Like so many viral rants, Vic DiBitetto's "Message to the Government" is filmed in the front seat of a car. He sounds and looks like a movie version of an Italian American: thick New Yawk accent, closed-cropped gray hair, a face that's already red before he starts getting angry, which happens very quickly. He starts off by denouncing the government for having "their heads in their asses," then veers into what might be called a left-wing excoriation of the government and the banks. Those $1,200 stimulus checks aren't enough, he says—what people really need is a suspension of mortgage payments, allowing people to take a break from their bills while still eventually paying back the full loan.
"So here's the idea," he says, getting so heated he has to unzip his jacket. "Just add the three months of the furlough to the back end of the loan! So if they had 19 years and six months left on their mortgage just add the three months so now they have 19 years and nine months, how fucking hard is that? You get your money you shitbags, it's just delayed!" DiBitetto goes on to condemn banks, those "greedy cocksuckers," for not saving money for a catastrophe like this while ordinary people are constantly told to sock away cash for a rainy day, and says that the same principle of delayed payments should apply to car payments and credit card bills. He also rages against "you government lackeys who suck the balls of corporations and shit on the people," spittle flying, before finally coming to a rest, staring down his camera as if to say, "C'monnnnnnnn."
Though many of the people sharing the clip may not know who he is, DiBitetto has been doing standup for three and a half decades, during most of which he was driving a school bus or a garbage truck as a day job. His big break was his first viral video, 2013's "Bread and Milk," a parody of people panic-buying groceries before a natural disaster that now has nearly 19 million views and got featured on The View. (If you recognize him, it's likely because Kevin James cast him in Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 to play a character from DiBitetto's videos.) "A Message to the Government" is even bigger—since dropping six days ago, it has 27 million views on Facebook and another 2 million on YouTube. It's been shared far and wide on Twitter, especially from left-wing accounts. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez aide Dan Riffle compared DiBitetto to his boss, the Intercept's Lee Fang said the comic made a case for a mortgage moratorium better than the Democrats who have advanced that policy and New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie said that DiBitetto or someone like him could win the presidency:
The New York comedian might come across as an effective messenger for a progressive agenda because he seems less like a progressive and more like a pissed-off regular Joe in his car asking simple questions. In another recent video from his "Ticked Off Vic" series—in this one he's wearing a "thin blue line" T-shirt, which usually indicates support for cops and the Blue Lives Matter movement—he complains that government unemployment systems are "overwhelmed" and late with payments, yet Amazon can process orders with seeming ease. "Why don't the states and federal government have Amazon's website builder build their website?" he yells. The explanation for why these systems are struggling can be somewhat eye-glazing—states have long ignored unemployment infrastructure and have sometimes intentionally made it difficult to apply in order to theoretically discourage joblessness—but that kind of in-the-moment anger feels pure and cleansing.
VICE got on the phone with DiBitetto to ask him about whether he sees himself as political and how he's personally been hurt by the pandemic.
When you do these "Ticked Off Vic" videos, do you have the rants written in your head?
Nah—you know, I'm just going through what a lot of people are going through in this country. When I make these videos, I don't post them and think, Oh, this is going to go viral. I just put them out there. Look, I'm just a regular blue-collar guy. I'm not Nostradamus, I don't have the answers or the solutions. I'm just saying how I feel and what's going on right now in this country with the working people. It's sad. It's disgusting.
A lot of left-wing types are sharing the video—people who say they wish Democrats could communicate this way. What do you think of those reactions?
I don't get involved with politics. Let's put it this way: I'm a proud father of a gay son and I own two legal firearms. So where do I fit in? Each group has their lunatics and each group has their good people. I don't care what you are, Democrat, Republican, conservative.
Do you think of your coronavirus-related videos as political? They're definitely more topical than some of your other videos.
No, it's not political. People make it political. I could post anything on Facebook, it turns into politics. I could put, "I want to adopt a kitten." Why don't you use dogs? Dogs are better. Hillary sucks. Trump's an idiot. I mean, what does that have to do with me adopting a kitten? It's always an argument out there.
You don't want to get involved in all that stuff.
No way. It turns into a whole circus, man. Look, I drove a school bus, a garbage truck, a dump truck. I'm blue-collar. I never went to Harvard, I'm not an Ivy league guy. I'm just speaking how I feel. That's all. I don't care who's in the White House. I don't care who's running for president. I'm speaking from the heart and from the soul. And obviously it struck a nerve. They want to twist it around however they want to twist it around, they can knock themselves out.
I saw on your website you were about to go on tour. Is that all canceled?
All canceled. I have no income coming in. Who the hell is now is going to go to a comedy club or a theater and sit next to people? Now I'm thinking of doing something on the Zoom app where you can do a show online, but that's not the same. I need that audience. I need that feedback. But if this is the route I got to go, I have no other choice. This is affecting everybody. Even people who are still working. Now I'm asking myself, am I thankful that I'm nonessential and I'm safe at home, or should I have an essential job and risk getting sick or possibly dying? There is no good answer to this pandemic.
Are you worried about your own personal finances?
Absolutely. Thank god I married a woman who can handle finances. See, I make the money, my wife handles it. We're good for now. Thank god I'm a little better positioned than other people. It could be worse, but if this thing goes to June, July, I don't know what I'm going to do.
It's ironic you got this break but you can't do shows right now. How are you going to get the word out about your work?
It's funny that you said that, ironic. Here I am in the middle of a pandemic and now I'm getting all this exposure. This came out of left field. I'm making an announcement in a couple of weeks—me and my manager, we have something planned and I hope it kicks off. I have a huge following and hopefully the people who wanted to come out and see me who were now afraid to come out can now watch me from the comfort of their own home.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.