Just like a suspicious friend in one of his recent viral TikTok videos, Boman Martinez-Reid has a cough. Almost immediately, he assures me that it’s “not the coronavirus,” but a mild bronchial infection he’s been nursing over the last couple of weeks. “It’s OK,” he insists over a socially distanced phone interview, “my mother is an herbalist. She knows how to make medicine.”
Martinez-Reid, who is 22 and lives in Toronto, has his own way of healing others, though his methods have more in common with reality television than with botany. For the last month or so, his videos on TikTok, which live under the moniker @Bomanizer and have been viewed more than 11 million times, have helped his almost 900,000 followers find the humour in “one of the darkest times we might ever live through.”
One clip, for example, simulates a cable news segment, in which talking heads debate the radical “socialist” politics of Martinez-Reid staying in bed during a pandemic. In another, a friend’s innocent cough is enough to send Bomanizer into a hysterical tailspin.
In these videos, everyone is always overreacting. They’re paranoid and anxious, suspicious and on edge. Getting dressed is a radical act of protest, as is not getting dressed. Cooking, rather than ordering in, is also political. It’s all drama, because we’re living through a dramatic moment — and because, in a global pandemic that forces you to stay home, your world becomes small enough that every minor inconvenience seems like some cosmic test of endurance.
What else is there to do in your bedroom, for weeks on end, except cry over spilled milk?
Martinez-Reid thinks it’s better just to laugh it off. Read more from our interview below.
Reality TV idea a long time coming
In the first semester of grade 12, I became obsessed with “Dance Moms.” I don’t know why. I just loved it. I loved how ridiculous the show was. And when it got boring, I moved on to “The Real Housewives,” and became obsessed with that. It’s beautiful television. I remember one day I was with my family, and we were talking about dreams. Mine was to have my own show one day. My brother was like, “Well, why don’t you just do it?”
So me — being a stupid little theatre major with all my friends — I decided to make a reality show. I called it “Reid It And Weep.” Each episode was ten minutes long. We’d write storylines. We had a cast. Everyone at my high school would watch. It was fun. No one watched it outside of my school, but it didn’t really matter.
“There’s a purpose to my days, which is making people laugh.”
At first, there wasn’t any pressure with making the videos. It was just fun — there was no purpose other than to fill my own days. But it slowly became this whole other thing. Now I have this big audience that loves them. And that’s the dream. Now there’s a kind of pressure. People always comment on the production value of my videos, and I feel like I have to maintain that. Filming takes up to two-and-a-half hours. Editing can take up to seven. And most of it is improvised; I don’t write anything down. So that’s where the pressure comes from.
Especially right now, you see so many people online talking about productivity. It’s this idea that, if you’re not being productive during this time, then you’re wasting your time — that you have to be doing things and being creative. In some ways, that’s how I feel. If I’m not coming up with new ideas, staying busy, then I feel bad. I feel guilty. And so this works. I feel lucky, because there’s a purpose to my days, which is making people laugh.
“Relatability is the new perfect”
The thing I try to get at is that we’re all going through this together.
Someone said to me the other day that something they recently learned in a marketing class was that relatability is the new perfect. People like to laugh and think, “Oh, I do that. That’s me.” They want to see themselves as they are in whatever they consume, rather than the person they would like to be. They don’t want to see a “perfect image.”
If I’m talking about how we’re all stuck inside, and how when someone eats my favourite chips it feels like my life is over, that’s funny. It’s stupid. And that’s the reality for so many people.
The endless cycle of bad news and talking heads
I’m so exhausted of cable news. I can’t take it anymore. Headlines and tweets can be so ridiculous and dramatic, these days. Sometimes things get sensationalized. And so I had this idea of making a little news clip that sensationalized an incredibly simple thing, which was just me sleeping. Just like a reality TV show.
I just wanted to poke fun. Yes, we’re in a pandemic, and what’s going on is very serious, but it’s still healthy to look at things for what they are, and to question headlines and read things carefully. For example, you can’t just read things on Twitter and accept them as facts.
“No matter what, there’s always something to laugh at”
I try not to talk too directly about the virus and what’s actually happening right now. It’s too real. It’s too soon, maybe. But you know what? Things are still funny. My thing has always been that, no matter what, there’s always something to laugh at. Yes, there’s a pandemic going on. But if we sat inside and just cried about it, where would we get? We’re all stuck inside, and it’s so ridiculous. If I can at least make people laugh about that, maybe it’ll inspire them to have a good day, to actually get up out of bed and try to do something.
It’s more progressive to laugh, I think, than to feel dreary and bad about everything. The fact that we’re all trapped inside and watching the paint dry — that’s funny. I don’t like to make jokes about the pandemic, especially when a lot of my viewers have reached out to say that they have been affected by it in whichever way. It’s a weird dance between the line, but I know that as long as I speak to the little experiences that I have, that others might relate to, I won’t worry about being too soon.
Keeping your spirits up means acknowledging when things suck
I think the main thing people are having trouble with is keeping their spirits up. I have trouble doing that. My biggest thing that I’ve been struggling with is, like, “How do I stay positive during this time?” I’m not even going to be able to walk across the stage in June, at convocation, to get my diploma. Half the things I had planned have been cancelled, and I have literally nothing to look forward to.
But at the same time, it’s the little things that make a difference. It’s the little things that will raise your spirits. It’s FaceTiming your friends and just saying, “Hey, this sucks. How is it for you?” And for them, it sucks, too. And you laugh about how much it sucks. You know what I mean? It’s important to laugh, and to know this is temporary and it isn’t going to last forever.
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