: Today on Follow Friday, we're going to talk about civil disagreements, cancel culture, Marvel movies, Lincoln beards, crypto bros, Uncle Satan, Succession, late-night comedy, and political sex scandals in the great state of New York.
But first, if this is your first episode of Follow Friday, then first of all, welcome! Do me a favor and take a moment now to follow or subscribe to the podcast in whatever app you are using. I put out new episodes of the show every Friday. And there are tons of past episodes in the archives that I think you'll like, including Kevin Roose from the New York Times, Alexandra Petri from the Washington Post, Franklin Leonard from the Black List, so many more. But now, let's get to the person you came here for … Kara Swisher.
: I'm Eric Johnson. Welcome to Follow Friday. It's a podcast about who you should follow online. If you haven't listened to it before, the way it works is every week I talk to a creative person about who they follow online. So podcasters, writers, comedians.
And we are living in San Francisco at Manny's. Please clap! [applause]
Thank you everyone for being here. Thank you for being vaccinated, as Manny said. It's great to see so many people out supporting Manny's and supporting the podcast.
This is a little reunion for us. I spent many hours sitting right over there where the piano is now, producing Kara Swisher's podcast, Recode Decode, back in the day. We made more than 500 episodes of that. Tonight is my chance to turn the tables, ask her a few questions.
Everyone please, one more time, welcome, Kara Swisher. [applause]KARA
: Thank you.ERIC
: True story, I asked you to be on the show a couple of weeks ago, and your response was, "Okay, who are we interviewing?" Then I told you that you were going to be the guest, you were going to be interviewed, and you said, "Okay, I am famouser now."
For the record, I think you were already famous when we worked together, but you are more famouser. You host Sway for the New York Times. You still host Pivot for New York Magazine. You're a contributing writer at The Times. If I'm not making it up, I think you're writing a book about Silicon Valley. Is that right? KARA
: Yes. Uh-huh.ERIC
: What is it like being famouser? Enlighten us. Do you get people stopping you in the street?KARA
: I apologize for my voice. I've been doing a lot of podcasts lately. I did like 17 podcasts last week so I lost my voice. I also have a toddler who just went to preschool, and I don't know if you remember when we used to have colds and flus, but they still exist.
She went to school and immediately became a petri dish of all the other kids. I have your garden variety cold that you get from a two-year-old, which I'm going to have for the rest of my life until I'm dead. We're expecting another baby in December. [applause]
I also have two beautiful older sons. One is right here with my mom. Louie, who worked here at Manny's. As Louie said, I almost got out, but then I didn't. I apologize for the voice.ERIC
: You sound fine. I think everyone can hear you okay.KARA
: I'm also going to wear this. I'm not infectious or anything, but I don't want to pull a London Breed. [laughs and jeers] What? What? Come on. That was so stupid.ERIC
: So what is it like being famouser now?KARA
: At least I didn't pull a Gavin Newsom.ERIC
: This is not the French Laundry. I'm sorry to inform you. Two dollar beer.KARA
: No, it is not. Where is the buttered lobster?ERIC
: Do you find that your life is different now that you're at the New York Times, doing the podcast there?KARA
: No, I think we did a lot of amazing podcasts at Recode Decode. It was groundbreaking. Nobody was doing podcasts and nobody was doing interview podcasts for sure. Marc Maron was, obviously, but we'd done a lot, especially in tech, and made some real news. I was just rereading the one we did with Mark Zuckerberg the last time he talked to me several years ago when he made the…ERIC
: Since then, I'm guessing radio silence?KARA
: Yes. He's not my best friend. Every time he does an interview with me, it's a disaster for him. Not for me. It's a career booster for me. He made the unfortunate comparison, comment, that Holocaust deniers don't mean to lie, which, of course, is the definition of a Holocaust denier.
Eric was with me in that interview and we never wanted to get out of somewhere fast so we could post it. When he said it, Eric looked up. He didn't notice that he had said something that was problematic for a person who runs the most important communications media in the history of the world. We literally ran out of there and posted it onto the internet. I couldn't believe thatERIC
: That was one for the ages. Well, speaking of tech executives, next week, you're going down to LA for the Code Conference, your big annual conference, grilling all of the leaders in tech and politics, and more. Who are you most looking forward to interviewing this year?KARA
: Well, you got to say Elon Musk. I'm going to comfort him. Apparently, he just broke up with Grimes.ERIC
: It's kind of sad that he's such a s**tposter on Twitter because I found out about the breakup through s**tposting memes on Twitter.KARA
: I think he's really interesting. I know people have issues with him. I did an interview with him in the middle of COVID and we got into a terrible argument about COVID. He tried to stalk off the Zoom, which I'm like, "It's not very dramatic, Elon. Go ahead."ERIC
: If you've already left the Zoom, you can't slam the door.KARA
: Then he didn't, of course. I'm excited because I'm interested in space stuff. I want to talk to him about climate change. You can have any opinion you want about Elon Musk and many people do, but the stuff he's been doing around cars and space is super interesting to me, when we face all these climate changes, even if he says stupid things about Dogecoin, which everyone focuses in on.
Obviously, I didn't agree with him about COVID, but he wrote me an email. He goes, "I got vaccinated." I'm like, "Do you want a medal?" ERIC
: Such a good boy.KARA
: I said, "Good job. Good for you."ERIC
: Well, like I said, this is the podcast about who you should follow online. So let's find out who Kara Swisher follows.
Kara, before the show, I gave you a list of categories and I asked you to tell me some people you follow who fit in those categories. Your first pick is in the category, "someone who makes you think" and you said Scott Galloway, who is your co-host on Pivot.KARA
: I can't believe I said that.ERIC
: He teaches marketing at NYU and he's written three books, most recently called Post-Corona. He's on Twitter @profgalloway
. Tell us how you and Scott first met. I think it was at a conference in Europe?KARA
: It's really interesting, this week, we talked about having my new child coming, and he immediately tried to claim paternity, which was totally offensive, and made a series of horrible jokes about lesbians. ERIC
: Sounds right.KARA
: So I can't believe I picked him.
But here's why I like dealing with him and then I'll tell you how we met. It's very hard today to disagree with people who you don't agree with. Or, it's very hard to have disagreements. I think what's very powerful about that show is he's this slightly "unwoke" man who says stupid things and I'm a San Francisco lesbian who hits him on the head with a stick. It's very enjoyable for people to watch that.
It's not a formula precisely because we have such chemistry. We had a big disagreement this week on something and we can do it in a civil way where we don't come to an agreement necessarily but we hear each other. Often, I'm like, "Oh, I didn't think of it that way. Damn, he has a point."
I think people are dying for that in this incredibly partisan time. It's very hard to reach out to people you disagree with and you seem to leave a lot of people behind. I think that plays into all the malevolent people who are trying to take us apart. I think one of the things that's great about the show is it shows a lot of commonality. We have a point of view and I think we are funny.
We met because Scott gave a presentation at DLD in Germany and he made me laugh. I don't mean to say this lightly, but people are not that interesting. They don't say things that surprise me a lot. I'm always like, "Yeah. Of course, they said that." He said at least six things that I was like, "Oh, I hadn't thought about that." It was unusual, because I talk to everybody.
I introduced myself to him and then I, oddly enough, invited him on the podcast. We had a discussion and it was very funny from the start. He predicted Amazon buying Whole Foods on the show, which was a big deal. It was a really great prediction.ERIC
: This was months before it happened. It was an out-of-the-blue prediction.KARA
: Yeah, completely. He's like this obnoxious oracle that you just hit on the head and something really smart comes out. I was looking at the numbers for the show and they were close to Elon Musk levels. I was like, "That's interesting. Who knows who this guy is?" He wasn't as well-known as he is now.
So I found that intriguing and I liked it. I liked the show. So I had him on again, and it happened again. The numbers were fascinating. What was really interesting was when I started to go out, people would call at me across the street, "How's that asshole, Scott?" "I liked when you did this." The fans got very interested in us as a couple, although, let's keep that loose.ERIC
: I'm sure Scott would say something different.KARA
: Yeah, he's funny. We talk a lot actually. It was a really good partnership, just like mine with Walt Mossberg, who is so
different from Scott, I can't even believe it. I wanted to have Howard Stern at Code and he wouldn't let me. He's like, "He's offensive to women, lesbians, and gay people." I'm like, "So what?"
Walt was the ultimate liberal who really cared about people and their feelings. It was interesting. Scott, of course, will have Howard Stern on at any time and appear naked.ERIC
: He did an ad for a TV show shirtless...KARA
: Yes. That was unfortunate, he's not doing that TV show.ERIC
: Because of the ad?KARA
: Yes. Apparently, he made some people feel unsafe. I just think he's an idiot.
Anyway, after that, I said, "We should do a show," and it's worked out really well. We're going to Miami to do an event called PivotCon. ERIC
: That's brave.KARA
: Well, not today. We're going to wait until... We'll see what happens there. It's not until next year. So I think the dulcet effects of Ron DeSantis might be less.
I went to his house in Miami. We had a great time. He's a very different person offstage. He plays a character.ERIC
: I was going to ask; your relationship on Pivot, you are, as you said, very civil, very respectful, but you're also combative at times. Are you ever playing that up or is it really just an honest representation of how differently you feel?KARA
: It is, it is. Yeah, we really do and people like it. Podcast listeners become involved in your lives and they like your dynamic. It is really about the podcasters and how they interact in a lot of ways because there are a lot of podcasts like this. It's growing like crazy during the pandemic.
It just happens, all the time, fans really like it. They root for him or they root for me or whatever, he lives a fancier life than I do. He was getting on a helicopter with a blade to go out to the Hamptons and the guy who was doing this goes, "Where's Kara?" to him. He was like, "What?" [laughter]ERIC
: On the stuff where you disagree, what is something where you absolutely agree with him 100% and something where you absolutely disagree, could not see eye to eye with him?KARA
: I think he's obsessed with cancel culture because he's scared he's going to be canceled. I consider it consequence culture. I think if you do a shitty thing, you should pay for it, I'm sorry. I think a lot of people are taking this stance that they can't say things. It's all bullshit.
It's so funny. I was trying to get Josh Hawley to come on Sway and he's a very smart guy. It's easy to dismiss him because he's somewhat of a fascist. ERIC
: Bygones, right? No, no bygones. But he's always like, "I've been censored." The same thing with that idiot, Marjorie Taylor Greene. She never shuts the f**k up.
So you're like, "You have all these ways to communicate, including being a congressperson and you act as if this is a crisis. It's not a crisis for your communication." This week we had that disagreement where he said, "Well, people can't say what they want." I said, "Well, maybe people shouldn't say some things. It's about decency and maybe people have had enough of listening to all the crap that comes out of your mouth."ERIC
: Did you see that headline that The Guardian had? It was something like "Johnny Depp warns about dangers of cancel culture while accepting Lifetime Achievement Award".KARA
: They never shut up and then they have no evidence. I'm tough on tech companies, but this is not something they're doing. They're doing not enough of it, I guess, some people think. I think he's wrong about that.
He's like, students at universities... It's not like our world's biggest problem, honestly. You look around and we have homelessness, we've got poverty, we've got healthcare issues, and this is all these incredibly wealthy, privileged people can talk about. They don't get to say whatever they want. I don't get it.ERIC
: What about something where you agree? Is there something that Scott Galloway has said in conversation with you that changed your mind? That made you go, "Oh, he's exactly right and I never considered it that way."KARA
: A lot of things actually. He's a little, if you can believe it, tougher on Facebook than I am. I think these people are sloppily malignant or malignantly sloppy. I can't decide. Sometimes they're so sloppy as people and all they're interested in is growth.
He thinks they're criminal. I don't think they are. He tends to blame Sheryl Sandberg more than I do. I think the buck stops with Mark Zuckerberg. I understand she's an enabler of this. I understand she went along, but he cannot be fired, he's in complete control of the company. She's an employee and no matter what, the buck stops with him.
He seems to go after her. I see why, and I agree on some of the culpability, but on some level, "He didn't know." I was like, "Give me a break." He's not 12. He has three children or two children who he's named after various Roman emperors. He should take responsibility.ERIC
: Definitely. Well, that was Scott Galloway, who's on Twitter @profgalloway
: Be careful with that one.ERIC
: Kara, let's move on to your next follow. I asked you for someone you have a non-romantic crush on, and you said the English actor and producer, Gemma Chan, who is on Twitter @gemma_chan
. She's also on Instagram @gemmachan.
What did you say? Non-what?ERIC
: Non-romantic crush.KARA
: Oh, sure. [laughter] She's gorgeous.ERIC
: This is one of my favorite categories in the show because people have very different reasons for saying they have a crush or a non-romantic crush on someone. Explain, why her?KARA
: I saw her in several different things since she was in Crazy Rich Asians. There's something she has with the screen that's very compelling to me. I find her both sad and wise. There's something about her that I like. I'm excited to see her in what seems like a relatively lead role in the Eternals. I obviously love the Avengers movies, hello.
She's the kind of actress that should be more valued by Hollywood, I guess. There's something about her. I find her compelling. I can't explain it.ERIC
: I was looking at her Twitter and it's really interesting because there's a lot of the standard promotional stuff of, "Here's a photo shoot from a magazine," "Here's something about Eternals," but then mixed in, there are tweets and retweets that I assume she's doing herself where it's talking about anti-Asian hate crimes, talking about racism against the English football team, against the Black players in the team. She's using her platform to raise awareness about serious stuff.KARA
: I was thinking about the Eternals interview and the obvious people like Chloé Zhao who directed it, who did Nomadland and won the Oscar this year, and also Kevin Feige. Angelina Jolie would be interesting, for sure. I keep coming back to her as someone I'd really like to talk to about acting. I don't know why. She's also beautiful.ERIC
: You've never met her? You've never had a chance to interview her?KARA
: Well, if you did have a chance, what would be your first question for her? What would you want to ask her most urgently?KARA
: I'd have to see the Eternals. We'd talk about her compelling nature without freaking her out like I'm a stalker. I would talk about her role, how she looks at her power in Hollywood. Sway is about power; how she thinks about it.
I just have a feeling she's just very compelling and it happens not very often when I see an actor that's like that. I don't know what the first question would be. I have to see the Eternals.ERIC
: I mentioned that she uses her platform to raise awareness about some serious issues. You have almost 10 times the number of followers that she has.KARA
: 1.4 million, yeah.ERIC
: You've counted. KARA
: I was looking today. It's gone up a lot. You know, I got on Twitter early, so a lot of them are bots, let's be honest. But I have a lot of followers, I do.ERIC
: So you have this gigantic platform yourself. I mentioned that she's balancing her promotional stuff with these more serious political issues. How do you weigh your responsibility, your priorities, in deciding what to talk about? You could have a day where there's no good news and I imagine there's some temptation to pile on and revel in how s**tty everything feels. But there's also maybe some case for distraction or for entertainment.KARA
: I try to do a lot of things. I try to call attention to cool stuff I see, smart things. Twitter, for all its toxicity and swampiness, can be very beautiful and funny, just like TikTok. People are really funny and creative and I tend to focus on that part.
I certainly use it as a bully pulpit to smack around people. Adam Mosseri from Facebook was using the idea that "cars are bad for humanity, but on the whole, they're good." It was crazy. What an idiotic metaphor? I was like, "Put down Twitter right now, Adam."
Kevin Roose, who is a wonderful Twitter person, he works for the New York Times, said it's like the head of Chipotle is saying, "The salmonella in the guac that killed people, sure, that was a problem, but in the end, industrialized food production means we don't have to be hunter-gatherers anymore." [laughter] Are you f**king kidding me?
I pushed back on him on that, but not as good as Kevin. I try to use it judiciously. Even though I use Twitter a lot, I think I'm a professional Twitterer compared to most people. I made one mistake once which I regret.
A lot of reporters are a little too much on it, I think. I often text friends of mine and I'm like, "Put down Twitter. You can't say that."ERIC
: Some people are addicted.KARA
: They're addicted, and especially during the Trump era. Just recently, I interviewed Jason Miller, I get that people don't like him, but I think it's important. He was starting this new thing called Gettr, which I can't believe is the name of that.ERIC
: This is a "free speech" platform...KARA
: And it was a very tough interview. The only worse name for Gettr, which sounds like "grab her," as in, you know ... I did a column and I said, "The only worse name would be Meinspace, or Titter, if it's a Trump-related social network." I wanted to interview him because this is where Trump might emerge. I'd written a lot about this topic of him getting kicked off. I had warned Twitter quite a bit about what he was doing so I wanted to talk to him about it.
People lost their f**king minds about it and I was like, "Are you kidding me? You've got to hear these people." It was an extraordinarily tough interview. They liked it when I did it for Parler because the guy got fired and they got shut down. They didn't like it when I did it for Miller because they assumed I'm not doing my job, which is to ask tough questions of people. That was an interesting moment on Twitter. I responded like, "Suck it. I'll interview whoever I want."ERIC
: Here's a really tough hardball question for you. Before Gemma Chan and Chloé Zhao come in and make the best Marvel movie, what is the best Marvel movie?KARA
: I think Iron Man, the first one, and Black Panther, I guess? Although I like Shang-Chi, it's the first movie I have seen in two years. I now decide whether movies are COVID-worthy. Do you remember un-spongeworthy on Seinfeld?ERIC
: You watched F9 at home, I remember you wrote a column about this...KARA
: I did. I love Fast and Furious. I watched it at home and I couldn't go to the theater. It just wasn't COVID-worthy. I'm going to go to Bond, I'll be honest with you. I'll go to Top Gun too. Don't hate me.ERIC
: That keep on pushing that one back, it's driving me nuts. Well, that was Gemma Chan, who is on Twitter @gemma_chan
and on Instagram @gemmachan
We're going to take a quick break now, but we'll be back in a minute with Kara Swisher. [applause]
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Welcome back to Follow Friday. Kara, your next follow-up is someone you've followed forever. You said Jack Dorsey, who is @jack
on Twitter. Great Twitter username, extremely cringe-worthy Twitter bio, which is "#Bitcoin." That's it.KARA
: What is going on with that guy, honestly?ERIC
: Well, that's my question for you. I assume you follow Jack Dorsey because you love cryptocurrency so much.KARA
: No. He lost me at that beard, I got to say. I feel like everyone should do what they want, but still, I try not to judge people, but I totally judged him. I showed up at a meeting with him and he had a Lincoln beard or whatever, and I was like, "What the hell? Are you making chocolate in Brooklyn? What's going on here?" He loves that thing. I'm not sure what's going on with him.
I follow him because I think he's an interesting follow. I followed him from the beginning. People don't realize this, but Twitter was not Twitter. What was it called? Ideo?ERIC
: Odeo. It was a podcasting company and it didn't work. They had this separate Twitter thing that they used.
I was there at the very beginning when they were Odeo and then they switched over. Ev, and Biz, and Jack was there and then he wasn't there and then they weren't there. I used to call Twitter a lesbian collective — only a lesbian can say that — because it was like they were all mad at each other and arguing and stuff like that. I'm sure I've offended all the lesbians, but, oh well.ERIC
: We should say — the San Francisco crowd knows this — but Jack Dorsey runs Twitter and also Square, still.KARA
: He does. He's a very interesting entrepreneur. I've interviewed him a bunch of times. He's actually a very good interviewer and I just like to follow him. I think this journey down Bitcoin avenue is strange. I see why. I understand cryptocurrency is a really important area, a disruptive area. If you noticed today, China totally cut it off.ERIC
: What did they do?KARA
: They made it illegal, and a month ago, they cracked down on mining. They're trying to be carbon zero or whatever, but China's doing what Amy Klobuchar and Josh Hawley wish they could do. They're shutting down the power of all the tech companies there. Jack Ma's disappeared, the driving one — Jean Liu, Didi, got quieted. They're all been quieted, every one of them. The government just decided that tech people have too much power.
And rather than a democratic process that we have, which means nothing happens, they're just clamping down like you can't believe. If I were running an authoritarian country, that's probably what I would do, but we don't have that here.ERIC
: If I were running one, I wouldn't ban cryptocurrency, but I would ban crypto bros.
Anyone who tweets about cryptocurrency, right out. Straight to jail.KARA
: Well, that's going to change. Gary Gensler's coming to Code next week. He's the SEC chairman. He just gave a speech comparing it to the Wild West of finance. Apparently, I didn't know this, banks used to have their own currency back in the day, which I was not aware of. I didn't learn that in my history class.
I think it reminds me a great deal of the early internet. I was around for that, and there were a lot of con men and crazy people and obnoxious people. Then it consolidated: First Yahoo, and Google didn't come along for a while, by the way, not until 2000, essentially. When I got here in 1996, it was nuts. There were a lot of really sketchy people.
I think cryptocurrency is very important, but it's not going to escape regulatory scrutiny because the only thing the government has that is really powerful is control of money and currency and regulation of finance. And I'll tell you, they're not giving that one up.ERIC
: You mentioned earlier, your colleague in the New York Times, Kevin Roose, who is also a former guest on this podcast. I want to share something that he tweeted. He says, "I'm sure there are days when Jack Dorsey wishes Twitter was just as big as Facebook, but it must be fun to be able to just tweet weird crypto stuff instead of having a 55-person team vet wakeboarding selfies for possible antitrust violations." Another good dunk from Kevin Roose.KARA
: He's trying to do Elon Musk, he's just not doing it as well. They're friends, actually. ERIC
: Jack and Elon?KARA
: Yes, they are. I asked Jack once who he really admires and it was just Elon. I was sort of surprised. It was an interesting answer. Mark Zuckerberg was Bill Gates and Augustus Caesar.ERIC
: What a pair. And comparing Jack to folks like Zuck or Elon or whoever, I mean ... Twitter has problems, but I know you are an avid Twitter user, you're on it every day, how do you feel about how Jack's doing, how the company is doing? Do you feel good about the fact that you are actively participating in this…?KARA
: I've done a lot of Twitter Spaces. I'm not in Clubhouse; I don't like the investors. They kept attacking tech reporters. Like, what is your problem? They're the richest people in the world and they have to complain about Taylor Lorenz? Like, stop it. I just don't want to help them get big. I don't want to paint their fence.ERIC
: They're really hung up on her. It's gross.KARA
: It's just like, stop it. OK, sometimes she says something that you don't like, move along, boys. And it's all boys, by the way. The reason I like Twitter Spaces is because of the feature... We got 2,000 people last night talking about the Facebook Files and the people are civil and really interesting. I like a lot of stuff on Twitter.
I think they and other social media companies moved too slowly around Donald Trump. I had written this column in early 2019 where I literally said, "What if Trump loses the election and he starts tweeting, 'The election was a fraud and it was stolen?' What if he keeps doing it and then he encourages his supporters when it's about to be made official to attack the government?"ERIC
: What if?KARA
: I literally wrote that and I put it to people on Twitter and they're like, "Well, that's never going to happen." I was like, "Yes, it is, it could." So it was really interesting for them to let it get that way in the first place.
Now, I'm not blaming social media for ... it's clearly at Trump's door, what happened, and the people who choose to be tourists at the Capitol, but social media allowed him to behave like that. One of the ironic things is a lot of the behavior Trump did, which I think was appalling, is showing how few rules they had in place. Trump is like unveiling the fact that they don't manage this s**t very well at all.
He's such a malevolent actor that he proved that it was haphazard. And, of course, there's the Facebook Oversight Board, who wouldn't make a decision on him because they were shocked that Facebook didn't have policies. Then this week's story is that Facebook does make exceptions, even though they said they didn't, really. It was just one big, sloppy, bordering on malfeasance.ERIC
: So relatively, you feel better about Twitter and about Jack?KARA
: I think they're smaller, that's all. He did do the right thing around political advertising early. It took them all a while to kick off Alex Jones. I had a meeting with Zuckerberg and we argued about Alex Jones. I'm like, "You're going to kick him off for three weeks. I wish we would stop arguing about this because you're going to do it because he's breaking your rules over again. He's making fun of you."
At this point, I don't blame Alex Jones. Why wouldn't he? Why wouldn't Trump? You can say they're bad people, but why wouldn't you continue to break the rules when nobody's stopping you and if it's to your benefit?
I thought they were very slow to that. They've gotten better with products. I think they're a little bit slow on products, but I like it. I'm not on Facebook or Instagram at all. I've been on it and I use it when I need to for work, but I don't feel like painting their fence either.ERIC
: I remember there was an episode of Recode Decode that I think you co-hosted with Dick Costolo, who was Jack's successor and predecessor on Twitter, something like that. You were asking him about who's funny in Silicon Valley and I'm pretty sure he said, "Jack Dorsey is funny." KARA
: Kind of.ERIC
: I think you were skeptical then too.KARA
: He's not funny.ERIC
: Okay. I was going to ask you if you have any funny stories or any good stories from just having known Jack since the Odeo days?KARA
: ... No. He's an odd duck. I think he's much more awkward than people realize. He's very thoughtful. That's one thing I really enjoy about him. He has a hard time sometimes articulating things, but he always answers. I appreciate that about him. He shouldn't be running both companies. He knows that I think that it's ridiculous. It's such a narcissistic thing.ERIC
: He was trying to move to Africa. In early 2020, he was getting ready to move to Africa.KARA
: I think he was there. He was somewhere not where he should have been when they were throwing Trump off.ERIC
: The investors were already pissed at him for running two companies...KARA
: Well, the stock's doing okay. I would worry more if it was bigger.ERIC
: Well, that was Jack Dorsey, who is on Twitter @jack
. Kara, your next follow is someone you have a love/hate relationship with. KARA
: Oh, God. There's so many people.ERIC
: You said Michael Wolff, who is on Twitter @MichaelWolffNYC
Michael is a journalist and a newspaper columnist, as well as the author of three books about the Trump presidency, including "Fire and Fury," which I think became a bestseller after Trump threatened to sue him from the White House.KARA
: And then let him back in. How much of a narcissist do you have to be to let someone who calls you a lunatic back into the building?ERIC
: Well, let's start with the positive stuff. What do you love about Michael Wolff?KARA
: I think he's a beautiful writer. I think he has really interesting insights, and boy, don't I agree with him on most things. I met him in the early days of the internet when he wrote a book, I'm blanking on the name of.ERIC
: Was this his book about the dotcom company? Burn Rate.KARA
: There was a lot of stuff I thought was problematic. He mushed people up. He took a lot of liberties, I would say. At the time, I was much more stringent. Now I'm like, "Whatever, just as long as I know it." I didn't do it, but he did.
But I liked it. He had the right sense of what was happening. He just made the stories a little more interesting than they were at the time. But he had the right sense of what was happening. He had the right tone. I thought he was, in a lot of ways, like Scott. He was insightful about what was happening.
He said a lot of things most reporters wouldn't say. So I liked that about him. He's a beautiful writer; makes a lot of connections. I used to say he had an evil talent because he was so good. I thought he cozied up a little bit to Rupert [Murdoch] and the others to get what he wanted, but then he screwed them. He kissed up to them and then he screwed them. ERIC
: How did he screw them over?KARA
: Oh my God, have you read the recent one? He's like, "Trump is like two feet away from the insane asylum, essentially"ERIC
: His most recent book is all about powerful people who are depraved in various ways.KARA
: I think he called them depraved, a monster. I think it was one of the tougher books and very clearly, the proximity was good for him. He could have done a very different, kiss-ass book, and he didn't. I like that about him.
One of my favorite things was, years ago, and you could find this on the internet, he and I went on Charlie Rose. That guy. I was wearing a jacket with padded shoulders and a feathered haircut. This was 1996. It didn't really work well. I looked at it and I'm like, "Oh God, the hair."
He and I went and I'd written a book about AOL. We were the first books about the internet. We were the very first people. He said the internet was a Ponzi scheme. He had his narrative: "It's a Ponzi scheme. It's going to fall apart. It's a fad. CB Radio." And I was like, "No, it's going to decimate every industry. It's going to be enormous. There's going to be the richest people on earth."
You could go back and look at it, because we argued about it. I, of course, was right, much to my chagrin, and he was wrong, but he was a great debater. I like a smart person I can argue with. He's very smart.ERIC
: Okay. That's the love half of love/hate. Let's tempt fate here, what do you hate about Michael Wolff? Or his work?KARA
: Besides he's written several articles insulting me copiously, which is fine because then he's friendly. I'm a big girl, I can take it. He was like. "She was unsuccessful at entrepreneurship." I'm like, "Hello, who's still around, sir?" But it's fine. I'm a big girl. I don't care.
We get into beefs all the time. We were just on Twitter spaces and he's like, "Do we hate each other now?" And I go, "I think we don't anymore." He goes, "What did we fight about it?" I'm like, "I don't know." I think it was about Rupert Murdoch because I think Rupert Murdoch is Satan on earth and he was a little too close to him in a way that I thought was creepy.
So we argued about Rupert Murdoch. I'd worked for Rupert Murdoch and left, which was a really interesting experience, largely because he's Uncle Satan, which is what I call him.
I'm doing a Succession podcast. I'm helping the creators of Succession. You're not supposed to say it's Rupert Murdoch, but it kind of is, right? I'm just a consumer of it, and it's Rupert Murdoch. I've seen the new season and it's really good. ERIC
: No spoilers.KARA
: I'm not going to tell you anything, but it's good. I'm helping them do their podcast.
I think it was over Rupert Murdoch that we were beefing. We always have beef and it's real mean because we're both real good at Twitter. Then he was like, "What did you fight about?" I was like, "I don't know." I have no idea.ERIC
: Let me read you a line from Michael Wolff's Wikipedia page: "Wolff is known for his pugnacious personality and has reportedly been ejected from numerous New York City restaurants."KARA
: Yeah, probablyERIC
: Does that track with what you know about him?KARA
: Yeah, he sure can be an asshole. By the way, he's calmed down a lot. Like me, he's had new children at an advanced age. I'm like a straight white man, essentially. We talked about kids. We were like, "Let's get the kids together." We are such a cliché. It's incredible.ERIC
: You mentioned earlier that he's written some pretty critical things about you from when you and Walt Mossberg sold Recode to Vox several years ago. Did being covered by him whenever he would write about you affect your view of him, of other writing?KARA
: No. You can't deny that someone's a good writer. You can't deny things, like, what are you, an idiot? Someone the other day, I tweeted something about Trump and they're like, "We just have to ignore him." That's a typical thing on the left, but I'm like, "Are you f**king kidding me? He's running the Republican party. You can't ignore him." We can't will him away. You might want to, but you have to discuss him.
"It gives him more oxygen." I'm like, "He's got plenty of f**king oxygen." It's not because I'm tweeting about him. The man has followers. I did a Cori Bush interview, who I thought was terrific recently. She said, "I can't believe I'm complimenting Donald Trump, but he's a table flipper, even if he flips untruthfully and with hate and malevolence. People like a table flipper. Think about if we can be table flippers for truth."
I thought that was a pretty smart analysis of Donald Trump by her. They couldn't be more opposite ends of the spectrum.ERIC
: The old saying is that the lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has its pants on. So you have to be much more aggressive.KARA
: You have to acknowledge. I remember being in Washington when Trump was running at the beginning and all the Washington reporters were laughing, "Oh, he's such a silly candidate." And I said, "I think he can win." "What are you talking about?" I said, "Have any of you watched The Apprentice? I've watched every episode." I said, "He's very funny. He's very self-deprecating, he's very popular among people, and he's tapping into an anger that exists in the country that is very meaningful. He's using propaganda."
I had studied propaganda at the foreign service school. That was my area. I was like, "He's doing the propaganda playbook. You can laugh at him all you want, but to your detriment." I remember that. "He's a circus performer." I'm like, "Okay, whatever."ERIC
: Well, that was Michael Wolff, who is on Twitter @MichaelWolffNYC
We have time for one more follow tonight and I want to finish with a fun one. Kara, I asked you for someone who makes you laugh and you said Samantha Bee, who is the host of Full Frontal on TBS. She's on Twitter
, and YouTube
How long have you been following her work?KARA
: Since the Daily Show. I thought she pioneered a lot of that stuff. Jordan Klepper does what he did for years and stuff. I just interviewed her on stage in New York. It's the first time she went out in public since the pandemic. She was like, "Ooh, people." It was fun.
We did it at the Little Island; it's an outdoor space in New York. Go see it if you're in New York. It's like the Highline. Barry Diller did it and it's a beautiful space on the Hudson. She is just as funny as ever. I don't think she's gotten her due. I don't begrudge Jimmy, I don't like that guy.ERIC
: Which Jimmy? You gotta be specific. KARA
: The used-to-be-heavier-one. Jimmy...ERIC
: Jimmy Kimmel?KARA
: Yeah. He's very funny. I think Colbert's very funny, I think John Oliver is brilliant. I think Jon Stewart is brilliant.ERIC
: Wait, we have James Corden, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, John Oliver… lot of Js.KARA
: I'm not a huge fan of Jimmy Fallon, but I like James Corden enough. I like his singing in the cars. She's much more talented than at least two-thirds of them and she never got her due.
If you go back and look at her stuff on the Daily Show, boy, is it good. I thought she has a real point of view on TBS. It's not as big so it doesn't get as much attention. Some of her stuff is just brilliant.
It's going to appear as a Sway episode, I think, next week. She's great. I interviewed her for Recode, as you recall, right after she called Ivanka Trump that name, which she repeated on stage last week, except she spelled it. It was very funny and she doesn't regret it.
I think she's taken a lot of risks and probably deserves more attention than she got. I think she's very wry and funny. Every time I see something, she makes me laugh and it makes me think. She also takes her lumps. That Eric Schneiderman thing she did was such a disaster.ERIC
: What happened there? I don't remember.KARA
: She called him a hero and then it turns out he strangles people during sex. I don't know. Remember that? It was another New York politician sex scandal. It's like a list of sex scandals for New York politicians. ERIC
: I cannot keep them straight.KARA
: By the way, I was never a Cuomosexual.ERIC
: Good to get that on the record. I remember when Full Frontal was just launching, there was a big magazine spread all about like the "new late-night comedy" and it was all the dudes. No Sam Bee. I think what she did, if I remember correctly, is she photoshopped herself in as a centaur shooting laser beams out of its eyes, something like that, into this magazine spread.KARA
: She's very funny in it. I interviewed Chelsea Handler, too. She's coming to Code. I thought she's taken a very interesting turn in her comedy. She started a weed company and had a bunch of other things, but her recent show, which she did in New York, was quite moving. It was about how her brother died suddenly and how it shifted her family. I thought it was an incredibly effective comedy. She's sort of going that Hannah Gadsby route. She always did the shock joke kind of stuff, but her new stuff is really interesting to me. I like her too. And Wanda Sykes.ERIC
: What's the biggest difference between the Sam Bee who's on Full Frontal, you've met her many times, and Sam Bee in real life? What would you say is the biggest difference?KARA
: She's very shy. I think she's surprised by the attention. She's certainly not an egomaniac by any stretch. She devotes a lot of her time to her family. She's not a rapacious, aggressive person. I would say she has a happy family life that I think a lot of comedians don't. I think she's lovely. I find her to be lovely.
She was very scared during that Ivanka Trump thing because she got attacked. She had a bodyguard, et cetera. The same thing with Kathy Griffin, who I like. I did a great interview with her. That was a fantastic interview. Kathy's a controversial figure, but the kind of stuff she endured because of a tasteless joke was ridiculous. I like her. She's very funny.ERIC
: You mentioned Wanda Sykes, you mentioned other comedians that you like. What do you think separates Sam Bee? Why would you pick her above the others? What do you think is the thing that distinguishes her as one of the best comedians working today?KARA
: I like them all. I probably was just thinking of her because I was doing a lot of watching of her at the time. I like a lot of them. I did a really great interview with Sacha Baron Cohen, who I think is brilliant. What an interesting mind he has.
I think comics are really leading the way on social commentary and pushing boundaries that need to be pushed. I'm excited to see what Jon Stewart does. I think that's going to be interesting. I think streaming has been really fascinating. Especially, Netflix has led the way in terms of getting all the others to start to program in really fascinating ways.
John Oliver manages to do more than ... I can't watch cable anymore. I did an interview with Don Lemon and we had an argument about it. I was like, "Stop crying. It's such ridiculous performative bulls**t." I would obviously be more politically affiliated with him, but I don't think it does anyone any good to create these sides that are just reductive and twitchy and angry. They're not complex and people are complex, except for the anti-vaxxers. They can go f**k themselves.ERIC
: For the audio listeners, Kara just made a rude gesture with her hand. Well, that was Samantha Bee, who is on Twitter
, and YouTube
Kara, let's make sure people know how to find you online. Where do you want them to follow you?KARA
: I'm so ubiquitous, it's kind of depressing. My wife is like, "You make too much content, I'm not going to listen to any of it anymore."
One time my mom told me about an interview I did. I did an interview with Hillary Clinton and she called me and goes, "I can't believe what Hillary just said." She watches Fox News. She says, "Hillary said this, this, and this." And I was like, "No, she didn't. She said it to me. She didn't say that." She goes, "Oh, that's your opinion." I was like, "No, it was my interview. She didn't say that." It was crazy.
She's great. She's here. She listens to all my stuff, actually. I'm just teasing her.ERIC
: So, @karaswisher
: @karaswisher, Sway
you can find. Pivot
is twice a week. I have a newsletter for The Times, twice a week newsletter. We have Code coming and you can do it virtually. But we'll eventually put it all for free, all the interviews. We'll put up clips and everything else.ERIC
: When's the book coming out? Do you know?KARA
: I'm working on it. It's a book about my time in Silicon Valley. I'm going to burn it all down and then I'm like, "Goodbye."ERIC
: The rich people will get over it eventually.KARA
: No, they won't. They never will. Literally, I have the richest people in the world, the most powerful people in the world, "You're so mean to me." I'm like, "Are you 12? Are you kidding me?"ERIC
: They all just needed another hug when they were little.KARA
: Everybody does. Hug someone!ERIC
: Well, if y'all liked tonight's show, then please follow or subscribe to Follow Friday in your podcast app. It's free. I do interviews like this every week with creative people, comedians, podcasters, writers, filmmakers, all sorts. Search for Follow Friday or go to followfridaypodcast.com.KARA
: By the way, Eric is a wonderful guy. He worked for me. Did you start as an intern?ERIC
: Yes, I started as an intern at AllThingsD.KARA
: We got so many amazing alumni from Recode and AllThingsD. Eric started as an intern, an amazing guy, and just entrepreneurial, creative, et cetera. One of the delights of creating things is being able to help people's careers like yours. You're just astonishing. [applause]ERIC
: I'm just checking to make sure I got that on the record.KARA
: Also, he's getting married. So say, congratulations.ERIC
: Thank you so much.
You can follow me on @HeyHeyESJ
, you can follow the show on Twitter
, and TikTok
@followfridaypod. Our theme music was written by me and performed by Yona Marie
. I'm sorry you couldn't all hear it. There's a technical issue but listen to the podcast. It's great.
Our show art was illustrated by Dodi Hermawan
. And there are some other folks we absolutely have to thank. Can we get a round of applause for the staff at Manny's, please? [applause] They have been absolutely wonderful to us.KARA
: And by the way, Manny, what a tough year. You're a fantastic guy. [applause] Manny is the nicest man I know.ERIC
: Thank you all for coming out tonight. Thank you for being vaccinated. Thank you to Manny's for having us back.
This is Eric Johnson reminding you to talk about people behind their backs, and when you do, say something nice.
See you next Friday!