Interview with Tik Tok Star Colton Chase Mercado
You live in New York currently, correct?
I’m moving to New York when this is over. Whenever that is or whatever that means. I was supposed to move to New York in May to start my career as an actor and comedian. So right now I’m going with the flow and I’m in my apartment until my lease is up. Whenever the world is safe and New York is safe, I’ll be moving there.
How did you initially become popular on Tik Tok and what was the story of your uprise?
I first made a Tik Tok account on Thanksgiving of last year. It was something I never really wanted to do and I thought I was too old for the app. I was like… I shouldn’t go on the app because I’m an adult, and that just felt weird. Then I spent my Thanksgiving break with my 14-year-old niece, and she was on Tik Tok the whole time. I was like… now I feel like an embarrassing old person, so I kind of just downloaded it to feel cool and in the loop. I’m on an improv team at my school, so I already did comedy, but I had just never tried to put content out online or thought that comedy would be my main aspiration. I mostly wanted to go into theater. On December 29th I posted my first “we’re closed” video and that went really viral and honestly was what made me popular. I was freaking out that night because every time I would refresh my notifications page on Tik Tok, I would have 100 more notifications, and it was like thousands every minute. From there, I hit 10k on New Years, and it just kept gradually rising and currently I’m at over 100k followers.
How do you feel about the app’s ability to so quickly popularize individuals and send them almost directly into the mainstream?
I think at first glance it seems like Tik Tok is a super accessible platform, but it’s a lot more formulaic than it seems. I think we all have made the joke about the for you page not showing some people, and I definitely find that there are some creators that I really love that should be so much bigger, but then you get on Tik Tok and you go on the FYP and it’s just some random man trying to be attractive or something dumb. I also think it’s super random that the formula decided to blow me up, and then it feels a lot less random when I still put out content that I really love and Tik Tok doesn’t put it on the FYP anymore. I just relatively don’t get a lot of views anymore, which I used to get frustrated with, but now I’m just going to make videos that I love. It’s been really nice because there’s such a specific community on Tik Tok who has a really similar taste in comedy as me. Every Tik Tok I make or every character I make is the kind of mannerisms within people that make me laugh, and seeing others laugh at those same things or seeing others find that relatable is really fun because I laugh at a lot of really funny things. It’s really just a constant stream of like 8 million bits that are like coming to my brain that mean nothing and help no one, but my brain is like a shit storm.
You’ve previously said that some of your comedy idols are Kate Berlant, Cecily Strong, John Early, and that one of your dreams is to be on Saturday Night Live. Why do you really connect with comedy and what has influenced your sense of humor in the media?
I make it into a joke, but really where my sense of humor comes from is coping with my life. My childhood was so shit, so I’ve kind of coped with it my whole life by laughing at the situation rather than being sad all the time. As a kid, I’ve just laughed my way through life and I still do. I think it’s such a weight off when you can laugh at yourself and just laugh at life, so that’s really where my sense of humor came from. Also watching SNL. I really started watching SNL in middle school, and I literally looked up to Kristen Wiig as a god. I really look up to a lot of the SNL cast members. My brother has a really great sense of humor, and he really likes absurdist humor like Tim and Eric and Eric Andre. So I definitely looked up to him. Now a lot of my influences are through comedy podcasts. Some of my favorites are “Seek Treatment with Cat & Pat,” and “Las Culsturistas with Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang.” Patti Harrison and Lorelei Ramirez have one called “A Woman’s Smile” and I think podcasts have really just opened up my eyes to young, newer, New York comedians and their humor is just so smart and nuanced, and I just love it.
Are there any movies that influenced you or anything in the media in particular?
In terms of movies, I know all the words to “Bridesmaids” and have seen that a million times. I was in 5th grade when it came out but, “The House Bunny” with Anna Farris was very influential for me. I used to watch “The Scary Movie” series, as stupid as they are, and I love that. I think that’s some iconic, just stupid, stupid humor.
What was your coming out story? I know that you use they/them pronouns.
I identify as non-binary and I just identify as a queer non-binary person. I love the word queer. I find it really empowering. I
came out as gay when I was 14, and then I didn’t even start questioning my gender identity until freshman year of college when I was 18. Then I was just exploring my gender and grappling with how I wanted to identify and who I was throughout all of college. In January I came out as non-binary and started using they/them pronouns, so it was honestly very recently that I started living openly as a non-binary individual. It’s been a journey. We live in a time right now where things are still so hard for trans people, and they’re finally starting to kind of get there, but people just don’t even understand the concept of non-binary yet. Trans people have it the hardest out of any group that I know of, especially trans people of color. It’s just a weird double edged sword because I’m less susceptible to violence in public, because people just look at me and assume I’m a man, but then the repercussions of that on my psyche is just the source of all of my gender dysphoria. I’m also thankful that I’m really comfortable with myself and have a small but solid platform online, so the fact that I can help normalize the idea of non-binary and just expose people to it…. It’s unfair to assume everyone’s education level and access to education, so when people misgender me on Tik Tok I don’t lash out at them. If someone lives in rural Mississippi and has never met a trans person, then I can’t be mad at them for not knowing about trans people. Tik Tok was the first place that I started using my pronouns, so it’s been a very public thing.
Have you found that people have been respectful of your pronouns?
I haven’t directly come out to my family or told them about my pronouns because it’s not even something that I want to invest in right now, and they’re still behind on queer people in general. All my friends have definitely been respectful. They’ve been so understanding and they’ll obviously slip up sometimes and use the wrong pronoun, but they’ll immediately acknowledge it and apologize. I totally understand that because it’s a new change after they’ve known me for years. I haven’t gotten to the point of confidence where I can correct strangers in public. Like when I’m in the store and someone accidentally calls me sir or man, I’m too shy to correct them. Hopefully I can make it a little easier for the next generation of non-binary people.
Even though so many queer things are coming to light in the media, non-binary people have almost been erased because it’s such a foreign concept to so many.
It’s really hard that I legally have to register as male or female on every document and so frustrating that many different websites and organizations don’t even have other gender options yet. There are so many ways that there isn’t yet a seat at the table for non-binary people, and people don’t really realize that. Non binary people have always existed, and more than two genders have always existed. So many different cultures of the western hemisphere have believed in more than two genders for thousands and thousands of years, but then Europeans hid their culture. It’s nice to do what I can.
Why do you think that right now, as it’s such a trying time leaving so many artists out of work, that we come together and support the queer community?
I think that a lot of the things that we are missing out on right now are easily supplemented online, but that further highlights how enriching and important live performance is. That’s something that we’re really missing right now, because there’s an irreplaceable feeling in watching a person put their heart into a performance and share it with an audience. I think it’s so important right now to honor that community of performers, especially in the queer community, because even though there’s a huge global pandemic, we don’t want to forget that there are other issues to fight for. In this time, queer and trans people still do exist. Drag queens still exist.
In what ways has drag influenced your life and what queens do you look up to?
I obviously love Drag Race and watch every episode. Unfortunately, most of my exposure to drag has been through Drag Race because I didn’t come from a very urban area, and I didn’t get to see lots of drag queens in my hometown. I’m so excited to live in New York and see local queens and be able to stan other artists. Drag has just been really freeing for me because it definitely helped me to express the more feminine side of myself and dress myself more femininely.
How do you feel that Drag Race has a more closed-minded viewpoint in terms of the talent they let on the show? Meaning that trans people and individuals that don’t fall into the category of cis gay men aren’t accepted on the show.
I totally agree that in a lot of ways Drag Race is really behind the times. There’s just not a lot of diversity and representation on the show and people who look the same keep being rewarded. There’s just so much more talent on the show to begin with, and different looking people should be winning. We must demand better from the show, but we also need to keep supporting the show because of the fact that it is so many people’s form of access to drag. Hopefully more voices of change can get them to adapt and grow as we as a nation progress. But it is still so important that we have a mainstream form of drag to reach kids worldwide. They need to get better about who to cast on the show. Drag Race is like the Disney of drag. It’s such a slow effort with Disney too. Huge corporations and franchises like that get praised when they do really small token things. Like when they put Gia on All Stars after she came out as trans just to fix that “little PR scandal.” They’ll put band-aids on things for as long as they can until they actually have to change the way they operate. Drag as an artform belongs to and was started by trans women. The black and hispanic trans community pioneered drag. For the most mainstream source of drag to not represent the people who literally built the artform is so insulting. To then tangibly show that the queer community values cisgender white people more in drag, and to in essence say that they exceed trans abilities, is so screwed up.
You can follow Colton on Tik Tok and Instagram @bwaycolty.