How Michael Judson Berry created his comedy TikTok channel

Welcome to the latest edition of Creator Collab House. I’m your host, Simon Owens. For those who don’t know me, I write a media industry newsletter you should definitely check out.

Today’s featured creator is Michael Judson Berry, the person behind a comedy TikTok channel with over 340,000 followers. I’ll start by asking him a few basic questions, but my main goal is for you, the audience, to ask him questions of your own. Michael is an expert on everything from sketch comedy to running a successful TikTok channel.

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Ok, let’s turn it over to Michael…

What's the origin story of your TikTok channel?

I first had the idea for QuaranTeaTime early in the lockdown when my roommate and I did an Instagram “impersonation challenge” as [Schitt's Creek characters] Moira and David.  People had said I could do her accent really well, and this Insta challenge was a hit! After that I thought it would be fun if Moira had her own talk show, where she would sit down with a cup of tea and give her very specific point of view on the pandemic. So, one day I popped a wig on my head, set up my phone, and started. 

I had very little experience writing sketches before starting QuaranTeaTime, so I basically improvised the first few videos. Once they caught on, I became more particular about what I wanted to say, so I would actually write them in advance.  Structurally, though, it’s still evolving.  I’ve gone from monologues to scenes with multiple characters to full-on music videos. I wish I could say there was more strategy involved, but this whole thing is a bit of a happy accident. I never thought it would catch on like this, so each new video is a chance to learn and grow and challenge myself as a creator.

What have you found to be some of the most effective growth strategies for getting new subscribers?

My first big leap in viewers was when I began to duet other creators. The fabulous Chris Barnett was doing vintage acting challenges and I thought that would be fun to do a scene as Moira.  That was the first video I had that reached over a million views.  After the success with Chris Barnett, I did a few more vintage acting challenges with him, as well a scene from Mean Girls with Eliana Ghen, which also reached over a million views. This was right around the time “acting challenges” trended on TikTok, and two of my duets were in the top five most trending videos.  

Another big turning point was around the holidays. I created an election video based on the iconic “fold in the cheese” scene, but instead I had David and Moira “counting the ballots” in Nevada.  This video went viral, with over 3 million views on TikTok and upwards of 9 million on other platforms. Closer to Christmas I made a video where the whole Rose family sang Santa Baby, which trended and reached millions of views across multiple platforms as well.

Can you walk us through your workflow each week for creating new videos?

I try to post something on Instagram every day, whether it be an episode of QuaranTeaTime or just a personal post. I like to let TikTok videos make the rounds for a few days before I create a new one; sometimes a video may only get a couple of thousand views on the first day, then randomly leap into the tens of thousands…I’m still learning how the algorithm works. 

Each video takes a different amount of time. Some are simple monologues, which only take an hour or so to write, and then maybe another hour to film and edit. ore complicated videos, like a music videos with multiple characters and wig changes, can take an entire day.

Can you walk us through the business model?

When QuaranTeaTime first became successful, monetizing was the farthest thing from my mind. As an actor, I was simply thrilled to create work that I thought was funny and meaningful that people actually wanted to see! I hoped that people in the entertainment industry would see these sketches and that eventually it would lead to more acting and writing work once the pandemic is over. 

Eventually, I did begin to monetize by making cameos for people. At first, people would just email or DM me, but eventually I joined Cameo, and now I do a lot of personal “TeaTimes”. After that I created a shop on TeeSpring with QuaranTeaTime merchandise. More recently large brands have reached out to have me make commercials for them on my social media, which has been a great way to earn money, as well as a fun creative challenge as well.  

The biggest lesson I learned is to know and appreciate your own worth. I gave a lot away for free for a long time because I was uncomfortable asking for remuneration.  Luckily, I have some fantastic friends who helped me realize that it’s ok to monetize. 

What are some of your recent videos that you're particularly proud of?

The most recent video that I’m very proud of is the Schitt’s Creek parody of the hit DragRace song, UK Hun?.  I wrote a verse  for each of Rose family members, and I’m very proud of the lyrics I came up with. I also was proud of my response to the events of January 6th.  Like many Americans, I had a lot of trouble processing what happened that day, so writing a sketch that expressed my feelings really meant a lot to me. I was very happy that I was able to say something that I felt was important, but still do it in a funny and entertaining way.

Who are some other TikTok users that you absolutely love?

I’ve teamed up with a few really wonderful TikTokers for some comedy shows, and I’ve grown to really love these guys: @AaronGoldyBoy, @GleefullyTim, and @DylanRatell.  Some other favorites are @ChrisTrimarchi1, @ZarnaGarg, @Orifbone, @ShannonSmith3239, and @JustinFreeling, and many, many others. 

I love creators who stay very true to themselves and create content that is unique to them. Even if they are doing popular trends or lipsyncs, I love creators who put their own personal spin and point of view on them. 

Want to ask Michael questions of your own?

Go ahead and leave your questions in the comments section and he’ll dive in and answer them.

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