It’s hard to be a stand-up comic and ignore TikTok entirely.
The Chinese-owned platform lets anyone make people howl via its social media service. That’s doubly true for comedians, eager to connect with fans and make new ones with potentially viral videos.
It’s why Tyler Fischer shares his funny impressions of Dr. Anthony Fauci, Bill Burr and more on the platform.
There’s a catch, though.
Fischer repeatedly gets suspended from TikTok for telling the “wrong” jokes, even if he isn’t sure what’s wrong about the material in question.
It happened again this week. The comedian-turned-podcaster says he’s far from alone.
The latest clip taken down? Fischer mocked a member of the Taliban who embraced his woke side. It was removed, he says, for “dangerous individuals and organizations.” It’s his latest TikTok suspension – he estimates the seventh overall – and a new way to stall his social media momentum.
He said a previous video he uploaded to TikTok (a quarantined man in the year 2037) just went viral. The clip snared north of a million views and boosted his follower count.
The latest suspension means he can’t post on the platform for a week. The bigger concern? How many more suspensions before he’s kicked off the platform entirely?
“I’ve been warned already, ‘you’re close to having your account terminated.’ I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m done soon,” he says.
What’s more exasperating for Fischer is the uncertainty behind it all. He figures the platform’s algorithms may be at least partially to blame. One banned video featured his impression of disgraced Gov. Andrew Cuomo. That was suspended for sexual content, even though the video featured no nudity or overtly graphic language.
“There’s so many pages of half-naked people. All the sexual stuff seems not to be a problem,” he says.
Fischer isn’t a stranger to social media censorship. A few years ago he ran an Instagram account tied to funny New York street signs. The page, filled with what he calls “pretty light-hearted stuff,” began drawing a large fan base. Instagram eventually killed the account without a warning or explanation. It gave him a glimpse of Big Tech’s power over the ordinary user.
“That was a big hit,” he says.
He’s also grappled with YouTube of late over monetizing his comedy and podcast videos. That’s common for video creators, particularly conservative talents like Dan Bongino and Steven Crowder.
“That happens with a lot of my podcasts,” he says, adding the disputes are often settled “within a day” and the ads return to his clips.
Big Tech routinely censors conservatives, from Facebook’s war against The Babylon Bee to Ryan Long facing penalties for mocking woke culture. It happens for strictly political reasons, too. Actor James Woods is routinely punished by Twitter, for example. Liberal stars like Ellen Barkin and Tom Arnold, though, say far worse without repercussions.
And let’s not forget how Big Tech acted in unison to block the Hunter Biden laptop story during the final weeks of the 2020 presidential election.
Fischer suspects TikTok’s censorial ways can be partially explained by faulty A.I. He’s spoken to a few TikTok celebrities who shared similar stories of content-based suspensions.
What’s crystal clear?
That lack of clarity forces fellow comics to make some hard choices about their content.
“It’s starting to influence comedians to censor themselves,” he says. “They don’t wanna get banned.”
The TikTok issue can’t help but evoke the larger conversations around Cancel Culture, one many comedians must deal with in the modern age. Veteran cutup Cedric the Entertainer, tasked with hosting the Emmys telecast this weekend, admitted in press interviews that he weighs his jokes carefully for fear of cancellation.
“I don’t like to hear comedians say that. I don’t think it’s true. You don’t have to censor yourself,” says Fischer, who has shared stages with Ryan Long, a bold comedian who refuses to change his material to fit the woke agenda.
Cedric the Entertainer traffics in more conventional, mainstream circles which puts him in a tougher spot, Fischer says.
“He has a different fear of the industry shutting him out,” he says
For now, Fischer spread his comedy videos across multiple platforms. That gives him some insurance against an Instagram or TikTok unfairly punishing him for telling the “wrong” jokes.
“I’m not gonna censor myself,” he says. “I’ll lose X amount of followers and strengthen X amount of followers and fans.”
The biggest irony, he says, is the nation pulling TikTok’s strings.
“China,” he says, “is dictating what comedians are doing.”