TikTok Fame Isn’t What It’s Cracked Up To Be, Says Comedian Jason Banks
These days, comedy fans know Jason Banks for his viral TikToks detailing the misadventures of fictional character Derek.
But Jason has been making people laugh long before he discovered TikTok.
After winning numerous competitions in his home state of Ohio — including the “Funniest Person in Columbus Contest” at the Columbus Funny Bone — Jason started touring the U.S. and performing at some of the country’s most popular comedy clubs.
Along the way, whiskey helped — Jason doesn’t go on stage without downing a shot of Jameson first.
That little detail makes him a perfect candidate for the Whiskey Business Podcast, where he joined hosts Dino Tripodis and Greg Hansberry for a chat while sipping on a glass of the 8-year-old straight bourbon whiskey Mic.Drop
In the first part of his conversation for the podcast, he discussed his comedic rise, the role TikTok fame plays in it all, how he explains his unique career to his kids and how he feels about being recognized in public.
When life hands you lemons (or takes your job)
Jason was working as a business analyst at Chase. But he lost his job in October 2019 — months before the COVID-19 pandemic first upended life as we know it.
Instead of wallowing, he took it as an opportunity to pursue stand-up comedy — which he’d been doing on the side — full time.
The decision didn’t come easy, however. Even the prayer warriors at his church seemed uncertain when he asked them to pray for him.
“She was like, ‘you’re crazy, you and your little rapping ass friends, go get a real job,’” he says. “But she prayed for me.”
At that point in his comedy career, he was regularly booking gigs at clubs, which was fun and exciting. But he wasn’t earning enough to support his family.
He started posting brief sketches and other quick-hit comedy videos on the platform, then uploaded them to Instagram so more people would see them. One day he woke up and a single clip played on TruTV’s Laff Mobb's Laff Tracks helped him reach 100,000 followers on TikTok.
Jason knew he had to do something to keep his momentum going, so he started turning jokes he’d posted on his Twitter account into TikToks. The first to blow up was a video version of an old tweet from 2015 that’s remained his pinned tweet:
Kids eat free today? Nice... In that case, I'll have a water and my son will have the steak and shrimp combo with a kids bud light.
The video of Jason inspired by the tweet — during which he played himself, a server at a restaurant, as well as a young restaurant patron — went viral, and currently sits at 1.5 million likes.
As for where he gets his material, Jason’s 10-year-old twins are a big source of inspiration for his videos.
“Sometimes I will be dead in the middle of a movie, an hour into a movie with 45 minutes still left, and they'll say something so dumb that I've gotta shoot a video,” he says.
Adapting to TikTok-induced fame
Jason’s rise from an up-and-coming regional comic to someone who gets noticed by complete strangers all around the U.S. happened pretty fast.
“A guy on Main Street runs up to the car at the light and was like, ‘Hey, are you from TikTok?’ And I'm driving and he goes, ‘can I get a picture before the light turns red?’ So he ran around and he just got down and took it,” he says of his newfound fame.
“Somebody came out at Culver’s, one of the workers came out, and got a picture while we're waiting for food.”
There are perks to getting recognized in public like getting to jump the line at a club in Tempe, Arizona. But for Jason, who says he can sometimes be “socially awkward,” his growing popularity can also feel a bit overwhelming.
His meet-and-greet photo lines after shows are so long that he doesn’t have any break before his second show of the night, and sometimes he even needs to come through the back of a venue before a gig.
Jason appreciates everyone who asks for an autograph, photo, etc., but he says feeling the need to have a full conversation with every person who comes up to him gets exhausting.
“If we're just doing a book signing at 3 p.m., now it’s like OK, it's going to suck because now I’ve got to talk to all these people sober,” he says. “At least when I'm drunk a little bit it's not as bad.”
Pushing past attempts to cancel him
Several of Jason’s most popular videos include Blind Adam, a fictional sketch character. The punchline of all jokes involving Blind Adam is, unsurprisingly, that he can’t see.
Complicating matters further — there’s another content creator who actually is visually imparied and also uses the moniker Blind Adam.
This situation as well as the Blind Adam jokes don’t always go down well with audiences. But Jason’s fans are supportive and encourage him to keep going with his politically incorrect brand of humor.
“This one lady came up to me [after a show] and said she's a huge Blind Adam fan and that she’s upset to hear about Blind Adam being upset about [the other] Blind Adam,” he recalls with a laugh.
“So there's a whole community that is cool with it. Because here's the thing … I’m not just being horrible.”
Another challenge Jason faces: TikTok often takes down his videos, citing inappropriate content.
One way he’s gotten around this is by cutting off his jokes just before the R-rated part. For example, he’d have Derrick, the fictionalized version of his son, say, “Hey Dad, Mom sucked Uncle Rick’s…” (without completing the sentence).
That’s good for ensuring his content stays up on TikTok, but it can get sticky when TikTok fans show up at his live performances and aren’t expecting how unfiltered he can get.
Jason takes it in stride, though, and helps the audience to do the same.
“Now, when I get on stage and say something that’s going to be more offensive than just a little sex joke,” he says. “After it goes, I’ll always tell the crowd like, TikTok can't take this shit down.”
This article is based on an episode of Whiskey Business podcast. Whiskey Business is a podcast not so much about whiskey, as it is one WITH whiskey. Comedian and influencer, Dino Tripodis, discusses topics from A to Z while sharing a pour of whiskey with his guests. Tune in to future episodes for enlightening and entertaining conversations over a “good pour."