A community of TikTok users has come together to raise money for a homeless man who went viral on the app for his quotable interview responses.
Over the past year, a TikTok account by the username @SidetalkNYC has uploaded videos to the app showing their brief interviews on the streets with New York City residents.
One man, who has featured in a number of videos taken in Coney Island and shared to the social media account, first went viral when he incorrectly referred to President Joe Biden as Joe “Byron,” while others interviewed in Coney Island answered with notable catchphrases such as “bing bong,” a mimic of the sound made by New York City subway stations.
In a later video, the man, who many on the app began referring to as Bryon, was asked by Sidetalk what he would tell Joe Byron “right now,” to which he responded: “What’s up, baby? Take me out to dinner.”
The clips, which have also been shared to Instagram and YouTube, have gone viral on TikTok, where users have since created their own viral videos using “sounds” that incorporate the quotes “bing bong” and “Joe Byron”.
The typical format of the sound includes snippets of multiple popular phrases compiled in the Sidetalk videos, according to KnowYourMeme, and reads: “F*** ya life! Bing bong! If you see these dogs in your front yard, just know upstairs I’m goin’ hard. Bing bong. What do you wanna tell Joe Byron right now? What’s up, baby? Take me out to dinner. Ay, yo!”
As the sounds grew more popular over the past few months, users began asking questions about the people behind the quotes, with TikTok user Zoë McCreary, who lives in Brooklyn and who goes by the username @zoeanneliece, sharing updates about the “Byron” man, whose real name is TJ.
In a video uploaded to TikTok this week, McCreary spoke with TJ after he’d reportedly been released from rehab. In the clip, McCreary noted that “TJ wants to say something for you guys on TikTok,” with TJ then tearfully adding: “Hi, why am I homeless?”
The clip concluded with McCreary encouraging her followers to “help TJ” before explaining that she would be making a GoFundMe for the New Yorker.
In the comments under the video, which has been viewed more than 9.9m times, viewers expressed their shock and outrage that one of their beloved TikTok “creators” was not making money off the widespread usage of his sounds.
“He should be getting the money for all the views he gets off those videos,” one person commented, while another said: “Why hasn’t he been getting paid!?”
Someone else added: “This breaks my heart. We need to help TJ.”
Following the supportive response, McCreary created a GoFundMe this week for TJ, where she wrote: “TJ is a homeless man trying to get his life together and off the streets. This will help him get inside and a warm place to sleep at night and food to eat. He is sober, he just needs a little push.”
As of Friday, the crowdfunding effort for TJ, which was created with a goal of $5,000, had raised more than $35,000.
In a video posted earlier this week, McCreary revealed that she had shown TJ the GoFundMe, with the TikTok star telling his fans: “Hey, my people, thank you so much. I love you guys.
“But remember, you do make a difference.”
Another video shared by McCreary showed TJ again expressing his gratitude for all those who helped him, as he told the camera: “You don’t know how much this means to me.”
The Independent has contacted McCreary and Sidetalk for comment.
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