It's Rich Caroline's World, And We're All Just Living In It
Comedy genius has a new image, and it's on your TikTok For You Page in a thrifted 2000s outfit.
Comedy genius has a new image, and it's on your TikTok For You Page in a thrifted 2000s outfit.
Text: Trishna Rikhy
“I know what you’re thinking—’wow, Caroline must have so many friends!’ And you’re right, but I don’t like at least half of them. It’s usually the upper half, their faces are totally hideous!”
Self-proclaimed “Ohio socialite” Caroline Ricke oozes haughty humor in her viral TikTok with over 3 million views, one of the many sketches in which she steps into her Rich Caroline persona to perform perfectly-executed dialogue and hilariously-timed jokes about her wealth, popularity and beauty.
Rich Caroline is sarcastic, aloof, dramatic—her 2000s-esque videos with editing reminiscent of our favorite nostalgia-inducing Disney Channel shows have gone viral, and her specific brand of comedic genius that seamlessly teeters between “too funny to be staged” and “too clever to be real” has accumulated her character a well-deserved crowd of over 2 million followers across TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.
a guide 2 toxic friends
But while Rich Caroline is everything an air-headed ‘90s movie mean girl wishes she could be—stylish, witty and a bit clueless, frequently confusing words like “sweetie” and “sweaty” and using puns in almost every other sentence—, the mastermind behind the digi-princess persona is Caroline Ricke, the 21-year-old business student who has turned her distinctive sense of humor and enviable personal fashion taste into everybody’s favorite Internet rich girl.
“I’ve always had the Rich Caroline persona,” said Ricke. “But when I moved into The House Nobody Asked For, it was like, ‘Oh, I can actually say I live in a big house now’ because I live in a normal house back in Ohio, so it was just kind of easier to do. But I always had that Rich Caroline character, it just wasn’t to the extent on TikTok that it was until recently, I guess this past month since I moved here.”
If Clueless’ Cher had a lovechild with Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods, she might be a lot like Ricke’s character Rich Caroline. Ricke has used her YouTube formula for the character and condensed it down for TikTok, allowing Rich Caroline to bolt into popularity with her 60-second sketches, especially after joining the Vegas-based House Nobody Asked For with seven other popular creators.
“Before I moved into [The House Nobody Asked For], I didn’t know anyone,” said Ricke in an interview. “I went with a big group of people to iHop while I was at Playlist Live, and Will [Wahony] was there. He put this whole house together. […] I lied to my parents and I told them that I knew at least half of the people [in the house], but I didn’t know anyone.”
Groups of content creators living in mini-mansions (or sometimes real mansions) has become a common theme amongst large TikTok stars—the Hype House, Sway LA, and now The House Nobody Asked For have become household names, but where the first two are notorious for their thirst-trap videos or viral dances, The House Nobody Asked For is based on comedy, highlighting the creators’ personalities—even the strongest ones, like Caroline’s.
“Everyone in the House is so hardworking,” said Ricke. “We had to set aside a day where we’re like, okay, Sunday afternoons we’re going to do something fun, or we’re going to go bowling or something. We have meetings every morning at 9 in the morning and we plan out our group account, and then after, we do our own work.”
With Rich Caroline’s glitz-and-glam content, it’s easy to overlook the fact that Caroline Ricke is a 21-year-old in a house with a bunch of other college-aged students, and what might be a 60-second video on our For You Page is a day’s (or more) worth of work behind the scenes that constitutes their income. Hundreds of followers on Rich Caroline’s TikTok have remarked on the Vegas house they live in—it’s pool, Caroline’s department-store sized closet, the lush bathroom, the kitchen fit for a Michelin chef. But the luxurious lifestyle Rich Caroline flexes on TikTok and YouTube is a lot more…normal, behind the scenes.
“We try to cook as much as possible,” said Ricke. “It’s usually me and Dawn or me and a couple of the guys cooking dinner. We used to set a time where everyone had to be done with their work before dinner, but then no one ever is. We have a cleaning day where we all make sure we clean. It’s kind of like college.”
A college experience that requires being in a Vegas mansion with 7 of your best friends does sound like quite the dream, but Caroline juggles currently enrolled in her senior year of college during a pandemic with all the responsibilities of creating digital content—writing scripts for TikTok and then seeing out their production, collaborating with her housemates for their group account work, filming, editing and recording videos for YouTube, taking Instagram photos—alongside her own personal projects like Spicy Girl, the website where she crafts and sells jewelry and accessories.
It certainly seems like a hefty amount of responsibility and labor—two words which the Rich Caroline persona might daintily jog away from the camera at hearing, clad in a miniskirt and 4-inch platform shoes. But the Caroline behind the character is up to the task.
“None of the ‘spoiled rich’ part of Rich Caroline is me,” she said. “Like, I’m not spoiled and I’m not rich. But I like the humor and the jokes in there, I’ve said those puns and stuff in normal conversation. Sometimes I’ll say a joke and then go in my Notes app and write it down, ‘cause I’m like, Oh, this is good, I’ve got to include it.”
It’s with a sigh of relief that fans of Rich Caroline can know that all the best parts of the rich Internet persona—her sense of humor, her sense of style—are authentically Caroline Ricke. Though her virtual persona can be mean-spirited and sarcastic, it’s in the most jovial of ways, and fans definitely pick up on it, often going along with the joke in the comments section that makes outsiders squirm but insiders feel like they’re in on an inside joke with Caroline Ricke and 2 million of her closest followers.
“My friends in the House always say I’m becoming closer and closer to my character every day,” laughed Ricke. “Just because I’m really sarcastic all the time. Like, no one knows when I’m serious. I’ve been living with people for four months and sometimes they’re like, ‘I really thought I hurt your feelings!’ or, you know, I’m just so sarcastic or I can force myself to cry. I can just cry on command and then they’ll be like, ‘Oh, my God!’”
When Caroline mentions that she wants to get into acting someday, perhaps on Disney Channel, shortly after she reveals this hidden talent of hers, everything suddenly clicks into place. She is a phenomenal actress, and I tell her that the first TikTok of hers I ever saw on my For You Page was one where she’s in the middle of a sentence and all of a sudden gets pooped on by a bird-like many of the people in the comments, I spent a good deal of time wondering whether that was staged or not.
I thought this only happened in movies..
“That one was [staged],” she confesses to me (the so-called bird poop that landed on her was sunscreen squeezed by her brother from a meticulously calculated trajectory). “My earlier TikToks were kind of on the fly. If I had a joke, i would just pull out my phone and say it. That’s kind of what my spam account is for, I started it last week because now that I’m doing more high production videos, I still miss that.”
The improved videos Caroline makes are often short, hilarious, and to the point—but her longer scripted videos with nuanced editing and perfectly-timed puns are where her comedic genius truly gets its spotlight.
“I used to just pull out my phone and post whatever. but now it’s more scripted jokes that I said in real life. I’ll think of a topic, and then I write a script based off that topic and just build off of that. My main account is all scripted, but my spam account isn’t. I also do YouTube and some of that is scripted; I mostly just have a general outline and then I improv, or when I turn on the camera I just have jokes that I make when I’m talking.”
If you’ve had the good fortune to see even one of Rich Caroline’s TikToks on your For You Page or have stumbled across her YouTube channel, you’d be hard-pressed to find an argument that she isn’t one of the funniest creators on the rise right now. And you might be even more surprised to find out she doesn’t have a background in comedy, what with the way she paces her jokes like a stand-up pro and divvies out puns with play-on-words that would make any English teacher sing their praises.
“I don’t even really consider myself funny,” said Caroline, a humble statement which is a bit disorienting coming from the face of the same girl who said “We all know none of you losers will ever be invited here!” while filming a mansion tour for TikTok as Rich Caroline.
“My younger brother is funny and we have the same exact sense of humor, but I would say he’s funnier than me,” she said. “We’ll have conversations and we’ll just be joking around and I’ll take that concept and build off of it too. So we’ll make jokes back and forth, and that in itself is something I use for content and the scripting process. But I don’t know, I think my whole family is pretty funny. […] I guess my sense of humor is very dry. It’s probably somewhat of a defense mechanism, but I don’t know.”
Caroline and her brother created a podcast called “Don’t Be Ugly” during quarantine, in which she chats about her real-life so her audience can get to know her. Currently on hiatus because of distance, she’d like to get the podcast jump-started again, but “it’s just a matter of when [her and her brother] actually can.”
But aside from her jokes, one of the most coveted aspects of Rich Caroline’s (and Caroline Ricke herself) presence is her fashion taste. Everything she wears looks like it could be straight out of a costume director’s notebook for an early-2000s Disney show, from chunky square sunglasses to bright blue eyeshadow and a half-up half-down hairdo.
Caroline describes her own style as “2000s Disney star mixed with the local suburban mom”—a brief scroll through her Instagram would easily confirm the accuracy of this description, with her retro photos taken on an old camera showing off Von Dutch hats, babydoll camisoles and vintage Coach handbags.
“When I was in high school, the only hobby I had was thrifting,” said Caroline. “I see stuff in a thrift store and I just style it, I love the ugliest stuff. Like, taking the ugliest stuff and being able to wear it in a cool fit, and my friends will be like, ‘That is so ugly!’ And then I just wear it. I’ve always been dressing kind of weird, since I was about sixteen.”
Though hundreds of people leave comments on Caroline’s posts across platforms begging to know where she got certain outfit pieces, her answer almost always falls back to one place— thrifting. She’s the type of person who buys almost everything vintage or used, and when she gets something new (like a pair of Converse she got three months ago), she wears it with everything until it’s broken down.
If she wasn’t already one-of-a-kind with her comedy brand and personality, her impossible to replicate thrifted wardrobe makes her stand out even more.
“People ask me, how do you have the confidence for that?” she said about some of the more questionable pieces of her wardrobe. “I’m like, I literally don’t even question what I wear. I just kind of put something on and go.”
While it would be fair to assume Ricke was an avid Disney fan growing up and that’s where her fashion inspiration comes from, that isn’t entirely the truth. She didn’t watch Disney Channel when she was younger, but now at 21, she uses shows like Lizzie McGuire to get inspiration from the way they dress and the way they film, “studying” the early Disney shows as a form of homework.
Her videos are noticeably riddled with Y2K-esque graphics and music, a seamless combination for her 2000s spoiled princess personality and clothes. The inspiration behind the aesthetic came to her in the early days of quarantine, as she was slowly forming the character of Rich Caroline and morphing herself into the shape of it.
“I always thought those weird, short mini dresses with the jeans underneath were cool!” she laughed. “I always took a liking to that style. I don’t know what it is, but I just think it’s so funny and somewhat like, how was this ever in style? […] I just love vintage clothing. There’s something about it. Like, this has a story behind it. Someone lived, someone had this, they treasured it and then they gave it away. And now it’s a new treasure.”
But even though Caroline is undoubtedly making it big—big house, big following, big personality—she still finds it a shock to reconcile doing what she’s always done (making videos that make others laugh) with the platform it’s given her.
“I still feel like I have five followers,” she said. “My friends are like, ‘You know Millie Bobby Brown follows you,” and I’m like what? Like, I didn’t know that. It’s still weird. My friends in the House are like, ‘You don’t even look at your views!’ And I’m like, yeah, because I liked the video. I like reading the comments, but views aren’t everything.”
Maybe it’s the strategizing-business-student side of her, or maybe it’s the raw and unfiltered talent that is so clearly present in everything she produces, but there’s something about Caroline Ricke that indicates she’s going to be around for a while. Even if TikTok loses its popularity, she’ll always have YouTube, and more importantly, the audience she’s built.
“I have to finish college, but once I’m done with that, I don’t know,” she said. “Acting would be super cool. It just depends, I guess, where I decide to go with my life. I don’t think I could work a corporate job for sure, sitting at a desk, I don’t know if I could do that. It’d be cool to just entertain people. Yeah, definitely figuring out how to do that.”
I think I speak on behalf of most people when I say—she’s already got it figured out.