised to be talking to you today, because I wasn't sure if I would be able to do this podcast for a whole year. As you might know, this is a solo production. So all the research, scripting, editing, copywriting, social media — all of that, every week, behind the scenes, is just me. Or it was, until this week, because I decided to flip the script.
See, a lot of listeners and past guests have asked me if I have any follow recommendations for them, because I host a podcast called "Follow Friday" — of course I do, right? Sometimes I'll throw out the name of someone I've been really into lately, or tell them about someone I discovered through this show. But I've never made myself do what I ask all my guests to do, which is to sit down and look at who you follow and think about what they really mean to you. So today, in honor of Follow Friday's first birthday, I'm doing just that. And guiding me along this little journey is one of our first guests, Ryan Broderick. If you don't know Ryan, he writes this amazing newsletter about the internet called Garbage Day and is the co-host of The Content Mines, another internet culture podcast that you should listen to.
I asked Ryan to lead the show, so he'll take over in a minute. But first, I want to thank our new patrons Danny, Lauren, and Sylnai over at patreon.com/followfriday
. By becoming patrons, they unlocked the Follow XL feed, which is where you can find our past bonus episodes, and the extra long versions of my conversations with Brooke Hammerling, Tom Scott, and many more to come.
If you're hearing this line, that means you're listening to the public feed, but you can get access to an extra long version of this very episode when you go to patreon.com/followfriday
- chip in any amount you want, starting at just $1 a month and you will unlock Follow Friday XL.
Thank you to all the patrons for their support. And I also want to thank this week's sponsor.
Today's show is brought to you by Kelsus, which pairs startups with expertly assembled software development teams. They work with funded startups across multiple industries to help them get to market fast. Learn more and get in touch at kelsus.com
OK, I think that's everything. Here's this week's very special birthday episode of Follow Friday.
: I'm Ryan Broderick. Welcome to Follow Friday, the podcast about who you should follow online. Most weeks on this show, Eric Johnson talks to creative people about who they follow, and why. It's a guided tour to the best people on the internet, led by your favorite writers, podcasters, comedians and more.
Today on the show is Eric Johnson. We're doing an anniversary episode, so we're gonna spin this back around on him and make him answer some of his extremely earnest questions, which made me genuinely mortified when I had to do this. You can find Eric on Twitter @heyheyesj. He writes about podcasting in the lightningpod newsletter, which is at lightningpod.fm/newsletter. Eric, welcome to your show, how are you?ERIC
: I'm good, Ryan. Thank you for coming back on my show to take it over for me. I appreciate as always your willingness to play ball with my… what did you call it, extremely earnest nature?RYAN
: That's right. I have a very tough time with it, but today I feel more in control, I feel like I have more power, so I feel more comfortable. So let's dive into it, shall we? I wanna start with "someone you don't know but want to be friends with," you picked Patrick H. Willems
. Who is that?ERIC
: Patrick H. Willems is a YouTuber and he is, in my opinion, the best video essayist. I think this is a very crowded genre right now. YouTube has really given rise to a lot of folks like him, especially folks like him who are talking about movies. And I think he is far and away the best because what he does is he actively steers away from the stuff that would get him easy views.
Like on YouTube, film YouTube circles, if you wanna talk about Star Wars or Marvel, or if you wanna have an angry, hot take about some casting decision or whatever, all of those things are classic time-honored ways to juice your viewership numbers. And Patrick, I think after Rise of Skywalker came out, he said "I'm just not gonna do any more Star Wars on this channel, at all. He had done a couple of video essays about them, really great essays, but he was like, "I'm just gonna opt-out of this discourse."
The same thing with Marvel, I think he's mostly backed away from any sort of Marvel discourse. And instead what he does, is he does these incredibly well-written, well-researched, funny, insightful videos about all sorts of things from film. Either film history, or film techniques. He breaks down genres, he breaks down specific filmmakers...
[clip from video
: I love opening title sequences. You know, the boring part at the beginning of the movie where all the names come up? I love it. Of course, this probably shouldn't be surprising because I'm the kind of weirdo who obsessively reads the credits because I love seeing the billing order of the actors and I really want to know who the cinematographer was. But, beyond just the text on screen, I love the tradition of starting movies with a flourish, this big sequence introducing us to what we're about to watch.
: I mean, I just think his videos go against the grain in a way that I admire, but then they're also really good, and I just can't get enough of his videos.RYAN
: I did not realize that I saw and enjoyed one of his videos a couple of months ago, which was his video where he took his parents to see The Fast and the Furious
: Ah, see, I still have not seen F9, so I have not watched that particular video.RYAN
: Oh, F9 is good! It's got everything you want from a Fast and Furious movie, you know, it's good.ERIC
: I watched most of them for the first time last year and I think there was a point in, I think F8, I wanna say, one of those, where Dwayne Johnson is just shooting a machine gun at a helicopter and I was like yeah, this seems good.RYAN
: Yeah, that's really all you can ask for from a great movie.ERIC
: Patrick's parents though, they are incredibly adorable. And the other thing I want to call out that he does, and what distinguishes him from other video essayists, he has a fictional meta-narrative going on in addition to his video essays. So he has the straight facts of just him talking about cinema and about all those topics I mentioned. But then parallel to that, baked into his past couple of years of videos, he has a serialized fiction story about an evil coconut named Charl that is taking over the world.RYAN
: Oh, that's what this is. I'm looking at his videos right now, and I was like I don't know what this is.ERIC
: It's one of those things where if you just drop into one of his videos, it's like, what the f*** is going on? But he's been doing this, basically starting early 2020, he started this years-long serialized metaseries, and he's currently ... he hasn't put out a new video in a while because he's currently about to release a feature film completing the Charl story. He literally last year made a feature film based on, I think, it's a time-traveling evil coconut? I'm gonna have to brush up on my Patrick H. Willems lore.
[clip from video]OLD-TIMEY ANNOUNCER
: Charl-mania has swept the nation! Ever since this googly-eyed angel rolled off his palm tree and onto a moderately successful YouTube channel, people can't get enough of him. He may be only four inches tall, but Charl is becoming a titan of tinseltown.
: But this is just another thing that I admire so much, is someone who is just leaning into their weirdness and saying "Hey, this is something that I wanna do with my platform and my YouTube following here."RYAN
: I do enjoy that. I like YouTubers that sort of think of their channel as one product, and as a whole, not the people who are chasing after random viral events. I really like Red Letter Media
for that reason because their whole thing is based in this internal universe that is utterly insane, but it works.ERIC
: Red Letter Media, I associate them mainly with the Mr. Plinkett reviews, like the reviews of the Star Wars prequels, but then I also have seen tons of their videos where they've done Wheel of the Worst and Best of the Worst. They do a lot of videos about terrible movies.RYAN
: Half in the Bag!ERIC
: Half in the Bag, yeah.RYAN
: Half in the Bag is the good one, yeah, and it's really interesting because one of them plays Mr. Plinkett live, but the other one voices Mr. Plinkett, it's like a whole thing.ERIC
: If you've never seen the Mr. Plinkett reviews, none of this makes any sense, but who cares?RYAN
: Exactly, yeah, way too much of my brain space is filled up with this stuff. But yeah, this Patrick seems like a cool guy to be friends with, not a horrible YouTuber, this seems like a good YouTuber, so this is good.ERIC
: Yeah. Now the last thing I'll say is, last year when we went to go see the French Dispatch, the new Wes Anderson movie, there was a whole group of people in the theater who were all dressed up as past Wes Anderson characters from all of his different movies. And my fiancé, who's always trying to match me with other movie nerds, is like "Oh go talk to them, maybe they're a club." And we went up afterward and unfortunately, they were not a club, they were just a group of friends who really like Wes Anderson. But I feel like if we lived in the same area, this is why I say Patrick, who I don't know, but wanna be friends with, I feel like this would be the most obvious person who my fiancé would be like "go try and hang out with him."RYAN
: Well if you know Patrick and you're listening to this, or if you are Patrick and listening to this, let's help these two adult men be friends. You know, it's a hard world to make friends for dudes. So let's do it, let's make a connection here.ERIC
: Yeah, dudes being guys, guys being dudes.RYAN
: Guys being dudes, what's better than that? All right, so we got a new pick now, we got a second pick here. This is "someone who's an expert in a very specific niche you love." It's Kevin Perjurer, and it's a YouTube channel called Defunctland
. So, talk me through Defunctland.ERIC
: When I was making my list of follow recommendations, I knew without a doubt Defunctland had to be on here, in this category. This one is one of those channels that I have spent ungodly numbers of hours watching what they produce. I think I've seen almost all of Kevin's videos on YouTube and he's made a lot over the years.
There are a lot of adults on the internet who love Disneyland, many of them get made fun of for not-unfair reasons. I think there's a lot of very cringy Disney fandom out there, which I'm not really in that camp, but I do love visiting a physical theme park and thinking about it in terms of a designed space.
I think the design of theme parks, and specifically the Disney theme parks, and the rides in them, and the shows and all that stuff, I find all of that incredibly fascinating. Because you think about it in contrast to how we experience the internet or how we experience pretty much any form of media, other than going someplace like a park ... I think there's an incredible amount of artistry that goes into a good ride at a theme park.
And so what Kevin does at Defunctland, he does videos about theme park history, about rides that are defunct, that have since been removed from the park and replaced with other ones. He's also done some about food and about histories of controversies and also some TV shows related to Disney, Nickelodeon, and other kinds of family-friendly media. And following Defunctland has really allowed me to indulge this niche obsession, with theme parks, with rides, and how everything kind of comes together.RYAN
: So you don't identify as a Disney adult, is what you're saying?ERIC
: I don't, but I also will freely admit that I know a lot more about Disneyland than any adult should.RYAN
: I'm very fascinated by the creepy aspects of Disneyland. I'm very interested in the underground tunnels with robots in them and the question of whether or not you can legally die on the park's premises, but I have actually never been to Disneyland or Disney World.ERIC
: You haven't?RYAN
: I've never, no.ERIC
: Oh, well the underground tunnels are called ... the Utilidors, and those are only at Disney World because when they're building Disneyland, they didn't know they would need them. But Disney World, they bought an amount of Florida swampland that was the size of San Francisco. They were just like all this cheap land that no one wanted that was overrun with mosquitoes and alligators, and so they built all those tunnels there.
I think there have been people who have died at Disney parks. I think there's like a long-running urban legend that they wouldn't let you die there... It was like the parliament in the UK where officially, if you die in the House of Commons, you are pronounced dead across the street. Like you can't legally die in Parliament, but I think people have died. There's no bylaw in Anaheim saying you have to be taken across the street first.RYAN
: Well I know my goal for 2022, which is to die in Disney World. That's my goal. But this channel is actually fun, it's got 1.2 million subscribers, and it puts out regular content. And I feel like Disney history is so strange and weird, like it makes perfect chronicle it in a YouTube channel.ERIC
: Yeah, and I think the thing to know here and what makes it more palatable to me than a lot of the "Disney adult" content is that Kevin is very sarcastic, very funny, he's very critical of the Disney company. This is not a hero-worship sort of channel. He makes fun of the fact that he and other people take theme parks so seriously.
There are all sorts of people who make content about theme parks, or other entertainment that's seemingly for children online. There are all sorts of adults making this sort of content, and I think he has the best tone, the best approach to all of it.
[clip from video
: The idea wasn't good, and the Imagineers considered Superstar Limo to be dead. Unfortunately, if their job was to please the boss, they had done it a little too well. Eisner, who had been in the entertainment industry for decades, adored the inside jokes and Hollywood gags. He loved them so much that he greenlit the new, terrible version of the attraction. Imagineering, most likely baffled at what they now had to do, did their best to make the new attraction work. The retooled ride opened with California Adventure on February 8, 2001. So was it was bad as they thought it would be? ... Yes. Yes, it was.
At the end of the day, this should just be a silly diversion, but at the same time, just from their longevity and from the artistry that's been involved in making these parks, people do really get emotionally invested in them. So I really highly recommend Defunctland, their videos.RYAN
: Awesome, awesome. I'm learning so many new corners of the internet this week. This is great.ERIC
: That's the idea.RYAN
: We're going to take a quick break now and cut to an ad that I personally had no involvement in picking, and do not make any ad revenue from. And I hope Eric has picked a good advertiser, a good sponsor to follow this. But if it's not good, I do not endorse them because I was not involved. Okay. Bye-bye.
: Today's show is brought to you by Kelsus, a fully invested technical partner for your business. Kelsus works with funded startups across a variety of industries, providing them with an expert team of software developers to help them get to market fast. They have experience working with dozens of companies, helping them build products that can compete, thrive, and exit. Visit kelsus.com
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: We have two more picks. So the next one is "someone you're embarrassed to admit you follow," and you picked a YouTube channel called MayTree
: A capella has never been cool, a capella will never be cool. I went to a college with so many a capella groups that there was an ironic parody a capella group called the Tone Defs. The organizing principle of which was that anybody could join, no one could rehearse, and no one could have any singing ability. It was the leftovers a capella group. I was in the Tone Defs for exactly one song and then I quit. And I've never considered myself a fan of the genre, especially when I was in college, especially of the overabundance of these groups.
MayTree is a Korean a capella group and they are so damn good, I am obsessed. I cannot get enough of their videos because they're so incredibly talented. And I'm embarrassed to admit that I follow them, but I'm not that embarrassed because every person who I've shown a MayTree video to, they're immediately like "oh, I get it, I see why this is addictive."RYAN
: Hold on, I'm going to press play on one, I've never heard them before. I want to see if I can be converted, because I do find a capella mortifying.ERIC
: Tell us which one you're playing.RYAN
: I'm playing the Mortal Kombat theme song, which they did a version of 10 days ago. So here we go.
[clip of Mortal Kombat theme song
, performed by MayTree]RYAN
: OK, I am back to report that it did make me blush and sort of cringe, but it is extremely impressive. They did do a very convincing cover of the Mortal Kombat theme song, which is really hard to do, so I'm very impressed.ERIC
: Yeah, like in that one, if I remember correctly, they obviously have the guy yelling "Mortal Kombat" and he does a very good job of it. But it's the original video game music, it's not from the movies, and so they have all the different layers of like MIDI, synthesized instruments going. They are five members of Maytree and they have people in the background whose whole job for this song is just making high-pitched beeping noises? I can't even articulate exactly what it is they're doing, but they are completing the depth of the theme by adding these little video-gamey sound effects. And they're doing it in a pitch-perfect way that sounds exactly like the original theme.RYAN
: It's very well done, I'm impressed, I gotta say. I still found it uncomfortable, I have to say, but I recognize the skill there. It's very good.ERIC
: I think it's more comfortable for me because these are people on YouTube and I don't have to look at them in real life. I don't need to let my face give away any reaction to them, and if I'm not into one of the videos, I can just leave. But yeah ... tell me if I should cut this out, becuase of the recent stuff you've been dealing with. K-pop has been taking over the US recently.RYAN
: Oh, I don't give a s**t. Don't worry about that, K-pop fans are not real people.ERIC
: You personally have been dealing with some ... passionate fans, let us say, who are a little toxic in your social media life. I've never gotten into that, but this is how the South Korean media machine gets me, is through, who knew, a capella videos on YouTube. They finally found me.RYAN
: It makes sense. I get it, it has real power to it.ERIC
: Let me just say one more thing about Maytree, which is that if you are not yet convinced by hearing them cover a song you know, like the Mortal Kombat theme, definitely check out one of the videos where they're doing sound effects. They have one where it's like a history of the Windows startup chimes
. They have a bunch of videos where it's video game sound effects or just ... messaging software. All these different things where even if they're not working from an actual piece of known music, I think they're just incredibly talented. They're so good at just mimicking these sounds that are well-known to us.RYAN
: Yeah, the upper register stuff they're doing in the Mortal Kombat theme song was very impressive I have to say.
All right, so we got our last pick here, and I feel like this is a good one to end on. You were asked to pick "someone who makes the internet a better place," and you picked Simone Giertz
, the YouTuber and robotics expert. So tell me all about her.ERIC
: Yes. I think a lot of people maybe first started following Simone, she went viral on Reddit a bunch of times. She would do these videos of kind of like Wallace and Gromit-esque silly robots. And she called herself "the queen of s**tty robots." So one of them would be a wake-up machine, and it was a little plastic hand on a servo that would spin around and slap her in the face to wake her up in the morning. Or I think her first one was a breakfast machine, and it was a spoon on a metallic arm that would dip into some cereal and then try and feed it to her. And obviously, none of these would ever work exactly the way that she intended.
My introduction to her was through Tested, which was the spinoff website of MythBusters that was run by Adam Savage. I think after she got some internet fame, she was invited to come over to the US to help make videos for Tested back in the day. And I think she's very much the rightful successor to what MythBusters did for kids interested in science and engineering in the early 2000s.
She no longer calls herself the queen of s**tty robots, she now just makes these incredibly entertaining videos about engineering, about design and she does so in a way that, I think she owns her weirdness. She also owns her mistakes when something goes wrong. It's no longer just one punchline, she actually explains like "Hey, here's what went wrong, here's the process of trying to figure out how to make it better. She's going through the actual steps that are necessary for tackling an unsolved engineering problem.
And showing that making things is not a simple act of connecting Legos, connect this piece to that piece and then you're done. It's messy, things go wrong, people get frustrated, there are disappointments along the way, but it's incredibly satisfying if you can, in the end, make something that works and that does what you want to do and it looks good, too.
And so I think she makes videos that, to me as a 32-year-old adult, who is not ever going to pick up any engineering — I'm not planning to go to the shop and start making stuff myself — I can still watch the videos. But I say that she makes the internet a better place because especially for younger folks and especially for younger people in general who were not traditionally assumed to be of the engineering mindset, I think it's so amazing that she is making these videos and showing the entirety of the process. And making it clear, like "Hey, things won't always go your way, but you can do amazing stuff if you work at it." It's truly inspiring to me.RYAN
: Yeah, I have to say I don't watch her channel specifically, though I'm a huge fan, but I'm a huge fan in general of YouTubers and YouTube creators — "YouTuber" feels like such a derogatory term — but like creators who use their channel to just start tinkering and messing whatever their sort of interest area is. I'm a big fan of this guy who does a similar sort of thing, but with synthesizers. So he recently turned a Billy the Big Mouth Bass into a pretty kick-ass synthesizer, actually. And I long for the days where I figure out how to do that with my own thing, whatever that is. I'm not an engineer, I have no practical expertise whatsoever and I'm extremely clumsy and uncoordinated, but I would love to figure out a way where I could do something similar someday.ERIC
: Yeah, the Big Mouth Bass example that you gave, Simone does a lot of projects like that. She has this adorable three-legged dog named Scraps.RYAN
: Of course.ERIC
: And Simone built what could only be described as a selfie photo booth
for her. Basically, Scraps goes into this little room and presses a button, and when she presses the button she gets a treat, but also her photo is taken. So she is triggering the camera. And I love that, because there's no real reason why that has to exist. Right? It's not practical. There's no need for that to exist. But Simone had the technical knowledge to do it. And she just went and made it because it made her happy. And it also means that Scraps gets more treat, so it made Scraps happy as well.
She didn't make this because the algorithm demanded it, she made it because she could and because she wanted to and that's just one of the traits that I admire about any creative person.RYAN
: Yeah, and she just seems like a nice person too. She's one of those internet creators who are like, "You seem like a nice person."ERIC
: Yeah, and also she loves dirty jokes and innuendo. And I gotta love someone who cracks themselves up. In pretty much every video, she will say something that she then realizes mid-sentence can be taken in a dirty way and just makes herself laugh. So respect for that.RYAN
: Yeah, absolutely, absolute respect for that. Well Eric, I want to thank you for coming onto your own show.ERIC
: It's been a pleasure. Anytime.RYAN
: Yeah, you did great, and I think your picks were fantastic. I hope people who are listening to this, who weren't following these channels, or these creators are going to go seek them out and check them out. Where can people follow you if they want to follow you?ERIC
: I would strongly recommend following or subscribing to the Follow Friday podcast. It's what you're listening to right now, you can follow in any podcast app that you would like.RYAN
: This is getting very meta.ERIC
: I'm also on Twitter @heyheyesj
, and I write a newsletter about podcasting and about Follow Friday at lightningpod.fm/newsletter
. Ryan, how about you?RYAN
: If you want to follow me, you can listen to my podcast, The Content Mines
, which you can find wherever podcasts are found. You can read me in my newsletter, garbageday.email
, and I have an extremely regrettable Twitter account which is @broderick
, if you want to get a hold of me. Yeah, say hi, I'm on the internet all the time, and I love talking to people... As long as you're not going to yell at me about K-pop, that should be fine.ERIC
: Also, I highly recommend checking out Ryan's episode of Follow Friday
, you were one of the very first people I talked to. I think you were the second person I interviewed for this show ever. And so really just appreciate you taking a chance on the show back before it was even launched to anyone. You said yes right away, and so I'm forever grateful for that, for helping me get off to a strong start.RYAN
: It was a great experience. I have been asked actually by people who've gone on it like "Should I go on the show?" I'm like "Yeah, go on the show, it's great, it's a crazy experience."ERIC
: So glad to hear that.RYAN
: It's great.ERIC
: Thanks again to Ryan Broderick for hosting this very special episode of Follow Friday. Also, don't forget that you can get a fifth follow recommendation from me by supporting Follow Friday on Patreon. Go to patreon.com/followfriday
to hear me and Ryan talking about a history podcast I love that has stopped updating, but needs to come back. Really needs to. Here's a clip from that...
[clip from Follow Friday XL]ERIC
: I hesitate to call any podcast perfect but this is damn near close. I think every episode of Something True is worth listening to.
: That's patreon.com/followfriday
We will be off for the next two weeks as I'm taking what I hope you will consider some well-earned time off. But get excited for when we come back on Friday, February 18. I've already recorded the next couple episodes of the show and they are so good that it's honestly going to be hard to decide which one to publish first.
Follow Friday's theme music was written by me and performed by Yona Marie
. Our show art was illustrated by Dodi Hermawan
. Special thanks to our Big Fri Patreon backers, Jon and Justin.
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. I'll see you in a few weeks.