Tank Sinatra explains why the internet is so funny
Tank Sinatra, aka George Resch, is likely laughing somewhere as you read this. The humble New York native seems rather self-aware of his role and opportunity in the world of comedy and more specifically in the world of internet comedy. George’s distinct sense of humor helped him start the wildly popular social media accounts @tank.sinatra, @influencersinthewild, and @tanksgoodnews while he was selling fences around Long Island and occasionally working the stages of smaller comedy clubs. Turns out that making memes, bringing people together, and showing us all how ridiculous a thirst for fame might be, is much more suited for Tank than anyone else. Tank was kind enough to sit down for the following interview with Whalebone Magazine and help explain to us things like: the plural of moose, why a giant robot from outer space might have it all wrong, and why Jerry Seinfeld finally had an opportunity to appear in a positive manner in Whalebone Magazine.
I like internet comedy because it’s always there…You can get exactly the kind of humor you want exactly tailored to what you want.
Whalebone: Can you provide a little background to your story. How did you find your love for comedy?
George: I grew up loving comedy, loving making people laugh, loving people who made me laugh, and every step of the way in my life has just been whatever current iteration of that. When I was younger, it was watching standup comedy. Then when I got a little bit older, it was making my friends laugh and gravitating towards people that made me laugh almost to a fault. I would hang out with some pretty shady people, as long as they were funny.
When I was in my early twenties, I tried standup comedy, but I didn’t like it. And then, it’s funny, over the past few months, I reconnected with a friend of mine, who I was friends with when I lived in California, and he was like, “Bro, you know what’s so crazy?” I haven’t spoken to this guy in 11 years, 12 years. He says, “I’m so proud of you. I’m so happy for you. I can’t believe what you’ve done.” He asks, “Do you remember sending me memes in 2009 of this one or that one?” And I was like, “I don’t.” I remember making memes for Reddit and posting them, but I don’t remember sharing with people. It was more something just for me. And it made me feel, I guess, good to have done something for so long and then had it work out like this. I do remember vaguely being involved with memes that early, because in my mind, I started my Instagram account in 2016, but I was doing it way before that, on Reddit, with a website called QuickMeme.
I like internet comedy because it’s always there. You can tap into it whenever you want. It’s so tailored to your personal taste. You can get exactly the kind of humor that you want exactly tailored to what you want.
Whalebone: Do you have a favorite comic or comedic influence?
George: My favorite comedian for a very long time was Brian Regan. But I’ll give you two. Brian Regan and Colin Quinn. I love those two guys. Two very different forms of comedy. Brian Regan’s a little bit cleaner and more polished. Colin Quinn is more of the rough and tumble, stumbling through his act, but he definitely knows what he’s saying. He’s just more New York. And I find that the newer generation of those comedians, like Nate Bargatze would be the newer Brian Regan and Chris Distefano would be the newer Colin Quinn. And I love them both equally.
Colin Quinn actually had a really integral part of the way that I approach comedy. He once said, “If you want people to laugh, don’t talk about what you think is funny. Talk about what pisses you off and they’ll laugh.” That’s something that I think about pretty often.
Whalebone: Can you describe a meme or even internet meme culture to someone who has never seen a meme?
George: There’s two different forms of memes. There’s a macro meme and then a micro meme. A macro meme is a joke that gets proliferated over a society. So it’s one idea that gets made into a joke over and over and over again because people keep applying it to their version of what they think that joke means. That’s the actual definition of a meme, but then there’s what everyone calls a meme, and that’s just like an image with words that contextualizes it into a joke. So it’s a 2D split-second joke for you to laugh at. That’s the best way I can describe a meme.
Whalebone: Do you think that memes have a shelf life?
George: Oh, yeah. And it’s abysmally short. If memes were a loaf of bread, they would be moldy on the truck on the way to the supermarket. You could never sell a meme ever. But it really only expires once the end-user had seen it. It doesn’t expire until then. For instance—I saw somebody post the kangaroo video, a guy punching a kangaroo in Australia who was attacking his dog. I asked him. “Are you posting this ironically, because it’s so old, or have you never seen this before?” He’s like, “No, I’ve never seen this. It’s incredible.” And I was like, “Holy crap, I’ve been on the internet too long.” This is the second coming of this video. So for him, it wasn’t old yet and for me, it was incredibly old. That’s the thing about memes, is that they don’t expire until the end-user has ingested them—but once that happens they become rotten. It’s like, “Oh, I’ve already seen that, bro. Stop, you’re lame. You’re a loser. Get that thing out of my face.”
Whalebone: The internet is a wild place. What has social media taught you?
George: It’s taught me that if you give people enough freedom to be themselves, some people will be the worst version of themselves and some people will be the best version of themselves. And there’s no way to find out which one you’re going to be until you get that freedom.
Whalebone: It seems you mostly enjoy comedy for the sake of uniting/making others feel not alone. Where does that part come from?
George: Well, my desire to unite people or make people feel better through comedy or my tools comes from my feeling of being alone and my disdain for it. I don’t want people to feel alone. So if I can alleviate that for somebody through the click of a button, what a shame it would be for me not to do that, for me to squander that gift. I think people like memes mainly because it’s a big inside joke that everyone’s in on. When you’re making memes, you have the human condition, you have language, you have images, and we’re all doing our best to try and make this life a little less painful through humor. The point is that memes are a way for us to say, “Hey. We’re all suffering a little bit here. Let’s laugh about it.” And I think that’s where laughter comes from.
I remember looking up, ‘where does laughter come from?’And without getting into a long-drawn-out thing, it’s basically a relief of tension. They think it originated to survive. Let’s say a bunch of people were out hunting and the leader of the pack came around a bend and tensed up when he saw a saber tooth tiger. He tensed up and was like, “Oh, shit.” And then everyone behind him would tense up, but they didn’t see what the threat was. And then he saw that the saber tooth tiger’s foot was lodged in between two boulders. He would laugh and then everyone else would laugh and then they would come see and they would laugh at the saber tooth tiger. So it’s a tension relief by design, laughter, which is why humor has to be edgy-ish by design. You can’t create a laugh without building up some tension.
So I think that’s why people love memes because we’re all walking around with this bit of underlying humming anxiety. And when you see a meme that breaks that, it’s like, “Oh, I love you. I love you. I love it.”
Whalebone: Do you think that at the core of it, comedy and comics, writers and everyone in comedy are essentially servants of trying to do good? If so, why is there is a tinge of dark in most good comedy?
George: Yeah. I mean, comedy definitely comes from a place of pain. But I think the best we can do as humans is to turn that inward pain into outward light. And it’s funny you should ask that because I just saw an interview with Seinfeld where he was talking about performing for a crowd of 3,500 and said something like, “When I feel like I’ve given them a gift and not in an arrogant way. I mean, I’ve given them my best and I’ve given them a nice night out, that’s when I feel like I’ve had a good night of performing.” And I thought—that’s fucking interesting. Because I would think that him, as the comedian, would want to feel like, “Oh, I crushed. I killed, I got laughs. The place was roaring.” He was like, “No, I want to make sure that I gave them a nice time.” So yes, I would say to your point, the best comedians, the most successful comedians, see it as a gift or an act of giving, not an act of receipt.
Whalebone: What’s been the most rewarding part (or quick story) of being a small part (literally small screen) of millions of lives each day?
George: When I went to San Francisco for the Comedy Central Cluster Fest, my wife and I were returning bikes that we rented to ride over the Golden Gate Bridge. And we were walking back from the shop and this guy stopped us on the street. He goes, “Tank, Tank. Right, Tank?” And I’m like, “Yeah.” He goes, “Oh my God. Your page, Tank’s Good News that you run, inspired me to start a nonprofit.” I forget the name of what it was. He goes, “This is what I do. This is how long ago it started. This is how it’s going.” He’s like, “I can’t believe I’m seeing you here. This is crazy. I’ve always wanted to run into you to tell you, but I didn’t want to DM you because I didn’t think you’d get it. But here you are!”
And I floated back to the car after that. I don’t remember the guy’s name. I, unfortunately, don’t remember the name of the nonprofit because I was so blown away by the interaction and his enthusiasm for what he was doing. Listen, I’m sure if it wasn’t me, it was going to be somebody else that would’ve inspired him to do that. It was in him all along. But it was just nice to be the catalyst, not responsible for it. I’m not taking credit for it in any sense of the word. But the fact that he attributed it to my work on the internet was beautiful. If I had to say there’s one high that sticks out above the rest, that would probably be it. Because he’s doing something in real life now.
Whalebone: A giant robot from outer space has arrived on Earth and sucked out all the energy that powers the electrical grids and it oddly only impacted social media. Everything otherwise works but in return, the robot giant provided a way to bridge the gap so chaos and mass death didn’t flood the streets. All is well. Just no social media. Are we all better for this?
George: So the giant robot is going to wipe out all social media?
Whalebone: Yes. Thanos, snap of a finger.
George: So, basically, would we be better off without social media than we are with it?
Whalebone: Yes. Yes, correct.
George: I think about it a lot because of the way things are. I think that we will get to the point and we are going to get to the point where we mitigate the negative aspects of social media and we accentuate the positive aspects in time. We’ve got caught up in a tidal wave of social media and what happens to an individual when change is thrust upon them? Sometimes it brings out the best, sometimes it brings out the worst. You get fired from your job or your landlord kicks you out of your apartment. Some people thrive in those situations. Some people crumble. So we’re seeing that on a macro level. Some people do not know how to handle social media.
I’m seeing, personally, a swing of the pendulum back towards normalcy. I’m seeing people still be freaked out about stupid shit and the normal people be like, “Hey. That’s crazy that you’re saying that. You know that. You’re being a little ridiculous here.” So for every comment that’s insane, there are 10, 20, 30 people that are like, “Yo. You’re being ridiculous. This is a bad faith interpretation of what’s going on. You have to know that.” So that’s something new to me. I’m actually recently feeling a little bit better about the state of social media. Had you asked me that a year ago or two, I would’ve said the robot should knock it all out, but I’m feeling a little bit more hopeful about the state of social media right now.
Whalebone: Anyone or group of individuals that might be highly underrated you’d like to shout out for comedic love?
George: I mean so many people. But there is a girl, her name is Ceara Jane O’Sulllivan (@cearajaneo). She does these really, really funny videos of the millennial employee with the boomer boss. I mean, every single one of them is fucking hilarious. And Colin Rourke. Go look him up if you’re in need of a laugh. So good.
Whalebone: Favorite joke or internet meme of all time?
George: What I believe to be the best joke, most perfectly crafted joke of all time, is Brian Regan’s Stupid in School. Do yourself a favor and listen to (and I had to look this up) but listen to 1 minute 50 seconds to about the 2-minute 42-second mark. I mean, it’s fucking perfection.
And for the best meme of all time. There is a WWE wrestler named Sheamus, he is a very pale fellow, and the meme is a picture of him with text that says something like, “They said I’d never make it. They said I didn’t have the look.” And then the rest of the text is over his body and it goes into this long rant, but you lose the rant because the font is white, and his body’s so pale that you can’t read it.
And half the people get it, half the people don’t. And people always go, “What does it say? I can’t read it.” And I’m like, “That’s the point. He doesn’t have the look. He’s pale as fuck. What are you not getting?” I just love, that meme made me laugh for 10 minutes when I first saw it. I could not believe how fucking funny it was. And I also get a kick out of the fact that people don’t understand it. I think that’s really funny, and it’s always 50-50, never 90-10 or 70-30. Half the people are like, “This is the funniest shit I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” and half are like, “What does it say?” And I’m like, “That’s the joke.”
And not sure if this is underrated or not but something I feel worth noting as an all-time classic for comedy is a show called ‘I Think You Should Leave’ with Tim Robinson, his sketch show on Netflix. This show is one of the funniest things I’ve seen probably in the last ten years. Season one, not to delineate, I don’t want to upset him, but season one was one of the freshest, most innovative takes on comedy I’ve seen since I don’t even know how long. I had to stop watching the episodes with my wife because our stomachs hurt from laughing.
Whalebone: You seem to have your finger on the pulse, what’s coming from down the road?
I’m doing a fun new podcast with my friend, Adam the Creator, Adam Padilla, the guy who runs BrandFire. He’s a brilliant, unbelievably talented creative director. Adam is also my partner on the Influencers in the Wild board game. The game is going to be so much fun. We are also the two main storylines in the documentary Meme Gods. We made the Momus meme-making app together. We’re very close friends. Our kids play together. He’s one of my favorite people on the planet to talk to. The name of the podcast is called Meme Daddies, and it’s basically—when I made these group chats years ago to organize the meme community in 2015, 2016, not in a Mafia boss kind of way, just like as a community, this guy, John Trulli, who runs Cabbage Cat Memes and others, started calling me Daddy Tank because I was the oldest person out of the group by far. And I was always making sure everybody was okay and happy, what’s going on, how can I help?
And I just took on this role. So I made my personal page, Meme Daddy. And, basically the format of the podcast is that the world is so crazy right now and things are so hard to understand, and Adam and I are a little bit further down the road than people on the internet, I guess, in the younger generation. So we have a little bit more grit and callous but in a good way. We look at things through a prism because we’ve been through a little bit more.
We’re taking these really confusing, hard to understand, sometimes infuriating topics and looking at them through the prism, but the final angle of the prism is humor. And we’re distilling these really confusing things down, but looking at them through the prism of being a parent, being a person who wants the world to be a better place, being a person who wants to live in a sane world, but we live in such insane times. How do we do that? How do we get through this—talking about things like people drinking their own pee to try and avoid getting COVID, these topics that pop up seemingly every day and just always through the angle of humor so that people can go, “All right, things are so crazy and serious, but I can laugh about them because we have to laugh about them.”
The podcast has a very specific angle. Adam made a joke during our first episode: “This is exactly what the world needs right now, two straight, white guys giving their opinion on issues. That’s why we’re doing this.” And we laughed.
We’re going to be doing a Patreon, which I think is very interesting for people because Adam is brilliantly creative. It’s Patreon meets Masterclass where we’re going to be doing additional episodes, but we’re also going to be helping people figure out social media in general on Patreon. So that’s patreon.com/memedaddies