Some of the most illuminating, purely pleasurable videos on TikTok this month have been Larry Scott’s awed observations of cooking, where the teen from Florida looks on as a meal is lovingly prepared al fresco: hand-rolled pasta dough, spices arranged by color, a knife assuredly having its way with a pepper or onion. The recipe videos have quick cuts, and with each new move, Scott’s eyes widen. His brow furrows just a bit while he tries to suss out what’s being made. He eases into a million-dollar smile when something catches his fancy. “Oh,” he says, with a sparkle of realization. “Nice.”
That’s it. That’s the thing.
TikTok is a decentralized medium, but Scott’s gentle, perspective-slowing reaction videos have a way of imposing just a touch of reason to it, and untold joy. Using the duet — the TikTok function that allows a user to watch someone else’s video and record a response in real time — as his métier, Scott is an equal opportunity reactor. Dance videos, romantic montages, a call to arrest the police officers who killed Breonna Taylor, weirdo nonsense quasi-art clips, an a cappella group singing Alicia Keys, a rack of doughnuts getting slathered in glaze: Scott has nice’d them all.
Under the TikTok handle @larryakumpo, Scott posts several videos per week. They are maybe the most calming thing on the internet and, on some days, maybe the only calming thing on the internet. He radiates pure equanimity. No matter how eye-popping the video is, he’s never judgmental — curious, shocked, secondhand embarrassed, maybe a little worried, but he basically never deviates from the sweetness of wonder.
And then there’s the “nice” itself, which he rolls out with the slithering embrace of a purr. It’s not wry or ironically detached — it’s the sort of utterance that slips out almost imperceptibly when you’re overcome by what you’re seeing. Sometimes he adds an “oh” or a “yeah” — it’s like psychological A.S.M.R.
This earnest observational device is a pushback to TikTok’s infinite scroll. Scott is a watcher, trapped in the box just like the rest of us. If we weren’t already obsessed with our phones, the last few months of isolation have made absorbing endless content the default national mode. We are passive in our liminal misery — waiting to be distracted, entertained, vaccinated, liberated.
Unlike television, which requires a metacommentary that’s pithy and interruptive — think “Beavis and Butt-Head” or “Mystery Science Theater 3000” — TikTok is already pithy and interruptive, which is why the most effective sort of metacommentary slows down its rhythm, encouraging reflection.
And Scott’s clips are, without fail, beatifically tranquil. Sometimes his hair is tied up, sometimes it falls in front of his face in a loose tangle. Often he’s reclined in bed or on a couch. His face fills up the majority of the screen, so there’s no ambiguity about how he’s feeling. When he lets out a “whoa,” his eyes get big, and he leans back, as if a gust of wind has caught him off guard, nudging him gently. When his face broadens into a smile, it has a way of almost obliterating the video he’s reacting to with its guilelessness. When he’s frazzled, which is very, very rarely, one single worry line creases his forehead.
Even though the rhythm of his clips is familiar, Scott meets them with full presence. In an interview with Buzzfeed last week, he said he doesn’t pre-watch the videos he duets with, so as to preserve the integrity of his reaction.
In an ecosystem as ruthless as TikTok, with creators jockeying for likes, followers, clout and whatever monetary privileges follow those things, Scott’s videos are solely about encouragement, a dollop of pure love. (The only time he’s said “not nice” was to a freestyle by the rapper Smokepurpp that went viral for its awkwardness.)
Scott started posting videos to the app last summer — videos about heartbreak, Frank Ocean, whether he looks like Bronny James. (He doesn’t.) His observational duets began in March, and the catchphrases took hold in June, not long after he graduated from high school. Now he’s got 1.4 million followers, almost all of which he acquired this month, as his wholesome nurturing has rapidly coursed through TikTok.
As happens often in the erratic and limitless world of social media, Scott’s ascent is accelerating rapidly. He’s beginning to generate his own meta-content — other users riff on his “nice,” and in one post, he talks about people alerting him to copycats who lack his “natural flow.”
Still, how much wonder can one young man express? Last week he appeared in a video with the Pump Bros, a Hans & Franz of social media who took Scott and a friend for a workout session. After watching Scott work through some triceps kickbacks, one of them, Will Savery, turns to the camera and declares, “The ‘oh nice’ guy is getting swole.” Elsewhere in the video, Savery runs through barbell curls while Scott looks on and exclaims: “Oh, nice. Yeah. Nice.”
There is, here, just the tiniest tiny bit of sourness, a light curdling. The sentience that comes when a thing you’ve been doing unconsciously, or at least without much scrutiny, suddenly becomes a catchphrase, a meme, a thing. An albatross you’ll carry for a week or a month or maybe a lifetime.
In order for the “nice” to work, it has to be moving at a different speed from everything else. It has to be the thing that reorients your sense of time. In its steadfast but charming resistance, it’s an encouragement that maybe you, too, should slow down. Wonder is all around you. Take it in. Nice.