Welcome to CringeTok, Where Being Insufferable Can Be Lucrative

TikTok users are finding success by pretending to be terrible people in cringe comedy videos. These videos often result in large followings and brand deals for the creators.

Welcome to CringeTok, Where Being Insufferable Can Be Lucrative

Dr. Phil McGraw's daytime talk show played a TikTok clip of a woman aged 27 named Stanzi Potenza to prove that true crime fandom has gone too far. In the video, Ms. Potenza claimed that she was so obsessed by Netflix's "Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer story" that she stayed at home in diapers after work to binge-watch the series.

It turns out that Ms. Potenza made a satire video mocking true-crime enthusiasts, and Dr. Phil took it to be sincere.

Ms. Potenza describes herself as "a sketch comedian from hell" and a cringe-worthy comic. She has millions of followers in TikTok, YouTube and other social media sites. Her videos include mansplaining of public service announcements and sarcastic imitations of Satan.

She said, "I think that some of the most effective comedy is painful." It hurts so much.

Cringe as a concept is difficult to explain. Cringe as a category is broad, covering everything from outdated cultural norms to the strategy used by musicians to reach their real fans. You know cringe when you see or hear it. CringeTok is a TikTok niche where you can earn a living by being deliberately cringeworthy. (I know this, because my brother who was a lawyer has been earning a living from cringe videos ever since spring 2020.

Potenza holds a theater degree, and she has completed a six week acting program at William Esper Studio New York. She feels comfortable on camera. She posted cringe-worthy videos to keep working on her craft during the pandemic. A TikTok clip of her crying as she applied clown makeup attracted hundreds of thousands views, and inspired her to post other videos.

She has now more than 3.8 millions followers on TikTok - a large enough following to translate into lucrative deals with brands, bonuses and merchandise. She said that her videos have brought in more than $200,000.

Making a CringeTok Video

TikTok creators can earn a living by doing makeup, selling watches, or even drinking flavored waters. CringeTok, on the other hand, is more of a performance.

Creators search the web and their own lives for traits that they can exaggerate to create the perfect CringeTok videos. Self-reflection is required to identify behaviors that make people cringe, such as self-absorption or obliviousness. Creators of cringe comedies often schedule time to create sketches. Filming takes as little as one hour, often in the comfort of creators' homes.

These videos are not the same as unintentionally cringy ones, where an excessive amount of earnestness coupled with a lack self-awareness makes viewers uncomfortable.

Potenza stated that in these cases, "we are not laughing with you." We're laughing at your expense, Ms. Potenza said.

Riri began posting CringeTok video in 2020. By April, she quit her full-time job as an electrician to focus on content creation. She has a fan base of 800,000 by using 2000s romcom tropes and fan fiction, as well as her own cringy behaviour.


Ms. Bichri stated, "If I am not ashamed by what I have done yesterday, if I do not feel cringing at what I have done yesterday, then I didn't grow."

Brad Podray is a 40-year-old orthodontist from Des Moines whose TikTok page, Scumbag Dad was originally a riff of the work by another TikTok creator Nick Cho. Cho, also known as Your Korean Father, portrays a fatherly figure that treats his viewers like they are his children.

'Much of my comedy is based around identifying trends and deconstructing these to the point that they are no longer recognisable from their original inspiration', Mr. Podray stated.

In a series short sketches, the Scumbag Father exposes his fictional child to increasingly volatile situations. In the first season of these parodies Mr. Podray takes his child's pain medication and by Season 6, his child helps him assassinate drugs dealers.

Mr. Podray stated, 'I was banned too many times by TikTok, so I never finished the series.' In its community guidelines TikTok forbids videos that feature youth abuse and exploitation, whether fictional or not. However, Mr. Podray still makes other types of parody videos. He claimed to earn about $150,000 per year from his TikTok content and YouTube.

The cringe creator economic system

TikTok will launch the Creator Fund in July 2020 to reward popular accounts, and encourage content production. Initially, it pledged to distribute 200 million dollars and now expects that the fund will grow beyond 1 billion dollars. The amount each creator receives can, however, vary.

Maria Jung, TikTok’s global product communication manager, said that payouts from the Creator fund are based upon a number factors. These factors include the region in which your video was viewed, engagement with your video and how well your video adheres our community guidelines and Terms of Service.

According to reports, eligible creators receive a few dollars for each thousand views of a video. Ms. Jung would not confirm this number.

Creators who have millions of views and followers per video will be able to earn a few thousand bucks a month through the Creator Fund. Creators can also extend their reach to other social platforms by having a TikTok audience. Meta discontinued its Reels Play bonus in March. However, creators can earn money through Facebook Ad Reels. This program operates similar to YouTube's revenue sharing model.

Creators often cross-post content in order to increase their revenue streams.

Potenza stated that she only started earning real money after becoming a YouTube monetizer. To make this work, you need to use a variety of methods.


YouTube's model differs from TikTok in that creators receive 50 percent of the ad revenue.

Brand partnerships are the most profitable way to increase revenue.

Ms. Potenza created a recent sketch in which her character played John Wick's psychotherapist in order to promote the newest movie in the John Wick series. Insta360 is a camera manufacturer, and Lovehoney is an online sex toys store.

Their rates increase as their numbers of followers and views per video rise. Ms. Potenza filmed her first branded video in 2020 after securing her first brand deal. As her account grew, and she hired a representative to negotiate on her behalf, her rate went up to $5,000 for each video the following year. She won't settle for anything less than $10,000 in sponsored posts.

Ms. Bichri said that her agency had not paid her for the work she did.

The proposed TikTok app ban in Congress, due to the Chinese ownership of the app, would affect all revenue streams for creators, not to mention their hard work.

"Watching a bunch o' congressmen talk at the C.E.O. Potenza stated that it was embarrassing to watch a bunch of congresspeople talking at the C.E.O. It makes me super pro China at this point.


All of it is cringe

What's not cringe today could be cringe in the future. Cringe is inevitable, just like death and taxes. It shouldn't be a surprise, then, that brands want to participate. It's still authentic to be authentically embarrassed.

Wendell Scott is a 32-year-old Atlanta production coordinator who teaches Delta Air Lines how to create effective social media content. In his free time, he creates TikTok video duets or stitched videos with other creators. He provides one side of an embarrassing conversation. In a video that has nearly two million views he plays an American founding father who finds John Hancock's signature on the Declaration of Independence.

Scott stated that he believes we have all cringed at some point, but don't want to discuss it. Every person has experienced some odd moment, or thought it was off-the wall but in reality, they were very real. And I love to bring that to life.