I Think About This a Lot is a series dedicated to private memes: images, videos, and other random trivia we are doomed to play forever on loop in our minds.
My brain, perhaps like yours, has been permanently broken by the internet. So it should come as no surprise that one thing I can’t stop thinking about comes from my greatest frenemy: Twitter.com.
See, back in the Before Times — before Twitter was a daily slog against Nazis telling women and minorities the ways they were going to end them, and Twitter taking the side of the oppressor — the platform looked very different. It used to be a place where you could meet up with like-minded weirdos and arse off for a few hours in your day, letting off the steam from your “work sucks!” valve. Those were the salad days, my friend. ( Random dudes would still tell women and minorities ways they’d wish they’d die, but they didn’t have the White House backing them.)
During this period, we had Crab Rangoon, and things of that nature. We had Chuck Grassley espousing the magic of “u kno what” and nobody was getting to fuck the flag. We even hooted and hollered, in unity, over a pair of llamas on the run from the law.
We also used to have a hell of a good time harassing Brands. The brands rightly deserved it, whether it was for their cavalier, pasta-based portrayals of harrowing war experiences, or airlines actively serving porn in lieu of customer care. #Brands on Twitter used to not be in on the joke. We didn’t have a sassy Dictionary, nor did we have fast-food chains trading barbs.
In many ways, it was a Gilded Age. We may never see it again. But, we can remember. And oh boy, can I never forget this exchange between a fake Prince account and the official Time Warner Cable one.
It came from an absolutely pitch-perfect parody created by comedian and writer Jake Fogelnest. (Other notable tweets include the short but infinitely delightful “Chaka Khan is nice,” “the rumors are true i am having a pajama party”, “2 become a sensual butterfly u must first b a funky caterpillar. the erotic metamorphosis is complete,” and the unusually political “if u don’t like it call the funk police”.) It was so well-executed, a person close to Prince reportedly once told Jake that the Purple One had seen Jake’s account and liked it. Jake said he was even approached at one point by Prince’s people to work together, but nothing further happened. I asked Jake about this and he cryptically replied, “Prince had his ways of letting you know he was watching you.”
Unlike every dime a dozen parody account that serves to amass huge follower counts and then monetize through ads, @PrinceTweets2U was, like the man himself, an elevation of a form. Many did not understand it — but it was art, nonetheless. And if the hallmark of great art is that it is where two ideas that don’t naturally go together meet, then @PrinceTweets2U certainly qualified. Especially on the day when “Prince” decided to make a formal complaint about Time Warner Cable.
Cable companies, despite all their labyrinthine phone customer care, are actually extremely responsive to online complaints. It’s not exactly clear why they care so much about this one channel, especially when they rank lower than the IRS on the list of people you’d want to talk to on a given day. I’m not sure Jake was looking to get a response from Time Warner Cable, but when he did, it was your bog standard “holy shit, we need to help this potential VIP” response. “@PrinceTweets2U I apologize for any poor experience. Is there something we can assist with? ^TK”, they frantically tweeted.
And then the stars aligned, the heavens opened up for one brief, shining moment, and the best reply possible was delivered to the portable tumor machines we keep in our pants: “bring me a tangerine.”
Impersonation is an art form. You have to take the collective knowledge of what a person does and says, distill it to a few markers, and add embellishment to it. This one tweet delivers all of that in one efficient package. It’s true Prince was an unknowable cipher in life. It’s also true that he had assistants to take any annoyance out of his daily life, and that he was accustomed to that level of service. It makes complete sense that Prince would ask a cable company to bring him a tangerine. The specificity of the fruit and its relative ubiquity in life make this note particularly funny.
I think about this exchange often, because it encapsulates everything that was great about old Twitter. It reminds me that we once had it somewhat good on what’s become a hell site, and that we didn’t even know how good we had it. Prince requesting a tangerine comes to me regularly, whether it’s in the shower (the sensuality palace) or while I’m on the subway on the way to a dry client meeting, and I need a pick-me-up. It comes to me when I slog through my work days now, tweeting the odd observation about my dog Casanova, or my opinions about food, or making a joke that draws the ire of Breitbart. Basically, @PrinceTweets2U is always there.
Jake informed me he did not receive the tangerine.