How Josh Zilberberg Built a TikTok Empire With Just 2 Words: "Thank Yew"

Image Source: Kyle Mack

There are no o’s or u’s in Josh Zilberberg’s version of “thank you” — he pronounces the everyday pleasantry in his own, unique way that unexpectedly earned him nearly two million devoted followers on TikTok. A 27-year-old Toronto resident and the reigning CEO of “thank yew,” Josh became one of many comedic-relief sources amid the pandemic when his relatable videos became FYP staples. In celebration of Pride Month, I chatted with Josh about his experience as an LGBTQ+ creator, finding love, living his most authentic life, his merch collection, and so much more.

Josh’s journey to joining TikTok is not entirely unlike that of many 20-somethings, myself included. He was initially “really hesitant” because the platform is filled with throngs of younger users hitting dance moves he admittedly couldn’t master, but merely 24 hours after finally downloading it in 2019, it became his most-used app. “It just really sucked me in,” Josh recalled. His content has certainly evolved since then — after posting dozens of hilarious lip-syncing, green-screen, and “POV” videos, his signature “thank yew” made its debut to the tune of nearly eight million views in September 2020, and the followers came pouring in.

Any advice is appreciated

The distinctive flair with which he says “thank you” isn’t an act, though; Josh assured me that his “vocal fry” is au naturel. “The way I enunciate words has always been a little bit dramatic. I didn’t contrive that for TikTok,” he explained. His overall presence on the app is also far from a feigned persona. “It’s literally so me that it’s kind of crazy. I’m really not putting on this extravagant character. I have always had the reputation for being that friend that will say what everyone is thinking when everyone else is sort of just biting their tongue. I’m the one with no filter that just, word vomits, always.”

Josh brings his catchy tagline and applaudable candor to videos that address topics like singledom, lacking in dance rhythm, and working-from-home woes, the latter of which he’s become intimately acquainted with, seeing as Toronto residents have been under what seems like a perpetual lockdown for the past year. His commentary on dating is particularly relatable, as he playfully discusses being ghosted (been there), falling for the wrong person (also been there), and pretend-dating someone who, in actuality, has no clue you exist (yep, also been there). Although these occurrences can be disheartening to experience, Josh prefers taking the humorous approach. “If you can’t laugh at it, then you can’t take it seriously,” he said. “I’m clearly not the only one going through all of those things, and at some point, you just have to laugh.”

After realizing that his videos were resonating with thousands of other single TikTokers, Josh found comfort and reassurance in opening up about his dating life. “I had no idea that so many people felt the same way that I have felt for so long,” he told me. “People forget that with COVID, there’s still the people who have the day-to-day struggles of just being in their 20s. I feel like I sort of spoke to that gap in the content that I was seeing on TikTok. I was just like, ‘What about the rest of us who still care about all these major problems but also can’t get a date on a Saturday?'”

And that’s on being ✨crazy✨

It’s science

This message has a deeper meaning that, for Josh, is especially relevant during Pride Month. “My fans are such a split between people from the LGBTQ community, as well as straight people,” he said. “Instead of all of this divisive rhetoric and language that I feel has been going around for so many years, it’s important to note that love is love, and we all feel the same emotions. We’re all human . . . Even though we like to label ourselves or put ourselves in these different boxes, at the end of the day, we’re all people.”

Somewhat ironically, while churning out quick selfie-style snippets about having a tough go at relationships, Josh wound up entering into a new one a few months ago. (Yep, you heard it hear first, folks!) “It’s so funny that, after all of the things that I was posting on TikTok about being single, I met someone who didn’t even know existed. It’s going really well, so fingers crossed. I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop,” he joked. Josh teased that his boyfriend will be “making an appearance very soon” on TikTok to celebrate Pride. “We think it’s super important as members of the LGBTQ community to show that love comes in all different ways, shapes, sizes, and forms.” Fans can rest assured that even though Josh is no longer on the market, he’ll still be joking about his dating life, but it’ll likely be in the past tense to keep things as truthful as possible.

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