How a New York Comedian Danced His Way to TikTok Fame
Rich Aronovitch started doing standup when he was 18 years old. He'd been a working comic for over two decades when the Covid-19 pandemic struck and comedy clubs throughout the country shut down. Without an outlet for performing, New York City-based Aronovitch felt a void in his life. Then a friend urged him to create for TikTok.
"I was purposely not on TikTok. TikTok looked dumb to me. I was like, 'It’s kids.' I judged it," says Aronovitch, who has been featured on AXS TV's Gotham Comedy Live, NBC's Last Comic Standing and served as a guest judge on Food Network's Beat Bobby Flay.
Still, the comedian created an account. "When I went on there, the algorithm hadn't quite figured out what my interests were and just sent me young girls in bikinis dancing. So I made fun of it. I put on a bikini and danced," he says.
That turned out to be a fateful decision. "People loved it. I became the thing I despised," he cracks.
Soon enough, Aronovitch was donning flashy, intentionally goofy getups—midriff-baring tops, fake-fur vests and shiny flared pants—and dancing in public all around NYC to make people laugh.
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Some bystanders are bemused, not quite sure what to make of this shaggy ball of energy. Others join in with the silly leaps, swings and sways. Then there are people who ignore this dancing machine in their midst—even though you know they damn well see him.
Though his gyrations are self-consciously comical, Aronovitch busts some legitimately impressive moves. He keeps to the beat, and there's an element of joy that's infectious. These days, Aronovitch, whose TikTok username is @richisfunny, has close to a quarter-million followers.
He knew he was doing something special early on thanks to feedback from followers. "This woman reached out and said, 'My sister’s in the hospital, and instead of being scared, we're scrolling through and laughing at your videos.' I realized I was helping people. There was some sort of service element to this."
It's also freeing to do comedy that doesn't offend anyone. "It's pretty non-political. This is just silly," says Aronovitch, who shares clips from his standup act on Instagram, where he also rocks the handle @richisfunny.
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Though comfortable telling jokes on stage, it took time for Aronovitch to lose his inhibitions and dance with abandon on the street, in a grocery store, or wherever he decides to pop up. "When I started doing it, it was terrifying to just start dancing in front of people. I was petrified. Then it becomes a muscle. Once you hear the music, you just focus on the music and go," he says.
Aronovitch's dance performances are filmed by either his wife or a fellow comic. He carries a backpack full of outfits to change into, and he estimates the most performances he has ever done in one day is 18, which was exhausting. "I felt it for like a day. It's a legitimate workout."
As grueling as it can be to dance for laughs, building a large following on TikTok has led to opportunities for the comedian. Aronovitch was cast in Shakira's NBC competition series Dancing with Myself and competed on the "Viral Sensations" season of Food Network's Worst Cooks in America. Limp Bizkit lead singer Fred Durst invited him to dance on stage when the band performed at Madison Square Garden. Aronovitch even strutted his stuff at a New York Islanders hockey game. He also has a brand mascot deal in the works elsewhere.
He's glad he took a gamble on TikTok, though, at the outset, not everyone thought it was a wise idea.
"Someone—and I don't want to say who because this woman doesn't like me to talk about her, but I'll just say she gave birth to me—sat me down and was like, 'This isn't good for you. It makes you look silly,'" he recalls. "Meanwhile, it's done more for my career than anything I've ever done before."
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