Welcome to Pothead(s) of the Week, where we break down all the important things that have occurred in the past seven days involving famous people and cannabis.
This week, we learn about why Snap CEO Evan Spiegel’s old weed-centric emails to his frat should have warned investors not to buy his company’s IPO, explore the depths of David Letterman interviews on YouTube, celebrate The Big Lebowski turning 19 (only 401 years until it turns 420!), and reminisce about the time Damon Albarn smoked two suitcases full of weed while recording a Gorillaz album in Jamaica.
Pothead One: Evan Spiegel of Snap
Last week, the company formerly known as Snapchat enjoyed the biggest IPO since 2014. If you care about tech and/or financial markets, this is a big deal. “Snap Shares Leap 44% in Debut as Investors Doubt Value Will Vanish,” read one New York Times headline, which quoted one finance person as saying, “The sound you’re hearing today after the Snap IPO is the happy snapping of fingers of money-losing unicorns and their investors,” which is perhaps the corniest quote of all time.
A lot of the excitement surrounding Snap has to do with its CEO Evan Spiegel, a 26-year-old ex-frat dude hailed by the tech press as a “genius” who’s “the next Mark Zuckerberg and/or Steve Jobs” Spiegel likes to do things differently than other tech CEOs––he made a point of basing his company out of Venice Beach in Los Angeles, exercises a remarkable amount of autonomy over his extremely large company, and has a reputation for being “secretive,” whatever that means in Silicon Valley.
But as last week became this week, what went up came down. On Monday, Snap’s stock price had deflated from its Friday high of $29 to $23.77, which CNN noted was “below its first day opening price of $24,” presumably pointing out the 33-cent difference because no one in Silicon Valley knows how math works. By Wednesday, critics were publically calling everything sold “junk.”
Maybe it’s just me, but personally, I would not have put my money in the hands of a 26-year-old who in a not-so-distant year I like to call 2009 had sent emails to his frat brothers with a shopping list containing kegs, plastic shot glasses, and “~1 ounce of marijuana” and promising to “roll a blunt for whoever sees the most tits tonight.” It just goes to show you that the tech industry is a horrible, messed-up place run by the same people who would have gotten into finance in the 80’s and is one day soon going to collapse under the weight of its own bullshit. In the spirit of Spiegel himself, I’ll roll a blunt for whoever sells short against Snap.
Pothead Two: David Letterman
The retired host of The Late Show reared his now-bearded head this week for an expansive interview with Vulture’s David Marchese, touching on Donald Trump, his discomfort with late-night shows trying to go viral on social media, and how he spends his days in awash in a pleasant sense of boredom. “Mostly I sit on the edge of the bed and stare at the floor,” he joked, adding towards the end of the interview, “You’re talking to a man who has nothing to do.”
Though Letterman himself doesn’t partake––“It makes you feel dumb, smoking the weed,” he told Oprah in one of his final interviews as the host of The Late Show––that hasn’t stopped his old interviews from becoming canonical YouTube clips for those looking for strange, decontextualized pop-cultural ephemera to shove into their eyes.
As a host, Letterman pierced the veil of the conventional talk show interview, eager to point out the absurdity of what was essentially a performative conversation arranged so that people could make money off of whatever the celebrity was there to promote. Try his patently bizarre interviews with Harmony Korine and Crispin Glover on for size, as well as his indecorous chat with Madonna in which the pop star says “You’re a goddamn liar” when Letterman claims he’s “never smoked indo.”
And then there are his interviews with Norm MacDonald, a guy who seems to undertake new projects simply so he has an excuse to go be weird on late-night TV. My personal favorite is from 2015, near the end of Letterman’s tenure at The Late Show, where Norm breaks a camera and then begins a heartfelt remark to Letterman by lovingly telling him he’s “like Nixon and shit.”
One additional gem from the interview: Letterman says if he could interview any person in history, he’d pick Bob Marley. (Plus, the magazine cover….)
Pothead Three: The Dude
The Big Lebowski turns 19 this week! Excitingly, that means that if The Big Lebowski were a person, it would be able to legally drink alcohol in the nine Canadian provinces where the legal drinking age is not 18. While the 1998 Coen Brothers joint often gets tagged as a “stoner film,” I prefer to think about it as a comedy-noir uniquity whose protagonist happens to be a stoner. There’s no point in telling you the movie’s plot because it doesn’t really make any sense and given that this is a website that covers all things weed, you’ve probably already seen it a million times.
Instead, let’s celebrate Jeff Bridges’ The Dude as a modernized take on Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, shaggily fumbling his way towards a set of answers that don’t always add up, Marlowe’s booze and trenchcoat subbed out for a joint and a bathrobe. In The Dude, Bridges created a character whose legacy would extend far beyond the film, into pop culture, giving millions of cannabis enthusiasts a hero to believe in.
Pothead Four: Damon Albarn
Gorillaz are back! This June, Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s animated art-rock project will be headlining its own festival in Kent, England, dubbed the Demon Dayz Festival, reports Billboard. Albarn has led a fascinating career––he’s been a pop star as the frontman of Blur and then Gorillaz, recorded multiple records in Africa with local musicians, scored films, written operas, produced for Bobby Womack and done beats for the rapper Kano, and made a dub-folk album with The Clash’s Paul Simonon and Fela Kuti’s drummer Tony Allen.
With all due respect to his work with Simonon and Allen as The Good, The Bad & The Queen and the second half of Blur’s 13, for my money Albarn’s most weeded-out record still remains the first Gorillaz album, a delirious post-everything work of trip-hop-pop-rock that sounds like it was produced by Lee “Scratch” Perry and engineered by a sentient bong. There’s a good reason that it sounds like this––Albarn recorded his vocals for the record while spending two months in Jamaica, going through two suitcases of weed in the process.
“I smoked spliff, drank rum, and ate ackee and saltfish and fresh mangoes for two months,” he told Q Magazine in an interview. “By the end of it, locals were hanging out every night. That’s when we knew we had a good record.”
Per Billboard, Albarn and Hewlett have spent the past two years quietly working on a new Gorillaz album, which, given that you are an autonomous individual, you will be able to listen to while high.