WASHINGTON—It was two days after Election Day when Josh Billinson decided to turn heartbreak into humor.
The Washington, D.C.-area Hillary Clinton supporter decided to start churning out tweets matching photos of President Obama and Vice President Biden with fake captions that show Biden planning to prank the incoming Trump administration.
Soon, one tweet in particular went viral with many more to follow.
In the posting, Biden is seated in the Oval Office looking over at Obama, who has his hands over his face.
And Biden is acting like a kid who doesn’t want to meet his step-father for the first time.
Obama: “Did you replace all the toiletries with travel size bottles?”
Biden: “He’s got tiny hands, Barack. I want him to feel welcome here.”
On Billinson’s Twitter account alone, the tweet has been seen by more than 3.3 million people and retweeted more than 35,000 times.
“It’s completely blown me away to see the reaction from this,” says Billinson, a 22-year-old preschool teacher in Burke, Virginia, who spends time in Delaware at his parents’ Fenwick Island home.
“Personally, I’m not happy with the results of the election and I think the natural reaction from myself and others in my generation is to voice that frustration publicly,” he adds, “and Twitter seemed to be the natural platform for that.”
His Twitter account, @jbillinson, had 300 followers before Election Day. Now, he has more than 14,000. Three days after the election, Billinson had to turn off notifications on his phone — they were coming in so fast that the Twitter app was nearly unusable.
And in the past week, he has been interviewed by CNN, ABC and the New York Daily News with his tweets featured everywhere from the BBC and NPR to Yahoo and satirical news site The Onion.
Billinson’s tweets, which find Biden involved in harmless “Home Alone”-esque antics, share the same internet space as a wave of fellow armchair comedians who have since been posting their own Biden prank posts. (Biden memes are nothing new, but pranking Trump give them a fresh, popular wrinkle.)
It has caught on so much that if you’ve been on the internet or social media at all in the week following Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton, you’ve likely seen one or more of the postings.
After Biden’s meeting Wednesday with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, Billinson was back at it, tweeting a photo of the men and their wives sitting for lunch.
Biden: “Do you need some salt, Mike?”
Pence: “Did you loosen the top of the salt, Joe?”
Biden: “I don’t see how that’s relevant to my question”
Billinson’s tweets project the kooky Joe Biden character that has been a staple of The Onion’s satirization of him in recent years. Stories have included Biden having his “unofficial White House tour operation” shut down by the Secret Service or find him huddling with his closest advisers deciding whether to spend $200 on Scorpions tickets.
And in a time of disappointment for many Democrats, it makes sense that a timely distraction has come in the form of poking fun at Biden’s larger-than-life personality.
“I think the big reason it took off is because it’s so lighthearted. This is a really serious time for our country for people on every side, but I don’t think people needed serious political comedy right now,” Billinson says. “People needed something so silly and so far removed from reality that they could almost check out for a few minutes and I think that’s what these jokes have given people.”
Billinson was inspired the day after Trump’s win when Biden and much of The White House staff gathered in the Rose Garden to join Obama in congratulating Trump.
It was a somber moment with tears streaming down the faces of some staffers. For Biden, it was also a moment to let Joe be Joe.
Biden looked to the sky when Obama said the sun still rose and then Biden make the sign of the cross over his heart when the president joked that Biden had never lost an election.
“We saw that Joe Biden really is America’s goofy, likable uncle,” Billinson says of Greenville’s most famous resident.
The Billinson tweet that got the most traction among celebrities had a little bit of a sharper edge. It shows Obama and Biden walking at The White House with Biden’s arms all over the president.
Biden: “I left a Kenyan passport in your desk, just to (screw) with him”
Biden: “Oh and a prayer rug in your bedroom. He’s gonna lose it!”
Obama: “Dammit Joe”
Everyone from rapper Snoop Dogg and “Star Trek” star George Takei to “Family Guy” creator Seth McFarlane shared the tweet.
In the meantime, Billinson is fielding offers that have come in during his 15 minutes of fame, including proposals from a literary agent. But for Billinson, he would rather hear from the Office of the Vice President of the United States to get a stamp of approval from the big guy himself.
“While my tweets might seem to be poking fun at him, that was never my intent,” he says. “I’ve looked up to him for years and would love nothing more than to meet him.”
And if he ever does, he won’t certainly fall for the ol’ salt trick.