Clay does comedy on social media, but his goal isn’t to GET laughs, it’s to GIVE people the opportunity to laugh.
Performing arts have been a part of Clay’s life for as long as he can remember, since he grew up as the youngest of 4 siblings in a musical family. His mother directed for a local theater, so he and his siblings all had plenty of acting experience from a young age. In fact, Clay did theater for a total of 10 years, was in 28 productions, and even got to play Shrek in Shrek the musical! Over the course of that decade, Clay built up many skills in the entertainment space, since there would often be required acting or vocal classes to be casted into a given show or production. All of these skills have led him to being the funny guy in millions of feeds today, but to see how he got there, we have to go back to his school days.
For most of his life, up until high school, Clay was homeschooled. Unfortunately, he needed to have a spinal fusion surgery for his spinal segments T1-T12 during his junior year, and ended up finishing high school back at home while recovering. Right out of high school, he jumped into service jobs, most recently working as a restaurant manager from the end of 2019 to early 2020. When COVID hit and everything shut down, Clay’s TikTok saw massive growth and things took off almost immediately!
When Clay first downloaded TikTok back in 2019, he didn’t come in with the intention of having the massive following he’s earned up to this point. For him, it was just another way to express himself, similar to the performing arts he’d done while growing up. Clay started out following a couple viral trends for fun, and had his first viral video in November of 2019, when a POV duet he did blew up. His follower count exploded from 228 to 10k in under a week, and kept steadily growing after that. It was when Clay reached the 100k follower mark that he had the big realization of “oh wow, this is actually happening.”
Clay had always been following large creators and wanted to go full-time like them all the way back from the Vine days, but never expected for it to happen so quickly. It’s gotten to the point where the numbers Clay is reaching are hard to fathom, and impostor syndrome can even set in because he has millions of people following him, but at the end of the day he’s just a regular guy. Clay’s dream of going full-time started to become a reality once monetization came into the picture.
When Clay first started on TikTok, there was no creator fund, so the only way to monetize was through brand deals. The first brand he worked with was with an iPhone game, and that was really when Clay realized that he could make money from his content. Since then, he has gotten on Cameo, a service where followers can request videos from him, and has worked with many more brands. For Clay, the thing that makes a brand deal great isn’t actually the amount of money he gets paid, but it’s the creative freedom. He loves working with brands who give him full creative freedom and relaxed terms so he can stay true to what his audience wants. The worst is when someone he’s trying to work with says “do something authentic” but then gives him a list of 20 restrictions he needs to follow.
For many people, those brand deals can be the motivation for making content, but Clay’s comes from somewhere else. In his words, he doesn’t try to GET people to laugh, he just wants to GIVE people the opportunity to laugh. The most impactful thing about Clay’s content is its ability to help genuinely brighten someone’s day. He’s received DMs from people saying “hey man, you really helped me out of a dark place recently,” and Clay finds more fulfillment in those 5-6 messages then he does from getting millions of likes or views. This makes it much easier to keep going when it seems like his account is in a drought, since he knows that even if he’s getting fewer total views, it’s still possible that he’s having a massive positive effect on some of those people.
Speaking of droughts, creator burnout is a problem Clay has to wrestle with on a daily basis, as much as he’d like to say that it doesn't affect him. On social media, the feedback you get tends to be on both ends of the spectrum, ranging from “this is hilarious” to “this is terrible,” and he has to try to understand the balance between the two to see what his audience is saying. When something is working really well, it can be difficult to keep uploading the same format of skit when he got tired of it 3 videos ago. Clay also holds the record for the most videos uploaded in a day out of anyone I’ve ever talked to, with a staggering 16 in just one day! All of that volume is great for growth, but not so great for the person behind it. He plays a character when he gets in front of the camera, so Clay’s found it important to take breaks to keep himself fresh. Even if it’s just a couple of days, Clay has found that taking time away from the screen can go a long way when it comes to his mental health.
These past couple years have been a wild ride for Clay, going from manager at a restaurant to full-time creator, and he has even bigger things in store for the future! First is potentially branching off from the character he’s been playing on social media, potentially moving into working with comedy companies. He also has that massive background in music, so Clay is looking at potentially giving some more attention to that. In the long-term, he’s seeing that comedy in Hollywood and film has dwindled a lot, and wants to be part of a revival in that as well! If you want to join Clay on this conquest, you can find him on TikTok @nottclay and Instagram @nottclay!