In 2012—before Prince joined Twitter, and way before he launched the greatest Instagram profile of all time—Los Angeles-based comedian Jake Fogelnest pondered what it would be like if The Purple One tweeted. What he came up with was @PrinceTweets2U, an account that now has more than 100,000 followers, and will probably go down in parody Twitter history.
This morning, after the news of Prince's death hit us all in the gut, @PrinceTweets2U wrote: “It got back to me that Prince had seen the dumb tweets from this account and thought they were funny. I will miss him terribly.” Later on Thursday, The FADER caught up with Fogelnest on his lunch break, to talk about what made Prince an otherworldly genius and why his gleefully shady sense of humor worked so well on the internet.
JAKE FOGELNEST: I was riding into work and I saw that there was a death at Paisley Park. I was like, “uh oh, I hope by the time I get out of my car and walk into my office that this is not what I think it is.” And then I walked into the office and it was exactly what I thought it was. I’ve been working basically until just now so I haven’t even really processed it yet. It’s nuts.
I honestly have no idea [why I started @PrinceTweets2U]. I just thought it would be funny. I was sitting in my house one day and I just started thinking about what Prince would be like on Twitter, and how Prince’s voice would translate perfectly. Just the way he wrote out his song lyrics with the 4 and the U and the 2. He’s sort of been doing this before everybody. The idea of Prince sitting around his house bored and on Twitter made me laugh. Like, he would want to put out his Prince ideology and fantastic thoughts, but then at the same time would be upset that something wasn’t in his fridge. The idea of just Prince around the house, or Prince’s day-to-day life. You know how when people start using Twitter they don’t really know how to use it? So just like him realizing, “Yeah I’m Prince and I have a platform to disseminate missives to the masses.” And then at the same time he’d be really upset if he was out of pomegranate juice! Prince is so otherworldly that it’s really funny to me to think about him doing very pedestrian and normal things.
I hate parody accounts. I think they're the dumbest. I remember when there was a Russian meteor and everyone was tweeting about the Russian meteor, I went and registered the Twitter account @RussianMeteor or something and I told myself like, “Don’t create a parody account for this.” When it’s seizing upon a pop culture moment I think that’s sort of cheap and easy. But there was no reason to start a Prince parody account. It was just funny to me. Because Prince doesn’t need to be on Twitter! He’s fucking Prince!
When it first started I did it a lot. Then I thought, well, Prince would lose interest in Twitter. And then I would use it sparingly. I just kind of left it in the background. There’ve been 451 tweets since 2012. It’s not that many. It used to be maybe one or two a day, and now it’s every once and awhile.
Prince eventually joined and quit Twitter under different accounts like 75 times. I used to write these pieces for FunnyOrDie as Prince, and [the first time he joined Twitter] he used one of the pictures from one of them to announce his presence to the world. But the reason I know that Prince liked @PrinceTweets2U was the dumbest fucking thing. I can’t believe it’s possible, but Prince apparently watched @midnight, the Comedy Central show. His people reached out to @midnight and were like “Maybe we can do something with that Prince Twitter account.” Nothing ever came of it.
Prince had an insanely shady sense of humor and I think it came from him playing this game of being untouchable and mysterious. Purple Rain is a very funny movie now, and it was funny then. All the stuff with Morris Day and Jerome! They do throw a woman in a dumpster at one point and that doesn’t age so well.
I saw Prince once, at SXSW. It was actually A Tribe Called Quest and Prince, together at a secret show. A Tribe Called Quest were amazing, and then Prince came out and I had the strangest reaction. The minute he walked onstage I found myself going, “Oh my God.” Like, there he is. It would have been like if E.T. walked into my office. Like, this is not a person of this earth. I love him so much, but you just don’t expect to see Prince. Even if you’re going to see Prince, you don’t expect Prince! There’s very few people that achieve that not-of-this-earth status. You don’t hear anybody say, “Well I don’t really like Prince.” I’ll hear people say “Madonna sucks,” and they’re wrong and they’re stupid, but I’ve never heard anyone say “I don’t really like Prince.”
Prince was the ultimate high status, which is the funniest thing in comedy. His royal badness. And he also had a great sense of humor about himself and his high status. He completely understood what was funny about the Dave Chapelle Charlie Murphy sketch. To the point of where he used it as the cover of a single.
I was not going to continue tweeting [after Prince’s death]. I posted a tweet that said, “It got back to me that Prince had seen the dumb tweets from this account and thought they were funny. I will miss him terribly,” just kind of killing the joke. Immediately people started writing back asking me to please continue the tweets, please keep it going. I think I won't right now, but maybe if it seems appropriate. Because I think that Prince is so otherworldly that, yeah, of course he would keep going when he had something to say. There are still a lot of people that just think it’s actually Prince. But it seemed like most people got the joke, including Prince himself.
I think I love Prince so much because I’m so not like him. He’s tiny and a musical genius. Very, very serious—as serious as it gets—but then also very, very silly and playful. And I’ve just been working today so I haven’t really had the opportunity to read anybody’s stories or anything. Is everyone just scrambling? None of his stuff is on YouTube. How do we deal? I just cancelled TIDAL.
But can’t wait to read what people have to say. It’s getting weird. With David Bowie, and now Prince. I feel old. I’m 37: not old, but not young. People are 18. But that’s the thing: 18-year-olds love Prince! Children love Prince. Senior citizens love Prince. When somebody is that funky, it can’t be denied.