How to become a TikTok comedian, according to the Sugarcoated Sisters and Chase James

How to become a TikTok comedian, according to the Sugarcoated Sisters and Chase James

Two top sketches from the Sugarcoated Sisters and Chase James


Here’s one for you… How did the comedian amass hundreds of thousands of followers on TikTok?

… With empathy, good lighting and a trunk full of Amazon wigs.

Clearly, this writer doesn’t have a natural flare for joke-writing but, luckily, she spoke to three people who do.

Chase James and the duo known as the Sugarcoated Sisters hail from opposite sides of the Atlantic but, funnily enough, they have a number of things in common.

They all started filming short sketches during lockdown, they all know how to put a childhood-shattering spin on Disney, and they’ve all taken social media by storm.

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Here, they tell indy100 all about how they came to make a name for themselves in a notoriously competitive industry, and offer their advice to anyone looking to break the mould and the internet, too.

How did you get started?

Chase is now known for his bite-sized nuggets of satire – including “The f**kboi help hotline” and “Prince Eric telling his friends about Ariel” – but three years ago he’d never posted a performance online.

However, when the Covid pandemic hit and the LA theatre school he was attending shut its doors, he was determined not to get “rusty”.

“I was like, I need to stay inspired, I need to keep my creative juices flowing,” he said. “So I told myself, I'm going to focus on character work and film these silly little videos to stay motivated.” And, luckily having spent years living in San Francisco – a “big costume city” – he’d built up a plethora of wigs that he could use to transform himself into different roles.

Chase is a veritable chameleon thanks to his trunk full of costumesSela Shiloni

Although Chase hadn’t initially planned on sharing his clips via Instagram or TikTok, he eventually decided to give it a shot, and they started gaining traction.

“Then one day I made this video about a maid of honour speech. I went to bed and woke up the next morning and I thought my entire family had been killed,” he laughed.

“I had thousands of text messages on my phone and I'm like, oh my God, what happened?”

It turns out thousands of people had shared his sketch, including the likes of Chrissy Teigen. Indeed, the activity surrounding the clip was so intense, and the notifications coming through so thick and fast, that Chase’s phone couldn’t hold charge.

“It was the most overwhelming, but also exciting, but also terrifying thing I've ever experienced,” he reminisced.

“Then after that, I was like, well, the world’s not reopening anytime soon and people seem to like this, so now I have an obligation because people are expecting me to make more videos like that. So I just kept going with it, and here we are.”


“For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Kayleigh, Ambers best friend...” #whitepeople #whitegirl #basicgirl #whitepeoplebelike #maidofhonor

The Sugarcoated Sisters – real names Chloe and Tabby Tingey – had a similarly fortuitous start to their comedy careers.

They’re now award-winners who were named last year’s “TikTok Breakthrough Stars” and who are starring in their own Soho Theatre show next week, but their journey also began under unexpected circumstances.

“We actually stumbled onto TikTok kind of accidentally,” Tabby said, explaining that the pair (who are real sisters) moved in together just before the 2020 Christmas lockdown and then “got dumped within about a week of each other.”

“Tabby’s break-up was a bit more brutal than mine,” Chloe interjected. “It was by text, and I had been on and off with my partner for a while. So I was trying to cheer her up and I was like, Tabby, look, there's a really cool weightlifting challenge on this app called TikTok that does weird trends – we should do it. And she was like, what?”

The sisters went from TikTok novices to the platform's 2022 'Breakthrough Stars'The Sugarcoated Sisters

The pair then filmed some weightlifting stuff (“It got about 10 views”), but as they began scrolling they realised there was more to the app than just bizarre stunts, dances and lipsynching – there was comedy and music, too.

Chloe is a trained musician and Tabby an actor, so they decided to focus on musical parodies: re-writing the lyrics to well-known tunes to poke fun at the absurdities and quirks of the world around them.

Their first real hit on the platform was a spoof of Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’, which was about getting over their gaslighting ex-boyfriends.

But the video that really changed their lives was a pastiche of Chicago’s 'Cell Block Tango', based on the most popular dating apps.

Just like Chase and his maid of honour, they posted it, went to sleep and woke up to find that it had blown up.

“It had a million views, it was just mad,” Chloe said. “And we kind of thought, wow, there’s clearly a path here to getting your work seen that’s not the traditional one – maybe we should lean into this. And so we did, and that’s basically what we’ve done ever since.”


Cell Phone Tango P6 #dating #dumphim #breakup #ghosted #fyp #bumble

How do you come up with your sketches?

“It can be as simple as watching TV or I'll be out and about and I'll see someone doing something that is weird or quirky and I'm like, that's a character, that's a bit for sure,” Chase said.

“Then I'll just write it down in the notepad on my phone and then eventually, one day when I'm trying to shoot content, I'll just go through the list, set the camera up, throw a wig on, mess around and just be like, OK, where's this gonna go?”

Asked whether he ever works on requests from fans, he replied: “When I did the Prince Eric one, a lot of people told me, ‘You have to do more like this’. And so I was like, OK, let's dive in and look at the rest of the Disney stories.”

But, he continued: “For me, an idea really has to come just out of absolutely nowhere. And I think I have a hard time trying to make something happen because someone’s suggested it.”


A part of your world ✨ #disney #thelittlemermaid #princeeric #comedy #fyp #foryoupage

The Sugarcoated Sisters also jot down their thoughts as and when they come to them, leaving the pair with a “massive list of loads and loads and loads of ideas.”

As well as taking this more evergreen approach, they also base a lot of their content on real-time events.

“If something happens in the news, we're like, right, let's do that quickly,” Chloe explained, citing their various send-ups of the Conservative party.

In fact, their mockery of Boris Johnson and his motley crew has been some of their most successful work.

“We are pretty proud of the Tory content in general,” Tabby said. “We've had some bangers in there. And one of the comments we get quite a lot is, how are you so fast?

“When we covered Liz Truss’s resignation, a lot of people commented, ‘Oh, you must have written two versions – one where she resigns and one where she doesn't. But no, we heard her resign at 2pm and then we wrote the song, recorded it and posted it at 8pm. We had to get it done quickly, so we did.”


Liz Truss-tin Timberlake #liztruss #crymeariver #politicalcomedy #primeminister #ukpolitics #ukhumour #justintimberlake #bojo

What’s the secret to your success?

Chase said that, for him, “true comedy comes from individual experiences through shared connection”. So, for example, everyone’s seen The Little Mermaid, but very few of us would have imagined how it would feel to be a friend of Prince Eric hearing about how he met Ariel, mute and naked on the beach, then married her the next day.

Ultimately, what Chase does is create archetypes that we’ve all encountered in some form – from rom-com protagonists to old classmates to sulky teenagers – and shines a fresh light on them. Or, as he put it, he “shows things that people have experienced separately, but together in some weird way”.

Similarly, musical parodies are the Sugarcoated Sisters’ bread and butter because “people like the familiarity of a song they already know” combined with an irreverent spin on the lyrics.

And yet, their most famous video was a totally original, and very personal creation, which they didn’t expect to do well at all.

Tabby explained that she has diabetes and Chloe has bipolar, and rather than write separate songs about the two conditions – with each one having the potential to strike a chord among their respective communities – they took a gamble and combined them.

She said: “We posted this song that goes, ‘We’re sick b***hes, we’re the Sugarcoated Sisters – I've got bipolar and I've got diabetes,’ and were absolutely flabbergasted by how many people said, ‘Oh my God, I have diabetes and my sister has bipolar! Or, ‘My dad has diabetes, and my mum has bipolar! – it turns out so many people live with these two conditions close to each other.”

Chloe went on: “The fact that we didn't go into a niche and kept it broadly about these two different things meant that we hit women's health in general. So we had people saying, ‘I've got ADHD, and because I'm a woman, the doctors didn't diagnose me until later on’. So we hit on a whole area of medical gaslighting that we maybe wouldn't have done had we focused on just one of the two conditions.”


Bipolar & Diabetes #womenoftiktok #wearehere #iwd2022 #bipolar #diabetes #t1d #dexcom #bipolar2 #womenshealth #medicalgaslighting #chronicillness

What are your top tips?

As we’ve established, both Chase and the sisters love a list, so here’s a run-down of their top tips for all you budding comedians:

From Chase:

1. Let go of your inhibitions

“The biggest thing is just putting yourself out there, letting your insecurities go and your inhibitions go.”

2. Don’t make content for anyone but yourself

“Post things that you think are funny – don’t just try to make something for someone else or because you saw somebody else do it. If it's not making you laugh, it's not going to make other people laugh”

3. Buy wigs

“Amazon has a great selection!”

4. Punch up

“I'm really conscious about my videos. I always try to think about who's going to watch them and who's going to find them offensive or think they’re targeted towards them, so I try to make sure that nobody is safe and everyone’s going to get affected equally. But I think punching up is important: don’t just go for easy targets."

5. Have your own advice committee

“I have friends – my little secret committee – that I'll send content to and be like, ‘Is this funny or is it offensive? Is this too far?’ It's really helpful to get advice from people in your community.”

From the SugarCoated Sisters:

1. Don’t just stick to a niche, at least not at the start

“There's constant conflicting advice about whether you should choose your niche and stick to it. Because, on the one hand, if you stick to your niche, you get the audience that you want and the algorithm knows who to show your videos to. On the other hand, there's no point sticking to something that actually isn't really resonating with you. So experiment with different videos at the start and, if something goes badly, don't necessarily write it off straight away.”

2. Learn a little bit of everything

“A lot of people are really good videographers, but perhaps they can't write a script, or they’re really good singers, but their lighting isn’t quite right, so we’d suggest learning a little bit in every field. And remember, there are unlimited resources for whatever you’re creating content for: there are tutorials on TikTok about how to make high-quality clips, and the same with YouTube – it just takes a little bit of research.”

3. Sort your lighting

“You need to have good-quality lighting to do well on the TikTok algorithm so don’t just rely on natural light. When we lived in our flat in Brighton, the lighting was terrible, it was super dark. Now we use softboxes, and you can actually get really good kits for just over £100 that include everything you need. Just search online: ’The best light for filming a video on my phone for TikTok’ and you’ll find lots of options.”

4. Remember, a video’s not a failure if you’re proud of it

“It's important to not take videos as a failure and remember that you’re working with an algorithm on these platforms – there are lots of random factors involved that you can’t control – so low view counts don’t necessarily mean that your idea wasn’t good. Another thing to keep in mind is even if the video doesn't do well if it's something you really love and you're really proud of, it's part of your portfolio forever, part of your creative work that you're building up, and that’s really cool in itself.

“We know it’s really hard to not attach your self-worth to your views, especially when you've spent days of work on a one-minute video, but it's really important to get that out of your system early on.”

5. Check your goalposts

“Be proud of how far you've come and don’t get caught up in comparing yourself to other people or worrying about the future. You’ve got to notice when your goalposts are changing and check yourself, because at the beginning we would have been like, ‘Wow! We’ve got 10,000 likes – that’s the most amazing day of our life!’ And now we've got 10 million.

“A good way to ensure you’re not changing your goal post every two seconds is to write down your intended milestones before you hit them. So, for example, we wrote down, ‘When we get to 500,000 followers, we will never again say, oh my God, I wish I had more followers’. So now we can look back and think, wow, that's what we wanted when we started – and we're just grateful for that.”

Both chase and the sisters make their videos for the love of doing it, not the likes Sela Shiloni/Steve Ullathorne

To conclude

Both the Sugarcoated Sisters and Chase stressed the importance of enjoying the whole experience of content creating.

After all, you never know when a platform will pass its popularity peak, or even be blocked entirely (eh hem, TikTok), so just enjoy your time on it while you can.

And when all’s said and done, being funny should be… fun.

The Sugarcoated Sisters' 'Bittersweet' show will run at the Soho Theatre from Tuesday 4 - Thursday 6 April. You can buy tickets for the event here.

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