As the world has been gripped by the coronavirus pandemic and the unprecedented halt to public life, moments of pure joy, however brief, have become even more precious than usual. Perhaps that’s why a series of short videos known as “Vibe Check” — originally posted to TikTok by Brigham Young University senior Daniel Spencer — became a sensation earlier this week after NBC News reporter Kalhan Rosenblatt posted some to Twitter.
The premise: An individual or entity is summoned to the “House of Vibe” for a “vibe check,” a kind of trial for someone’s offenses to social decorum and good sense. Spencer, 26, has put everyone from a woman hoarding toilet paper to right-wing gun rights advocate Kaitlin Bennett through a vibe check, but rather than trying to describe these videos any further, just watch some for yourself:
HANG ON THIS IS AN ONGOING BIT????? I. AM. IN. LOVE. pic.twitter.com/s5RHGFCiIO
— Kalhan (@KalhanR) March 18, 2020
Suffice it to say, this is exactly the kind of ineffably delightful and original content TikTok was made for. Spencer, currently sheltering in place in his off-campus apartment in Provo, Utah, spoke to Variety via Skype about how he developed the Vibe Check videos, and how TikTok helped him find an audience for his sense of humor.
How did you come up with the idea for doing these Vibe Checks?
To be honest with you, I do remember the day that I came up with it, but I’m not entirely sure how I did. All I remember is thinking it would be really funny if there was a council that, like, could vibe check someone, like, if they told them, “That’s not a vibe. That’s not correct. You’re not supposed to act that way.” The first vibe check video I ever did was just a random guy getting vibe checked. He just got randomly teleported to this place where these people were just telling him he’s not a vibe. I genuinely thought, it’s a funny concept, but I don’t think anyone will think it’s funny. I think this is for me more than anyone else. This will just be another one of those throwaway ideas and we’ll see what happens. But that’s always how it ends up.
Where did you get the — I don’t even know what to call them, but the spiky cap things that you wear?
I think they’re called Koosh balls?
Koosh balls that you turned into a cap?!
Yeah, that’s another funny story. I was moving my sister out of her house, and I popped one of her daughter’s Koosh balls. It was a really messy situation because she was crying, and in that moment, I was like, I’m so sorry — this would make a good hat! [Laughs] That was basically how it started. I just have always incorporated them into some of my videos every now and then. They’re just fun to wear.
What about the rest of your looks for the videos?
The sunglasses — I actually got two of them from Nordstrom Rack, the purple and the brown ones. And then the big pink ones, those were actually a gift from a friend — I think she got them at H&M. I’ve kind of built up a weird wardrobe of things. I just find a random piece of clothing in my room and I’m like cool, this will be a head wrap, this will be something weird.
How have the Vibe Check videos evolved?
It became an outlet for me to talk about issues, which was really cool. Like I did the Kaitlin Bennett video, the BYU video. There’s a lot of stuff where I was like, this is something that I could use to just like, vent my personal issues or my points of view. Especially as a comedian, you know, there’s some things that I don’t get to say in my standup sometimes. So now I use the videos to say everything else.
A lot of people have been asking for what is a vibe? I’m trying to figure that out right now. Like, maybe Lizzo or Doja Cat? Something cool like that. I think it’ll be fun to do.
The terminology of doing a “vibe check” — is that something that you had been using in your life?
To be honest, no. I mean, I have used the term “vibe” a lot, but definitely not in that way. It’s usually like, “Oh, it’s a feeling, like, they’re giving off this vibe.” You know, that sort of stuff. Where it actually came from is I had to educate myself on all the new Gen Z slang. What’s interesting about TikTok is that it is so intergenerational that you have to find a way to communicate to a lot of people in weird ways. So that’s where I started using the terminology in that way, where I was like, “It’s not a vibe. That’s not a vibe.”
How do you make them?
I go back and forth in my room. That’s all it is. It’s me running around my room for 30 whole minutes, making a minute long video.
What it’s been like to see the massive reaction to the videos this week?
Again, this was just a funny thing for me, and then it’s suddenly become a thing. Like, Tyler Oakley retweeted it. It’s just a surreal experience because all of a sudden, I had all these verifieds popping up in my feed. What’s a little bit insane is it’s like, oh, I’m on people’s radar. Do you know what I mean? I’m sitting in Provo, Utah, totally unaware of like anything. I have a local meme account just about weird BYU culture. I was on a dating show, a straight dating show, called “Provo’s Most Eligible.” It’s “The Bachelor” for Mormons and it is terrible. I came out after I got eliminated from the show.
So people know who I am here. But like, that’s not the same thing. I never even have thought that, oh, someone might be watching my video and liking it. It’s still so hard to wrap my head around the fact that like, people like this stuff. I feel like TikTok really helped me understand where I was at, like, sexually, personally. It’s really helped me just kind of accept the fact that my sense of humor is okay. I’m not weird for, like, wanting to do a vibe check. [Laughs]
Is making a career in comedy the ultimate goal for you?
I’ve been going back and forth, but I think it is at this point. It started as a hobby, doing stand up at a college club here called Humor U. TikTok was just me sitting in my bedroom making cringy dance videos for a little while, and then I was like, I just want to make my own original content that’ll be more my style. And yeah, it’s been a year of just like crazy, cool experiences where you know you have stuff go viral on TikTok and gain followers, and now it’s reaching this point where celebrities are kind of like, Hey, we see you, we appreciate your work. That’s really cool. When I saw Trixie Mattel comment on Tyler Oakley’s tweet, I was like, how do both of these people like this video?! It was so cool. So, yeah, it was like gay icons and I was like, Oh my goodness, this is amazing!