When stand-up comedian Darcy Michael and his husband Jeremy “Jer” Baer started a TikTok account for their golden retriever puppy Yuma in late 2019, they had no idea that they were on the precipice of creating a monster.
Unexpectedly, the account meant mostly for sharing videos of Yuma with family and friends blew up, quickly garnering more than 100,000 followers on the app.
“And I was so fucking mad because I’ve been in this industry for 15 years, and this dumb little blonde bitch has been alive for six months, and she’s more successful online than I am,” Michael said.
“So, stubbornly I was like, ‘I’m starting a TikTok channel.’”
Michael’s personal channel started innocently as well, with a clip from his TV special where he talks about being a gay dad to their daughter. That too blew up—this time with millions of views. That led to more videos, including skits and slice-of-life looks at him and Baer, who increasingly became a presence in the videos. Then one day, Baer took the camera and turned it on Michael in what was the “pop quiz for my husband”—a series that would become the couple’s calling card.
“That’s when the beast was born,” Michael said. “That’s when all of a sudden the monster that I thought I was in control of—this fucker took it over.”
And take over it has. Over the past three years, the pair have cultivated a massive following of nearly 3.5 million TikTok followers and more than 128 million likes. They’ve done ads with Petro Canada, and attended events like South by Southwest and Comic-Con alongside the likes of Lizzo and the Lord of The Rings cast. And later this month, they’re set to launch their live stage show and kick off a tour—a return to comedy for Michael years after he thought he may retire, and a performing debut for the more mild-mannered Baer.
Xtra sat down with the pair ahead of their stage debut at the 2023 Just For Laughs Vancouver festival to talk about being “really rich,” showing up against homophobic hate and navigating a marriage when your entire life is online.
I’m sure you’re familiar with Xtra.
Darcy Michael: The first newspaper I was ever on the cover! What was it, 2010? I was so excited back then.
So, your lives have exploded in the last couple of years, with your account growing to 3.4 million followers and more than 128 million likes. As someone who’s been in comedy for so long, what has this explosion been like?
Darcy: When the first video went viral, I was like, “I think a year from now, this app is going to have changed our life. Enough that maybe I’ll go back on the road. Maybe Jer would come with me.”
I don’t think either one of us would have predicted this level of—I hate using the term—success, but we’re really rich. I mean, Jer left his job a year ago and he had a high-paying corporate job. But we both agreed that he had to quit, I can’t keep up with this alone.
Jer Baer: Yeah, we had that conversation. We either had to hire someone that’s just gonna take up half my salary at least. I was like, I’m not just working to pay someone else when the stuff he needs help with is all the stuff I’m gonna add.
Darcy: It’s a good thing you’re cute or you would have been fired about six months ago.
Jer: I started out being his manager and demoted myself.
Darcy: Yeah, he’s now basically the intern.
How has all of this impacted your relationship? I know a lot of people who have to set up walls for their personal lives when they find this kind of online success.
Jer: It’s tough. I think it was a huge adjustment, especially at the beginning, when I was still working my job and filming content. When I quit my work, it was weird to have those conversations like “we don’t film in this room.”
Darcy: We set some solid boundaries of sections of the house that are safe zones. We have a strong “nothing gets posted without 100 percent approval by both of us” on anything anywhere.
I think the difference here is we have 20 years together. We’ve been piss poor, like, we’ve had nothing. My parents dropped groceries off to us when we were first married because we were so broke. I think it’s different for us because we have this foundation. We’ve worked on this. I’ve worked in this industry long enough that I know not to take things for granted, and to be a little humble.
We always go back to like 15 years ago; I filmed a pilot for Oprah that we thought was going to be the thing that made us comfortable and successful. And then that fell through. And then I had a talk show on CBC that they filmed 10 episodes of that never made it to air, and then I had a sitcom that got cancelled after two seasons. I think the difference now is other than the algorithm, we’re kind of in charge of what we’re putting out there and that’s really nice. But our relationship, for sure there have been some struggles.
Jer: Especially because I haven’t really been in the industry. So it’s a huge learning curve for me. I’m having fun. I’m learning fast. And it’s also been amazing. He’s a great teacher.
Darcy: Well, it’s been amazing for me, because you’re married to someone for 20 years, and then all of a sudden the shy, introverted man that I thought I knew is all of a sudden going to be up on stage with me in front of 1,200 people.
What’s been the most surprising thing that’s happened to you, or the coolest thing you’ve gotten to do since the account took off?
Darcy: The last 12 months have been wild. We flew down to South by Southwest so Lizzo could teach us to twerk. And then we got home and then I was testifying in the House of Commons about an internet bill, and then we did a road trip across America with our dog for 30 days. And then Comic-Con with the cast of Lord of the Rings. Every time we try to be like, “that’s the moment,” something else comes along. It just keeps snowballing.
Jer: It’s also when the fans come up to us, and genuinely like when they’re crying or shaking about how we’ve brought joy to them or got them through a dark phase of their life. That means a lot to us.
Darcy: I think especially the ADHD side too. I got diagnosed with ADHD after I stopped stand-up and I had to go through this process of mourning my life because I realized I wasn’t this fuck-up—I was just not diagnosed. It wasn’t something we ever intended to include with our content online, and it very accidentally became a part of our content, and then we both kind of realized it when people started communicating with us about how it made them feel good and normal. I think that’s been the biggest joy for me.
Jer: We set out to entertain and kind of accidentally helped people.
I know you attended the counter-protests recently in Coquitlam in support of the drag queen story hour there. What was that like, and why is it important for y’all to be involved?
Darcy: My parents always said to me if you have a stage, use it. If you have people’s attention, use it for the messages you want to put out there. And so I think we haven’t been afraid to use our platform and stuff.
We all have to fucking show up right now. Because what’s happened for the last few years is the majority of the population has spent our time rolling our eyes at the Trump years, at the convoys, at these lunatics on the right. And you know, all that’s done is by not pushing back on them, it’s just emboldened their hate. It used to be five, six years ago, you couldn’t be racist, you couldn’t be homophobic, you couldn’t be transphobic because you shouldn’t. And then all of a sudden, there’s this growth within their community. Fuck them.
So [drag queen] Conni Smudge is a dear friend of Jer and I. And when she mentioned it to us, she never asked us to do anything about it. She just was like, “Can you fucking believe this is happening?” And I just said to Jer, we have to put something on TikTok.
I appreciated the video you made, and I’ll admit I teared up at the song.
Darcy: I wasn’t planning on filming anything in the library. And then the kids were singing that—hear these kids sing, and tell me this is bad for them. I was weeping while I was filming. I was just like, this is so beautiful. Consciously, for the video I posted on TikTok and Instagram and stuff, I didn’t want to show any of the protests because I was like fuck these guys. Like, it’s vile shit, their signs were disgusting and I was annoyed at how much the media showed them in the reports and that’s why I wanted my version.
Pivoting slightly to the stage show—what can people expect? I think first especially folks who don’t necessarily know that you have been doing stand-up comedy for so long.
Darcy: I think it will be as real and grounded as what you see online. I think it’s gonna be a really good combination for my fans of stand-up and our fans of our digital content.
Jer: We’ve been working on it now for a while. I think it’s a new avenue for Darcy because he’s used to doing everything, and not having to share the stage.
Darcy: And this fucker is coming in. We’re taking the approach of like Sonny and Cher, George and Gracie—no one’s done that as queer couples, that I’ve seen especially at our age.
This is my first time ever going on stage where I don’t have to come out to the audience. Even when I was touring for 15 years, I always had to acknowledge that I was gay. I always had to have a joke about it. Whereas this time they all fucking know us. We can just go out and have a good time. I’m excited that I get to do it with Jer. The idea that we’re going to be on stage and I get to, like, turn and see Jer on stage, it blows my mind.
You said a year ago you probably would not expect to be where you are. What do you see as the arc going forward for y’all?
Darcy: It’s gonna plateau. I think that balance is always going to be the goal. Jer and I have been our happiest at our brokest. This past year, definitely, we’ve questioned the success versus our happiness at times. We’ve really set clear boundaries.
Jer: This year, going in, we’re only going to accept things that bring us joy.
Darcy: I want to be just as happy, if not happier, and if that’s as creators, cool, and if that’s something else, I don’t care. We were married before I started stand-up and I’ve always said that our family is what’s going to come first. We won’t choose work over each other or our daughter or family. So in a perfect world, yeah, I want to be touring the world and continuing to make content, whether it’s online or on TV or live.
Jer and I have this opportunity to be together and to see the world and so that’s kind of what we’re gonna keep doing.
Darcy & Jer will be performing at the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver as part of Just For Laughs Vancouver on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023.