DELRAY BEACH – Rich Aronovitch cracked the code – and that makes him feel like dancing.
While comics nationwide strive unsuccessfully to convert TikTok stand-up videos into dollars, Aronovitch took a different, zany, approach that’s measurably raised his commercial appeal.
More than 80 million people have watched in awe – and belly laughed (often laughing at a belly) – at Aronovitch’s unusual take on TikTok dance videos (@RichIsFunny) in which he dons crazy outfits and dances in public spaces largely throughout the New York City area.
“From that, people find me,” Aronovitch said. “They go, Oh, he’s also a comic.”
With a dark mustache adorning the top lip of his middle-aged Caucasian dad bod, one that stands a little taller than 6 feet when his white man’s afro is part of the equation, Aronovitch doesn’t sport a look that screams “dancer.” But his moves belie his look. He’s smooth, even oddly enchanting.
And by discarding fashion sense for a look defined by thrift store bargain bin finds like glowing red flare pants, halter tops, banded gym socks and headbands, Aronovitch fuses 1970s seventh grade gym class with the height of Studio 54 drag fashion.
That is to say, even in New York, he rarely goes unnoticed. And it works.
“The reactions are all over the map,” said Aronovitch, in Delray for an early October show at the Arts Garage. “Some people join in. Some people laugh at it. Some people give me nasty looks. Some people are like, What’s going on? Some people just ignore me – that makes it interesting,”
Interesting, yes. And the videos he creates are 15 seconds of furious dancing that wouldn’t look all that out of place on “Soul Train.” OK, that may be a stretch. But the man has moves.
Noting hosting skills and multi-platform acting appearances along with his two-decade run as a stand-up comic, Aronovitch’s resume oddly overlooks dancing and costuming among his “Special Skills.” It’s an odd oversight considering both the dance and the look could easily be diagnosed as “special.”
Already boasting an appearance as a guest judge on “Beat Bobby Flay,” Aronovitch directly attributed a recent rise in his popularity and bookings (including an upcoming show he can’t yet announce, and some sponsorship work he can’t yet reveal) to the popularity of those TikTok videos.
Even Aronovitch didn’t see this coming.
Early in the COVID pandemic Aronovitch’s agent and friends approached him about trying TikTok as a marketing tool.
“I’m like, TikTok? What is this? I’m an adult,” Aronovitch said.
Upon creating his account, Aronovitch saw his feed flooded with short videos of scantily clad young women displaying their beauty.
“I made fun of it, as any sane person would do,” Aronovitch said. “I put on a bikini, and [the video] went nuts.”
Yes, the middle-aged comic “mocked the beautiful” by stuffing his bod into a thrift store bikini that accentuated his hairy chest.
Though cringeworthy and at times puzzling, people couldn’t look away, The videos surprised Aronovitch by going viral. But not everyone approved.
“This woman – and I’m not going to say who she is because she said, ‘Please don’t talk about me in public,’ but I’ll just say she gave birth to me – she sat me down and was like, ‘Can you please stop doing this? It’s mortifying,’” Aronovitch said.
Those beauty-or-the-beast short videos, still viewable on his TikTok page, evolved into him wearing skin-tight turquoise stretchy pants, white feather vests (sometimes with a t-shirt underneath, many times not) and sneakers, while dancing in front of police officers, at bus stops, in grocery stores and even in the aisle of plane apparently already in flight. In the event of an emergency dance off, he’ll lead the conga line through the exit door. Just be sure to put the oxygen mask over your mouth first.
Aronovitch enjoys the videos because they are relatively easy to create and the response of people who unwittingly become part of them can be priceless.
Still, Aronovitch grew tired of the schtick and considered retiring them. That changed when a woman contacted him to say that her sister was in hospice and they loved the videos because they provided a break from their gloomy reality.
That contact provided a new sense of purpose.
“I did realize there was some depth and weight to what I was doing and I was helping people at a time where everyone was scared,” Aronovitch said. “I do it to help people, and as a result a lot of stuff has happened from it.”