Two years ago, Darryl Postelnick had barely heard of TikTok.
Are you kidding me?
Borrowing his trademark phrase -- “R.U. Kidding me” literally is trademarked by Postelnick -- the rise to TikTok superstardom is nothing less than stunning. In addition to attracting an international following, Postelnick also has made appearances on the Kelly Clarkson Show, the Today Show, and other local and national television programs.
“It just exploded into something bigger than I ever expected,” he said.
And this is his second job.
A longtime corporate executive with Disney, Microsoft and elsewhere, Postelnick is now a consultant and senior vice president for London-based Opia Limited. When he finishes morning meetings with overseas colleagues, it’s time to churn out videos of him making everything from smashburgers to spicy mac and cheese.
Postelnick’s down-to-earth approach has struck a chord despite much of the TikTok crowd being half his age and younger. The fame has led to endorsement deals, recognition almost everywhere he goes and a new chapter in his life.
“I wasn’t on Facebook, Instagram, anything other than LinkedIn,” he said. “Now everything has changed.”
It began in 2020 when a friend introduced Postelnick to funny TikTok videos. They were funny enough that he decided to create his own account.
His daughter Lindsey, 13 at the time, noticed her dad’s account and asked to create a video with him that focused on his passion for cooking. Initially reluctant, Postelnick agreed to a shoot of him making beef broccoli stir fry as long as Lindsey took care of the filming, editing and posting.
The video received single-digit views, mostly from Lindsey’s friends.
The duo filmed again a few days later, this time of Postelnick making beanless chili. Thinking nothing of it afterward, he went to a neighbor’s house to watch a Chicago Bears game.
Lindsey texted him that the video was up to 1,000 views after only a few minutes. Soon it hit 10,000, then 20,000, then more and more in a truly viral moment.
Postelnick’s twin children at Arizona State University, David and Lexi, contacted him to say their friends found the video on TikTok. It eventually garnered 4.4 million views.
“I filmed the chili because that’s what my family loves,” Postelnick said. “The reaction was just incredible. Some people hated it. Some people thought it was funny. But everyone started watching.
“By the time I got home three hours later, it was already at 1.5 million,” he said.
Within a few months, the one-off became a new business opportunity. Between flipping and drumming his spatulas, the beer and wine drinking, goofy mistakes and guest appearances from friends and family, Postelnick found an audience.
How much of an audience? A one-minute video of him making shrimp fried rice has 32.9 million views.
His “are you kidding me” signoff sparked the trademark and a merchandising bonanza. Food, kitchen and apparel companies called on him to pitch their products. He currently has deals with Walmart, Bacon Up and Rhoback activewear with more partnerships in the offing.
Postelnick never imagined having something in common with the Kardashians, but suddenly he became an influencer with his own product line at cookingwithdarryl.com. He even has an R.U. Kidding Me IPA beer through the Saugatuck Brewing Company.
“It’s pretty cool having your own beer,” he said. “That’s definitely something I never expected.”
Lexington to London
Everywhere he goes, it seems, Postelnick is greeted with the same comment: You’re the TikTok guy!
“Every single day,” he said. “I just throw on my hat and sweats, and I still have all these people coming up to me for selfies.”
On a tailgating trip to the University of Kentucky in Lexington, he and his wife, Karen, couldn’t even sit down at a bar because of the line of people wanting to take pictures with Postelnick. Similar reactions greeted him during a visit to Las Vegas.
Being known at the local bar is one thing, but he knew he was in uncharted waters when people recognized him during a business trip to London.
He’s still enjoying the ride, but every day brings the pressure of keeping up viewership and satisfying a growing number of sponsors. The deadlines are nowhere near as menacing as in the corporate world, but there’s still plenty to do with all the non-glamorous elements of running a business.
Because Lindsey is busy with activities as a sophomore at Jacobs High School, Postelnick hired interns to help with all the responsibilities. Hundreds of videos later, he sometimes struggles for recipe ideas and leans on friends for dishes primed for his signature tweaking.
He’s not sure how long he’ll continue, but Postelnick is already teasing future endeavors with his videos. According to Postelnick, some real “R.U. Kidding Me” stuff is on the horizon.
And as long as people keep watching, he’ll keep cooking.
“If it disappeared tomorrow, I’d be OK with that,” Postelnick said. “But for now, it’s great.”