My Internet: Damien Kronfeld
The writer-comedian is a beneficiary of Spotify privilege.
Embedded is your essential guide to what’s good on the internet, written by Kate Lindsay and edited by Nick Catucci.
Most weeks, we quiz a “very online” person for their essential guide to what’s good on the internet.
Today we welcome Damien Kronfeld, a comedian and, with Sarah Pappalardo, author of How to Stay Productive When the World Is Ending, which Vulture named one of the best comedy books of 2023 so far. Damien inadvertently created a meme that exists only in the shared imagination of a select few people, believes the painted nails emoji is both the signified and the signifier, and worries that one day his children will put him down for being technologically illiterate. —Nick
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EMBEDDED: What’s a recent meme or other post that made you laugh?
DAMIEN KRONFELD: This is less about a specific meme and more about a meme’s journey, albeit an unconventional one. A while ago, an ex sent me a meme that said, “Troy, spit yo shit,” Then, “Troy:” and a picture of a little chickadee. This is already what I would characterize as a nonsense meme, but I stored it in my memory in totally new form: I really thought it said, “Jocko, sing your shit” then “Jocko:” and a picture of a gray parrot looking down at the camera aggressively. Maybe it’s because the original meme has a gibberish formal aesthetic, and it’s almost impossible to repeat gibberish accurately since it’s unfamiliar and you have nothing to map it onto.
Anyway, I was trying to find the meme, but obviously I couldn’t because I was exclusively Googling keywords that were not in it. This all came out in conversation while visiting a friend, and I recounted my version of the meme to her verbally. She’s since told me that she regularly thinks to herself, “Jocko, sing your shit” whenever that sentiment is relevant. So this is a meme that exists only in the shared imagination of a select few people, and I think that’s beautiful. However, I would love to fold in more people, so if you’re inclined to think “Jocko, sing your shit” to yourself when you’re on your Jocko, please do.
For a straightforward bonus, this video I found on the fantastic account appalachian.memes really made me laugh.
EMBEDDED: Has your Twitter experience changed since Elon Musk took over? What would it take for you to quit?
DAMIEN KRONFELD: Absolutely, yeah. The energy is ranker than ever, I fear; it doesn’t seem like anyone is having fun. I effectively have quit. I don’t plan on deleting my account or anything but I don’t open the app most days and when I do, my mind and body tell me to get out of there pretty quickly. It’s a shame because Twitter used to be a uniquely good place for me to come into contact with ideas, perspectives, and general information shared by people whose lived experiences are very different from my own, and I’ve yet to find that same access anywhere else on the Internet. I think it remains true that Twitter is a space where you’re more likely to come into contact with those outside your bubble than elsewhere on social media, but, like, with sad libertarian meme pages, literal children, and all walks of TERF, so not exactly the enriching cultural exchange one might hope.
EMBEDDED: What do you use Instagram for?
DAMIEN KRONFELD: Just about everything. It’s not only my only social media, but also my favorite! I love Close Friends stories (making and viewing). Through Instagram I’ve also found tons of fantastic tattoo artists, painters, sculptures, galleries, collectors, vintage sellers, curators, educators, shows. I’m not saying Instagram isn’t evil and probably destroying teenagers’ lives and everything, but I have managed to cultivate a good relationship with it where I actually feel like it serves me. My #1 piece of advice on how to enjoy Instagram and is to unfollow and mute liberally—it’s not illegal!
EMBEDDED: Who’s someone more people should follow?
DAMIEN KRONFELD: Not a person, but househunters_screens is one of the greatest Instagram pages in the game right now. You don’t have to be a House Hunters fan to appreciate it. It’s basically absurd and hilarious found poetry. Also the musician Syd Matisse has some of the best meme curation around.
EMBEDDED: Are you into any podcasts right now? How and when do you usually listen?
DAMIEN KRONFELD: Maintenance Phase with Aubrey Gordon and Michael Hobbes and For the Wild with Ayana Young are my go-tos. Ayana’s interviews with Tricia Hersey, Padraig Ó Tuama, and Tiokasin Ghosthorse are among my favorites, but I highly recommend just perusing the show page and seeing what looks interesting to you. She is the best interviewer I’ve had the pleasure of listening to. So thoughtful, so present, so well researched. I’ve really learned a ton from that show.
Still Processing with Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris was my favorite for a long time and has a backlog that is definitely worth checking out. I love listening to podcasts while I’m doing dishes and while I’m biking, the latter of which is, of course, inadvisable but also one of life’s greatest pleasures so what am I to do?
EMBEDDED: Do you typically start searches on Google, Reddit, TikTok, or another source? Have you tried AI-powered search on Bing or elsewhere?
DAMIEN KRONFELD: I start on Google but include “Reddit” in my search when I need to cut straight to the hard shit (have my questions about safer drug use answered without Google trying to stage an intervention, or identify a bird).
EMBEDDED: What’s your most-used messaging app?
DAMIEN KRONFELD: iMessage. God, this sucks. The more of these questions I answer, the more I realize I am technologically illiterate and one day my children will put me down.
EMBEDDED: What’s your go-to emoji, and what does it mean to you?
DAMIEN KRONFELD: Painted nails. I don’t think it means anything, per se. It is the signified and the signifier.
EMBEDDED: Do you text people voice notes? If not, how do you feel about getting them?
DAMIEN KRONFELD: I think they’re great, but of course I always have to “keep” them and then think briefly about my friend dying because why would I ever relisten to someone’s voice notes except in the event of their untimely death? Of course, I don’t know where they go when you save them, but I also don’t know where we go when we die, so there’s a certain poetic symmetry there.
EMBEDDED: What’s a playlist, song, album, or style of music you’ve listened to a lot lately?
DAMIEN KRONFELD: Ugh, isn’t music awesome? Right now I keep listening to “Run of the Mill” by George Harrison, “Nothing Can Change This Love” by Sam Cooke, “What’s It Gonna Be?!” by Busta Rhymes and Janet Jackson, “Motel Blues” by Loudon Wainwright. I love folk and have been listening to Elizabeth Cotton a lot, too. Not necessarily my favorite song of hers, but my favorite song title is definitely “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad.” That encapsulates everything I love about folk music. Sometimes I get really frustrated with Spotify because I think they hedge their bets by recommending easier listening, but through them I’ve also discovered really great artists with smaller audiences that I might not have otherwise found my way to. Did I mention George Harrison?
EMBEDDED: Do you pay for a music streaming service, and if so, which one? When was the last time you bought a music download or vinyl record, CD, or tape?
DAMIEN KRONFELD: Every year for Christmas, my dear father gifts me continued use of Spotify Premium, so I don’t pay for anything. So, the answer is Spotify but I feel I must be transparent about my Spotify privilege. When Joni Mitchell pulled her catalog, I did buy Blue on Apple Music because I have to listen to that album start to finish at least once a month for mental health reasons. I would really love to get into vinyl both for the listening experience and because records/their covers are such beautiful objects, but there is no space in my room for a record player.
EMBEDDED: If you could only keep one streaming service for TV and/or movies, which would it be, and why?
DAMIEN KRONFELD: This feels like such a douchey answer, but I think I honestly have to say the Criterion Channel, and I can explain. Picking any of the major streamers feels arbitrary, because you never know where the next must-watch is going to crop up. Criterion is the only streamer that has any meaningful quality control, and I appreciate their curation. HBO Max or “Max” or whatever does generally get a lot of the same movies as Criterion plus the rest of their TV programming, so maybe that’s the smarter answer, but they feel very in flux in a way Criterion doesn’t. I don’t know why I’m treating this question like I can only keep this one service for the rest of my life. If Criterion goes absolutely under in a year, I will feel pretty foolish.
EMBEDDED: What’s your favorite non-social media app?
DAMIEN KRONFELD: The Dunkin’ app. If you’re not on the Dunkin’ rewards app, you’re stealing from yourself.
EMBEDDED: What’s the most basic internet thing that you love?
DAMIEN KRONFELD: Dog videos. I hope I never cease to take joy from videos of dogs being cute and funny. And you know what? Cute kid videos, too. Fuck it. That video of the toddler crying holding a puppy and saying “Can I keep him?” and the dad saying “He’s yours, he’s yours,” and they’re all British? One needs such things in life.