You’ve probably heard the words “bing” and “bong” before as onomatopoeia or as in “pass the bong.” Now, the phrase “bing bong” has gone viral as part of another TikTok trend and has taken up residency in various internet jokes. It all began with Sidetalk, the brainchild of NYU students Jack Byrne and Trent Simonian, who began posting one-minute man-on-the-street videos in September 2019. Since then, “New York’s one-minute street show” has amassed 1.2 million followers on Instagram and 3.4 million followers on TikTok.
New York has always been one of the best places to find hilarious candid interviews — if you’ve ever enjoyed Billy Eichner’s “Billy on the Street,” you’ll enjoy the bite-sized bits of Big Apple personality Sidetalk offers. It’s some of the biggest personalities packaged in a small time commitment, which makes it perfect for satisfying scrolling.
In Episode 81, the epicenter of the meme, NY-rapper GORILLA NEMS, the self-proclaimed “Coney Island Mayor,” interviews residents. Though only 54 seconds, the video has a lot to unpack. One man wears a single ski on the pavement, going “cross-Coney-skiing.” NEMS asks the man, “What do you want to tell Joe Byron,” referring to Joe Biden, “right now?” The man responds smoothly in a deep, gravelly voice, “Wassup, baby? Take me out to dinner.”
A man on the boardwalk wears only a pair of Speedo bottoms with his phone tucked in, to which the interviewer exclaims, “He got his phone in his balls, Steve Jobs did not die for this!” Another man in a hard hat holds a bottle of liquor and says, “I was feeling thirsty, so my momma gave me a gallon of Henny to quench that, you heard?”
Later, the man with the hard hat holds a dog under each arm and tells the camera, “Yo, Ariana Grande, wassup mama! Come to Coney Island, come take a spin on the cyclone, I miss you.” And of course, a man in a car yells into the microphone, “F— ya life! Bing bong!”
“Hardhat,” whom one Redditor dubbed “the Captain America of the Sidetalk Cinematic Universe,” ends the video succinctly, summing up the “bing bong” lifestyle. Dogs still in hand, he says, “If you see these dogs in your front yard, just know upstairs I’m going hard. Bing bong!”
Simply put, the video is comedy gold and becomes more charming the more you watch it. YouTube commenter NatFlaps writes, “Every line in this video feels like a cultural touchstone.” The video and its many quotable moments have spread like wildfire in typical meme fashion. And speaking of fashion, there are over 600 Etsy listings for “bing bong” inspired shirts. You can gift or rep your own Unisex Bing Bong Ugly Christmas Sweater this December.
You could also send your money to the man who’s become known as “Joe Byron.” His real name is TJ, and according to the GoFundMe created by Zoë McCreary, he’s experiencing homelessness. So far, more than 2,000 people have donated. One donor wrote, “Bing Bong and Byron audios makes me happy, so I hope life treats him better.”
The phrase “bing bong” has come to mean, well, literally anything people want it to mean. All memes are flexible and subject to adaptation, but “bing bong” has an especially versatile use. Its popular origin has been attributed to everything from a character in the 2015 Disney/Pixar animated feature film “Inside Out,” to NEMS’ song by the same name, to the sound the New York City subway doors make before closing. No matter where it came from, people are finding new and creative ways to apply the phrase.
Twitter user @meritforsadness riffs off the lyrics to Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar We’re Going Down,” writing, “I’m just a notch in your bed post but you’re just a bing in a bong.” Meanwhile, @brinixolew prefers a more classic interpretation of the phrase, saying, “it’s always ‘BING BONG’ and never ‘sup baby take me out to dinnah.’”
Despite its versatility, bing bong will always hold a special place in the hearts of New Yorkers and has become a rallying cry for the New York Knicks fanbase. About a month after the first Sidetalk video, another clip shows Knicks fans celebrating their win against the Boston Celtics in double overtime on Oct. 21. Amid the crowd losing its collective mind, fan Jordan Bloom calls out, “Bing bong!”
Knicks Season Opener pic.twitter.com/RkzFM5O1pi
— Sidetalk (@sidetalknyc) October 21, 2021
Twitter users commemorated the win that put bing bong on the sports world’s map with a Disney spoof. The New York Daily News used it in a headline celebrating the Knicks’ victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Oct. 26, and players from the team got in on it, too. Evan Fournier tweeted, “Great TEAM win tonight !! Bing Bong!” Now, all kinds of sports accounts are using bing bong to connote victory.
Bing bong even made its political debut in recent New York mayoral elections. The election results showed some unexpected write-in candidates, including Atlanta Hawks player Trae Young and bing bong. These two write-ins stand diametrically opposed, especially as the Knicks prepare for a heated showdown against the Hawks at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 25. Bryan Kalbrosky wrote about the attempted bing bong coup on Twitter, saying, “Bing Bong didn’t quite beat out Eric Adams but it was a valiant effort in the name of democracy.”
Lil Nas X, who is known for enjoying a good meme, joined in at the Variety’s Hitmakers Brunch, where he got fellow entertainers Avril Lavigne, Normani, Olivia Rodrigo, Tinashe, Jack Harlow, Anitta and Chloe Bailey to say lines from the original Sidetalk TikTok video.
Now, bing bong has officially conquered fashion, sports, politics and entertainment. While the joke is sure to fizzle out sooner rather than later — with meme life cycles growing ever quicker these days — there will always be more wacky content to enjoy through these street shows. Sidetalk showcases the richness of humanity and our comfortingly endless capacity to find joy in the ridiculous.