Who: George Resch aka Tank Sinatra, the king of internet memes
Claim to fame: Resch is the creator of “Tank Sinatra”—the world’s largest original meme page. He has millions of fans and followers and a published book.
Why’d we pick him, in ten words: If word economy is an art, George Resch is Michaelangelo.
Let’s start with the basics: How did it all start for you, creating and running Tank.Sinatra?
The short story is, comedy is my first love. I believe in the power of laughter like people believe in the power of love, or hard work. I’ve heard the only thing that displaces fear is faith, but I think that laughter does an even better job of taking you out of your problems and putting you squarely in the moment.
But the long story is a two-parter. Firstly, it was one January afternoon that I was digging around the internet, looking for some relief from the winter blues. I stumbled across something on Reddit I had just seen @thefatjewish post. I had a thought, maybe if I email him, I can provide him with content so he doesn’t have to do the grunt work. I’ll dig in the trenches for comedic gold so he can post it. I wasn’t looking for anything in return so it was a win/win for me. Much sooner than later, he started tagging me in his captions which would result in an influx of followers, usually between 1500 and 3000 per tag. It was a total adrenaline rush. The more I sent him, the more he tagged me, the more he tagged me, the more I sent him. It was a beautiful arrangement, and before I knew what hit me I was sitting on about 350k followers.
The second part to the story is a little sad unfortunately. While I was climbing the ranks, I met a ton of wonderful people, one of whom was @trevso.electric. At that time, he was the only fully original meme account, and he was well respected among other meme accounts and loved by his followers. He always encouraged us to make our own stuff instead of reposting content we find elsewhere. Unfortunately he passed away, and it’s always a mission of mine to try and make something good happen when tragedy strikes. I took his death as a cue to start making my own material, and that changed my life. It gave me a voice. I found that it was much more satisfying to have a post I made do well, rather than a post I found, and I’ve never looked back.
What time of day do you start thinking up memes and writing them down? Do you have a daily process, or is it more catch-as-catch-can?
It’s much more of that second thing. Mainly I’m out there living my life, being a husband, dad, employee, friend, patron, etc. While I’m out there living, sometimes things happen that I think would make a great meme. In other cases I’ll scroll through some pictures on Reddit and see something that speaks to me. Then I’ll try and imagine some kind of emotional back story for whatever emotion I think is being expressed by the subject in the picture.
When you first come up with a meme, does it come out as a finished product? What’s your process for editing your work?
The joke and the picture either work together or they don’t. Very rarely do I tweak the wording to try and make the meme better, more impactful or humorous. Memes are so ephemeral and they’re only funny for a split second, so I try to reflect that in the process. The only thing I will do is sometimes if I have a picture that I think is really good, but I can’t come up with anything at the time, I’ll go back to it in a different mood or at a different time of day.
Is there a post you’re proudest of? That you think captures your craft best?
I think the post I”m most proud of is the one I made with Chandler from Friends, although I feel kind of badly about it because of his struggles with addiction, something I’m familiar with. One day I was singing the Friends theme song in my head and I got to the line “When it hasn’t been you day, your week, your month, or even your year”. I found a picture of Matthew Perry where he looked particularly banged up and put that caption over it.
Given that you produce so many of these, how do you determine your output? How do you like to measure your success as a writer?
I like to do some for me, some for them. I’m constantly straddling the line between posting what I think is funny and posting what I think the followers will like. To maintain that balance sometimes I’ll do a generic caption with a cute puppy or something like that, but for the most part I like to stay true to myself and my sense of humor. My hope is that instead of getting 100,000 “meh” reactions, I’ll get 50,000 “oh my god this guy is so funny” reactions.
You’ve talked about your process of taking lots of notes—almost every thought that comes into your head you said. Why do you do that? How does it work?
I do that because I hate when good ideas leave my brain and head out into the ether, never to return. I’ve had great thoughts I lost, and spent 20 minutes trying to get back, only to fail. I’d rather take the 7 seconds to write it in my phone so I don’t lose it. I come up with a lot of junk that way, but at least I have a record of my thoughts to go back to.
You’ve recently finished a book. What prompted the book? What was it like transitioning from super-short-form meme writing to doing a full book?
The book was actually written in meme form. I took notes for about ten years while I was working through some issues, and basically I was just writing myself reminders for when future situations would arise that I had trouble with. At some point I started to go through those notes and I found some pretty powerful stuff I had otherwise totally forgotten about. From there I whittled down the paragraphs to sentences, because I feel that if I want someone to take a sentiment with them from the book, it’s easier to remember a sentence than it is a paragraph.
Do you listen to music when you write, or do you prefer silence, or something else in the background?
I typically prefer silence. I’m also really into music so it’s a major distraction for me.
Do you have any pre-writing rituals or habits?
I try my best to go out and live, then I bring back whatever I find.
When you were writing the book, how many words a day were you trying you produce? How much of that ever saw the light of day?
I never set a goal of words per day, but when I was trying to collect more material I’d meditate more, speak more with friends with whom I had great conversations, and try to stay aware of my thought processes so I didn’t lose anything to the great sieve which is my mind.
When you first sit down to write, how do you start? What goes through your mind when fingers are first meeting keys (or pen hits paper)?
I always want to make sure that whatever I’m writing is an authentic reflection of my message and my experiences, good and bad.
Do you have an author or an online personality or a comedian whose voice or style you’re trying to emulate when you’re writing?
I wish I did. It might make things easier. Every page in my book and every meme I make are a direct result of experiences I’ve had. I sometimes wish I had an alter ego I could call on (blame) when I want to say something that’s a little outside of the norm for my page.
Do you struggle at all with that dreaded enemy of writing: writer’s block? Do you think such a thing exists?
I do think it exists, but I’ve never struggled with it. If I ever get jammed up, I’ll just do a brain dump and see what I can rewrite from there.
Any advice for people who see the success you’ve had on social media and think: “I want to do that.”?
Pick a topic you love and spend a lot of time on anyway. Social media can be a real chore if you’re constantly creating or curating content for a subject you have no interest in. Have fun, express your true self, and let the universe take care of the rest.