If you’re on TikTok, you’ve probably seen a video or two by Joe Mele. If you don’t recognize him, you’ll recognize his dad, whether it’s for his strong Long Island accent, his references to “TikTak” or his uncanny resemblance to the restaurant critic from Ratatouille.
Joe never set out on TikTok to get eight million followers when he posted his first video in December 2019, but it's a milestone he is about to reach.
It’s more followers than a large percentage of the creators who reside in collectives in Los Angeles, even a large majority of members of The Hype House (their newest member Olivia Ponton has 3.1 million followers).
And what Joe has that stars such as Addison Rae, Charli D’Amelio and Lil Huddy don’t is his ‘pops'. Joe’s dad, Frank Mele, first appeared on his TikTok in his eighth video, and viewers immediately recognized that accent. There were comments like: “Your pa talks like Ray Romano”, and “We need to protect his Dad at all costs.”
By incorporating his dad into sketches, Joe built up his following to more than seven million in under seven months. And it wasn’t just his dad’s “boomer” energy and New Yorker vibe which kept viewers hooked.
In January, after countless commenters saying how much he looked like the restaurant critic in the Disney movie Ratatouille, Joe finally dressed his Dad up in that same outfit, with the right makeup. And it is Joe’s most popular video to date with 50 million views, 12.6 million likes and 86,000 comments. Joe thinks this video alone gained him an extra million followers.
@mmmjoemeleDAD ABSOLUTELY NAILED IT? ##foryou♬ original sound - mmmjoemele
Blowing up on TikTok can change your life
It launched Joe into making TikTok his lifestyle. “At first I thought it would be all fun and games, that I could post whenever I want,” Joe said. “But now that we have such a large following, I think it takes a lot more time and effort.”
Frank might be the star, but Joe is the brains behind the account: “Normally he's like ‘alright Joe what are we doing today?’ I tell him, then we shoot.”
Joe now dedicates a large part of his day to keep up his social media presence. While it's summer, and he doesn’t have to study, he spends his day writing skits and updating his social accounts, filming, and editing.
He will often earn money through product promotions, and the offers come thick and fast; that’s 10 to 15 a day. For Joe, it’s a hobby, but he’s keen to turn it into a career.
With internet fame also come die-hard fans. Getting attention from his audience was weird to Joe at first: “People were asking ‘Joe do you have any siblings?’ or like ‘what's your mum look like?’ and I was like - well why do you guys even care?”
The internet sensation was even given an offer to live in a creator house in Los Angeles, but he turned it down. Why? Because that’s not his style.
Outside TikTok, Joe’s just a normal guy from a small town in New York State. He started posting as a joke and didn’t realize it would blow up. He says that as the momentum began “At first a lot of home town people were like ‘oh look at Joe Mele - he's trying to be somebody,” but he says the reality is that his friends don’t treat him any differently.
“Every once in a while when I hit those milestones, when I hit 3 million, 6 million, 7 million, they'll always send me that text - like hey man, congratulations, I'm really happy for ya!”
What’s next for Joe Mele?
TikTok gave Joe his internet fame, but like for many of the app's biggest creators, he has expanded outwards to other platforms. The threat of the US banning the app (because of its Chinese owners) makes that a necessity.
When he’s not filming sketches with his dad, Joe plays piano, saxophone, clarinet, and guitar, and he writes his own music. Or he works out with his friends or goes fishing with his dad.
What about the possible end of TikTok? Frank says: “Regardless of what happens, this won’t be the end of our videos" and Joe says: "We’re going to continue to make the content that you guys love”, on Joe’s Instagram and YouTube channel. But for now, Joe continues to amass millions of views on his TikTok daily.
As Frank says "Joe, I don't have time for this!"