In 2011, a guy named George Resch created an account on a newly popular photo-sharing app called Instagram. Social media, at the time, was a landscape dominated by text-favoring platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and the photo-focused app was quickly welcomed.
“I was right on it,” Resch tells Yahoo Lifestyle of joining Instagram. “The first picture I took — Ed Rooney had this cool quote about Christmas presents. He said something like, ‘Christmas wrapping paper is one of the most glorious messes you can make — leave it for as long as possible.’ I remember seeing a couple of presents, and I posted a picture of them, and I put in that quote. At the time [my Instagram] was more of a personal log of things that I thought were important,” Resch says.
And then he started bodybuilding. “I started posting shirtless selfies (obviously, it’s what you do),” he goes on. “But I was not a heavy poster at all; maybe once every couple of months.”
Fast-forward to today, and Resch — a warm and gregarious guy with a kind smile and infectious laugh — is better known by his hilarious meme-generating alter ego, Tank Sinatra, an Instagram celebrity with well over a million followers.
At first Tank Sinatra was what Resch calls a “re-post account,” meaning he would find already created internet memes and post the ones he thought were funny. “I didn’t realize you could make your own stuff,” he says. “I, like most people, thought that memes originated out of the ether. But people make these things!”
These days, the process has evolved. “I take so much pride in my account,” he says. “I make the majority of my content.”
As Resch notes, it can be easy to forget that meme-makers are real people, but in meeting Resch, it’s evident how much life he’s lived prior to landing in our feeds, and how much he is doing in addition to making us laugh.
He is 37 years old, 15 years sober — he describes his vice as “more, of whatever” — and he lives in a house with his family on Long Island. “I have a newborn, a 4-year-old, and then a 10-year-old stepdaughter. Two awesome dogs. Great wife. Great job. Busy. Great life. I wouldn’t give away anything, and I asked for all of it,” he says.
“For work, I sell fence,” he adds. “I work for a fence company on Long Island. I sell fences to homeowners that want to keep a dog in — or keep a dog out, keep a baby in, whatever. Any kind of perimeter or boundary system.”
Resch refers to his Instagram, on which he gets hundreds of thousands of likes a day, as one of his side hustles. “I don’t have to go to my Instagram job,” he says. “I just pop my phone out and make something happen. I can caption pretty much anything.”
Tank Sinatra has been around roughly two and a half years and was born out of a Resch’s love of comedy. “I was a chubby kid, which is where my sense of humor came from. I did standup, which was a lot of fun,” Resch says. “Humor was part of my professional life, and my family life, and my relationships, in that I always did my best to find the humor in everything, no matter what it was. Whether I was at a wedding, or a funeral, or a birthday party, or I was at the restaurant I worked at, or when I worked at Starbucks, I just feel like laughter cures all.”
Roughly eight years ago, Resch began really delving into the humor landscape of the internet, deep-diving into the weirder spaces of the web. “I started finding really funny stuff,” he says. “You’d be deep in a rabbit hole and be on a roll and in this matrix of funny stuff and finally find something that made you laugh. But when you laughed, it was like a 10-minute laugh.”
Recalling how Tank Sinatra really got started, Resch begins, “I actually have the original e-mail. I e-mailed the Fat Jewish [another humor Instagram celebrity, whose real name is Josh Ostrovsky], and I was like ‘Listen, I’m on the internet all day long.’ I didn’t know him at all, but I saw him post something that I had just seen on Reddit, so I e-mailed him and said, ‘What if I send you a bunch of stuff?’” Ostrovsky wrote back immediately, saying he would welcome the help, and Resch quickly set to work.
“I spent, like, five minutes, and I screen-shot and I sent, like, 50 posts — Reddit, Instagram. I felt like, ‘This is it. This is my moment. I have to send this guy a million things.’” Ostrovsky was impressed. “He said, ‘You could do this every day?’” Resch continues. “I was like, ‘I could do this every hour. Every three minutes.”
From then on, Resch would send memes, both made and found, to Ostrovsky for him to post on the Fat Jewish account. Resch still remembers the first meme caption he wrote that Ostrovsky posted. “A little kid drew a picture of Buzz Lightyear, and he misspelled some words in it. It said ‘I cum in pies,’ instead of ‘I come in peace.’ So my caption was, ‘Do not invite Buzz Lightyear to Thanksgiving.’ He posted it with that caption, and it killed. I was like, ‘Wow, I’ve made it. This is it.’ Obviously I hadn’t made it yet, but it was a glimpse into what was to become.”
With the confidence from the Buzz Lightyear meme, Resch started his own humor account. “Tank Sinatra was just one of those things that popped into my head. I’m big, and I have blue eyes,” he says. “From there it just snowballed.”
Look at the Tank Sinatra account and Resch’s touted skill of captioning anything is on full display. The beauty of Resch’s account, and memes in general, is finding relatable humor in the subtleties of life.
Resch captions pictures of animals:
And the idiosyncrasies of modern life that we all understand but seldom speak out loud.
“I’m not trying to build myself up or brag — but you have to be funny to do what I do,” Resch says. “It sounds so stupid, but in order to be funny you have to actually be funny. You can’t just gag out. There’s an art to it, and it’s a gift that I’m so glad I have.”
While Instagrammers in the fashion and lifestyle space have taken their social media fame and turned it into profitable merchandising opportunities — just this month Arielle Charnas, who started the popular fashion account @somethingnavy, did $1 million in sales in under 24 hours for her exclusive line with Nordstrom — the line to profitability and life after Instagram isn’t so seamless when it comes to humor accounts. “Instagram is not like YouTube,” Resch says. “I wish on Instagram you got paid on impressions because I would be set, I’d be all good.”
“I have a wife and kids and a house and all that,” he adds. “I wouldn’t be able to survive just doing ads, so you have to get a little creative. I know that [with Instagram] there is all the opportunity in the world, and there is none.”
With growing internet fame and an ever-increasing follower count, Resch does have his sights on what comes next. “I would definitely like to transfer off the platform somehow, whether it’s into video or more real entertainment like a TV show or a movie. Being funny on the internet is one thing, but it is largely dependent on your mood when you see my meme. But if I’m in a TV show or doing a comedy special, it is my job to change your mood. With Instagram, it’s like, ‘Eh, double tap, whatever.’”
Wherever Resch takes his growing comedy acclaim, mood changing certainly seems like it will be at the forefront of his mission. In April he released a book, Happy Is the New Rich, which is filled with what he calls “lightbulb moments.” “It’s basically the greatest hits of everything I’ve learned in my life about being a decent person for yourself, and for other people,” he says. “The motivation was if, God forbid, something happens to me, my son can have this book and be like, ‘OK, this is everything my dad knew about being a decent person.’”
He also recently created the Instagram account @TanksGoodNews, on which he shares good news stories, and has amassed 393K followers since he started it in August. “I just got fed up with the news,” he says of why he started the account. “I believe it’s truly toxic for people to turn on the news and see all the negativity. So here’s some good news. It’s all out there. Yes, a baby was murdered. OK, that happened. But this also happened, and then this other good thing happened.”
People haven’t reacted exactly as Resch expected to his feel-good rebrand. “I became known for making jokes, and I was never like a fart joke, hangover joke kind of guy. I made humor that I thought was somewhat intelligent, and I wasn’t going for the low-hanging fruit,” he says. But when he started selling his book, people were not having it. “People were like, ‘F*** your book!!!’ They went berserk. Oh, my God, people were so angry — I couldn’t believe how angry they were. I was like, ‘Yo, don’t buy it.’”
Resch doesn’t seem too concerned with the haters. “When you reach a certain level, when you’re in the millions-of-followers range, there’s going to be people who don’t like anything you do. So you have to do what you are called to do, and be authentic, and hope for the best. And the people who don’t like it, it wasn’t for them anyway. So there’s no love lost.”
Wherever the man behind Tank Sinatra goes next, it is evident that his calling is to spread joy. “Even if the internet didn’t exist, I would still feel grateful that I was funny,” he says.
“I always remember being younger, and there was a kid who came from out of our circle, and I remember when he left, one of my friends said to one of my other friends, ‘Wow, that guy was so funny.’ That’s like the ultimate compliment, ‘That guy was so funny.’”
Dad, husband, Instagram star, fence salesman. We might quickly scroll past his memes, giving a double tap when they make us smile or laugh, but George Resch is working hard behind the scenes. And Tank Sinatra? That guy is so funny.
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