: Today on Follow Friday, we're going to talk about Persian chicken, the desert blues, architecture, nuclear waste, the Commodore 64, and see-through technology.
That's in a minute with Reza Farazmand from Poorly Drawn Lines.
But first, today's show is brought to you by The Edit from Timber
. The Edit connects podcasters with industry professionals who will listen to their work and give them constructive feedback. I'll tell you a bit more about them later in the show.
: I'm Eric Johnson. Welcome to Follow Friday, a podcast about who you should follow online. Every week, I talk to creative people about who they follow and why. This is a guided tour to the best people on the internet, led by your favorite writers, podcasters, comedians, and more. If this is your first episode of the show, please take a moment now and follow or subscribe in your podcast app. It's free and you'll get fresh interviews with your favorite creators every week.
Today on the show is Reza Farazmand, the artist behind one of my favorite comics, Poorly Drawn Lines, which comes out three times a week, Monday, Wednesday, Friday. And as of a couple of weeks ago, it's also a TV show
that you can stream on Hulu. We'll talk about that in a minute.
You can find Reza on Twitter @PDLcomics
and on Instagram @poorlydrawnlines
. Or you can read the comic at poorlydrawnlines.com
. Reza, welcome to Follow Friday.REZA
: Thank you. Thank you for having me, Eric.ERIC
: So good to talk to you. It's so good to meet you. First off, congratulations on the new TV show. This has been a long time coming. You have been doing this comic for something like 10 years now?REZA
: It's been about 10 years, I think. I would say it's a little bit less from when I started dedicating myself to it and knowing that I wanted to do it as a full-time career. All in all, I guess I started about 10 years ago.
And then the show has been in the works since about 2018, that's when I originally started drafting scripts. So that's also been in the works for a few years, so it's cool to finally see the finished product on screen.ERIC
: Tell me about that. What did you think making a TV show would be like? How has it surprised you over those three years you've been working on this?REZA
: I guess I always pictured it being me in a room with animators, brainstorming, and creating things. My only real exposure to how animation studios work in the past was the South Park documentary, I think it was called Six Days to Air or Seven Days to Air.ERIC
: I've seen that one, yeah.REZA
: That gave me a sense that making an animated show would be this wild process with late nights and a bunch of fast food and stuff. But it was more of a slow, gradual process with a lot of emailing and phone calls. Also, once the pandemic came around, a lot of it was done even more remotely.
So initially, when we started doing voice recording with the actors, we were in the studio with them. But then throughout the pandemic, they were in isolated studio booths and it was all done over Zoom. Some of them were calling in their voice recordings from home, if they had home studios.
So the whole thing was a little bit different, and it definitely took a lot longer and it was a lot slower than I thought. But it was also an extremely gratifying and fun process to be a part of. It was something completely different from doing a comic or a book. There were so many more moving parts, so many more pieces to be aware of.ERIC
: You've had these characters for so long, I'm wondering: Did you have the final say over who the voices were going to be for the characters? Because I feel in your head, you probably have a specific idea of what the characters sound like when they talk.REZA
: It's interesting, I do have a specific idea, but then it's also hard for me to manifest that idea into reality. So I couldn't do the voice that I hear for Kevin necessarily, or I couldn't do the voice that I hear for Ernesto. But I knew that it was something, and I knew that I was going to know it when I heard an actor deliver it, basically.
But also throughout the casting process, I wanted to keep an open mind, to let the actors have their own take on the character, because all these actors that we're working with are, a lot of them anyway, are also improv comedians or stand-up comics who have their own personalities and their own comedic style.
And fortunately, I feel we struck a good middle ground where the character still to me evokes the character that I've been writing them, but they're also performed by these incredible professional comedians who have their own way of delivering lines.
I think it was how I wanted it to sound and it was also a little bit new and different and unexpected for me. I don't know if I have the final
say, I would say I have a final recommendation and then the network, FX, would obviously have the final say. But they were also very supportive of my creative decisions throughout the whole process. And generally, we agreed on things.ERIC
: That's so great. The name of the show is Poorly Drawn Lines. You can find it on FX on Hulu. But for now, let's talk about who Reza follows online. You can follow along with us today. Every person he recommends will be linked in the show notes and in the transcript at followfridaypodcast.com.
Reza, before the show, I gave you a list of categories, and I asked you to tell me four people you follow who fit in those categories. Your first pick is in the category, "someone who inspires you", and you said Samin Nosrat, the author of Salt Fat AcidHeat, and host of the Netflix show of the same name. She's on Twitter
@ciaoSamin and on Facebook @samin.nosrat
I also love Samin's work. She's one of my favorite celebrity chefs. Talk about why she inspires you.REZA
: I've gotten way more into cooking in the past few years. And when I found Samin's show on Netflix, it started opening up these doors to foundational aspects of cooking that I had never even considered.
It's all in the title of the show and the book, Salt Fat Acid Heat, and how those four elements are foundational to cooking. And how, if you take cooking down to its barest elements you can achieve a novice level understanding pretty quickly and start freestyling the kitchen a little bit, and make up your own recipes, or make your own touches on food, based on understanding how those elements play into making things taste good.
That's how I discovered her, mainly through that Netflix show. And then eventually I got her book as a gift and I haven't read it cover to cover, but I use it as basically like a reference tome. I'm constantly referring back to it or pulling out recipes that I like or tips that I like.ERIC
: And if you listen to the podcast that she did with Hrishikesh Hirway, Home Cooking?REZA
: Yes, I did. I listened to I think every episode. It was really good. I was sad that it ended, but I understand that some podcasts have to be open and shut like a good book. But another thing I love about her style is that she also integrates a lot of Persian cooking, and I'm Persian.
I've gotten into Persian cooking recently myself, which can be a little bit intimidating, because it involves a lot of ingredients and a lot of steps. It's definitely some of the more difficult cooking that I've done. But the cuisine is incredible, and it's been satisfying to be able to recreate some things that my parents would make.
And Samin has, within her book, she also has a lot of tips on how to make Persian cooking a little bit more accessible, or she will update recipes or put her own spin on them to make them a little bit more approachable for the average home chef.ERIC
: What's an example, or what are a couple of examples, of your favorite Persian dishes, stuff that either you ate growing up or stuff that Samin has taught you how to make? What are some of your favorites?REZA
: There's a lot of grilled chicken in Persian food. She has this recipe in her book that's basically derived from an American buttermilk chicken recipe where you marinate a whole chicken in buttermilk, and then the acid does all kinds of amazing things to make the chicken taste good.
She put a Persian spin on it where you use yogurt and saffron, instead of buttermilk. I tried that and it pretty much tasted like the chicken I would eat growing up as a kid. So I was, oh, so that's where the flavor comes from. That was pretty eye-opening for me.ERIC
: That's so satisfying to sort of have that revelation or that moment of figuring out why something tastes the way it does.REZA
: I'm like "Oh, that's why saffron is so expensive, it's delicious."ERIC
: You said you've recently gotten into cooking over the past couple of years. Was that because of the pandemic or were you already sort of starting to get more into cooking yourself?
I personally have been cooking, obviously, a lot more at home over the past two years. And I feel this has been a time when a lot of folks have been experimenting and trying stuff, going on their own voyages of discovery here, of whatever sort of food they're into, or whatever they remember liking in the past.REZA
: I started getting into cooking before the pandemic, but then during the pandemic, I definitely took it up to 11. I also got a Weber grill that my neighbor bequeathed on me. And so I started grilling and barbecuing in the backyard and making Iranian kebab, which is something that my parents would also make while I was growing up. I tried that for the first time. So the pandemic definitely ratcheted it up and encouraged me to cook at home more.ERIC
: So is there anything else about the way Samin writes, the way she podcasts or hosts her TV show? Is there anything else that she has done that has either changed the way you think about food, changed the way you cook? Anything else that comes to mind?REZA
: I mentioned initially that understanding those four foundational elements of cooking changed my approach. I use a lot more vinegar or lemon juice or lime when I'm cooking now, just knowing what acid can do. I'm a lot more liberal with salt now and keep a big box of kosher salt in my kitchen.
It's also her hosting style in the show, and on the podcast, it's very friendly and approachable and it makes cooking feel like something that I could wrap my head around more.ERIC
: I'm mostly a fan of the podcast, Home Cooking, but I love the energy and the excitement that she brings to the food. I know the phrase is already taken by a different celebrity chef, but it is the "joy of cooking," boiled down to just a few words.REZA
: All right. Well, that was Samin Nosrat who is on Twitter
Reza, I asked you to tell me about someone you've started following and you said it was MdouMoctar. He's a songwriter and musician based in Niger. You can follow him on Twitter @Mdoumoctar
and Instagram @Mdou_moctar
and on YouTube @Mdoumoctarmusic
I also want to read a little bit from his website, from his about page. It says, "His music combines Eddie van Halen pyrotechnics, full blast noise and guitar-shredding, field recordings, drums, rhythms, poetic meditations on love, religion, women's rights, inequality, and Western Africa's exploitation at the hands of colonial powers."
So lots to unpack there. Let's start with how you started following Mdou. How'd you find out about him?REZA
: I found out about him, I think it was through another account that I was really tempted to recommend for this podcast, which is the KEXP YouTube channel ... so I can make a stealth recommendation in there. KEXP, I think, is a Seattle-based radio station and they host a ton of amazing artists and have them on for live sets that they record.
I found so much great music by browsing their channel. And I believe that's how I came across it. I've been pronouncing it "Em-dou" Moctar. Is it "Madou?"ERIC
: I may have it wrong.REZA
: My brother, who's also a fan, calls him "Madou." So I'm not quite sure. I think it's "Em-dou." I'm going to stick with that.
Anyway, that's how I came across his work. That opened me up also to the broader genre of Tuareg guitar music because he culturally descends from this group of people around the Niger region called the Tuareg people.
And apparently, guitar music is a huge part of the culture, and specifically rock music. It's sometimes called Desert Blues. So that opened me up to that whole genre and I discovered a couple of other bands through that. But I've mainly been into Mdou Moctar and his style of guitar and it's heavy rock, but it sounds somehow new and different.ERIC
: What are you usually doing ,or what sort of frame of mind are you in, when you're listening to Mdou's music? I was listening to some of it while I was writing the script for this episode and I can tell you it was making me more productive. I was jamming there.REZA
: I totally listen to it while I'm working. I sometimes put out a series of playlists on Spotify called Poorly Drawn Playlists, where I put the music that I've been listening to while working. I featured him on my last one. I think it's high-energy, good work music. And also music that I can put on in the background and be energized and not distracted by, but I can also then tune in and listen closely to discover so many new, interesting ways that he and his band play when I'm listening closely.
I'm actually wearing a shirt from them right now. I also got the chance to see them in concert this past weekend.ERIC
: Oh my gosh. I'm so jealous.REZA
: It was my first concert throughout the whole pandemic. I live in LA and they played at a venue in a neighborhood called Highland Park called the Lodge Room and it was a medium-sized venue. So it felt pretty intimate and it felt I was pretty up close and it was awesome.
Everyone was grooving and feeling it and it was incredible to see it live. In a lot of cases live music can be different from how the recording sounds in a way that can be distracting. But in this case, it was better than anything recorded.
I feel they go off on jam tangents a lot, which is kind of cool. So I was losing track of how much of it was previously recorded and how much it was new stuff that they were jamming on.ERIC
: So he's released four albums so far by my count, including one of them is the soundtrack to a film that he made. He made a remake of Prince's Purple Rain in Tuareg and the title of the film when translated back into English is Rain The Color Of Blue With A Little Red In It. Do you have a favorite album of his, a favorite song? Anything like that?REZA
: Yes. I like the album Ilana: the Creator because that was the first one that I listened to. ERIC
: Yeah, I think that was his big break.REZA
: Yes probably. I think that's what he was on tour for when he did the KEXP set, which is how I discovered him. And then his new one, Afrique Victime, is also really good. So I'd recommend either of those two, but I think starting with Ilana is probably a good start.ERIC
: I wish we had done this interview a couple of weeks ago so that I could have looked up his tour dates. I looked up and it looks like the rest of his US tour is all in the southern US. I'm in San Francisco. I think maybe I just missed a chance to see him.REZA
: You just missed him in San Francisco. He was just in San Francisco, I know because my brother saw him.ERIC
: Oh my God. You're killing me.REZA
: For song recs, there's one that I actually wrote down because I'm having trouble pronouncing it. It's called Tarhatazed. That would be, and I think it's in Ilana. That's my current favorite song of his. I think that's a really good starting point. It rocks so hard.ERIC
: That was Mdou Moctar. Go find his work wherever you listen to music. We're going to take a quick break now, but we'll be back in a minute with Reza Farazmand, after this.
Today's show is brought to you by The Edit from Timber. If you have a podcast and you want feedback on it, you could just put it on Twitter and hope someone listens. But for only $20 a month, The Edit will connect you with industry professionals, such as Skye Pillsbury, Jenna Spinelle, or me, Eric Johnson. We will give you constructive feedback and help you make your podcast so much better. Sign up today at followfriday.net/timber
. That's followfriday.net/timber
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Welcome back to Follow Friday. Reza, let's move on to your next follow. I asked you for someone who makes you think, and you said the podcast 99% Invisible. You can find it at 99percentinvisible.org
, on Twitter @99piorg
, or on Instagram @99percentinvisible
This is the iconic design podcast hosted by Roman Mars. He's come up on the show before, go listen to the Dallas Taylor episode to hear us talk about Roman. But for the folks who don't know, who are missing out, explain what 99% Invisible does and why you love it.REZA
: In broad strokes, it's a design podcast. But then the design can be anything from the design of a city block to the graphic design and aesthetics for a specific Olympics. It's how the world is designed around us and how we interact with it. What I love about the podcast is that it makes me look at the world in ways that I hadn't before, or it opens my eyes to the underlying thought behind how something is designed.
Things that we might take for granted in our daily lives. Walking down the street, understanding why walking down a certain city block feels very pleasant as opposed to another city block. Because one might be, for instance, designed on a human scale and one might be designed on a scale for cars.
So those are the kinds of things that I started realizing why I enjoyed certain things or what was behind them.ERIC
: So it's something where you'll listen to an episode, and it's like when you learn a new word and then you immediately hear it out in the wild. You'll be listening to the podcast and then that will make you appreciate something in everyday life differently, as a result.REZA
: I might even take it a step further and say that it's learning the root of a word that comes from Sanskrit or Latin, and understanding why we use it now. It's learning about the foundations of design around us in ways that we hadn't thought of before, but that certain experts have thought about very thoroughly. And now those experts come on the podcast and explain them to us.ERIC
: Do you find that it also makes you think about things that have not been addressed in the podcast, in a different way? Are you scrutinizing details around you or looking at the world in some different way? Even if it's not something that has been directly talked about on the show? Do you find that it makes you think differently, in general?REZA
: Yes, I would say so. It's definitely made me more curious about design and I have always appreciated good design and loved graphic design and industrial design. It's cool to get to listen to experts talk about those things at length. It's definitely made me think more about why certain objects are designed the way that they are, or why certain aesthetic styles have a longer shelf life than others.ERIC
: I think one of the things that the show is known for is this idea of "always read the plaque." You go out into the world [and] if there's some sort of commemorative plaque somewhere, always read it. There's usually an interesting story there that most people are completely ignoring.REZA
: I was a little bit hesitant to put 99 PI because I think it's pretty big now. When I listen to it, I have the feeling that it's still a little indie podcast or something, but I think they're pretty big at this point.
I'm sure a lot of your listeners are already following them. But it still feels like this cozy little podcast that you can tune into and learn something cool about how the world is built around you. I've been thinking about it more lately because I had the opportunity to work with Roman Mars because he came on and did a guest voice for my show.ERIC
: Oh my gosh! That's so exciting.REZA
: He and Audie Cornish from NPR did the guest voice of a pair of manatees who move in next door to my main characters and live in an apartment that's filled with water. They are very peaceful and zen, and they provide an antithesis to my character's lifestyle, which is very chaotic and action-packed.ERIC
: 99PI has been huge for a long time; a very popular show. For years, people were telling me, "You're going to like this show. The show is so well made. The stories are so incredible." They knew that I liked podcasts. It was a natural fit. And for years, I dragged my feet and I hadn't listened to it.
Then my fiancé, when we were dating, she got me hooked on it. She sat me down in the park one day and made me listen to an episode, one of the best episodes, called Ten Thousand Years, where it's about the US government trying to figure out how we can label nuclear waste so that if it is dug up 10,000 years from now, a future civilization will still know, "Hey, this is dangerous, don't open this, watch out for this stuff here."That's a great episode. Do you have any other favorites that come to mind? Any other favorite episodes of 99% Invisible?REZA
: There was one that aired yesterday. I think it was a rerun. It was about Sears homes.ERIC
: Oh, where you order it in a catalog?REZA
: Exactly. I think it was an old one that they played again. But I love that one because I love home architecture and I knew that Sears used to make homes that you could get shipped to you in a train car and then build yourself and I've always been fascinated by that. So it was cool to take a deep dive into that subject.
From that one, I learned that there's this whole club of people that go around trying to identify Sears homes and map them out and identify the ones that are still standing, basically, almost a hundred years later or whatever.ERIC
: That's fascinating. Now we've circled back to that in some ways. I've seen startups talking, there are actual new companies that are talking about prefab backyard homes and things that. Everything old is new again.REZA
: Totally. There was also a good episode about Geocities, which was one of the original, build your own website resources online way back in the day. And it was about Geocities going offline and how a huge chunk of the web was basically being erased and people who are trying to archive it and then it led into a broader discussion about trying to save things that are on the web that is, we think of as being permanent because they're digital.
But digital can actually be much more impermanent than we realized. We take for granted the idea that everything is backed up to a server somewhere. But those physical servers can degrade and so a lot of these things that we think are forever could actually disappear pretty quickly.ERIC
: That's also another one of my all-time favorite episodes. I think that one's called The Lost Cities of Geo.REZA
: Which is a great title.ERIC
: Well, that was the podcast 99% Invisible. We have time for one more follow today. Reza, I asked you for someone who's an expert in a very specific niche that you love. And you said Retro Gadgets, which you can find on Instagram @nightliquid_retro
. The name of the account is a bit of a giveaway, but explain what this account covers and why.REZA
: It's basically a big gallery of retro gadgets, mostly from the 80s and 90s.Things like Walkman or old televisions. There might even be home appliances and old advertisements that were used to sell those products. I love gadgets and I love technology. And it's cool to go back and see retro gadgets.
For me, it's part nostalgia because I grew up with some gadgets like that and also part historical curiosity because there were some that I never got to grow up with or interact with. It's awesome to see how fast technology changes. It's neat that there is someone who's trying to archive that or remind us that this is how we used to live, or these are the gadgets that we used to use. Now that we have new gadgets every single year, gadgets are more disposable than ever.ERIC
: You mentioned that a lot of it is advertisements and that's something when I was looking at this account, I loved how it reflects, not just the hardware, but the marketing, the way the stuff is explained and sold to the public. A lot of synth, a lot of bright colors. Did you watch the ad for the Commodore 64?REZA
: Yeah, which is great. I just love the design of computers and consoles back then; they were bulky and straight clean lines and beige yellow colors.
There's something about that whole aesthetic that is both new and nostalgic to me. For a long time, whenever I would draw a computer or a radio in Poorly Drawn Lines, I would make a point to make it anachronistic and draw it as a 90s Macintosh or something, even though it's supposed to be in the present day.
I love retro tech. So I try to work it into my comics in a humorous, anachronistic kind of way.ERIC
: I forget the name of this, it's a design term, but it's where the symbol of something is an anachronistic thing. An example of that would be if you are using the emoji for a movie, like you type "movie" into your phone and your phone suggests do you want to use this emoji instead?
It'll be a really old-fashioned film camera or a film strip, even though almost all films are digital these days. It's an iconic symbol of this idea, what a film is, is this old-fashioned piece of technology.REZA
: Like the floppy disk to save in almost every program, still.ERIC
: Perfect example. You mentioned that you grew up with a lot of this technology, so some of it is a personal attachment to it. When you were younger, did you also think of yourself as being someone who was into gadgets, or is this something that you've only consciously become a fan of as you've gotten older, through more of a nostalgic lens?REZA
: No, I think I always liked gadgets. I had a Walkman when I was a kid that I thought was awesome. And I remember, I don't know if you remember those commercials, for the Home Alone recorder thing that Kevin used to record the bad guys or whatever.
[clip from TalkBoy TV commercial]REZA
: I never had video games growing up, but I remember seeing commercials for all the Nintendo accessories, the weird gray plastic Nintendo accessories, the Power Glove, or whatever it was called.
I've always been attracted to technology and gadgets. Only recently, I've started to approach it from a more academic standpoint and try to think of it through a historical lens, which is why I appreciate NightLiquid_Retro for laying that out.ERIC
: What about in your own life now? Do you have retro gadgets that you either use regularly or that you have surrounding you in your life?REZA
: Well, I would probably have more if I wasn't averse to collecting things, but I try not to acquire too much stuff.
I would love to own an original Macintosh, or I guess it was the Mac 2, the all-in-one. I would love to own one of those. But I don't want to have too much clutter in my house, at this point. So the few retro gadgets that I've allowed myself ... I have my turntable and my stereo that are from the 70s and 80s, respectively.
And then I started slowly acquiring retro handheld video game consoles. Not even that retro, but the original Game Boy Advance. Those are small and I can put them in a box, but I love the form factor of some of those 90s and 2000s handheld consoles. They're really cool to look at and hold. And the sprite graphics, obviously.ERIC
: My first ever Game Boy was the original one, the large one, the chunky one that required four AA batteries. But I remember vividly getting it because it was a see-through shell. You can see the circuit board through the case. As a very young kid, as a five to six-year-old or whatever I was, that left a huge impression on me of "Wow! Technology!"REZA
: I still love that see-through design aesthetic from the 90s and maybe the early 2000s where everything was see-through, like see-through phones, and video game consoles.
I think it's awesome. And I want it to come back. I think ... I might be making this up, but I swear I heard something recently about a limited edition Nintendo Switch that would be see-through. Maybe I'm making that up.ERIC
: Well there goes another $400 down the drain.REZA
: Right? Just to put it on a shelf and look at it because it's so pretty,ERIC
: That was Retro Gadgets, which is on Instagram @nightliquid_retro
. Reza, thank you for sharing these follows with us today. Before we go, let's make sure the listeners know how to find you and Poorly Drawn Lines online.
Where do you want them to follow you?REZA
: You can follow me on Instagram @poorlydrawnlines
. Same on Facebook, facebook.com/poorlydrawnlines
. You can follow me on Twitter @PDLcomics
. And you can check out my website, PoorlyDrawnLines.com
. And I have a new show that you can watch on Hulu called Poorly Drawn Lines
. And it's a part of a bigger show called Cake that you can also watch.ERIC
: Follow me on Twitter at @HeyHeyESJ
. You can find this show on Twitter
@followfridaypod. You can also find us on YouTube
. And don't forget to follow or subscribe to Follow Friday in your podcast app. That way, you won't miss any future episodes.
Follow Friday's theme music was written by me and performed by Yona Marie
. Our show art was illustrated by Dodi Hermawan
That's all for this week. This is Eric Johnson, reminding you to talk about people behind their backs … and when you do, say something nice. See you next Friday.