TikTok Comedy: Q&A with Claire Wyckoff (CW, 2011)
When the pandemic first hit in 2020, Claire Wyckoff (CW, 2011) started writing and producing her own TikTok comedy videos as a way to cope and pass the long days of quarantine. “The 10 Scientific States of Quarantine,” “Having a Job in 2021,” and “A Guide to Preparing for Election Day” are just a few of the shorts that earned Claire recognition on the platform–so much so that Pizza Hut reached out for a bite of the action.
We talked with Claire about her experience on TikTok and working with Pizza Hut to create a series of silly, pizza-centered Toks.
Q: Can you provide a bit of background on how your TikTok videos and work with Pizza Hut came to be?
A: At the beginning of the pandemic, armed with a new sense of “f— it” because the world was ending, I started making my own comedy content—little sketches and TikTok videos that I would post across social media channels. Over time, I got more followers and people were liking and sharing them (thank you!). Eventually, someone from Pizza Hut saw and reached out to me to make some for them.
The brief was, essentially, pizza. So I went off and came up with ideas that I pitched to them—little things like “what if we had a dipping sauce sommelier,” which I eventually made.
Q: You play a number of roles when it comes to producing content on TikTok: strategist, writer, director, actor, editor, etc. What is your creative brainstorming and production process like for these videos? How do you juggle so many different roles? How long does it typically take you to produce a video?
A: Being a one-man (one-woman?) band is pretty fun. In advertising you’re used to *so* many cooks in the kitchen changing the meal, that it was pretty exhilarating to be the only author—but it certainly required wearing different hats. The nice thing about having spent a lot of time in advertising is, you’ve seen all the hats. You’ve watched directors direct, producers produce, editors edit, prop masters master—so I just stole those hats, and tried them on (which was a learning process in and of itself).
I would brainstorm an idea and storyboard it so I had a vision to execute off of and come up with a little production plan—I’d plot out a schedule, the props I needed, etc. I mean, it’s a TikTok, but it’s also just a :30 ad, right? It often required me to remember my own production experiences, specifically the part where THINGS ARE ALLOWED TO CHANGE, which isn't always allowed with a client but was imperative here. If you get to Joann Fabrics and see something funnier than what you had originally planned on, come up with a new plan! I recalled most wardrobe people had tons of wardrobe options, so I would do the same—buy a lot to play with, shoot a lot, and see where it took me. It was organized chaos. But it was my chaos.
Q: What do you think makes the TikTok/Reels video space so appealing for brands like Pizza Hut?
A: Every brand should be doing TikToks—if only because IT DOESN'T MATTER. Commercials take 60 people six months to make with a $2 million budget, so the stakes are high. You can’t make mistakes—which is why there is so much fear, testing, and stress involved. With TikToks, I can make you something in a day for very little money, and sales don't depend on them—so it's all upside. Why not do it? Play around. Forget RTBs. Throw things up there. See what resonates. And if you don’t like it, delete it.
Q: What advice would you give to brands or individuals looking to break into the TikTok/Reels space?
A: Make more TikToks. Use them as an opportunity to have fun and see what your audience likes. And please stop doing user generated stuff—it didn’t work on Twitter, and it’s not gonna work here. I watched a brand throw tons of money at influencers to have users “make their own” thing, and I think they had like five entries. Also, users are smart—they flip past ads. So just make content. A weekly game show. A daily newscast. Something dumb that just looks funny. All those weird little ideas that were never quite right for that $2 million ad buy are perfect for TikTok.
Q: Anything else you'd like to share?
A: I’m available for hire and have been using comedy as a defense mechanism for as long as I can remember, so I’m pretty good at it.