Esteban Romero isn’t a vagrant — he just plays one on TikTok.
The 52-year-old Brooklynite has become a viral sensation for his street antics on the app – one video attracted 1.5 million views – and he admitted to The Post this week that he is a comedian of nearly 20 years who lives in a basement apartment in Bushwick.
He has been filmed supposedly pooping in a fake subway cleaner’s bucket last year and being stopped by a person dressed up as Spiderman from robbing a subway station fruit vendor. Straphangers are regularly caught covering their mouths in shock.
A video posted on Twitter last week, watched by almost 9 million people, depicted him seemingly knocking up a beautiful woman who gave him food and a bed. Several viewers called out the video’s authenticity, but many others responded incredulously to the video with the same question: “WHAT?”
“If you look at me, you would think that I was mentally disturbed person that could snap at any given minute,” said Romero, wearing only his trademark ripped sweatpants and camouflage clogs.
Romero, who immigrated from Panama to the United States in 1984, caught the comedy bug in 2003, after his cousin convinced him to tell some jokes at a show at the now-closed Boston Comedy Club in Greenwich Village.
“It was like, ‘Hey, guys, I’m a loser. I’m 40 years old and I live with my mother,’” Romero said of his debut material.
He refined his routines by performing at bars’ standup nights and working at comedy clubs for stage time. But just before the pandemic, he connected with the comedian Dannyduces, who convinced him to embrace a homeless persona he had been experimenting with for years in his standup and in YouTube skits.
Since then, Romero, collaborating with an extensive crew of comedians, writers and directors, has fooled millions of people in New York and beyond into believing he was a bona fide hobo.
One reason he’s so convincing is that he really has slept on Gotham’s streets and bathed at the Port Authority.
“I’ve been a bum, I’ve been homeless,” he said, explaining that he squatted in a building in Canarsie, Brooklyn, from 2013 to 2019 before sleeping on the subway and crashing at friends’ homes for a few months.
Now, he’s trying to help out the city’s homeless however he can.
“I try to give them information about where to get food, clothing,” he said. “Financially, I’m trying to keep myself from being with them 24 hours, but whenever I can, I give them whatever cash or food I have.”