Q&A: Lucas Zelnick '22 on his viral TikTok presence and the facility of comedy – The Stanford Day by day

In latest months, Lucas Zelnick MBA ’22 has made waves throughout TikTok, drawing tens of millions of viewers with humorous clips on matters starting from his Jewish identification to cultural points. Zelnick is a humorist who posts brief movies on the favored social media platform from his stand-up reveals at SESH Comedy, a comedy membership in New York Metropolis. With greater than 22,000 followers, 1,000,000 likes and tens of millions of views throughout his movies, Zelnick is exhibiting no indicators of slowing down.
The Stanford Day by day sat down with Zelnick to debate his viral TikTok development and his future plans.
The Stanford Day by day [TSD]: For these not aware of your comedy, how would you describe your work and on-line presence?
Lucas Zelnick [LZ]: My comedy bio describes me as an NYC-raised comic who challenges his comfortable upbringing with punchline-heavy materials — and whereas the punchline-heavy half is aspirational, that’s most likely an correct abstract. My on-line presence consists of 30 second to at least one minute clips from my units which can be edited to be both controversial or attention-grabbing sufficient to go viral — oftentimes they’re improvised interactions with the gang.
TSD: What are the roots of your comedic skill and fervour? Did it stem out of your childhood, an idol or a person you regarded as much as? Did it come naturally?
LZ: I at all times discovered myself humorous, and I feel my household raised me to have an excellent — if not dry, and typically a bit of imply — humorousness. There was additionally loads to chortle at rising up in NYC, and reflecting on that now could be how I do a bunch of my writing. As soon as I made a decision to do get up, I began to look as much as different comedians and examine comedy extra intensely. A comic named Jamie Wolf helped mentor me on how you can go from being humorous in dialog to getting laughs onstage.
TSD: What’s the goal of your comedy and what do you hope to attain with it?
LZ: Cash. That’s partially a joke, however I do wish to be a full-time get up comic. So getting paid a habitable (or, ideally, gratuitous) wage to do some mixture of stand-up and screenwriting is the dream. The aim of my comedy is basically simply to inform folks tales and make them chortle — there’s no higher feeling on this planet.
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TSD: What had been your preliminary ideas whenever you began to get traction and a focus on TikTok?
LZ: My first video that obtained over 500K views on TikTok occurred once I was on a airplane, and once I landed I simply had a bunch of followers and messages on TikTok and Instagram. After which there was some preliminary shock and adrenaline stemming from how many individuals had been seeing my comedy. However in the long run I’ve realized that the one factor useful to my profession is when persons are keen to pay to see me carry out (that’s how touring stand-ups earn cash with out Netflix specials), and TikTok does (slowly) assist obtain that objective.
TSD: How have you ever managed to stability being a pupil at Stanford and your comedy reveals?
LZ: This 12 months, I carry out each evening. It’s enjoyable and exhausting. Comedy lends itself to working with job and college schedules as a result of it’s a night factor. However I didn’t carry out throughout my first MBA 12 months as a result of COVID, and I don’t assume I might have executed comedy and actually felt part of the Stanford neighborhood on the time. Too many faculty necessities and social actions within the first 12 months of the MBA. So in that sense, the day off was a blessing regardless of placing a pause on my profession targets.
TSD: How do you handle the road between cruelty and comedy — as an example, making a joke a couple of delicate matter?
LZ: My greatest focus in comedy is honesty. Simply sharing my sincere response — as a result of often that’s humorous (and clear dishonesty is unfunny and off-putting). However typically my sincere response is imply and or pisses folks off. The road for reside comedy is simple — I solely write issues I’m keen to say on stage, and the jokes that keep in my act are those the viewers laughs at. So in that method the viewers form of tells me the place the road is as a result of in the event that they cease laughing I’ll cease doing the joke.
TSD: Do you assume comedy can nonetheless be viable as talks of cancel tradition and on-line hate fill public discourse?
LZ: On-line is trickier, as a result of folks get to sit down with content material and analyze it in a method they wouldn’t have time to throughout a reside efficiency. There’s an enormous subset of TikTok feedback the place folks discover counterpoints to my joke premises, which is fairly humorous in and of itself. As a reside viewers member, you simply wouldn’t assume that method. My response to cancel tradition is that I feel there may be loads of room to be humorous and inoffensive — and I attempt to focus on true issues which have occurred to me. So if I discuss faith, it’s from a spot of being raised Jewish. If I discuss race, it’s from a spot of watching white folks in my household work together with folks of shade. Individuals might get offended, however they will’t actually inform me I’m mendacity about my very own experiences. To really get canceled in our tradition, I’d have to achieve success — so come again to me if that occurs.
TSD: When experiencing a clumsy or surprising crowd interplay, such as you exhibit in lots of your TikToks, how do you flip it into one thing helpful to the present?
LZ: I feel this goes again to the honesty level. My objective on stage with these interactions is to react the identical method I — or anybody — would react offstage. Once I succeed at that, the interactions often develop into enjoyable. And comedy reveals are an unnatural surroundings, so viewers members usually share extra private issues than they might in a dialog. I attempt to make enjoyable of that uncommon dynamic.
For instance: if an viewers member says “I misplaced my job final month,” I would say “Jesus, you actually simply opened as much as me instantly.” As a result of that’s what anybody can be considering if a stranger struck up a dialog and stated that unprompted. Then it’s a recreation of making an attempt to be humorous with out being imply or humiliating anybody — and if I cross the road, I can often inform by the viewers response, and I’ll do my finest to handle it or chastise myself in entrance of them to convey us all again onto even floor.
This interview has been condensed and evenly edited for readability.

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