June 10, 2021

#174 Search Party

by Reply All

Background show artwork for Reply All

This week, with the help of tech reporters Ashley Feinberg and Katie Notopoulos, we venture to one of the darkest places on the internet — our own search histories.

Apply for the Reply All internship

Ashley Feinberg's Newsletter, Trashberg

Katie Notopoulos' Articles on Buzzfeed


EMMANUEL DZOTSI: From Gimlet, this is Reply All. I’m Emmanuel Dzotsi. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: And I’m Alex Goldman.

EMMANUEL: Alex, we’re back, mate.

ALEX: Yeah. I feel like not working on stories for a couple months gave me, like, an incredible reserve of story energy, and now I’m getting to expend it all in the world, which feels awesome.

EMMANUEL: Yeah... no. And that is why you are going first. [LAUGHS]

ALEX: Yes. Um, so, today’s episode. Um— I, I, I’d actually call it an experiment as opposed to a, a story. Uh—

EMMANUEL: Okay. Color me intrigued.

ALEX: So, uh, there’s a reporter. Her name’s Ashley Feinberg. She’s been on the show before. Uh, we, we, we talked to her about her uncanny ability to find secret social media accounts of, like, powerful government figures and celebrities.

EMMANUEL: Yeah. She makes us look like we have absolutely no idea what we’re doing on the show.

ALEX: Yeah. She makes us look real junior varsity. But I wanted to talk to her because she recently started a newsletter on Substack called, uh, Trashberg.

ALEX: Hey, Ashley.

ASHLEY: Hey, how’s it going?

ALEX: Good, how’re you?

ALEX: And I wanted to talk to her because there was an article on there a couple weeks ago that was just like, this brilliant and deceptively simple idea, which just had to do with, like, the weird shit that she googles. 


ASHLEY: I remember it was, like, years ago when I, like, first realized that, like, Google was saving every single search I’d ever made, in like, this like, itemized list that you could just like, go through at any point. And I started looking at, like, searches from, like, years and years ago, and was just like, A, like, taken aback by, like, how much I remembered, like, why I had, like, searched the term, like, fish penis or, like, some other thing, [ALEX LAUGHS] like, five years ago. 

ALEX: Why had you searched the term fish penis? 

ASHLEY: Well, there was a thing a few years ago, remember, like, it was about the guy having sex with the fish? Do you remember this?

ALEX: No. 

ASHLEY: Don't worry about if you don't. Yeah. Well—

ALEX: Guy having sex with a fish?

ASHLEY: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 


ASHLEY: And so, I just, uh, I've, like, always had in the back of my mind that I like, just, like, wanted desperately a reason to, like, search through other people's search histories, because I feel like it's, like, very—uh, it's the same sort of, like, unguarded sort of, uh, thing they're doing when they think no one who is judging them is watching them. Like, I feel like it's just like a very illuminating window into, like, a person. 

ALEX: I mean, the thing that I find so funny about the idea is that it's like, um, is the, like, lack of context that it gives. 

ASHLEY: Yeah. 

ALEX: You know those sort of like, uh, comedy of errors movies where, like, a person gets in a compromising position where it looks like they're cheating on someone else, and they're like—


ALEX: ‘No, no, wait, I can explain.’

ASHLEY: Yeah. 

So Ashley has this idea, she wants to go through other people’s search histories, and she’s like, ‘Okay, if I wanna go through other people’s search histories, it’s only fair that I let someone go through mine first.’

So, she got a friend of hers, a reporter for Wired, whose name is Kate Knibbs, uh, to go through two weeks of her Google search history.


ALEX: And the article that came from it was just like, so funny. It was like, very vulnerable and weird. Like, she was searching for things like, ancient goths. Um, the main Nazi doctor. Jesus Furry Trump. Barbara Bush cell phone.

EMMANUEL: Wait, Jesus Furry Trump?

ALEX: Yeah. [LAUGHTER] It’s just like, this weird window into like, what is on people’s minds and how they use the internet. 

EMMANUEL: Right, right. It’s like a little record of just like, every random small thought you’ve had—

ALEX: Oh my God, totally.

EMMANUEL: … like, when you sort of like, roll over to go to sleep, and you’re like, what’s that thing?

ALEX: And so, with Ashley’s blessing, uh, we, we have a new segment, Um, uh, uh, our producer Anna Foley agreed to join, uh, not to share her search history with us, but to sort of be like, the lifeguard keeping us from like, swimming out too far into weird internet waters. And, uh, I don’t know if they’re all gonna be like this, but I just want to caution, um, this one feels very much not for kids. So if you have kids listening, it’s just like, gross internet stuff. Maybe, maybe they can sit this one out. Um—

EMMANUEL: Okay. Well, let the gross internet stuff start. [LAUGHTER] Let it begin.


ALEX: Welcome to the first installment of our segment. And we are calling it Don’t You Wish You Were Incognito. Reply All producer Anna Foley, hello.

ANNA FOLEY: Hello, Michael Alexander Goldman.

ALEX: It’s just Alex, not Alexander. Uh, today, uh—

ANNA: Wait, really?

ALEX: Yeah.

ANNA: Wait.

ALEX: It’s just Alex.

ANNA: Wh- what did—real—on your birth certificate—

ALEX: It says Michael Alex.

ANNA: It says Michael Alex Goldman. So, Alex isn’t short for anything.

ALEX: Mm mmm. I feel like this is, like, the kind of thing that people are going to use to, like, look up my, my, like, my address and come to my house.

ANNA: We don’t have to go that far. I just think it’s interesting, ‘cause it’s like, I don’t know. I would’ve assumed it was Alexander. 

ALEX: It’s pretty, it’s pretty cool.

ANNA: Yeah, it’s pretty cool.

ALEX: But we are here for a specific reason.

ANNA: Yeah. We’re here for this new segment. And like you guys said, I’m the lifeguard for this whole thing. And as part of my duty as a lifeguard, I’m gonna walk you through the rules before we bring on our guest. 

Number one is, no editing, deleting, or studying your searches before handing them over to the other person. Number two is, you can’t just give, like, a single page of Google search results or YouTube search results. It’s gotta be, like, a week. Like, a lengthy period of time. The third rule is that me and the rest of the Reply All team will have access to both yours, Alex’s, and the guest’s Google and YouTube search results. And then basically, all we’re gonna do is talk about a bunch of the different searches that you guys find funny, interesting, whatever.

ALEX: All right. Let’s do it. 

ANNA: And obviously, in order to get this thing started, we need to invite on our very first inaugural guest.

ALEX: Uh, the first guest is Katie Notopoulos, who is the Senior Tech Writer at BuzzFeed News, and was on an episode of the show a couple years ago? 

ANNA: Yeah.

ALEX: Um, she was the author of this incredibly difficult to read list for many years called the “50 Worst Things on the Internet.”

ANNA: Mm-hmm.

ALEX: So like, I think that she goes pretty deep, as far as searches go.

ANNA: Okay. Let’s do it.


ALEX: Ah, jeez. Here she is. 

KATIE: Hi, guys. 

ANNA: Hey, good morning.

KATIE NOTOPOULOS: Um, I have, like, a little bit of a, um—I have a little bit of a technical lag where I—[LAUGHS] I got a new computer, and I, like, mostly use my work computer. And so, I have forgotten the, um, password to log into my computer. 


KATIE: There we go. Um, there. 

ANNA: So, Alex, Katie, ready to give this thing a try?

ALEX: Yes.

KATIE: Okay.

KATIE: I, I—this, this—so, Alex, have you done this with other people yet, this, this Google thing?

ALEX: No, no. This is our maiden voyage. [LAUGHING]

ANNA: The first thing I’m curious about is just like, we asked you not to really look at your search history, but you had to like, compress into like, a PDF or whatever to send to us.

KATIE: Mm-hmm.

ANNA: So, like, you must have seen some stuff. And I’m curious how it felt, the little you saw. What did, what did it feel like when you were looking at it?

ALEX: Ooh, bad. 

KATIE: Yeah. I—it made me sort of think of, like, the different levels of like, what's embarrassing here, right? Like, there, there's, like, one level that's like, did I Google, like, um, you know, ‘what's this rash on my butt’ kind of thing—you know, like, something that might be, like, truly embarra— 


KATIE: … like, very obviously embarrassing, like a weird medical thing. But then I feel like there's—uh, I was trying to think of like what actually feels like it would be super embarrassing — I think that, like, some of the things that I would find really embarrassing would be like, googling the name of, like, acquaintances or something, that feels— [LAUGHING] that would make— that would make me feel so socially awkward, which like, I'm sure I definitely do, and everyone does, but it makes you feel like you're a creep. 

ALEX: The other thing I felt embarrassed by, which I was not expecting, ‘cause it's like, totally something I do all the time, is like, I watch a lot of fucking dumb top ten horror movie videos.

KATIE: I- I observed some of that. 


ALEX: Oh no. 

ANNA: I mean, I guess, yeah. I- I- I just want to say, Katie, I think you sent like, 20 pages of your Google search history and like, 10 of your YouTube history?

KATIE: Uh-huh. 

ANNA: Alex, you sent like, over 90 pages. Yeah.

ALEX: I sent 100. I sent like 100-something.

ANNA: Yeah. Yeah. Um, so there was a lot more, uh—

ALEX: I just wanted to be thorough. 

ANNA: … noise to cut through, but—

KATIE: I, you know, I—the, the YouTube thing is interesting. I mean, it made me—and, and, I haven't looked at mine, although I- I know already what is going to make me, like, actually feel really bad about my YouTube history [ALEX LAUGHS] which is that it's going to reveal how much I've let my child watch YouTube, which is not something I'm proud of.

ALEX: Yeah, I understand that.

ANNA: I think we should go ahead and get started. 

ALEX: Okay.

ANNA: Uh, Alex, which of Katie's search history items do you wanna talk about first?

ALEX: Uh, a lot of your YouTube searches seem like they were for kids. But there were like, a couple—

KATIE: Mm-hmm. 

ALEX: … that— there were, there were a couple pa-... in particular that I was like, are these for kids or are these for Katie? And if they're for kids, like, what is the deal? [KATIE LAUGHS] And like, the first searches I wanted to ask you about, because you have tons of them, are for Nerf gun videos on YouTube. 

KATIE: [INHALES SHARPLY] Yeah, that's, that's a sore spot. [LAUGHS]

ALEX: What—first of all, what are they? What, what are these videos? 

KATIE: Um, so, I have a, uh, almost five-year-old son. Um, and he absolutely should not own a Nerf gun, nor should he watch videos about Nerf guns. But those two things are the only thing that he desires in this world. Does your son have Nerf guns? You're a reasonable person. You would be like, “No.” 

ALEX: Yeah. He ha—

KATIE: Is he aware of the concept of Nerf guns? 

ALEX: He has, he has a gun. He has a Nerf gun. 

ANNA: 'He has a gun.' You need to clarify, Alex. You need to say Nerf gun.  

ALEX: He has, he has a handgun. Uh, no. He has a Nerf—he—

KATIE: It’s like, there was a point at the beginning of the pandemic where I think, you know, everyone was like, a little bit like, ‘Hey, it’s pandemic, I guess we’ll let the kids watch as much screen time as they want!’ where like, that’s when— 

ALEX: Yep. Harvey was watching a movie every afternoon when the pandemic started.

KATIE: Yeah. And, like, I had a new baby at the time. Like, I had a baby in May, and it was like, ‘Here, just take an iPad, and you can watch YouTube. I don’t care.’ Um, and that’s where he first, like, started watching this Nerf Patrol stuff.

ALEX: Yeah, I saw a lot of Nerf Patrol. What is Nerf Patrol? 

KATIE: It is like, literally the wor-... like, the worst, worst, worst hing on the internet, possibly. Like, if I could ever make, like, a 50 worst things on the Internet, it would be just all Nerf Patrol videos. It's like, it's one of these videos of like, it's a family that, like, makes videos of themselves, like, acting out scenes, shooting Nerf guns at each other. And I—once I, like, realized what it was, I was like, okay, actually, that's banned. No, you cannot watch this. 

ALEX: There were like, so many.

ANNA: Can we watch one?


ALEX: [LAUGHS] Nerf Patrol battles the dodgeball guy.

KATIE: I think the, the setup here is that, like, something bad happens at the playground, like, there is a bully—you know, the dodgeball guy is mean.

CLIP: Oh, you’re gonna play dodgeball. [SOUND OF BALL HITTING KID] 

KID: Ah!

ALEX: Oh, it's like a grownup hitting a kid with a ball. 

ALEX: Where are the Nerf guns?

KATIE: They show up a little bit later. I mean, this—you know what’s it’s like? It’s like, you know in a porno, there’s the setup of, like, the guy delivering the pizza first? This is the pizza.

ALEX: Okay. So let me skip ahead.


CHUCKY: Pitch it

JOKER: Okay.

ALEX: Oh, it's Chucky. It’s Chucky Doll [laughs] and the Joker playing baseball [laughs]. What the fuck is going on?

JOKER: Ha ha, you missed.

CHUCKY: ‘Cause that guy distracted me.

JOKER: What?

KATIE: I mean, this is like, a classic example of, like, it—the plot makes no sense. It’s purely just like, signals of things that kids are interested in. Like, mean guy playing dodgeball? 

DODGEBALL GUY: You missed.

KATIE: Joker?

ALEX: I’m gonna skip further in this thing.


NERF PATROL: Nerf Patrol, what’s your emergency?

KATIE: So that’s Nerf Patrol.

JOKER: Hello, Nerf Patrol? It’s the Joker.

ALEX: This kid, sitting at a desk chair. He's wearing a policeman's uniform. And behind him is an arsenal of Nerf weapons.

JOKER: Can you come down here and help us out?

NERF PATROL: Okay, I’ll be down there.

KATIE: It's just like, the worst dregs of, like, kid bait YouTube. So, it exists in this sort of liminal universe. I, I spoke to someone else who makes Nerf, uh, gun videos because I was sort of interested in possibly doing a story on it. Um, and like, they have to like, exist in this, like, tension of, they don't want to make their videos so family-friendly or kid-friendly that the video gets put on the YouTube Kids app

ALEX: Yeah. Because they might not make as much money. 

KATIE: Yeah. So they gotta keep it adult enough to stay on adult YouTube, but they can't make it so realistic that it gets demonetized.

ANNA: Mm-hmm. 

KATIE: [SIGHS] But yeah, that's—I feel like that—the amount of like, YouTube and especially like, that kind of awful YouTube is, like, probably my most embarrassing, like, deepest, deepest, darkest shame [LAUGHS] that will be revealed in my Google search. 

ALEX: Well, I'm glad I tapped—I'm glad I touched on it right away. 

ANNA: Okay, so, Katie, what do you wanna ask Alex about?


KATIE: Okay. Um, should it be a YouTube one or a search one? 

ALEX: Whatever you want. 

ANNA: Let's do, let’s do a search one. 

KATIE: Okay. 

ANNA: I think Alex's search are more prolific. Um, yeah. 

ALEX: Oof. I'm starting to feel a stomachache. [GRUMBLES] 

KATIE: So, I feel like, uh, what I liked is that there's a lot of things where you can tell by the timeline. Like, you can, you can, like, figure out where your mind was going. [ALEX LAUGHING]

KATIE: Right? Like, you start on one search, and you see the, like, stepping stone to the next one. Like, you can see the thought process. Um...

ALEX: Oof, just spit it out. [LAUGHING] 

KATIE: And then some of them, it's funny ‘cause you don't. Um, and so there was one where you in the morning searched compost toilet cleaning, compost toilet. And then not long after, Halo slash fic. 


ALEX: Uh, okay. Um.

KATIE: Um, Alex, you want to describe what Halo slash fic is?

ALEX: Okay, so Halo is a video game franchise, which, um, I really love. I think that they're some of the best video games ever made. But I find—

ANNA: Do you, do you play them, Alex? 

ALEX: I mean, I have played all of them. The last one came out like, five or six years ago. And there's another one—

ANNA: Okay. They're not like—you don't, like, repeat them. I don't, I don’t play video games, so I wouldn't know.   

ALEX: No. I, I would say Halo 3 is a game I've played several times. 

ANNA: Okay. Okay. 

ALEX: Um, I, I really like Halo. I think it is an, an incredibly fun game to play. It also has this very dense and pretty impenetrable storyline. Like, it's basically nonsense. Like, it doesn't make any sense to me. I've played all the games. I should understand it. I don't understand it. 

What I do know is that the main character in the game is named, is named Master Chief, aka John 117. You might have seen John 117 slash fic in there, too. [LAUGHS] 

KATIE: That, that, probably explains it. 

ALEX: [LAUGHS] So, he, he wears this gigantic body armor and, um, he basically always wears a helmet, you never really see his face. You don't know what he looks like. [IN A GRUFF VOICE] And he talks like this, and he's, he's a real badass. And all he talks about is saving the world. And he never gets above a little, a whisper. Let me just, uh, share this with you.

MASTER CHIEF: These Covenant seem more fanatical than the ones we’ve fought before.

KATIE: [LAUGHS] So, do you—when you’re playing, are you Master Chief?

ALEX: Yeah you’re Master Chief. He's like, a character that's a stand-in for the player and has, like, no personality. Um, you know, it, uh, part of this actually was that I was thinking about—I was thinking about a conversation I had with Ashley Feinberg, actually, where she was talking about Rule 34, this notion that, like, if it exists, there's porn of it, right? 

KATIE: Mm-hmm. 

ALEX: Slash fic is just fanfiction that is pornographic or, or that is sexual in nature, right? 

KATIE: I—is slash, though—I think slash is specifically gay. 

ALEX: Is it? 

KATIE: I think so. I think canonically, it is. Although... like, it's the, you know—it's the traditional, like, Spock and Captain Jim.

ALEX: Huh. But that would still make sense in the Halo universe ‘cause it's mostly like, macho Marines running around. 

KATIE: Mmm. 

ALEX: I was thinking to myself, like, I know that Rule 34 says there's porn of everything on the Internet, but there can't be—like, this character's such a blank slate that he can't—it can't exist. Like, what are they gonna write about? How are they gonna give character to this, like, absolute absence of character? [EXHALES] But— 

KATIE: Mm-hmm. And what did you find? 

ALEX: I found, uh, a lot, actually. Like, there’s tons of stories about Master Chief having, like, romantic relationships with people— with aliens in the story, with characters from other franchises. and like, they did—like, I, I read some of it. I read the, the naughty parts, basically. And they did give—like, they made Master Chief way more interesting than he is in the game. 

Like, you know, he had longing. He had love. He had feelings. And, uh, you know, he, he was way more complex than just being like, a genetically modified super soldier that was conscripted by the United Nations Space Command into a war with aliens called the Covenant.

KATIE: So you didn't see actual like—were you looking for pornographic images or, like, story?

ALEX: No, I, I wasn't. Just—I was just looking for stories. But I guess now I—now I'll see if there are pornographic images.  

KATIE: Oh, okay. I have to imagine that there's gonna be some pornographic images out there.  

ALEX: All right. Hold on. Master Chief, Halo, Rule 34. 

KATIE: Yeah, hit that image search button. 

ALEX: Um, so far, I'm not seeing—I'm seeing, like—I mean, the thing that's funny, since he never takes his helmet off— 

KATIE: Mm-hmm. 

ALEX: … it’s like buff oiled dudes wearing a space helmet. 

KATIE: Um. Are you on Rule34.xxx searching? 

ALEX: No. Is that a thing? 

KATIE: Oh, yeah. There's several sites that are like that, that are specifically niche for people searching, such as yourself. Um… oh. There’s—ooh. 

ANNA: Oh, no. Oh, no. What did you see?


KATIE: Um, I think one of the better, uh, sites for this, I—having looked at this kind of stuff before, trying to find does, does porn of it exist is, is this rule34.paheal.net, uh, which is kind of like a weird site. Um—

ALEX: Rule34 dot P-A-H-E-A-L?

KATIE: Yeah. Um, I—when I quickly looked at this site, there was—you know, I don't know if you guys heard the news, but the, uh, the beloved children's author, Eric Carle— 

ALEX: The guy who wrote The Very Hungry Caterpillar. 

ANNA: Yes. 

KATIE: He just died, age 91. And right up on the little corner of this website, there is a— 

ANNA: Oh, no, no, no, no.

KATIE: … a little thing you can go—the very horny caterpillar. 

ANNA: Oh, no. Oh.

ALEX: Oh, Jesus Christ. 

KATIE: Um, I gotta admit, I gotta click through on this one. [LAUGHS] I gotta find out what this is gonna...

ANNA: Oh, my God. 

KATIE: This, um… [LAUGHS] It's just the co-... the very famous cover of the book, the little caterpillar, but you can see he has a large green penis, um, erect penis attached to him. 


KATIE: Um... 

ANNA: Oh, my God. 

ALEX: When I was doing Google image searches, there wasn’t much Master Chief pornography. But on Paheal, there’s a lot of him having sex with like, other masked helmeted people. So like, the main character of the video game, Doom, like— 

KATIE: Mm-hmm. 

ALEX: And then it's, it's all of the aliens from the game having sex with each other, basically.


ALEX: Thanks. Thanks, Katie.  

KATIE: Did you find out what you were looking for with the compost toilet? I'm curious. 

ALEX: Oh, I—you know, I constantly think about like, uh—I'm constantly fixated on, um, the fact that the world's ending, and that our children are going to have terrible lives because the—there's going to be climate wars and all kinds of stuff. So, I- I- I was like— I'm always like, what can I—what little things can I do? And then I started reading about compost toilets, and I was like, this might be a bridge too far for me. This, like, might be too much, like, hands on poop for me to deal with.

ANNA: Why? Why is that a bridge too far for you? [LAUGHS]

ALEX: Uh, I mean, it’s really—all it is is just like, you poop in a bucket with sawdust in it, and the sawdust and the poop are supposed to mix together and make compost. But it’s like, you have to kind—you have to like, dump it out and clean it out. Like, I don't know if I could do it, like put together a compost toilet and—oh, there's the very horny caterpillar. Okay. [LAUGHS]

KATIE: [LAUGHS] You saw it, right? I mean... 

ALEX: Yup.

ANNA: [LAUGHS] Okay, Alex, let’s do one last search. What’s the last one you want to ask Katie about? 

ALEX: Yeah, mine feels so tame compared—comparatively. Um, but I'll see, I'll see, uh, what we can figure out. This one's small, but it seemed—it seem-... it, it seemed so specific. Unless there's some phrase—unless it's a phrase that I'm not understanding, you, you, you, you searched, "Madonna hates flowers". 

KATIE: [LAUGHS] Um, I was trying to remember—so there's a video of her, um, being handed a big bouquet of flowers. And it is a kind of flower that at the time, I could not remember the name of this flower. And I was outside, and I was looking at these flowers, big blue or white bushy, um, things. And I was trying to remember what they were called, and I could not, for the life of me. Um, and I, I, I didn't—I was like, ‘Blue flower. Like, how can I figure out…’ And I knew that there was this video of Madonna being handed a bouquet by like, a fan, and then she like, hands—she's like, on a hot mic. So I think it's like, a press conference or something. Like, she, you know, she says like, ‘Oh, thank you so much,’ to the person. And then she goes, ‘I hate hydrangeas.’

ANNA: Oh, my God. 

KATIE: And like, she's so like, offended that someone gave her, like, uch, these flowers, which, I love hydrangeas. They're beautiful. 

ALEX: Yeah, they're beautiful. 

ANNA: They are.

ALEX: The only reason to hate a flower is if you're, if you're either allergic to it or if you're like so, so rich that you have to invent things to be mad at. And I think she's— 

KATIE: Yeah. 

ALEX: … she's round 2.

KATIE: Yeah. 

ANNA: There's—I mean, you could also just, like, not like the way a flower smells, Alex. Like, do you like the baby's breath smells?

ALEX: Baby's breath is a kind of flower? [LAUGHS] 

ANNA: Yeah. It's like the white little— 

KATIE: Yeah.  

ALEX: Or are you just talking about, like, putting my face in front of a child? 

ANNA: It's like, if you get a, like, a bouquet of roses from, like, the grocery store or whatever.

KATIE: Mm-hmm. 

ANNA: Like, kinda like, buff it up.

ALEX: I don't know. I'm not sticking my nose in flowers. If they, if they smell, that's, that's fine. But it's like, I'm not— 

ANNA: I'm not sticking my nose in flowers. 

ALEX: It's just—it’s like, it's like, flowers are nice to look at. I don't care how they smell. They smell—they all smell fine… to me. 

KATIE: C- can I ask you one more thing, Alex? ‘Cause there's one thing that, like, jumped out at us. I- I'm intrigued. 

ALEX: Mm-hmm. 

KATIE: Berries and cream lad?  

ALEX: You, you—oh, my God. 

ANNA: I know why. I know why he searched that one. 


ANNA: Alex? 


ANNA: I don't know why Alex chose—I think he cho- choo- chooses each person on staff for a while just to like, send his favorite YouTube videos to for a while. 


ANNA: And so, uh, like a week ago, Alex, right? 

ALEX: Yeah, I sent you that. If you search "berries and cream lad", you'll find it right away. 

ANNA: [WHISPERING] Berries and cream lad.

ALEX: It’s a Starburst commercial where there are these two guys, and they’re standing against a wall. One of them says, “Hey, have you tried these new Berries and Cream Starbust?” And then, then you hear a voice say, “Excuse me. Did, did you say berries?” And it—the camera—the, the shot switches, and it’s like, a guy wearing like—like he’s got, like, an ascot, and he’s wearing like, high boots and, and like, like, tights, and he looks ridiculous. And then he sings a song [LAUGHS] and does a dance, and it goes, “Berries and cream, berries and cream.” 

[SINGING] ‘I'm a little lad who likes berries and creaaaam…” 

ANNA: This is, this is actually what it meant, was just like, whenever I saw Alex on video next, uh, I got a, a nice little impersonation. [ALEX LAUGHS]

KATIE: I feel like this is a very, uh—I mean, that was uploaded in 2007, but I don't know when you suspect that was from. But it feels very 2007 because that's like approximately that, like, Skittles Taste the Rainbow ad campaign that was like— 

ALEX: Those ads were so— 

KATIE: It's absurd. 

ALEX: … fuckin’ funny. One of those Skittles ads was legitimately—I found it like, really tragic. It was about a guy who, whenever he touched something, it turned into Skittles, and everybody— 

KATIE: Yeah. 

ALEX: And they're, and they’re like, “Hey, show them that cool thing you can do with, uh, with, with Skittles.” And he's like, “Cool? Is it cool?” And then he starts talking about how sad it is that he can't touch anything. And there's one line in it which is, ‘I shook a man's hand the other day. He'll never see his family again.’ And I'm like, oh, my God, that's so sad. 

ANNA: Oh, my God. 

ALEX: And then, then, then it ends with the phone ringing, and he tries to pick up the phone, and it turns into Skittles, and he gets mad and slams his fists on his desk and the desk turns into Skittles. [LAUGHS]

Anyway, I like dumb shit. Whatever. 


ALEX: Thanks for coming on and doing this, Katie. It was illuminating to have someone else look at my—look at my search—my Google searches. 

KATIE: This was fun. I, I enjoyed looking at your, your history. It's—I feel like I know—I feel like I know you better, and yet not at all. 

ANNA: After the break…Alex considers leaving his attic.



ALEX: Oh, Damiano Marchetti, hello. 

DAMIANO: Hi, how are you?

ALEX: Uh, I didn't see you there in this, uh, video chat. 

DAMIANO: We've been sitting here for 13 minutes talking about your children and how you say pee pee, poo poo to them, so do not lie.

ALEX: [LAUGHS] It's true. It's true.

DAMIANO: So, um, I actually called you here, um, because I have one quick announcement before we end the show—

ALEX: Mm-hmm.

DAMIANO: —because I had an idea, um, that I wanted to ask our listeners about. But, uh, we're really lucky because you're in New Jersey, I'm in Brooklyn. Like, things are changing. Like, it's not that way in a lot of the world, but like, in New York, things are opening back up, we’re doing things again. And it's made me curious to hear about the people who have been, like, sitting on changes that are really scary or really exciting. Like, are there any things that you want to do? 

ALEX: Man, no. I’ve spent the last year plugging wires into synthesizers. I’m going to be doing the exact same thing. 

DAMIANO: Oh, god. Are there… people, you are gonna finally see?

ALEX: I mean, I didn't get to—I, I haven't been able to see my mom. She turns 80 this year. And so, you know, I, I don't think she listens to the show. So I can say that I'm trying to plan, like, a birthday party for her. [LAUGHS]

That's big! Going to Florida, birthday parties. I mean, I mean, it's— 

DAMIANO: You, you planning a birthday party feels very big to me. [LAUGHING] Can I just ask, like, what are your plans for the birthday party?

ALEX: When I say I'm planning a birthday party, I more mean, like, I'm planning on showing up and being nice. [BOTH LAUGHING] 


ALEX: But honestly, I mean, even though it's small and not life-changing, it feels really big to go to Florida. 

DAMIANO: No, absolutely.

ALEX: So, I don't know. Uh, that feels exciting. 

DAMIANO: So, yeah, I’m glad you’re gonna go see your mom… but actually like the question I had for people is like as things are reopening in some places is there like a big change you’ve been holding your breath on, over the pandemic or your whole life, that you’re going to get to. 

But also, like, I know that the United States is in this, like, super privileged position, where like, a lot of people are getting vaccinated, things feel like they're going back to some version of normal. But I know that for a lot of places, that's not true at all.

ALEX: Yeah. Things are very different pretty much everywhere else. 

DAMIANO: Yeah. Um, and so, like, if, if your life still feels like it's, like, completely frozen, like you're just stuck in, like, COVID-land forever, or if it feels like it's just getting worse, um, I want to know, like, what's the thing you're most looking forward to when things start to reopen where you are? 

So, Alex, where should people write us?

ALEX: You should write us at replyall@gimletmedia.com. And use the subject line '18 months in.'


DAMIANO: Alex, anything else? 

ALEX: Uh, I don't know. Everybody's always dogging on me about my attic. I like it up here.

DAMIANO: How many synthesizers would you say that you ordered this year? 

ALEX: I can count. Pulsar, Quatrantid Swarm... the Critter & Guitari—

DAMIANO: I can already hear us fading down on you.

ALEX: —I traded my OB-6 for a Prophet 6, so that's technically not getting a new one. That was a trade…


LISA WANG: This episode of Reply All was produced by me, Lisa Wang, with Phia Bennin and Anna Foley. It was edited by Tim Howard. Additional help from the rest of the Reply All crew: Hannah Chinn, Damiano Marchetti, and Jessica Yung.

We’re hosted, of course, by Alex Goldman and Emmanuel Dzotsi. This episode was mixed by Rick Kwan, with fact checking by Matthew Browne. 

Music in this episode is from Breakmaster Cylinder, Mariana Romano and Alex Goldman. And our theme song is by the Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. 

Special thanks to Ashley Feinberg… you can subscribe to her newsletter at Trashberg.com, that’s Trash B E R G dot com. Also thanks to Paul Kousky, Jennifer Shipon, and Eric Emm.

And we really want to give a huge shout-out to our outgoing intern Navani Otero, who has been amazing — amazing. 

And that brings me to the fact that… We’re actually looking for our new intern! We’re hiring for both a fall 2021 intern and a spring 2022 intern. If you’d like to apply or read more about the job, go to replyallshow.com/internship.

Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you in two weeks.