Daniel LaBelle and his inner child were sitting in his living room with his wife, contemplating a recent photoshoot with a similarly overly energetic kid.
It gave him an idea for a TikTok. “‘I’ll act like a kid and you act as a photographer.’ And this was in January of this year,” he said. “And we did, and I got a million views in a day. And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve never had anything like that happened to me before.'”
The video has since amassed 2.2 million views. “I would refresh my notifications, and then five seconds later, I’d have another 99+. I’d never experienced that in my life. And I think the thrill — just purely the thrill — and excitement of that kind of inspired me to just keep trying them.”
His followers are now 7.4 million strong, nearly double the population of Los Angeles. Daniel LaBelle, a 33-year-old from Kenosha County, Wisconsin, had first decided to get on TikTok to promote his photography business after watching a Gary Vaynerchuk video.
Eight days later, he became a TikTok comedian.
“I’ve gone through two or three phases of doubt where I was like, Oh my gosh, what am I doing? I’m putting these silly videos of me acting like a kid out to millions of people.”
“I was always super fascinated with physical comedy. I loved The Three Stooges. I love that slapstick humor. I remember watching my dad, he took me down in the basement where a TV was, past my bedtime. And I got to watch The Three Stooges and I just was cracking up.”
As a child, he was delighted with animals. “I have a lot of very, very fond memories of catching frogs [and] catching snakes around the neighborhood,” he said. “Crickets — I mean, insignificant creatures — were always very fascinating to me.”
The animals from his childhood cartoons also stuck with him. “I always liked the Looney Tunes cartoons like Tom and Jerry and Bugs Bunny, which is so funny, because that’s what one of my series is kind of based on,” he said.
He was well-prepared to perform this chosen style. LaBelle started running three to five days a week in middle school. “I kind of had been thinking lately that, you know, obviously, I’m a comedian, but I really want to start strategically thinking on how I can blend comedy and fitness together,” he said.
“I have this physical — almost gymnast — presence, that I think people resonate with, that I try to blend with my comedy,” he said. His TikToks often feature acrobatics like sliding down a set of stairs on a cardboard box, flipping his body over a chair, or simply falling down.
His parents know about his TikTok. His mother is supportive. His dad too. “I didn’t think that my dad would be interested at all in what I do, because my siblings and I have always had like this goofy — like slapstick — sometimes weird — humor. And my dad, you know, he’ll — the most he’ll give is like a chuckle. And he won’t join in on it, where my mom might.” LaBelle said.
“But my dad is really into it now. He’s very, very supportive. Probably three or four times a week, he sends me video ideas.”
“And even the other day, he’s like, ‘I have an idea, I’d be willing to even spend half a day and help you like create this video’ and he’s just very he’s very fascinated with the business side of it, and the monetization because he’s a businessman, and I feel that sense that he’s very proud of me.”
LaBelle is also considering starting a second channel surrounding entrepreneurship, or success culture.
Two years ago, LaBelle came across the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) movement, and the idea resonated with him. “I don’t want to retire ever. I want to work hard until the day I die. But I want to be in a place where I am living a life of 100% purpose — not that I’m not doing that now — but I want to be in a place where I’m completely free to work on side projects” he said.
His plans for the future include building a bigger comedy brand. “I’d love to be in a place where I can serve people and give to people freely. And I don’t exactly know how that looks. I mean, maybe that will be through TikToks still, [maybe] through comedy,” he said.
LaBelle has some advice for beginning TikTokers. “Be fully, 100 percent, okay with being themselves, and to not want to be anyone else, and not seek to be anyone else. And to not — like to truly, truly, genuinely, not worry, and put any concern as to what the people around them are thinking and perceiving of them…” he said. “…and when you have that freedom, then you are free to fully create in a genuine way. And I think that’s a hurdle that holds a lot of people back.”
LaBelle’s favorite musical artist is Skillet, a Christian rock band. His favorite TV series is BBC’s Sherlock. The lowest he’ll let his phone battery go is dead.