Spencer Dukoff, Forbes Vetted
💭 Thoughts on The Grimace Shake, Martin Short's memoir, and the peace that comes with analog formats.
Thought Enthusiast is an AdHoc Project where we chat with fascinating thought leaders across various facets of music, tech, and culture whose work we admire, simply asking “what’s on your mind?” and “why do you care?” 💭
Spencer Dukoff is a writer, editor, and audience development professional. Before landing at Forbes, he worked at Men's Health, Mic, NY Daily News, Spoon University, and Slant, contributing to New York Times for Kids, Salon, Thrillist, and AdHoc along the way. Spencer has interviewed a number of artists, including Phoebe Bridgers, Bad Bunny, Sheryl Crow, Leon Bridges, MUNA, Jason Isbell, Damon Albarn. When he's not worshiping at the altar of digital content strategy, he's probably doing the Elmo Slide with his son, Arlo.
🎯 Current focus
I'm about 6 months into working at Forbes Vetted, which is the brand's product reviews and recommendations vertical a la Wirecutter or The Strategist. I lead audience development at Forbes Vetted, meaning I'm responsible to driving growth and engagement as it relates to our social media properties, newsletters, SMS, content aggregators, video, and other traffic-generating platforms. I'm really happy right now. One of the main reasons is that I'm supported by a smart, empathetic team. The work is inherently creative, but it's tethered to a legitimate business plan (rather than "we'll make a thing and figure out how it makes money in the future ... or we'll lay everyone off if we don't figure it out"). Also, I'm content with my work-life balance. In the past, I've been given to fits of toxic productivity, judging myself as a person based on how much I can get done at work or how quickly I can advance in my career. Now that I'm a new dad (my son turns 2 in December) and I'm living in a new city (my wife and I moved from Hoboken, NJ to Richmond, VA last summer), I'm grateful to be in a role where I can leave work at work and be fully present when I'm offline. Plus, it's pretty cool to work at a place where everyone is obsessed with finding the best stuff and weeding through the stuff that'll break or waste your money.
📚 Martin Short's memoir
I've almost finished listening to the audiobook of Martin Short's memoir, I Must Say: My Life As a Humble Comedy Legend. I've always been a casual fan of Short's and figured his autobiography would be a fun diversion (it's also one of those books that I don't think you fully experience if you're just reading it — Short's performance via audiobook is a masterclass in storytelling), but I've been so pleasantly surprised by its depth. Short has encountered his fair share of loss — both his parents at a young age, his late wife to cancer in 2010 — and between cameos from his zany SNL and SCTV characters, as well as numerous celebrity anecdotes, the comedian is able to impart a wealth of wisdom. The way Short talks about grief and growth is incredibly comforting, and this book has been like a balm for my soul over the past months where the wider world has felt particularly heavy. I'd highly recommend binge-watching a few Martin Short compilations on YouTube and then downloading his book.
🕉️ Manta of the moment
You can only control what you can control. I have pretty bad anxiety and a lot of it stems from gaming out worst-case scenarios in my head. In therapy, I've been working on making peace with the fact that there is so much in life you can't control: the weather, what other people think about you, the news of the day, pretty much everything. You can control how you treat other people, what you choose to put into your body, giving yourself grace, prioritizing moving your body, making time to be still. I'm trying to quiet that voice in my head that chirps "what if" and focus on being more present. And it's not a linear journey — I definitely struggle some days — but I'm incrementally finding ways to live more in the moment.
One of the best things about being a parent is getting to re-experience the stuff that you loved as a kid with your kid. Right now, that's The Muppets. This past weekend, we showed Arlo the 2011 Muppets movie and he was TRANSFIXED. Every time that Kermit would leave the screen, he would start pointing and pleading "FROG FROG FROG FROG" until he re-appeared. I love the Muppets because all they want to do is put on a show — their raison d'etre is to simply entertain and put a smile on people's faces. That resonates with me and helps renew my faith in humanity.
I'm excited to run the Richmond Half Marathon this month. Before the pandemic, I barely ran and had a pretty tenuous relationship with fitness. I loathed going to the gym and would've never considered myself to be an athlete. I started running in 2020 near the start of lockdowns simply because I realized I couldn't go on my Little Mental Health Walks and work out in the same day, so I might as well combine the two. Turns out running long distances is really great for your mental health and now I've unlocked the Running Guy personality. I've run two marathons and a few half marathons so far, and I want to keep pushing myself to run more races. A bunch of my family is coming to Richmond for the race, so I'm looking forward to meeting them at the finish line and then eating bagels or drinking beers or whatever we're going to do to celebrate.
😌 The stillness that analog formats provide
I like reading magazines. Although I like to read books, I have a hard time getting really into a book unless it's the weekend or I'm going on vacation. What's nice about magazines is that at the end of a long day, I can crack into an issue of The New Yorker or Men's Health or whatever, read one story, and fall asleep. I spend so much time in front of screens, both for work and not for work, so it's really therapeutic to just hold something tangible and challenge myself to keep all my devices turned off or far out of reach. It's the same reason I really like listening to vinyl records. It's less the whole "vinyl sounds better" thing and more that I've made a commitment to listen to a particular record and give it my attention. Like it's "a choice" for me to go pull it off the record player and pick a new one, whereas listening to music on my phone is way more chaotic and all over the place. I like the stillness that some of these analog choices seem to provide.
😈 The Grimace Shake™
I have to give kudos to this year's Grimace Shake marketing campaign. It feels like a coup that McDonald's, one of the most recognizable brands in the world, was able to plant the seeds for one of the most viral TikTok trends in recent memory by unveiling a purple shake that inspired people to one-up one another with gruesome depictions of their deaths/demonic possessions after purportedly consuming said purple shake. The whole thing was truly unhinged in the best way.
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