Follow Friday
Ice-T's first bagel, very good dogs, and meme thieves

Jenn Takahashi (Best of Nextdoor)

By day, Jenn Takahashi does PR for companies like the dating app Coffee Meets Bagel. But by night — or maybe also by day, we don't know her schedule — she is the "chief lurker" behind Best of Nextdoor, which posts high-quality neighborhood drama to hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter and Instagram.

On this episode of Follow Friday, Takahashi talks with Eric Johnson about giving Law & Order: SVU star Ice-T his first bagel, the untimely demise of Google Reader, the best dog breed, and meme thieves. Plus: Air-fried hot dogs!

Follow us:
- Jenn is @jenntakahashi on Twitter and Instagram
- This show is @followfridaypod on Twitter and Instagram
- Eric is @heyheyesj on Twitter

Who Jenn follows:
- Ice-T
- Danny Groner
- Matt Nelson
- Kale Salad

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Theme song written by Eric Johnson, and performed by Yona Marie. Show art by Dodi Hermawan. Additional music by Purple Planet Music, starfrosch, and Katherine Chang.
Full transcript of this episode
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JENN TAKAHASHI: On my phone, I have a video of him actually punching the bagel. He just couldn't get over it! Like, it was just so perplexing to him.

ERIC JOHNSON: Hang on a second. Who is out there punching bagels? And why would anyone do such a thing? The answer is coming up, today on Follow Friday.

[theme song]

ERIC: I'm Eric Johnson. Welcome to Follow Friday, a show about the best people on the internet and why you should follow them. If you're new to the show, welcome! Every week, I talk to the internet creators I admire most about who they follow online.

This includes podcasters, writers, comedians, musicians, and more. They have amazing taste and will guide us to the people they find fascinating, who we should be following, too.

I'm here with Jenn Takahashi, who runs one of the best novelty accounts on Instagram and Twitter. It's called Best of Nextdoor. And it rounds up the weirdest, the cringiest and the funniest things people say to their neighbors online.

So, here's a Best of Nextdoor post from a few weeks ago, which starts in all caps: "STOP FEEDING CROWS BAGELS. They aren't eating the bagels you're giving them, they are stashing them in my trees, and it's raining bagels at my house."

I have a lot of questions about this post. Like, for starters, who expects a crow to be able to swallow a whole bagel? But there's not enough time for that. You can find Best of Nextdoor on Twitter @bestofnextdoor and on Instagram @bestofnextdoor_. And now, if I can get the bagel thing out of my mind, it's time to talk about the people Jenn Takahashi follows online. Jenn, welcome to Follow Friday!

JENN: Yay! Thank you so much. It's so nice to be here. As I was just telling you, Eric, it is such a huge honor because you were the first journalist who believed in Best of Nextdoor. It made my life! I think I only had the account up and running for a few months, and you covered it for Recode, and the headline was "Best of Nextdoor is the best account you're not following on Twitter."

And that is still probably the biggest highlight ever from that account, because it completely changed the way that I saw the account, because you believed in it. So, thank you.

ERIC: Aww. Well, thank you for saying that. Thank you for remembering. Until you mentioned it. I had just completely forgotten that I had written about it. It's good to know that that had an impact, you know?

JENN: Yes! Yeah, it definitely did.

ERIC: And so you were going back and forth on a couple of your recommendations for the show before we started taping today. You had at least six people you wanted to talk about. And I, the cruel person that I am, I made you winnow it down to four. Was deciding on this list difficult?

JENN: Yes, it is! I feel like there's just so many different aspects of like what you're looking for to follow on Twitter. I wish I could say that I used Instagram a lot, but really, my platform of choice is Twitter.

ERIC: Mainly on Twitter.

JENN: Yeah. So yeah, it was hard, but it should be good to have a little bit more of a focus.

ERIC: All right. Well, let's dive right into it. We'll start with your first follow. I asked you for someone you've followed forever, and you said — this surprised me — actor and rapper Ice-T. He is on Twitter @FINALLEVEL and on Instagram @icet. And he's on Law & Order: SVU reruns from now until the end of recorded history.

I hope I'm not spoiling anything to say that you have actually met him in person! You've met Ice-T in person...

JENN: Because of his Twitter!

ERIC: Yeah, because of his Twitter! OK, I do want to get to that story. But first I want to know, before you were hanging out with famous people, what was your opinion of Ice-T, or what was your association with him, before you met him?

JENN: He was just kind of like my favorite person on Twitter. Sometimes, he'll either post something completely dunking on a troll, which I loved. He has a series, "dumb f**k of the day," which I am obsessed with. And then sometimes, he will tweet these life hacks — he doesn't call them life hacks. I wish I remembered what they're called, but he tweets this really amazing life advice sometimes.

And then sometimes he'll just tweet something completely random, like "Oh, yeah, I've never had a bagel or coffee in my life, ever."

ERIC: More bagels! I think the universe is trying to tell me what to have for lunch.

JENN: And then the whole internet will just go crazy. He just brings so much personality to the platform.

ERIC: And the fact that he had never had coffee or a bagel, that's the reason you met him. Explain the story here.

JENN: Yeah! So he had tweeted that he was 59 and he had never — he tweeted a couple of years ago that he had never had coffee or a bagel, in his life.

ERIC: Wow!

JENN: And I am working for a company called Coffee Meets Bagel. So, you know, so everyone passed it to me and they're like, "What is this?" And so, I told our CEO that we need to give Ice-T his first-ever coffee and bagel.

ERIC: Absolutely!

JENN: I just feel like it just fell in our lap and it would be just such a huge missed opportunity if we didn't give it to him! So, within a couple of days, I ended up at Ice-T's house in New Jersey. So, we ended up filming his reactions to his first ever coffee and bagel. And what I really loved about it is, there was just so much footage that didn't make it into the ad that we ended up making for CMB. And it was just so cool because, you know, behind the scenes, he was just completely perplexed by the bagel.

ERIC: [laughs]

JENN: On my phone, I have a video of him actually punching the bagel. He just couldn't get over it! It was just so perplexing to him. He also said that he didn't understand why it was such a big deal that he had never had coffee or a bagel. He also dropped another bombshell and said he's never seen E.T., either.

ERIC: [anguished noise]

JENN: So I was like, "OK, well, unfortunately, I don't work for ET, so I can't do anything about that."

ERIC: [laughs]

JENN: "But that's interesting!" So yeah, he's definitely one of my favorite follows. His reactions were incredible, when it comes to trying at his first coffee and bagel. He just put his Ice-T flavor on it.

ERIC: Don't leave us in suspense. Did he enjoy his first bagel?

JENN: ... He said "it's not bad."

ERIC: [laughs]

JENN: [laughs] He just didn't understand why people kind of just like to eat, like, a loaf of bread. He just couldn't understand that. So, it was really funny trying to watch him wrap his head around it. And I did get some hate on Twitter because — I wasn't the one who prepared the bagels, not trying to throw anyone under the bus, but I wasn't the one who prepared the bagels, and I guess they were untoasted?

ERIC: Oh, no!

JENN: So he was really struggling to chew off a bite. So, people on Twitter were just saying, "Who gave Ice-T a bagel and didn't even toast it?! He is struggling!"

ERIC AND JENN: [both laugh]

JENN: It was really enjoyable to watch. And coffee: First, we just gave him a black coffee. He didn't understand the appeal, but I don't either. Then we started giving him, adding in some things. So, then he eventually started liking it. But I don't think that he's actually had coffee or a bagel since then.

ERIC: Ah, well, maybe he'll give it another chance someday. I mean, we're still all in lockdown. It's a good time to try new things. So Ice-T, if you're listening, please go have another bagel. Toast it, put some cream cheese on it, maybe.

I also want to mention a video that you shot when you visited Ice-T's house. You were asking him about his dating advice. And so, I want to play a clip of what he said to you. Here's him talking about his relationship with his wife, Coco Austin.

ICE-T: "I think the key to finding your mate is, really be honest about who the hell you are, because there is somebody out there for everybody. There's absolutely somebody out there for everybody. But you want to find somebody who really loves you, absolutely, who you are. If you're somebody that likes to play video games all day, there's gamer chicks. You know? I mean, whatever you are, but if you put out the wrong signals, you're going to pick up the wrong person."

ERIC: So, Jenn, do you agree with what he said there, about the different energies people bring to a relationship?

JENN: Absolutely! I think that he just gave phenomenal dating advice! And I think that matching energies really is important. I think that he gave really solid advice, even down to, you know, not really changing who you are, and if you're a gamer, you can find a gamer chick. He really made sense. And I actually think about that advice quite a bit.

ERIC: That was Ice-T, who is on Twitter @FINALLEVEL or on Instagram @icet. Let's move on to your next follow. I asked you for someone you follow who is super-talented, but still under the radar. You said Danny Groner, who is on Twitter @dannygroner. So, tell me about Danny and why he impresses you so much.

JENN: I actually worked in PR with Danny at Shutterstock years ago. Danny is probably one of my favorite people on the planet, for so many reasons, but why he's also one of my favorite people to follow on Twitter is he ... it's just insane. I don't know anyone else who has their finger on the pulse of pop culture quite like he does. I promise you, he's the first person to talk about Bean Dad. He's the first person to talk about the Elle article about the "Pharma bro." And his commentary is just always just right on point.

You know how a lot of people follow those news accounts, like @MediaREDEF and everything? Well, I also follow those and I love those, too, but Danny is always my number one source. If you just look at his Twitter, he tweets all these interesting stories with his favorite quote from it. He has this tremendous appetite, you know, for just learning more. And so I feel like I'm learning more as a result. He's just very interested, endlessly fascinated, with the world.

ERIC: Yeah, I was looking at his Twitter, and I feel like he must have a superhuman attention span, because he's just like "on" all day, but in the healthy way?

JENN: Yeah!

ERIC: He's sharing big news stories and funny viral tweets and personal observations. And it's like, "When do you eat? When do you sleep? I don't get it!"

JENN: Yeah! And also, it's crazy because he's probably also one of the most interesting people I've ever met, just because ... He is very online. However, he only got his first smartphone a couple years ago because he wanted to be offline.

ERIC: Huh.

JENN: It was really groundbreaking when he announced that he finally got an iPhone. [laughs]

ERIC: Taking to it like a fish to water. Yeah.

JENN: Yeah! [laughs]

ERIC: So, OK. We know that Danny has figured out something to stay on top of the news and top of pop culture. What do you? What's your strategy to manage the noise out there?

JENN: Honestly it's ... I wish it was more exciting, but Feedly. You know, rest in peace, Google Reader. I will never forget you.

ERIC: [laughs]

JENN: But, Feedly for now. Because I do work in PR for dating apps and also for a couple of other clients on the side, I just think that it's really important for me to get my news from — everything from beauty blogs to Men's Health, in addition to like the big publications. So I just kind of browse Feedly all day long. What are your secrets, actually?

ERIC: Oh, before I get into that — you mentioned Google Reader and I have to also pay my respects to our dearly departed website. I recently found an old laptop that I hadn't used in 10 years and I opened it up, and in the Firefox browser, there was sure enough, a little, a little bookmark for Google reader, front and center. And right next to it was a Netflix bookmark from when Netflix's logo was a DVD.

JENN: [laughs]

ERIC: So, really this laptop was finding an era of my internet life in amber.

JENN: Aww!

ERIC: But my thing for staying on top of the news ... I have, for a long time, relied on Twitter and podcasts, mainly. And then recently, in the past few months, I've been really getting into email newsletters because there's so many good ones that will just aggregate everything that's going on. They'll try and summarize as much as they can. And that works for me, because I live in my email inbox.

JENN: Yeah! What are a couple that you would recommend, actually? Cause I've been looking for a good newsletter.

ERIC: It's funny that you mentioned the fact that Danny was on top of the Bean Dad story. I just talked to Ryan Broderick for this podcast.

JENN: Oh, you did?!

ERIC: He writes an email newsletter called Garbage Day, which is basically, "The internet, explained." He understands the internet better than I ever will. So that's definitely a good one. Also, for media folks like me, I recommend ... Deez Links is good, and for people interested in podcasting, Hot Pod and PodNews. Those are two of my must-reads every day.

JENN: Ooh.

ERIC: There's so many, though. I think I subscribe to at least 20. [laughs]

JENN: Nice! Yeah, I'll have to definitely check those out.

ERIC: All right. That was Danny Groner, who is on Twitter @dannygroner. We're going to take a quick break now, but we'll be back in a minute with Jenn Takahashi from Best of Nextdoor.

[ads]

ERIC: Welcome back to Follow Friday! Jenn Takahashi, I asked you for someone who inspires you and you suggested someone you work with, Matt Nelson. That's not a name that I recognized initially, but I am very familiar with Matt's most famous online account. Tell us about that.

JENN: Yeah, Matt is the mastermind behind WeRateDogs. And so, I was a huge fan of WeRateDogs, and it's funny how we met. There was someone on Twitter who was a fan of both Best of Nextdoor and WeRateDogs, and she tweeted something like "Can @jenntakahashi and @dogfather" — which is Matt's handle — "Can they just be my Twitter parents?" Or something like that.

And then I tweeted back, because I had always been such a big fan of Matt, for so many reasons. I responded and was like, "Oh my God, can we just be friends already, Matt?" And then he said, "Sure!" And he followed me back.

ERIC: And now you're working together.

JENN: Yeah, exactly. It's kind of crazy how we started working together. I was approached for my first-ever sponsorship opportunity, or one that I wanted to really consider, for Best of Nextdoor last year. It was before the pandemic, so it ultimately fell through, but I was asking him for his advice because I feel like whenever he does brand partnerships on WeRateDogs, it's always just so on brand. It's never, he's not promoting Flat Tummy Tea or anything. [laughs] And I just love how he's been able to kind of monetize the account in that way. So that's how we connected.

ERIC: Yeah, for folks that don't know, WeRateDogs, this is the site you've probably seen retweeted if you had don't follow it yourself. They take photos and videos of dogs and they apply a very objective, very critical review process to give the dog a grade on a scale of 10. And I don't think I've ever seen a grade lower than 10. They're all 10 out of 10, 11 out of 10, 14 out of 10.

JENN: [laughs] Exactly!

ERIC: And I'm not sure about this. I think it's also where some of the internet's dog-speak language ... like calling dogs "doggos" and saying "hekkin" instead of "hell," it seems to have originated a lot of internet culture that has seeped out into the broader consciousness.

JENN: Yeah, exactly! And I remember, there was also this one instance that happened a couple of years ago, where someone on Twitter named Brent, he had said that he was having a little bit of an issue with the rating system. He was like, "How can they all be more than 10 out of 10? That's just not a good rating system."

ERIC: [laughs]

JENN: And Matt had replied back, "They're all good dogs, Brant." Or, actually, maybe his name was Brant, and he said, "They're all good dogs, Brent." And so that moment went viral, too.

ERIC: All right, so, I want your hottest take, what is the best dog breed, and why?

JENN: [softly] Oh, no!

ERIC: [laughs]

JENN: [laughs] Right now, I am actually trying really hard to not get a Pomeranian.

ERIC: They're cute.

JENN: They're just so cute. I know. Yeah, that's my favorite right now, but that changes a lot.

ERIC: Yeah. When I was in college, I lived in a house where we had a cockapoo — half cocker spaniel, half poodle. And for me, that's still the platonic ideal: Extremely cute; smart, but not too smart, they're not going to like to go nuts if they're in the house all day; and hypoallergenic! So, if you have friends who are allergic, they can still hang out.

JENN: [laughs] Exactly. That being said, though, I do have a cat that I love and I try to get Matt to rate her all the time, but he has just ignored me ever since. I've probably asked him 20 times so far.

ERIC: I think next Halloween, you just gotta put the cat in a dog costume and see if you can slip that one by the censors.

JENN: [laughs] Thanks for the idea. We'll take it!

ERIC: That's free. You can take that. That's Matt Nelson, who's on Twitter @dogfather and @dog_rates. WeRateDogs is also on Instagram and Facebook @WeRateDogs.

All right. Well, we have time for one more follow today. Jenn, I asked you for someone who makes you laugh and you suggested another account that I was already familiar with; it's called Kale Salad. They are on Instagram and Twitter, and the usernames are just as they're spelled, @kalesalad. So explain this account and why it makes you laugh.

JENN: I think their bio just says something like they "retweet the best tweets." I feel like on Twitter, there's always just so much going on that I get FOMO all the time. If you're not on right at the exact second, you'll miss something. So, with Kale Salad, I don't know how they track which tweets are going viral, but they do a really great job. They're like my safety net, so I will know like what tweets are going viral, because of Kale Salad.

ERIC: And I think the original genesis of this ... Samir Mezrahi made these accounts because there were other meme accounts that would steal people's jokes and their videos, and they would basically share them without credit.

JENN: Really?!

ERIC: Yeah. This was a big thing for a couple years where, especially on Instagram, someone would take a screenshot of a tweet, but they would crop out the person's name and their @username. So, it was just like, "Ha ha, look at this funny thing that I — maybe — posted." And so I think this was sort of a response to a very toxic side of the meme discourse.

JENN: [gasps] I love them even more. I had no idea.

ERIC: I know, right?

JENN: Oh, that's genius. So was this during the time of F**k Jerry?

ERIC: Yeah, that one, and was it FatJewish? And Dory?

JENN: Oh my God, yeah.

ERIC: There's all these really popular meme accounts that were just not giving the proper credit. And so, I'm really happy it exists. I follow it, and I don't check it obsessively, but just looking today at the Kale Salad account on Twitter, I was just like, "Oh, I'm so glad that a place exists for these weird, absurdist jokes," that this is a thing that people do.

JENN: Yeah.

ERIC: This might not work because it's a podcast, but we're almost to the end of the show, so let's try it anyway: I want you to pull up the Kale Salad account if you can, Jenn, and we are going to try and pick a favorite post they've done recently.

JENN: Ooh, OK.

ERIC: So while Jenn is looking, here's one that I pulled up before the taping. This is from January 1st and the caption is "Happy new year." And it's a long line of people in orange, standing outside of a McDonald's in the Netherlands. And at first, I thought this was a protest or something, but if you look closer, you see they all have delivery bags. This is New Year's Day, and this is the Dutch GrubHub or Doordash or something. And apparently, in the Netherlands, everyone's ordering McDonald's on New Year's Day!

ERIC AND JENN: [both laugh]

ERIC: It's really funny. It's also kind of bleak, but it made me laugh.

JENN: OK, I just take a quick look, and one tweet that I had already liked was a retweet from @KLobstar who said "gonna air fry a hotdog for 120 minutes and see what happens."

ERIC: Oh, no. [laughs]

JENN: I promise, it wasn't just that. There's a huge thread ...

ERIC: Oh, no!

JENN: ... where are they document, you know ...

ERIC: That's even worse!

JENN: They document, like, "at 10 minutes now." And it just looks ... you just know it's not a good idea. They tweeted, "my wife is not happy." I don't know, this is sometimes what Twitter is all about, just doing completely random things and just documenting your experience.

ERIC: This is food performance art.

JENN: Exactly.

ERIC: Oh my God. I'm afraid to click through to that, but I think there will be pictures and I think I have to see them.

JENN: I feel like they also recently retweeted [something] which is now one of my favorite accounts, which is "place where cat shouldn't be."

ERIC: Oh, yeah, I love that account!

JENN: [laughs] So yeah, I feel like Kale Salad is really good to help me discover new accounts to follow.

ERIC: That was Kale Salad, which is on Twitter and Instagram at @kalesalad. These are all great recommendations. Thank you, Jenn! Before we go, let's make sure the listeners know how to find you online. Where do you want them to follow you?

JENN: Yay! @JennTakahashi on Twitter and on Instagram.

ERIC: Awesome. Well, you can find me on Twitter @HeyHeyESJ and at my email newsletter, Watch This!, where I write short spoiler-free reviews of movies and other things I'm watching. Follow this show on Twitter or Instagram @followfridaypod.

You can find a transcript of this episode, links, pictures, and more at followfridaypodcast.com.

Our theme music was written by me and performed by Yona Marie. Our show art was illustrated by Dodi Hermawan. Additional music by Purple Planet Music, starfrosch, and Katherine Chang.

Special thanks to our sponsor, Hey, which is making email smarter, better, and more secure. Check it out for your personal use or for your business at Hey.com.

Today's show was produced by BumbleCast. You can hire us to help you start a podcast, or make your existing podcast better. We work with creators of all backgrounds and experience levels. Learn more at bumblecast.fm.

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

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