: Today on Follow Friday, we're going to talk about Japanese TV shows, homing pigeons, Gollum, the San Antonio Spurs, and NFTs. That's in a minute with Gavin Purcell, the host of Way Too Interested.
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I'm Eric Johnson. Welcome to Follow Friday, the podcast about who you should follow online. Every week, I talk to creative people 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 to Follow Friday in your podcast app. It's free, and you'll get fresh interviews with your favorite creators every week.
Today on the show is Gavin Purcell. He's an Emmy-winning showrunner, writer, and producer who's worked at places like the Tonight Show, Hulu, and Vox Media, and his most recent project is a podcast that I've been editing behind the scenes, which I absolutely adore.
It's called Way Too Interested. We'll talk more about that in a minute, but since you're already subscribing to Follow Friday, go ahead and do the same for Way Too Interested. It's available in all the same places. You will not regret it.
You can find Gavin on Twitter @GavinPurcell
. Gavin, welcome to Follow Friday! GAVIN
: Hey, thanks so much. This is really fun to do this, 'cause I been listening to the show for a while, really since the beginning, and, obviously getting to know you, but I'm super psyched to be here. ERIC
: I'm so glad to have you here. For people who haven't listened to it yet, explain what Way Too Interested is and talk about some of the guests that you've had on the show. GAVIN
: Way Too Interested kind of grew out of my desire to want to get back into longform interviewing. And I love that, but also like, as Eric and I have talked about, there are so many people out there doing the "blank blank show" where you just bring somebody on and they talk about their lives or they talk about something.
So as a TV producer and a writer, I kind of thought about format a little bit. And I wanted to kind of dig in on something that I really find fascinating, which is people's side obsessions. Like everybody has this — everybody has something and it might be fleeting, or it might be something you've thought about for your entire life. But everybody has something that they're fascinated with.
In the mid-2000s, back in the prime Web 2.0 era, I was really interested in Japanese TV and I have been for awhile. And this was back in like YouTube, early YouTube days. And I started a website just 'cause like — I was working at G4 at the time, G4 media. I was running a show called Attack of the Show, which was a very nerdy, fun thing. ERIC
: Oh, yeah. GAVIN
: Yeah, remember that? ERIC
: Very important to my generation. GAVIN
: Yeah, exactly. But I was like, I wanna to do something of my own. So I was like, I love Japanese TV. YouTube was this weird wild west where all this stuff was getting uploaded and I started paying attention to it. And then I started a blog, and the blog got really successful, and it almost became like a completely separate part of my life. Like I almost took that pathway of my career.
And then I got an offer to go to New York and work on what was Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. And that kind of brought me back to TV. But I guess my theory with this in general is that by doing, and pursuing these things that are these side obsessions, they will open up so much more in our brains and kind of introduce things that we know we like, but we don't know could be something, a bigger part of our lives.
So that's why I wanted to do the show. Going back to the format thing, I wanted to be able to also bring in people that I thought were interesting. So the basic format of the show is, I talk to people that I find interesting — and these could be kind of like guests on this show — celebrities, comedians, writers, educators, politicians.
We've got a MacArthur fellow coming up, a musician, a professor of music, stuff like that. But they then pick a topic that they're super fascinated or obsessed with. So a good example of this is we just had my friend Felicia Day on the show, and I love Felicia. She and I have known each other for a very long time.
She's super smart, incredibly funny, and obviously an amazing actress, but also just a super curious person. And her topic was the real origins of Bible stories, which is, you know, a pretty deep topic. And we got a woman on as an expert, Dr. Malka Simkovich, who's a professor of Jewish studies. I'm not sure what school it's at, but she's a professor of Jewish studies.
So the first half of the show is always me talking to my interesting guest about their topic, why they're interested in, and a little bit about their discovery process, how they find things. And then the second half of the show is the two of us — my guest first and foremost — asking questions of an expert.
So not only do you learn like what these interesting people are fascinated with, but then you learn a lot more about the thing itself, so that that's kind of the gestation of it and why I wanted to do it. ERIC
: Yeah. And it's one of those things where it's really, especially when you have someone like Felicia Day or in a previous episode, you had Roy Wood Jr. from the Daily Show ... you've got a lot of famous friends, Gavin, and I think there's something really inspiring or satisfying about... If you're listening to someone who's an established quantity, a celebrity, a known name out there, hearing them be curious and asking questions and saying, "Hey, I don't know this, or I want to know more about this," I think it's a really important message. Right? It sets an important model for other people to follow. Just like, "Hey, I could be asking questions like this in my own life." And I think that's something we definitely need more of. GAVIN
: To me, it's all about self-exploration right? Like, that's the one thing that I believe that all human beings need. We all need to explore ourselves a little bit more.
The worst thing as a human, no matter who you are, is kind of getting stuck in a rut and ruts are really easy to get stuck in in this world. Like you can get in cycles of, I'm going to check Twitter. I'm gonna check Facebook. I'm going to think about this thing. But if you dive deep into one thing — and we'll talk a little bit about something that I'm deep in net right now, and it's kind of frightening sometimes how deep you can go in — but if you dive deep in your brain starts popping in these ways that don't normally it doesn't normally pop and you bring in all these influences in and suddenly you're changed.
And like that's the goal of everybody's life is evolve and change because if you don't evolve and change, you remain a static person. You can get left behind not only by the world, but you can kind of get left behind of your own potential. Like, my thing is we are all constantly changing and we have to kind of keep up with that. And if we don't, there's a depression that can sit in, because I don't think it's a natural state not to change. ERIC
: Absolutely, a hundred percent agree. All right. Well, let's find out who Gavin Purcell follows online. You can follow along with us today. Every person he recommends will be linked in the show notes and in the transcript at FollowFridayPodcast.com.
Gavin, 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 super talented, who is still under the radar. And you said Zito Madu, who is on Twitter @_Zeets
So Zito is a former staff writer for SBNation, which is part of Vox Media, where we both used to work. Is that how you first met? GAVIN
: I worked at Vox Media for a pretty short amount of time. It's where I met you as well, originally. I worked there for six months, and Zito and I actually never met there, but I knew a woman named Elena Bergeron, who was running SBNation at the time. My job there was head of video, across the company.
So I dipped into all the different places. But she was the one who first said, hey, you should check out Zito, super smart, really good writer. And I was like, OK, good. And that's what I followed @_Zeets. And here's the thing about Zito, by the way, I will say, and Eric knows this, but he's an upcoming guest on my show, because I find him so interesting.
Zito is an incredible writer, first and foremost is a big sports fan. Obviously worked at SBNation, like there's a lot of good sports writing, but the thing that I love about him and his Twitter feed is that he tweets about poetry. And it's very rare ... you know, I'm not a giant poetry head. Like, I'm not a person that spends like hours per day writing, reading poetry. I like it. I find it interesting. And what I like about it on Twitter is it breaks up a lot of other stuff, right?
Like, one of the things I try to do on Twitter is consciously be aware of what's coming through my feed all the time. And Zito's stuff always breaks with whatever the main thing is. You know, every once in a while he's writing about what other people are. But I really think he's writing super interesting stuff about things that other people don't share. And to me, that's what Twitter, the most balanced version of Twitter is.
I think one of the things that I find about Twitter that's interesting is there are certain people that really dive deep on one specific vertical, let's say, and they get really good at joke writing or they get really good at political observations, God help us all. We don't need any more of those people, but my Twitter experience has always been — you know, I've been on it for so long now, like 15 years.
But my Twitter experience has always been, I'm going to say what I'm going to say and be interested in the things that I'm interested in and try to curate a Twitter feed that feels that way too. And I just think Zito's a very smart guy. He writes about things I'm curious about and interested about, and they're not the things that other people write about. ERIC
: I was looking at some of the stuff that he's written in the past two years. So you used to be at SBNation and he's written for other magazines and outlets, all over the place. And it's really fascinating because there's a lot of clearly intentional choices about what he's written about.
So you mentioned, big on poetry. He's written about anime, obviously lots about sports. And I really love that when you come across someone who is not just putting themself in one lane, right? Really talented writer like Zito, could just only read about sports or only talk about poetry or whatever.
But I like the fact that — you see this when you look at his Twitter as well — is the fact that there is a lot of poetry, but there's also a lot of other stuff happening. And really, as you're saying, it's a reflection of the person, whatever he tweets about, he tweets about. And so that's something that's just really ... I really appreciate it because everyone, a lot of people these days are treating social media as just a marketing exercise, where it's just "I have to stay on message, stay on brand," whenever they're talking about stuff.
And I just love it so much when you follow someone like Zito, who has a wide range of interests and is sharing those with the world. GAVIN
: And that's, I mean, this is the thing I wanted to get... Most of these picks are probably that way. I think that Twitter forked at some point, and maybe the fork was the political talk of 2015 and 2016, but it used to be a place where you would explore all sorts of different things.
And now it's become very much what you're saying, I feel like, which is like, there's these people who are writing or thinking about this very specific thing. Like this is my quote unquote brand. And to me, it ruins the experience, but the beauty of Twitter is that you can curate whatever you want, right? And Zito is one of those people that I totally put into that mix. ERIC
: So you did not meet when you were both working at Vox, but have you met since then? You already mentioned that he's going to be an upcoming guest on Way Too Interested, but did you ever cross paths before recording that episode? GAVIN
: No, we never crossed paths. In fact, the first time I think I saw him physically or not even physically, virtually, was in the video recording of the podcast. So I hope to meet him at some point. Like he's doing a really cool thing — which if you listen to the podcast, I'll talk a little bit about. He's writing a novel, I think about Venice, Italy, and has spent some time there and is doing a lot of interesting things and I hope to hang out with him at some point.
I'm in LA and I think he's in Detroit now. So it might be hard, but maybe there'll be some conference where we can go — well, maybe I'll create the Way Too Interested Conference, and we can bring all the guests out. We can hang out. ERIC
: I mean, that would be amazing. Yeah! Well, do you want to spoil what Zito's topic, what topic he is Way Too Interested in? GAVIN
: Oh, yeah, I would love to. One of the things I love about this show is that every single topic I'm getting, I'm shocked at how fascinating it is. I know this shouldn't be that surprising, but like again, when you go deep on anything, it's interesting. So Zito picked, which I never would have expected anybody to pick this one, animal navigation.
It's like, you read about how like pigeons, homing pigeons can go from place to place... But it was so fascinating, you know, and we got a guest, an expert who wrote a book called Supernavigators, who is a British science writer. And the stories we heard in that episode, I couldn't believe what was possible, like that there are dung beetles that use the stars to navigate with. Things like that just blew me away. And that's just a good example of, I also would never have expected Zito himself, knowing his feed, was interested in that. And that's like the beauty of kind of exploring it. ERIC
: We all have those hidden depths. Absolutely. Well, that was Zito Madu, who is on Twitter at @_Zeets
Gavin, let's move on to your next follow. I asked you for someone who inspires you, and you said Code Miko, which is on YouTube @CodeMiko
. And they're also on Twitter @TheCodeMiko
. Let me read their bio on YouTube to start:
"I'm Miko, an NPC game character traveling through different game worlds. I'm currently living in the Sims world. I'm a bit glitchy. I think I suffer from what you guys call multiple personality disorder. But I won't let that stop me from making new friends across dimensions."
So this is kind of heady stuff, but let's ... GAVIN
: Did you watch it? Did you watch any of it? ERIC
: Yeah, I did, I watched this. I watched some of the YouTube videos. For people who have not seen them, am I correct in summarizing this as a virtual alter ego? Does that sound fair? GAVIN
: Technically, this is what I think is known as a Vtuber in some form. A VTuber is like a virtual YouTuber, and it's a thing that's been around for maybe three or four years. It started pretty recently, but the basic idea is, it's a human being who is acting as a virtual character and you don't see the human being.
The actual person is essentially a graphically represented character, and in this case, pretty significant graphic representation. Sometimes it's just an anime character, very cartoony, but this looks almost like a pretty high end CGI character, interestingly. ERIC
: And I think it seems ... based on what I've watched, it seems like they've got it set up where maybe a camera is pointing at the person controlling Miko, and it's updating in real time their, or her, expressions, it's capturing their voice, and it's applying that onto the character, so that she actually seems to be a living thing. GAVIN
: Exactly. The reason I picked this as like an inspiring one is that I love people that are doing things in this space that feel totally unique and interesting. She makes me laugh a lot. It's pretty raunchy and goofy. So it's one of those things, you've got to be a little... It definitely edges on the more adult humor rather than like — don't necessarily send your preteens to watch this. MIKO
: Would you rather beat off a hundred chicken-sized horses, or beat off one horse-sized chicken. GUEST
: Horse-sized chicken. I want to see how much comes out of that thing. MIKO
: Comes out? You're beating them. GUEST
: You said beat off. MIKO
: Yeah, like beat. Like, punch. GUEST
: Okay. Well, this was a trick question. GAVIN
: The cool thing about this is, this is a woman who went and spent a little bit of money on a motion capture suit. And she does this all in real time. So there's a video you can see where it's split-screen and you see her, and she's actually interacting in real time.
And to me, that's super inspiring, because this is a person that's essentially doing what used to be a super high end production thing, almost entirely on her own, and she's really funny at it. Like, one of the things this reminds me of a lot — which I don't know, Eric, if you ever saw this. There's a show called Space Ghost Coast Coast to Coast, which was like one of the first Adult Swim shows.
It was a similar setup where Space Ghost was animated, but he was talking to real people in a TV. And Miko often does that too. Um, also Miko is a big ... I think Twitch is where she jumped off from originally and still streams there. So it's also a Twitch thing.
But like, she's just very funny and she has a personality on her own, but the inspirational part of me was like, God, I love seeing when people can grab an idea and just execute it so well, almost entirely on their own, right? Like, and this is one of those things, that's almost ... it was impossible 20 years ago and the internet has made possible.
And you know, this is a good example with podcasts too, right? Like I am a TV producer/writer and I've worked on shows where there are like a hundred people that are working with me or working under me. This is a thing I wanted to do really, really small on purpose to see what we could do. And thankfully, I had help from you, but also, just being able to create something on your own, and then seeing the quality level that Miko does, it blew me away. So it was very inspiring. ERIC
: I didn't realize that it was a motion capture suit. I mean, that's really crazy. I mean, I remember watching the special features for like the Lord of the Rings DVDs back in the day, and just, "Wow, motion capture, you know, this really advanced technology they used to create Gollum" and, you know, millions and millions of dollars of spending. And the cost and accessibility of this technology has fallen so much recently. GAVIN
: it's crazy. ERIC
: Amazing. GAVIN
: I also think — the other thing that I think about it that's interesting and inspiring about Miko is one of the things I'm really interested in the idea of the next probably 10 to 20 years is identity and virtual identities, especially, right? Like the idea of, what does it feel like to create a virtual identity? What does it feel like to embody a virtual identity?
You know, for better or for worse, we're coming to a place where we're likely going to have some sort of graphical interface in our eyes, whether it's glasses or something else, and that's going to change. I'm also a big science fiction fan. You know, there's a lot of science fiction writers that have written about worlds that allow you to basically portray yourself as whoever you want to be to anybody else.
And Miko is like, you can see, oh crap. That's what it's going to be like. You know what I mean? Like, you can be anybody, essentially, and that's going to change the way we interact with each other in a significant way. And it's like a little sneak peek into what that looks like. To some people that's super scary.
To me, I kind of don't try to be scared about things like that, because that's coming anyway. So then it's like, how do you, how do you kind of embrace it in a way that feels human and warm and, and not like cold and that you're pushing it away. ERIC
: Yeah. Sort of like, I guess this is kind of the Ready Player One thing, right? Where, in the real world, which is like this post-apocalyptic economic hellscape, the main character of the book, and I guess the movie as well, is kind of a loser and doesn't have a very good life, but then is able to kind of have this power fantasy of becoming a virtual character in the Oasis, you know?
Do you see, do you think that Vtubers, like Miko, these virtual avatars taking the place of real creators, do you think that that's going to become a more and more common thing? Or do you think this is just like a really interesting niche? Because I'm kind of two minds where I agree that it's really exciting and interesting that people are doing this, but I'm also like, I I'm wondering what the case is for, should this actually take over, should this supplant, other types of broadcasting? Other types of creation? GAVIN
: I don't know. I mean, I just think some people are more comfortable creating outside of themselves, if that makes sense. And I think that, to me, that's the thing that we have to be open to. Like, I mean, the worst part of this, obviously there's that episode of Black Mirror, I think it was one of the first ones, where like they traded the fake pig, politician, that ended up like running ... and that's like, that's the dystopian version of this.
But I do believe that like, even a simple situation where you have either a gamertag or you're on Discord or somewhere else, it allows you a freedom to be a different version of yourself. And I don't think most of the time it's a worse version of yourself.
Sometimes, I think it can open up things for other people. I know there's been a lot of conversation about anonymity on the internet and what it means. You know, some people, it's definitely allowed a lot of hate speech and terrible things, but also I do believe like anonymity in certain ways can open up different aspects of people's personalities, you know? Especially people who have social anxiety disorders or things that allow them to kind of open up themselves to different, open up their personalities, different aspects of it when they're interacting in that way.
So I don't think it's going to take over. Now, do I think, like in our deepfake episode, like, do I think there's going to be virtual stars in the future that will be as big as actual stars? Yes. I think that's a given. I don't think there's any way around it at this point. But I don't think it's a bad thing, but I also think it's just change. Again, it goes back to like, you can give it a bad or a good designation, but it's still just change and you're going to have to deal with it eventually. So like, get comfortable with it and then kind of understand what's going on. ERIC
: Yeah, exactly. You can't sweep the ocean or whatever it is, keep the tide from coming in with a broom. GAVIN
: Yeah, exactly. ERIC
: Yeah, the deepfakes episode you were mentioning is as an episode of Way Too Interested where Rex Sorgatz, your guest, predicts that a dead actor will win an Oscar within 20 years, which is mindblowing. GAVIN
: It's crazy. And the question I have is like, is it the dead-on actor who wins, or is it the new actor who used the dead actors IP on them? Or do you have to give it to both, you know? ERIC
: It's wild. Yeah. Well, do you follow any other Vtubers besides CodeMiko? GAVIN
: You know, it's funny, not really, only because I tend to find things kind of in individual pockets and then go deep on them. I haven't really explored the whole Vtuber world. I did play around with the software a little bit. There's an off the shelf software that anybody can do it if you play around with it, but not necessarily. CodeMiko's the one I've kind of followed mostly. ERIC
: Well, that was CodeMiko, who's on YouTube @CodeMiko
. We are going to take a quick break now, but we'll be back in a minute with Gavin Purcell from Way Too Interested.
Today's show is brought to you by The Edit from Timber. If you have a podcast, you're probably really proud of what you've made, and that is great. You should be. Creating something new is always wonderful, but that doesn't mean you can't make it better. And The Edit from Timber can help.
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Welcome back to Follow Friday. Gavin, I asked you to tell me about someone you don't know, but want to be friends with, and you said Shea Serrano, who is on Twitter @SheaSerrano
. Shea is a podcaster, writer for The Ringer, a best-selling author of books about basketball, movies, and hip hop. Why do you want to be friends with him? GAVIN
: So technically, we are Twitter friends. Like, we follow each other, and we've exchanged, but I've never met him in person. I don't know. It's hard to explain. Those who follow Shea know his Twitter voice and it is special, right? Like, it goes back to what I was saying with Zito. Like, he is himself, and he makes me laugh.
It's very funny. I'm not a giant — I'm a sports fan, but I'm a football fan, not a basketball fan, but reading his tweets about the San Antonio Spurs and all this stuff there, I just know that he's a funny guy and would be a fun person to hang out with. And also, I've listened to a couple of his podcasts.
He has a new podcast called No Skips, were he's talks about specific hip hop albums and all sorts of things. I also think, going back to what we're saying before, he's just really good at being himself, and this is something that's really ... it's hard to explain, because it used to be like this cliché in this world, being genuine, right?
Like that was the whole thing, in the social media 2008-2011 world, there was this whole influencer world that was just like, "You have to be genuine. You have to be yourself." And it was like this kind of like cliche, but the funny thing is like the people who have lasted this long and I still am a fan of, they have been.
Like, Shea has never tried to be something other than Shea. And that's the thing that I admire most. I can tell in his personality, just the way he talks about his kids and his family, that we would be friends. Now, the question is like, do we have a chance to hang out? I don't know, but that's what's beautiful about Twitter is that like, I get a chance to kind of see him and have that interaction.
So I don't know. He's definitely up there with one of those people on Twitter that I think would be fun to be friends with. ERIC
: And a stealth recommendation, which is buying one of Shea's eBooks, which I think is on Gumroad, because when you buy one of his books, you get put on a mailing list where sometimes it'll be like promotional stuff about, hey, pre-order my new book, whatever, but he will just drop these devastatingly hilarious little stories about his family to the mailing list, every couple of months or whatever.
And it is one of my favorite email lists. And it's literally just, it's a promotional, it's a marketing email list for books and eBooks, but he's such a good writer. And he's so funny. I really love following Shea. GAVIN
: Yeah. I totally forgot to talk about his writing because his books are amazing. His books about hip hop are great. And, he works with an incredible illustrator, Arturo Torres. It's like, they've created this brand now. Right? Like this really cool thing, but you're right. His writing is super funny.
Like it's not just about, like, it goes deep on hip hop. It goes deep on sports, but it's just really funny and it's purely him. That goes back to that same thing. He's got a voice. He figured out what his voice is and he's doubled down on it. And that's all I want to read. I want to read people's voices.
It's really hard when you're trying to figure out what your own voice is. I remember this, writing screenplays, or writing novels of my own, like trying to be like, what do I sound like? And a lot of it is just growth, right? Like you just have to kind of grow into it and keep doing it.
But Shea — that's the other thing about Shea is like, he's done it a lot. He keeps doing it and he keeps trying, and he keeps making stuff. So I'm a big fan of him. ERIC
: Yeah. And he uses his platform to inspire people, to uplift them. I think it's something that from the outside, if you don't work in media, if you don't have a lot of followers, you know, you could easily take it for granted, but I think he puts a lot of energy ... He puts a lot of himself into taking in a lot of inbound attention and redirecting in a really positive way out into the world. GAVIN
: A hundred percent, he gives back a ton, and that's something I've been trying to do more myself is like, how can I give back to the world at large? And it's not, it's not easy unless you make a thing of it, right? Like you really have to make it important in your life. ERIC
: A few months ago, I saw that you and Shea followed each other on Twitter. And so I was like, hey Gavin, can you introduce me? Because he has been on my wishlist for Follow Friday since the beginning. Unfortunately, I guess you guys don't actually know each other. You're just Twitter friends. GAVIN
: Hey, Shea, maybe this is it. Shea, if you're listening, come on Follow Friday. ERIC
: Two for one deal, a new friend and you get to come on a podcast.
Okay. Well, after you guys become friends, first thing you're going to do is introduce me. Second thing you do, what do you want to do with Shea when you're hanging out with him? GAVIN
: Well, I I'd love to watch a basketball game with him. I'm sure it's gotta be fascinating. I would have to watch it. You know what? Actually, here's what I'd want to do. I would want to go back and watch, like, a Tim Duncan-era Spurs game with him, because I think he would probably — knowing Shea from his writings, he's probably gone so in depth on these games that he's got comments on every five seconds, like loaded up in his brain. So I think it would be just the most fun to watch. So that would be the most fun to do.
In fact, Shea, you should do that as a business, like go sell like a Kast version of yourself watching old San Antonio Spurs game. ERIC
: It'd be like Mystery Science Theater 3000. GAVIN
: But for old NBA. Yeah, exactly. It's working for the Manning brothers, they're doing. I don't know if you know that, but Peyton and Eli Manning are doing amazing work on Monday Night Football. So I think that's going to be a business that takes off in a crazy way. ERIC
: All right. Well see, we've offered Shea so much. You've got a new friend and a podcast and a new business venture, you know? GAVIN
: There you go. ERIC
: All right. Well, that was Shea Serrano, who is on Twitter @SheaSerrano
. Definitely follow him. He's amazing.
We have time for one more follow today. Gavin, I asked you for someone who's an expert in a very specific niche you love, and you said Bryan Brinkman, who is on Twitter @BryanBrinkman
I saved this one for the end because I feel like we're going to go long on this. Bryan is an artist and an animator, but you specifically chose him because he's an expert in what? GAVIN
: Well, OK. I gotta get one quick, uh, warning is the wrong word, but like ... so he's an expert in NFTs, right? So, specifically, he's not necessarily an expert, but he is an incredible artist who has been doing it for a while. The warning quote, or like thing I want to be aware of, is that, obviously, NFTs are a divisive conversation for some people because of the environmental impact of the crypto world in general.
And I think that obviously the other thing about NFTs and crypto is that there is a very heavy like bro culture that people, I think rightly, feel. And I think one of the things that I wanted to talk about Brian with is that I think ... the NFT part of that is shifting the conversation slightly.
The funny thing about Brian is, Brian was actually, I think, a day one employee, maybe a first couple months employee of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. He was our second graphics artist. He's been there for a very long time, was there for a long time, and is just a genuinely good human being.
Like, one of these people that when you meet him, super charming, super fun. And I didn't know this, but across the last, you know ... that was 2009 that we launched that show? And I was there through 2016 and I think around that time is when he started dabbling in this kind of world.
Maybe a little bit later, cause the world kind of blew up a little bit later, but he got into NFTs as an artist. And he's always been a visual artist. Like as a graphic artist for a TV show, obviously your job is you're making graphics that go along with the TV show, but he's also obviously been a drawer.
He went to art school, did a bunch of things. He smartly kind of saw what this world was, which you know, just for the audio listeners who don't know this, I'm sure most people in this world kind of do in your listeners, but an NFT is called a non fungible token. It is a smart contract version of a piece of art, so that if you create a piece of art, you can publicly track who owns it and where it goes.
The big thing for artists that this has done, especially for artists who make digital art, is it's added scarcity back into their art so that their art can be valued at a higher level. ERIC
: So it's the equivalent of, as if I had the physical version of the painting, there's only one original one. There may be prints of it. The same image may be reproduced, but there's some sense of ownership of this one belongs to me, right? GAVIN
: That's right. And, and the, the really cool thing, getting back to Bryan, Bryan and I talked about this world, 'cause I knew that he was big on it and he kind of like walked me through what was interesting about it. And one of the things I think that a lot of people don't understand about the NFT world, that I've started to kind of learn a lot more about, is part of it is about artists getting paid for things after they've sold originally. Right?
So like one of the things that's super interesting to me about this space is that an NFT will sell and it will sell for, let's say, a thousand dollars. Now, if a piece of art sells for a thousand dollars, the artist gets a certain amount of money and the gallery gets a certain amount of money if it's gallery art.
So you're already splitting that. So, say the artists makes $500. That's the end of the money the artist makes on the piece of art, unless they're big enough where they can copyright their art or they can make a series of prints based on that art, that art now goes to the owner of the art.
And if that in 10 years, that art is worth $50,000, the original artists gets nothing. You know, this is why like, Picasso or all these people, the owners of the art... ERIC
: They died poor. GAVIN
: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Well, Picasso didn't die poor. I think Picasso did OK. But anyway, I think it's why the idea of collecting art before, it was like, if I collect a piece of art, I own it, which is the same thing with NFTs, but the benefit is because it's based on a smart contract, you can bake in a thing into the smart contract so that every time a piece of art sells, the artist makes 10% of that sell.
So imagine a world where an artist sells a piece of art for $5,000 and that's a big win for them. That's great. Then that collector picks up a piece of art. And then six months later, it sells for $50,000.
Well, when it sells for $50,000, the artist then makes $5,000 again. And that's a huge difference. Essentially, the artist is getting paid. The reason why this world is super interesting to me is that, you know, the tech companies have created these like four companies that are all worth like a trillion dollars.
I think that this thing, this small little idea, and it's, I mean, it's not small, but this idea of like ownership of stuff that can now be distributed across a much bigger broad spectrum could really start to change where the value lands in the overall digital perspective, so that in case we can all share in value rather than one company holding the value ... Like if the web 2.0 world was really about us as users creating value for these big tech companies, there's a world in which they call this the NFT world, Web 3.0, there's a world in which this world could be about creating value more for ourselves or people that we're directly connected to.
So, anyway, that's a long way to get around talking about Bryan, who is an educator in this space. ERIC
: Yeah, I was going to ask. So he's advocating for, it's not just that he's creating art for it. He's also ... like what does it mean? What does an educator look like in this space? GAVIN
: Well, I think in one way, you know, his Twitter handle, he does an incredible job of uplifting younger artists, and female artists, artists of color, all sorts of different people. And he's actively trying to share and bring forward different sorts of arts in this space.
Because if you're familiar with this at all, this space, there's a group called the Bored Ape Yacht Club, they're like these apes and there are 10,000 of them and they're all worth like a fortune. But that has become like this kind of like status symbol type of NFT.
Bryan is doing a great job of like helping lift up younger animators, or people that aren't getting seen as much, and kind of like helping promote them. And I think that's super admirable. The other thing he's done is he's working, I don't know exactly the details of this, but I know he's working on a lot of charity-based NFTs so that like, you know, you buy into something and then a significant amount of the portion of the money goes to a charity, or it goes to a cause.
Also, it's just cool to see like a guy that I knew from Fallon just do really well, and be able to kind of take off. And, you know, he just had an auction at Christie's, so it's like, it really moved up for him in a lot of ways. ERIC
: So I guess the thing that I hear totally what you're saying about like giving the artists the value, letting them ... all of the things you're saying about the value of NFTs, that inherently makes sense to me. I guess, where I kind of fall off the train is the connection to cryptocurrencies. Right?
Like, as you mentioned, mining cryptocurrencies, very bad for the environment. So it's very controversial and there is a whole culture, crypto bros, which I'm not personally a fan of. So why is it that NFTs and crypto have to be connected? Like, why couldn't we do a similar thing with the same benefits for the artist, and for ownership, things like that, why does this necessarily have to be connected to cryptocurrencies? Is it just because of the way the blockchain works? GAVIN
: I think it is. I mean, I think that's a really good question, right? Like I think this is why, like it opens the door about like, it's an economics question in a fascinating world. It's also a little bit of a question about culture and society.
I will say there are, there are the good news about crypto, and I will say I'm not an expert on this, and I know whenever anybody says that word, it throws people into crazy world. And I felt that way for a long time too. So it's not like I'm coming at this from like a full blown evangelist position. There are new chains in the world of cryptocurrency that are much, much better for the environment.
Specifically, there's a really interesting chain called Tezos, which is where a lot of artists are minting their work now. And there's a website called ... HEN. It is a specific website created where like a lot of artists put their work for that specific reason, because it's about, it's a much healthier for the environment sort of situation.
To take it back to your question. I mean, I think that the blockchain part of it allows it never to go away, I think. Do you know what I mean? So like the blockchain part of it allows for this new structure to exist. I also think the big thing that I hear a lot from artists in this space is, the gallery system is really messed up and has been messed up for a long time. ERIC
: I bet. GAVIN
: Getting into it as hard. How do you access it? It is really difficult. And this opens up the door in a lot of ways, but yes. I mean, listen, It's not a solved problem, but I'm very fascinated with the opportunities going forward.
Somebody asked me the other day about this. Like, "why are you interested in this?" And they actually said like, "Are you just in it for the money? Or are you one of these kinds of crazy crypto utopians?" And I said, "Not really either one." I'm not really interested in the money and I'm definitely not an utopian. I didn't see the downsides, but I think the thing I keep thinking about it with is ... It feels a lot to me, like the mid-2000s web, where like things were changing really fast, and there are upsides and downsides to everything.
And I would rather be learning about it and participating in it, because if this is where we're going in the future, I'm better served by having an awareness of it than I am for pretending it doesn't exist. ERIC
: Very similar to CodeMiko and VTubers. It's like, are you going to look the other way, or are you going to try and engage with this, and try and be a part of the future? Because you know, otherwise it might just pass you by. GAVIN
: Exactly. Exactly. ERIC
: All right. Well, that was Bryan Brinkman, who is on Twitter @BryanBrinkman
Gavin, thank you for sharing all these followers with us today. Thank you for educating me on NFTs. Before we go, let's make sure our listeners know how to find you online. Where do you want them to follow you? GAVIN
: Okay. I'm really mostly active on Twitter @GavinPurcell
, but the big thing is please follow and subscribe to my new podcast, which is Way Too Interested. It's available at waytoointerested.com
as well as Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Eric has been amazing at helping me craft this podcast along the way, and I would not have been able to do without him.
Also I got the Gregory brothers to do my theme song, which was super fun. So that was a really cool thing, too. Those are the main places I'm at. I'm not really anywhere else online besides Twitter. ERIC
: And fair warning, the Gregory Brothers' theme song will get stuck in your head. I am speaking from personal experience. It's so catchy. GAVIN
: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. ERIC
: Well, follow me on Twitter @HeyHeyESJ
. And don't forget to follow or subscribe to this show, Follow Friday, in your podcast app. If you liked this episode, then go listen to some past Follow Friday episodes such as New York Times columnist Kevin Roose
, or the co-hosts of Underunderstood, Regina Dellea and Adrianne Jeffries
Follow Friday's theme music was written by me and performed by Yona Marie
. Our show art was illustrated by Dodi Hermawan
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