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Painting inception and mundane TikTok reactions are how I stay sane
OK, please forgive me, Gen Z, for I’m about to go very millennial on this week’s newsletter. I’m going to overexplain a simple phenomenon on your platform. But, like many things in pop culture, nothing that becomes massively popular is superficial!
This week I talked to 18-year-old Larry Scott about his fast-growing TikTok account, @larryakumpo. Over the last month or so, Larry’s been filming himself watching and giving genuine reactions to other people’s TikToks. Some of his videos have been viewed millions of times, and he now has over 1 million followers. (Only 48 hours ago, he had about 800,000.)
He’s obviously not the first to do this (nor is he the first to go viral for doing it), but his reaction videos are unique because they’re uncomplicated. They are you and me — and I imagine a vast majority of people in quarantine — lying on the couch, having your brain liquified by the app’s “For You” algorithm for hours while being mildly entertained by a few videos. Larry says at most one to four words (“whoa,” “oh,” “nice,” “ooooohhhhh”) in most of his reactions, his facial expressions are minimal but still meaningful, and they really do seem genuine. Larry confirmed that he does not watch any of the videos he reacts to prior to filming himself.
There is something extremely satisfying about watching something that at least appears to be sincere. A lot of reaction videos are amped up with quips and big reactions; they’re meant to be entertaining on their own. Larry’s videos are what I’d call soothing.
A lot of people watching his videos are echoing this sentiment. “U bring such a calm sense to tik tok,” one commenter wrote in a recent video. “This man makes me so calm and safe,” another said. He’s being called “the wholesome king.”
Larry, who lives in Jupiter, Florida, told me he is “incredibly surprised” by how viral he has become by filming himself sincerely reacting to things. But he did set out to create a “chill vibe that’s also pretty funny.”
“I [think] people feel relaxed when they watch my videos,” he said. “I just wanted to find a way to make people laugh and smile, and I thought the reactions would be a good way to do that.”
Larry doesn’t have a favorite TikTok. “Whatever makes my fans happy makes me happy,” he said. He also wants to tell his fans that he’s a basketball player and will be playing in college (whenever in-person sports are safe to resume in this pandemic, that is).
Like his videos, Larry is a teen of few words — but a simple “whoa” or “oh” feels revolutionary on social media where everyone’s competing to do the most.
To continue this theme, another random internet person has impressed me with their quarantine content…
The state of affairs in this country (and continuing to be cooped up in my apartment) drives me just short of insanity on some days. I am extremely jealous of anyone who knows how to channel this chaotic energy into something creative or beautiful. Or, in the case of 26-year-old Seamus Wray, both.
Seamus is a self-employed artist based in Chicago (whoop!), and he has made himself into a meme over the last week. He’s been making self-portraits of himself painting self-portraits. “I painted a painting of me painting myself,” he wrote in an Instagram caption on Monday. And that’s how this all got started. By Thursday, he finished a painting of himself holding a cat painting a painting of himself painting a painting of himself painting a painting of himself painting a painting of himself painting a painting of himself — whatever, the sixth inception.
(Right now the word “painting” has lost all meaning.)
His next iteration will be a painting of this Instagram of him painting a painting of himself paint...you get it. Its delicate absurdity has impressed a lot of people off the platform. One tweet has been retweeted more than 235,000 times in three days.
As I did to Larry about his TikToks, I reached out to Seamus with an email that was essentially “Hello, hi, wow, can I feature this?” and he said, “Sure!” And that was the extent of it.
Seamus also shared that the idea spawned “from playful boredom.”
“Infinity as a concept has always intrigued me,” he added.
The only real inquiry I had to follow-up was asking him when the inception chain will stop, if it ever will. Seamus said he’s taking a pause on it for now, which I imagine is great for his mental health. But for mine these days, I hope it never ends. I wish I were kidding.
Until next time,