It was the pelvic thrust felt round the world. Or at least across the internet.
When local comedian Choko posted a video mashup of his mustachioed Tio Choko signature “cowboy thrust” and Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams on social media, he had no idea he was starting a hip-shaking phenomenon.
The #Chokolution dance—as the man behind the mustachioed character, Houston native Bruce Wayne Zelaya Jr., has come to refer to it—went viral. Seriously viral. Responses from around the globe started pouring in as TikTokers from Hawaii, Japan, Germany, and Australia all thrust their pelvises as Stevie Nicks croons about how thunder only happens when it’s raining.
“It’s so crazy,” Choko, 31, laughs. “Some people are saying the thrust hasn’t been this big since Elvis.”
Choko, short for chocolate, has been making videos since his days at Westside High School, first on MySpace and now on Facebook, YouTube, and Tik Tok. He even continued making funny videos while at college in San Antonio. The names of all his characters play off the Spanish word for chocolate, he tells us. There’s Chokula the vampire and rapper Chokaine, but his most popular character has always been his silent uncle with the piercing gaze, Tio Choko.
And you can find Tio Choko just about everywhere these days, whether he’s shimmying his shoulders in a commercial for the Metro ahead of RodeoHouston, dancing it up with the Black Eyed Peas and Los Tucanes De Tijuana, or leading the Beaumont United High School Marching Band in a mid-football game booty shake.
We talked with Choko about the early days of his dancing uncle, choreographing for will.i.am, and mashing up the cowboy thrust with Fleetwood Mac.
Where did Tio Choko come from?
My first viral video was Tio Choko in September of 2015. It was a meme video. That video went everywhere; it hit a million views in like two hours. My friends from school were calling me, my family members, I was getting emails from comedians. I actually got an email from someone asking, “Would you actually come to a quinceañera and perform as Tio Choko?” Soon, I was doing everything: weddings, baby showers, party buses, divorce parties, freakin' Bar Mitzvahs.
Tio Choko was actually one of my least favorite characters. When I went viral with that character, I was already tired of it, so I kept pushing out other videos. They were doing well, but it wasn’t like that million that Tio Choko first did. So, after another 20 videos, I did another Tio Choko video, and—boom—two million. I’m like, what the heck? This is crazy.
You eventually embraced the character, though.
Me being half black, half Latino, I know the culture so well—different types of music to dance to—it just comes so naturally. I realized I have this, this character where there's no restrictions, there's no boundaries, there's no walls. I can do anything with this character. I can dance hip-hop, I can dance to Spanish music, I can dance to ballet. Whatever the case is, Tio Choko can do no wrong in people’s eyes. He’s everyone’s favorite uncle.
Tio Choko represents bringing people together through music and positivity. It’s also very relatable. A lot of people have uncles that always do everything. Like, you can call your uncle to fix your car or to be your band. Then of course, there’s Tio Choko’s famous smolder.
Tio Choko’s latest success is the #Chokolution dance. How did that start?
It started off with a Spanish song from the ’90s. I did a video just thrusting and making a meme mug at the camera. Then I started doing another video as like a Florida song. Will.i.am. called me from L.A. last year and said, “Hey, I want Tio Choko to choreograph the next video for Black Eyed Peas,” and the thrust was one of the dance moves I put into the music video. Tio Choko’s in it too. That kind of lit the spark a bit because the music video and performing at the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards kind of put it on the map.
Then this fall, the Fleetwood Mac song was blowing up. I had a video already out with the truth, so all I did was change the song. I put it together, and everyone just started thrusting to a slow song, which is super funny. If it had been a club song or a fast song, it would have been okay, but the contrast of that song being so slow and so soft with people out here thrusting—something hardcore—that's what makes it hilarious.
You dance a lot in your videos. Did you ever study dance?
No, it's actually just something that came naturally. I've never taken a dance class. It's just whatever I hear, whatever I feel, is what I dance to. I'm about to do a Bollywood music video pretty soon.
What have been your favorite responses to the #Chokolution dance?
The people in Nigeria, they actually got it down to detail where they were dressed in the same costumes and did the same coordination of movements. As a videographer and an editor, I pay attention to details I know that take time. I’m super appreciative to know people really enjoy the video that much. Putting a phone up on a stand is one thing, but people actually going out to film it the same way, dress the same way, put on the outfit? That’s crazy.
After all this, what’s next for you and Tio Choko?
The mission is to make Tio Choko a household name. Being an entertainer is my full-time job now, and he’s a character I want to leave a mark with.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.