: Today on Follow Friday, we're going to talk with Bullseye host Jesse Thorn about scruffy dogs, the worst albums of the 20th century, and dad movies. JESSE THORN
: You know, if you want somebody to watch Das Boot
with you, I am there every time. I'm thrilled to watch Das Boot
with you. If you want to watch a movie where George Clooney has an extended sequence, where it's just him framed against a bank of snow and he's assembling and disassembling his hitman gun … in! ERIC
: But first, I want to thank everyone who has donated to support Follow Friday on Patreon. This is a completely independent podcast, and I really appreciate you. A special shout-out to our newest patron Danielle, who I forgot to thank in last week's episode! Oops.
I also want to thank our sponsors…
[ad break] ERIC
: OK, here's the show.
[theme song] ERIC
: 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, take a moment now and please follow or subscribe in your podcast app.
Today on the show is Jesse Thorn, the host of the podcast and public radio interview show, Bullseye. He's also the co-host of Jordan, Jesse, Go!, the bailiff on Judge John Hodgman, and the founder of Maximum Fun, which is a network of excellent artist-owned podcasts. He also has the greatest mustache in all of podcasting. You can find Jesse on Twitter @JesseThorn.
Jesse, welcome to Follow Friday! JESSE
: Thank you so much for having me. I'm glad to be here. ERIC
: It's so nice to meet you at long last. I've been following your work for years. I was looking in my email for, what's the oldest email I have from Maximum Fun. And apparently I gave money to The Sound of Young America back in 2011, back before it became Bullseye. JESSE
: That's great. You and Bill Hader. Bill Hader was an early PayPal member of The Sound of Young America. Very grateful forever. ERIC
: I think Bill has more money than I do. Well, when this episode drops, you will have just concluded your annual fundraising drive at Maximum Fun
. I was looking at my email because I've been a member of MaxFun since 2018.
But for folks who don't know, could you explain how Maximum Fun works and why you do this fundraising drive every year? JESSE
: Well, I started Maximum Fun essentially because I had been doing my show, the show that's now my NPR show Bullseye started as my college radio show. I started podcasting it five years after I started it at the very dawn of podcasting, around 2005 or so.
And I quit my job and moved to Los Angeles with my wife around 2007, 2008. I needed a way to pay my bills, to eat. And unfortunately, while my show was already on some public radio stations around the country, that did not really pay anything. So I thought, how can I build a business infrastructure around this medium that no one knows or cares about, such that I could raise the $1,500 a month I needed to have catastrophic health insurance, and rent, and food?
And Maximum Fun was the result of that. In the many years since then, that's now 15 or so years ago, we've grown to many tens of thousands. I can't remember. We might even be into the six figures of members who send us a few bucks a month and that money goes to the shows that are part of Maximum Fun.
We try to keep it to a minimum, the amount of asking we do. But once a year, we ask people who listen to join and kick us five bucks or whatever. Honestly, it's incredible that it has worked so well. I mean, these days there's Patreon, there are payment processor platforms to do this for you.
When I started, it was copying and pasting the HTML code from a PayPal button. But at the end of the day, we're really happy because it lets us allow creators to own their work and for all of us to work for the audience, instead of working for advertisers or a big company. ERIC
: And yeah, so long time listeners of Follow Friday may have heard some Maximum Fun podcast hosts on the show. Tre'vell Anderson,
the co-host of FANTI
. They were one of the very first guests on the show, and Freddie Wong, who co-hosted Story Break, a comedy screenwriting podcast, he was on last year.
So you only ask people for money once a year, but people can become members at any time, right? JESSE
: Exactly. Anybody who listens can always go to maximumfun.org/join
. But if you're hearing me now and you've never heard of me before in your life, I shouldn't be asking you for money. Maybe if you like me on this, try listening to one of the shows for a few months and see how it sits with you. ERIC
: Very savvy, very wise. Like you said, you've been podcasting a long time, since before anyone cared about podcasting; a lot has changed over the years. The Sound Of Young America became Bullseye, Jordan, Jesse, Go!, Judge John Hodgman, you're overseeing this whole network.
And this is maybe a silly question, but … why? What is it about audio that has kept you going in this space? JESSE
: Affordable. (laughter) I mean, in all honesty, I sometimes wonder if... I just turned 40 recently, if I were five years younger, instead of being the oldest of millennials, if I was a medium millennial, would I have gone into audio? I think that the reason I ended up at the college radio station was because I couldn't afford a video camera. It was a time when, even if you were a film major at my university, you didn't get to touch a camera until you got a film camera in your final year.
And by the time I was three or four years out of school, for 800 or a thousand bucks, an amount of money that you could kind of raise, you could buy a digital camera that worked well enough that you could shoot little things for the internet on them.
So, partly, it was just that one day I went to the college radio station and I saw that basically making a radio show was some sliders, and up was louder, and down was quieter. And I was like, "Oh, I could figure that out."
Still, the ability to make my NPR show, Bullseye… I made an hour-long syndicated public radio show by myself with no outside help while I had another job for years. And I couldn't have done that making three-minute videos.
Here I am: I do Judge John Hodgman, I do Bullseye, I do Jordan, Jesse, Go! every week, and I have other stuff I do as well. And that is, in part, because audio is an immediately accessible medium. All that it required was one day I did sell my Dodge Dart and I bought a mic and a phone hybrid—the machine that allows your mixing board to connect to a phone line.
This was before the days of reliable video conferencing on the internet. So, in substantial part, it's because it's available. I didn't have any money. I didn't have any access to a job. I didn't have any access to capital. So it was available.
The other reason is, I think for these particular things that I have been doing, it is the appropriate medium. Just like any other medium, audio has particular strengths and they have to do with the role that audio plays in our lives. I am a big baseball fan and I listen to a lot more baseball games that I watch.
And the reason is that listening to a baseball game is the thing I love to do while I am doing the other things in my life that are boring. There are those who would argue that anything involving a baseball game is boring, and they wouldn't be completely wrong. And I say that as a big baseball fan. But audio is something that can be with us in a very personal way while also not demanding that we have to be intensely hot-level engaged in it.
So things like Bullseye, which is an in depth interview show, there are people who have done that kind of show on television. But only a few, and it's very difficult to put it on TV. Whereas the kind of hour-long in-depth conversation about how and why someone makes their art that I do on Bullseye, that's a great accompaniment for a ride to and from work.
And with Jordan, Jesse, Go! which is a very silly freewheeling comedy show with sort of no content at all, audio is the experience that most closely mimics the feeling of laughing with your friends, which is essentially all Jordan, Jesse, Go! is. I mean, it's the most distilled, intense, almost abstract version of laughing with your friends that could exist.
And that's something that, even when they were giving TV shows to podcasts, even during either of the periods, either 13 years ago or five years ago when they were giving TV shows to podcasts, there is no TV show of Jordan, Jesse, Go! There's no TV show that's just people sitting there talking about abstract nonsense, listing the names of stores in Burbank.
So these things are things that are native to that medium and I'm grateful for it. Also, I'm bald and there are not a lot of bald people on TV. So there's another reason. ERIC
: David Cross took up all of the bald energy for everyone. No one else was allowed on TV for a while. JESSE
: David Cross literally had to murder James Carville just to get on TV, which is weird. They were not even in equivalent lanes. ERIC
: There could be only one. JESSE
: Yeah. David Cross is like, "I guess I'm the Ragin' Cajun now." ERIC
: (laughs) Well, let's find out who Jesse Thorn follows when he's not listening to baseball games or podcasting. 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/jessethorn.
Jesse, before the show, I gave you a list of categories, and I asked you to tell me about some people you follow who fit in those categories. Your first pick is in the category "someone you have a crush on" and you said Archie, who is on Instagram @archie.was.here.
My social media producer, Sydney, is going to have a field day with this follow recommendation because Archie is an extremely adorable dog. I think this is the first animal recommendation we've had on the show, other than the Cincinnati Zoo. We talked a lot about Fiona the Hippo on a previous episode.
So, out of all of the many dogs on the internet, why Archie? Why do you have a crush on Archie? JESSE
: I wasn't on Instagram for a really long time. I would use Facebook a little bit for the same things that people use Facebook for, which is just seeing pictures of your cousin's children or seeing memes that your aunt posts; finding out what your buddy from high school is up to. I like that and would use Facebook a little bit for that.
But mostly I was on Twitter, which I saw as a venue for people I know to make jokes. I joined Instagram because I have this menswear blog called Put This On and a store associated with it. And fashion stuff does not happen on Twitter or Facebook.
So I thought, I better be on Instagram. I probably resisted it for five, eight years. And when you join a new platform, you're trying to figure out, what is this for? And I knew that in my heart, I know people say that Twitter is for breaking news and stuff like that. For me, Twitter is a list of jokes. Instagram, I was like, "Well, what is this?"
One thing that was available to me was a list of jokes — instead of being a list of jokes my friends had made, it could have been a list of jokes my friends had made that had then been stolen by those accounts that just take pictures of people's jokes on Twitter and post them on Instagram, and somehow make money out of stealing other people's jokes.
But, no. I was following some menswear stuff and a lot of men's fashion stuff is very … politically, I will say, aspirational. Another way to put that would be, it's douchey. It involves a lot of people staring at little glasses of scotch or smoking cigars, or showing off their protection leaps. And it's fine. Some of those people have great clothes; I understand. But that was kind of bumming me out. Then there's a lot of brand stuff and that was kind of bumming me out.
But my wife said, "Do you follow any animals?" And I said, "Ohhhh. I should be following animals on Instagram!" That's what Instagram is for, for me. I'm not crazy about high-production-value, social media influencer novelty pets on Instagram. I don't need to necessarily see your llama that you're pouring your life's energy into making famous enough that it can headline Llama Con ERIC
: You want a real American blue collar dog, is what you like. JESSE
: I just want to see funny, scruffy dogs. And my favorite one is @archie.was.here. He's not a famous dog. He's friends with another dog I was following. That's how I met him. He's not even a verified dog, so he could just be an @archie.was.here impersonator.
But reliably speaking, there's a lot of stuff on Instagram that I follow for professional reasons, for the fashion stuff. And rarely does that stuff make me feel better. So sometimes, people have fun with their clothes. There are real normal people on Instagram who share great pictures of their clothes. But in general, the thing that most reliably makes me happy is to see a scruffy dog. That's true in life and on social media, and to have a reliable source of scruffy dog looking at, other than my own scruffy dogs… ERIC
: Yeah, you have some scruffy dogs of your own. JESSE
: Honestly, I will go to the Pasadena City College flea market. I go to the flea market to buy stuff for my store, the Put This On shop. And they have this humane society van that comes out there with dogs in it. And I will be there and I will be taking pictures of myself with the dogs and texting them to my wife … to, I guess, brag to her that I am meeting more cute dogs than her right then.
And if I meet a scruffy
dog at the flea market, it's over. There's this dog at the flea market named Concha and Concha is my buddy. I do not know what Concha's owners' names are. I've met them 15 times, 20 times. They just know that I'm there to go back behind their booth and play with their dog while they're trying to make money. ERIC
: (laughs) Does your wife have to tell you, "No, Jesse, you cannot bring another dog home," or is it an unspoken thing, that this is just a passing friendship? JESSE
: That's something that we're working on together at all times is not bringing more dogs home. Because we have two very, very old dogs and three very complicated children. So our house is profoundly full.
In fact, I think that at such a time as we ever get another dog, when our dogs pass away, I think we may end up getting a more regular family dog, like a golden retriever or whatever, which is fine. Those are sweet dogs. But yeah, my heart belongs to dogs that look like they should be carrying a bindle over their shoulder ERIC
: Dogs that look like Archie. JESSE
: Yeah. And shout out to @citywillie
, that's the OG dog that introduced me to Archie. No shade towards @citywillie. I love you still @citywillie. You still have my heart. It's just that Archie is better. ERIC
: I saw that Archie lives in Philadelphia. Is City Willie also a Philly dog? Do you know the backstory? JESSE
: I think they're Philly area dogs. The backstory is they were introduced by Terry Gross… (laughter) I don't know. For some reason, my two Philadelphia things were Eric Lindros, the hockey player, and Terry Gross, the public radio host. Apparently, that's what I know about Philadelphia; that and Benjamin Franklin or whatever. ERIC
: I'm looking at @citywillie's Instagram profile and it says it featured Judge John Hodgman. So, @citywillie got that bump. JESSE
: Well, @archie.was.here is getting the Follow Friday bump now. ERIC
: When did you know that you were a dog person? Was there a specific dog that you met when you were young where it was like, "Oh, OK. I'm really into dogs."? JESSE
: I had a dog as a kid, but only until I was like six or seven. I didn't have a close relationship with that dog. I mean, I liked the dog, but you have to be a little older before you really bond with a dog like that. And that dog literally went to live in the country. It didn't just die and my mom told me that. It was an Australian shepherd mix and it was just not a suitable city dog.
So my mom gave it to her dental hygienist, who lived in the exurbs. But then I didn't have a dog for a long time. My dad had a dog for a little while when I was in my late teens, early twenties. And he was a sweet dog, but just dumb as a bag of rocks and slobbered all over everything.
I didn't have a dog for a long time. My wife is a really intense caretaker personality, and always has been. She's a very maternal person. She had had a dog as a young child, but had to give him up because her parents had to move a lot when she was a kid. So she had always wanted to have one.
I always thought that I couldn't travel or whatever. And there's just nothing that my wife has been more right about in my entire life—and she's right about a lot of things; she's an amazing person—than that we should get that dog.
We got a dog who unfortunately was ill and passed away not long after we got him. But that experience led me to get the older of the two dogs that I have now. She's 14 or something at this point, and absolutely the love of my life. It means so much to me to have her.
I have very severe migraine headaches and she'll come and take care of me. When I was crying in bed, she would come jump up on the bed and kind of put herself underneath my armpit. I think I will probably be a dog person for the rest of my life because I've been awestruck by how rewarding it is. ERIC
: But now, you don't have any accounts where you post as your dog? You don't have a social account for your dog? JESSE
: (laughs) No, I do post pictures of my dogs and I don't post pictures of my children because I feel like my dogs give up their right to consent the second that they eat the food that I pour into a bowl for them. Whereas my children, I think, probably retain the rights of publicity to their own image. ERIC
: I agree with that. That's a good line. JESSE
: I mean, my dogs are a lot cuter than I am, so they're a very valuable social media asset. ERIC
: My favorite thing is when you can see someone's personality coming out in the way they post about their pet, and only that way. My friend Emily, who is a public radio journalist, has a dachshund named Otto Von Bisbarck.
And Otto has a Twitter account
where he only tweets in this chaotic ungrammatical dog speak, lots of exclamation points and ponderous questions. And I think that's how Emily wishes she could tweet, in an unfettered world. JESSE
: One of my top categories of posts about my dogs—I don't post pictures of my dogs all that much—but one that Judge John Hodgman listeners have heard about because John got obsessed with it for a little while is called Sharing the Head Hole.
And that's where I pick up my poor dog, Coco, who, as I said, is like 14 years old. She's a terrier-chihuahua mix, maybe like a 15 pound dog; a pretty small dog. And I've spent the last 12 years since I adopted her browbeating her into general submission to me, like carrying her around, turning her upside down, petting her when she'd rather not be bothered.
She pretty much has accepted it completely. The greatest evidence of this is that sometimes I will announce to my wife, "Skin to fur." Skin to skin is when you hold a baby against your body and it's supposed to be good to regulate the... so I'll do skin to fur. So I will lift up my t-shirt, put my dog underneath my t-shirt so that her head sticks out next to mine out of the head hole of the t-shirt, and then Theresa will be like "Do you want me to take a picture?" And I'll be like, "Sharing the head hole!" ERIC
: (laughs) Oh my gosh. Well, that was Archie, who is on Instagram @archie.was.here. Who is your favorite animal to follow on Instagram? Come on people, I know you've got 'em. Send me your recommendations by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Jesse, let's move on to your next follow. I asked you to tell me about someone who makes you think, and you said Jamelle Bouie, who is on Twitter
and Instagram @jbouie. Jamelle is a New York Times opinion columnist, a political analyst for CBS News
. He's also a really good photographer and the co-host of a film podcast called Unclear and Present Danger
, so quadruple threat here. Do you remember how you were first introduced to Jamelle's work? JESSE
: Jamelle was writing for Slate. He used to write for Slate before he started writing for The Times. And I think he just tweeted at me about something on one of our shows or something. He's a pretty regular listener to The Flop House. I think he's listened to Judge John Hodgman and Bullseye before.
I thought, "Well, that's funny. Isn't that the political commentator for Slate?" He's got a distinctive name. I was sort of like, you know that thing where somebody makes contact with you online tangentially and you're like, OK, I'm going to find out if this person is.... let's see if this person's for real. Let's see what their story is.
And it turns out Jamelle is a level of for-real that I cannot wrap my mind around. The extent to which Jamelle Bouie is a nerd, best case scenario, is beyond the ability of my words to express.
Let's talk about what Jamelle is up to. Jamelle is a genuinely insightful political commentator. And he's not insightful in the way that I think too many political columnists are, which is to say he is not primarily engaged in electoral horse races, except to the extent to which they have practical effects in our lives.
Instead, he is a genuine historical expert about the history of the United States. He has the remarkable quality of having that deep appreciation and understanding of the founding fathers that we associate with Republican senators, and
the very clear-eyed and well-informed historical understanding of the relationship between the power structures in the United States and African-American people in particular. He's African-American.
I think that that is an extraordinarily valuable and useful set of expertises. I think that either of those are valuable in and of themselves. But as a combination, somebody who is capable of understanding the systems of the United States as they were set up by these people who were undoubtedly brilliant and remarkable in many ways, and then understanding them in the context of the ways that they have directly affected the law and African-American people over the course of the last 200 whatever years.
That's one thing. Then he is a gifted breakfast cereal reviewer. ERIC
: I'm not familiar with this. This is another thing he does … breakfast cereal reviewer? JESSE
: He has a series of breakfast cereal reviews that he does for Serious Eats.
[clip from video]
My daughter is obsessed with them and I'm so proud of her. What a wonderful thing for her to be obsessed with because Jamelle is such an insightful food person. He's a great cook and he's very serious about it, but not in a sad doctrinaire way.
He's incredible. He's one of the most beloved guests on my friends, The Doughboys' podcast, which is about fast food. It's no pretense; just insights.
Then, he's probably the internet's number one dad movie enthusiast. This is a person who can talk to you about Battleship Potemkin
as readily as he can talk to you about Bloodsport
and be genuinely insightful on all fronts. It's incredible that he can do this.
Then as you mentioned, he's a really skilled photographer. ERIC
: It's kind of offensive when someone is this multi-talented. It's like, can you just be good at one thing so I feel a little bit better? But no, I'm glad that he has all these different avenues for his creativity. JESSE
: Our friend, Freddie Wong, a past guest on your show is a similar kind of thing where you meet somebody and you're like, "Well, this person's a genius."
But… (laughs) I was on the exceptionally gifted track in school, but I have no skills of note. I've never been able to translate my gifts into practical, real-world effects. So people who can do it in multiple areas are extraordinary to me. Freddie Wong is making films, making great podcasts. He's also a food genius. He's got all these insights into scams and flams on the internet, which is something that he's an expert on.
Besides that, you're like, "Oh, and you're making extraordinary pottery, Freddie?" So I have a lot of admiration for someone who brings actual insight both to Thomas Jefferson's relationship to slavery and the fact that Spider-Man 2
is the best Spider-Man
movie ever made. ERIC
: I agree with that. Spider-Man 2
is up there with the best marvel movies, for sure. JESSE
: It's the best one. It's not even close; best one. ERIC
: Uh… JESSE
: I mean, Spider-Verse
: Exactly. Spider-Verse is my number one. JESSE
: We can side-track this. ERIC
: I'm a big fan of Jamelle's writing for the New York Times. At least in my internet bubble, there's a significant cohort of people who get mad at The Times for either things their opinion writers say, or the way their reporters frame stories. And I'm a big supporter of media criticism. I think any big powerful organization should be scrutinized.
But specifically Jamelle's writing, as you mentioned, is steeped in both history and the present. It provides readers with perspective on politics, which … perspective is very underrated. I think the ability of a talented writer to step back and encourage you to think about these things in a different way and not just chase whatever people are yelling about at the moment is an extremely important skill. We're very lucky to have him, I think. JESSE
: I also would add to this that it's easy to get ahead in social media and in political commentary by being intensely strident. It's a lot easier to generate excitement by yelling and screaming and taking un-nuanced positions.
Something that I really admire about Jamelle is — look, I've talked to the man four times in my life. But in my experience, he's a genuinely nice, decent guy and someone who does not sacrifice the strength and clarity of his positions in making those positions genuinely considered and nuanced.
He is not someone who equivocates for the sake of equivocation, but he is also not someone who is afraid to be clear and strong, when the situation calls for it. ERIC
: I also want to give a shout out to Jamelle's Letterboxd account
. He's one of the favorite people I follow on the movie nerd app, Letterboxd. I mentioned earlier that he's the co-host of a podcast called Unclear and Present Danger, where he and his co-host John Ganz cover post-cold war political thrillers: The Hunt for Red October, JFK.
I guess maybe these are also kind of dad movies. I don't know. Are you very much into these sorts of movies? JESSE
: Oh yeah. I think the place where Jamelle and I coincide is probably Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.
It's such a great movie. I am not a trash movie guy, generally speaking. You won't find me very often watching Bloodsport
. Maybe a Jackie Chan movie sometimes, but I really love a well-made, perhaps slightly boring genre film.
You know, if you want somebody to watch Das Boot
with you, I am there every time. I'm thrilled to watch Das Boot
with you. If you want to watch a movie where George Clooney has an extended sequence, where it's just him framed against a bank of snow and he's assembling and disassembling his hitman gun … in! If you want to watch a high-quality Elmore Leonard adaptation, come to me. Let's watch The Limey.
I will watch it anytime. ERIC
: I've only seen Jackie Brown
. I think you've just given me three more films I need to put on my watch list. JESSE
: Merry Christmas. ERIC
: Well, that was Jamelle Bouie who is on Twitter
, and Letterboxd
@jbouie. And incidentally if you want to follow me on Letterboxd, I'm at @heyheyesj
We are going to take a quick break now, but we'll be back in a minute with Jesse Thorn.
[ad break] ERIC
: Welcome back to Follow Friday. Jesse, I asked you for someone who makes you laugh, and you said Blaine Capatch, who is on Twitter @blainecapatch
. Blaine is a comedian and a writer and more. And when I asked you to come on Follow Friday, you warned me that you would spend the whole show laughing at half-remembered tweets from Blaine.
So did you discover him through Twitter? Did you already know him as a comedian from just being in LA? How did you discover Blaine? JESSE
: Blaine is a moderately successful standup comedian and a veteran comedy writer. If people know him as a comic, it would probably be because he hosted the show, Beat the Geeks on Comedy Central.
But I think more than anything, he is known in the comedy world as being one of those people who is so full of jokes that they can't contain them within their physical body. He's the kind of person who is an always-overflowing kettle of perfect jokes.
My co-host, Jordan Morris, wrote for a comedy game show on Comedy Central called @Midnight
. And Blaine came to work @Midnight
, at one point. And every week, Jordan would come in to do Jordan, Jesse, Go!. And Jordan had been a professional comedy writer for 15 years. So it's not like he had never met a great comedy writer. He worked with lots of great people at @Midnight
And he would just come, sit down, and he would just say, "I have to tell you what Blaine said this week. I have to tell you about some things that Blaine thought of." And that is basically what Blaine's Twitter account is.
At one point, Blaine wrote this set of tweets. The Rolling Stone 500 Best Albums of the 20th Century or whatever had just come out. So he just wrote, "Rolling Stone's 500 Worst Albums," and he wrote 500 jokes. ERIC
: Oh my God. JESSE
: Number 494 is Cheap Trick, Live at Yoshinoya. One of them is Philip Glass's classic album, Put 'Em On The Glass. ERIC
: I saw the first of these tweets and I thought there's no way that this is a thread of 500 jokes. I thought it was just going to be 500 through 496. But I just opened it and you are not exaggerating. He wrote 500 fake album titles.
: "Bruno Mars Is Me In A Motion Capture Suit by Andy Serkis." Blaine is so irrepressible and the jokes are so consistently good. It's not that every joke is a 10 joke, it's just that I can't believe how few sixes there are. It's as though he could just sit there and every five minutes put out a 9 out of 10 joke. It is absolutely awe-inspiring.
It's just about anything in the world at any time. As we record this, he just tweeted, "They keep saying 'critical race theory' like they just learned it, the way my eight year old says 'Deez nuts' all the time."
It's not like he's doing topical jokes all the time. Yesterday, he tweeted, "If you lived here, you'd be home by now and the cops wouldn't bust you for DUI because you'd be in your own driveway." ERIC
: (laughs) Oh, my God. This is one of those things where I frequently on the show marvel at the ability of people like Blaine; funny people who can consistently come up with just quality material. But I think here my internet experience, my savviness played against me here because … I can't get over this Rolling Stone list.
There are so many people who tweet the joke where it's like, "Here's a 384-part thread where I'm going to explain this
." And the joke is, of course, they never had any replies to that original tweet. There is no thread. Just the sheer audacity and the brilliance of the Rolling Stone 500 Worst Album list; I'm going to spend the rest of the day reading this list, JESSE
: Eric, "All My Smooth Move Exlaxes is Live in Smooth Move Texlax." Blaine is a really good dude in addition to being a comedy genius, but the thing that I love most about Blaine is that what I really want for Twitter, and I end up engaging in discourse on Twitter, and then I feel bad about it.
But the thing that I love about Blaine is that he still very much represents the thing that I came to love on Twitter, the reason that I stuck around when I started on Twitter 15 years ago, which was, wouldn't it be great if there was a place where we could share the jokes that we thought of, so everyone could hear them? And wouldn't it be great if there was a place you could go so you could see the jokes that your friends made? And when your friend is Blaine Capatch, it's like, what a home run. ERIC
: Number 310: What If I SANG About How I Would Have Done It, by O.J. Simpson. Number 306: What's The Name Of That Band, It's A Three Word Name, by My Morning Jacket.
Okay. I'm going to stop now. I gotta close this tab. JESSE
: He also will tweet at least once a day. He used to write for MADtv and he would tweet at least once a day, "Quick, get MADtv back on the air so I can pitch…" It's just puns. This one says, "Quick, get MADtv back on the air so I can pitch Shaved By The Belz." B-E-L-Z, Richard Belzer. It's just silliness. It's just true, profound silliness. And then once in a while, he tweets about a vintage guitar he likes. ERIC
: That's nice. In addition to being this extremely talented comedian, he's also in the cast of Nerd Poker, which is a Dungeons and Dragons podcast hosted by Brian Posehn, fellow comedian. JESSE
: Dan Telfer as well. ERIC
: Yeah, and he's the longtime announcer for the Los Angeles Derby Dolls, a women's banked roller derby league. I watched a little bit of the Los Angeles Derby Dolls on YouTube and he has this great sports announcer voice; another multi-talented person. Have you ever seen this derby league? JESSE
: One of my colleagues actually is a former Derby Doll, who is also a sometime Derby Doll announcer. And Blaine also does announcing for this thing called Lucha VaVOOM
, which is a combination of Lucha, Mexican wrestling, and … what do you call that, where it's stripping with craft cocktails? ERIC
: Like a burlesque? JESSE
: Yeah, burlesque. Thank you, that's the word I was looking for. I wasn't doing a bit there. I really did lose the word burlesque.
So he announces this and Jordan has occasionally filled in for him on these shows. And the amount that the people just want to see Blaine, it's as though you're the guy who replaced Kareem at center on the Lakers, or it's like you went to see Hamilton in the third week and Lin-Manuel was taking the night off and so you got to see the understudy.
The amount of "you're not Blaine Capatch" that Jordan has suffered filling in for him on those announcer jobs... ERIC
: Well, I feel bad for Jordan, but I'm really glad that Blaine has this following in LA for these events. He's been on big TV shows, @Midnight
and stuff, but I don't think he's a household name as far as comedians go. He's not someone who … JESSE
: "Hummingbirds are descended from hummingdinosaurs." Sorry, so stupid.
: Maybe he should be a household name. That's what this conversation is convincing me of. JESSE
: "Mr. Ed's real name is Mr. Ed Begley Jr.." (laughter) So stupid. ERIC
: You were correct to warn me. Oh, my God, I'm going to be giggling at this all day. That was Blaine Capatch, who is on Twitter @blainecapatch.
Well, we have time for one more follow today and I saved my personal favorite for last. Jesse, I asked you for someone who makes the internet a better place. And you picked Linda Holmes, who is on Twitter @lindaholmes
and on Instagram @lindaholmes97.
Linda is the host of NPRs Pop Culture Happy Hour and the author of the bestselling novel, Evvie Drake Starts Over
. She has a new book coming out next month called Flying Solo
. So, you two know each other in real life? You've worked together a bunch? JESSE
: Yeah. Linda started maybe 10, 12 years ago as the pop culture blogger at NPR. Dhe had been a TV writer. She had originally been an attorney, but she was one of the original writers for Television Without Pity, which was kind of the first website to build criticism and fan culture and serious thought and irreverence around television together, really invented contemporary pop culture discourse, functionally.
She went to work for NPR, and in the early days of podcasting, when NPR was goofing around and trying little ding-dongs here and there, they let Mike Pesca do a podcast about gambling. And they let Linda and a couple of friends of hers do a roundtable podcast about pop culture. ERIC
: What a good bet. JESSE
: Yeah, and I don't even know if now, 15, 12 years later, whatever it is, NPR knows what it has. But Pop Culture Happy Hour
is monumentally successful and on the basis of absolute merit. It only became Linda's job at NPR a couple of years ago. (laughs) ERIC
: She was still writing about all sorts of other stuff, covering things for the site. And now she's really, I think, all in on the podcast, right? JESSE
: She still writes stuff for the site and does stuff other than NPR stuff, but no longer is the show her sideline, this show that hundreds of thousands of people listen to.
So my connection to this is that my show is distributed by NPR. But NPR is based in Washington, DC. I know five or six people at NPR. I don't even have regular meetings with NPR, personally. They're a distant organization that I respect and I'm grateful for the partnership of.
I would go to NPR and I would be such an outsider. I'd go every other year or something. Every 18 months, I'd fly to Washington DC to have some NPR meetings and I would end up standing at Linda's desk.
Linda had a desk, just out in the big open-plan office and she was the only person around that was familiar with my work. (laughs) Possibly, our direct partner/connector/boss person was familiar, but besides that. She was also familiar with the feeling of being part of this institution that you really like and you're really glad to be part of, but also feeling like you are completely on the outside of it.
So we would stand there and complain together, except that Linda is not a complainer. So it was in a funny way kind of inspirational to complain with her, because she's so smart and caring and decent. At no point did she bring up the fact that her show is seven times more popular than mine. I was just grateful to get to know her
She's always, to me as a critic, represented something that's really special, which is … you know, she started out writing about The Amazing Race
. So she has no opposition to cultural comfort food.
She also is really brilliant and insightful as a critic. She does not let go her standards in writing or considering comfort food. And she's every bit as able to consider and write and talk about non-comfort food, high art.
I think that she is really special in the way that she combines the embrace of the value of, for example, warmth or laughter—which are things that can be good about something, though you wouldn't know if you had ever read cultural criticism—with very consistent insights in all areas.
Her audience on Pop Culture Happy Hour, and with all due respect to Steven and Glen and all the other folks who are on Pop Culture Happy Hour, it's her audience. She is like a God to them. And I think it's because there are a lot of people out there who are very hungry for someone who is really smart, really cares, has real insight, all of those things, and also likes stories about romance.
There are so many people like that who want to talk about, whatever it is, Tarantino. Tarantino's amazing and Linda has great insights about Tarantino. But there's a lot of that, and there's not a lot of people who can bring the same thought and insight to Last Christmas
, which is pretty great by the way. I really like it. Some things don't about it, but I think it's pretty great.
She is a novelist and she wrote a romantic novel that … I was worried about reading because I'm always scared to look at something my friend made because I'm worried I won't like it. But it embodies those qualities, which is to say that it is a very real, deep, rich, literary novel that is also about people finding love in unusual circumstances.
It embraces the wonderful values of romantic fiction and has no need to be an ironic twist on that, or a snarky version of that, or even a junkie, a venal version of that. It is just, human beings love love, and what if we told a really deep, emotional story that represents the best of stories about love, one of the most important themes in human life?
Again, it's not like could we make romantic fiction better? Linda likes romantic fiction just as she likes non-romantic fiction, because she's a really insightful person who ingests a lot of culture. It's a nonjudgmental level of insight that is really special.
I just think that in the world of culture criticism, somebody who can call out bullshit without being a jerk and celebrate things that are warm and nice and funny without being dumb, or without being undiscriminating, that's a really special set of stuff to bring to the table.
She's not the only person who's able to do that, but she's extraordinary at it. I also would add there that I think that her interests represent a set of values that is more common among women who are dramatically underrepresented in the world of culture criticism and in the world of creating the hegemonic values of culture.
I don't think that she has "women's taste" or something. I just think that there are things that she's more into that are dramatically underrepresented in the world of pop culture criticism and consideration because there are things that fewer dudes are into, and there are just a lot more dudes doing that job. ERIC
: To your point earlier, there's nothing wrong necessarily if you believe Tarantino's a genius, saying Tarantino's a genius, but this is the whole thing of representation in front of, behind the camera, and writing about media, all of the inputs there. It ripples outwards. JESSE
: Like here I am. I'm a cis het dude and, sure, I'm a little bit fancy compared to some, but a little artsy. But, in general, I like sports and I like heist movies, if not kickboxing movies. And I always learn a lot from Linda's writing, especially.
She's a real advocate for good stuff, especially good stuff that might not otherwise get the attention that it needs.
There are like these lanes of acclaim, like Painting with John
on HBO Max. This is not Oscar fare, but this could not be a more classic expression of Gen-X artsiness. Good show. I'm not putting it down. It may sounds like I am, but I genuinely am not. There's an open lane for doing a great job of that. That is a thing that immediately, critics understand what it is, they're going to recommend it to all their REM-loving friends.
And there are lots of lanes of things that aren't open and people like Linda have to fight to open them up. So I'm really glad that she's there and I'm really glad that she is so brilliant and responsible in so doing. ERIC
: Well, the category is that Linda has made the internet a better place. I think you have ably demonstrated why she has, but before we go, what is something that the rest of us can do? What can regular folks do to learn from her example? JESSE
: Something that I think she does really consistently and that she often reminds me about, both in terms of my own mistakes and in terms of other people doing stuff on the internet that gets me down, is I think she is so consistent about remembering that there are human beings on the other side of the screen.
Linda is a very nice person. But it's not like she's the kind of critic who only says things about things she thinks are good. It's not that she would never say something negative about something. She often does, especially when it's important.
But I think ultimately, she is never going to forget that there is a human being there and that making art is hard. And that when she is criticizing art, she should be criticizing the art and not the person, unless it is actually the person she wants to be criticizing.
That is something that I think extends more broadly across the internet. Linda is a professional culture critic. It's her job to say what she thinks about things. I think we all have opinions about stuff and it's great to have opinions about stuff. I wouldn't have a job if I didn't have opinions about stuff. But I think it's easy to forget how human the people on the other side of the screen are.
I'm friendly with this guy, Paul Feig, who directed that movie, Last Christmas
. Paul is one of the kindest people you could ever hope to meet in your life, almost comically so. He's done such wonderful work. He made that Ghostbusters
movie that troglodytes hated and were wrong about because it was great. And I'm not going to speak for Paul, but it really hurt him.
Ultimately, respecting that person's humanity doesn't preclude you from having opinions about their work. It doesn't preclude you from sorting out what's important about something and what isn't, and what needs to be opposed and what doesn't and all that stuff. It just is a matter of simply acknowledging that on the internet, the scales are all f**ked up, the balances are all f**ked up, the incentives are all f**ked up. So you really have to make an active choice to be decent to others. ERIC
: That's a perfect place to end it: Make an active choice to remember people's humanity. Well, that was the amazing Linda Holmes, who is on Twitter @lindaholmes
and on Instagram @lindaholmes97
Jesse Thorn, thank you for coming on Follow Friday and sharing all of these follow recommendations with us. Before we go, let's make sure that listeners know how to find you online. Where do you want them to follow you? JESSE
: I'm on Twitter @JesseThorn
, which is a heady mix of links to in-depth arts and culture interviews with major figures in American culture like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and David Byrne, and
dick jokes, much to the chagrin of National Public Radio, my very classy business partners.
Then I'm on Instagram @put.this.on
where you can find pictures of my outfits and antiques that I have for sale in my store. So I have a very muddled brand, Eric. ERIC
: Your podcasts, one more time, are Bullseye, Jordan, Jesse, Go!, and Judge John Hodgman. You can also check out maximumfun.org.
You can follow me on Twitter @HeyHeyESJ, and please subscribe to the free Follow Friday newsletter at followfriday.substack.com.
If you like this episode, then check out the past Follow Friday interviews with Story Break co-host Freddie Wong
, FANTI co-host Tre'vell Anderson
, or The Simpsons writer Broti Gupta
Follow Friday is a production of LightningPod.fm. Our theme music was written by me and performed by Yona Marie, our show art was illustrated by Dodi Hermawan, and our social media producer is Sydney Grodin. 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 next Friday.