Did anyone in the Trojan Horse get claustrophobic on the way to Troy? Was Marie Antoinette worried about getting canceled when she said, “Let them eat cake”? What if people got drafted into World War I via spam text? While these anachronistic setups might feel more MadLibs than legitimate situations, they’re just a few of the many videos from TikTok‘s favorite, and fast-growing improv comedian Jake Shane.
Since 2021, Shane, the comedic voice behind @octopuslover8, has used the account to post about his favorite food. While in college, Shane discovered the delicacy of eating octopus, and started his TikTok to review as many different dishes as he could. But in February, it was a simple idea that took Shane from octopus hobbyist to full-fledged creator, when he posted a prompt for his followers: What do you want me to act out? “Someone commented, ‘Can you do like Bill Clinton denying his relationship with Monica Lewinsky?’” Shane tells Rolling Stone. “I was really trying to win an Oscar for this. I’m googling how he speaks, interviews, everything. It was midnight at this point and I was like ‘I can’t do this right now. But I told everyone I was so I have to do something.’” Shane’s answer, instead of a direct copy of the former president, was a nonchalant yet hilarious interpretation. “What?” he asks in the video, eyes shifting back and forth. “No…what?”
He reenacted Joan of Arc’s execution next, leaving the gravitas behind for a skit of two friends finding out about during a gossip session. Then Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, with the savior finding out Judas was “talking shit” about him at dinner the night before, thanks to well-placed text from Mary. Then he tried Noah (of Ark fame) as a club bouncer, Newton discovering gravity with a lemon, and the Boston Tea Party featuring an iced matcha. In less than a week, his account had 100,000 followers. In a month, he hit 1 million. And now, three months later, Shane isn’t just performing for his roommates anymore. He’s a legitimate creator, complete with merch, several catchphrases, a viral dance (Charlie D’Amelio approved), a shiny contract with management agency WME, and a team several people deep. But most of all, it’s a desire to keep making his best friends laugh that has earned Shane a devoted fan base with millions of followers — all while staying deeply, hilariously, anxiously, himself.
“I still view myself as a kid,” Shane tells Rolling Stone. “I don’t know if it’s a fear to consider myself an adult. But I don’t. I can’t. Adults scare me. So I haven’t been able to process the fact that, by law, I am an adult.”
But while users on TikTok are celebrating a fresh new take on some of history’s most well-known events, something else Shane hasn’t been able to process is how he got here in the first place. In 2020, he was just a college student at the University of Southern California, quarantining in New York City with his parents, trying to figure out what to do with his life. Three years later, even a feed filled with collaborations from the Jonas Brothers, Sofia Richie (a close friend), and Rina Sawayama isn’t enough to win over Shane’s harshest, and closest critic: himself.
“I have the worst impostor syndrome ever,” Shane says. “I convinced myself the day that I make it, I’m going to be the most secure person. I’m gonna feel so beautiful and then I’ll get a guy and this that and the other. But I showed up and was like ‘Oh my god, I still feel like a kid. I feel the exact same.’ Nothing about my self-confidence has changed.”
While stumbling into an online career didn’t give Shane a personality transplant, the sudden spotlight has given him something a lot of people might be desperate for: a chance to start over. Shane says that, as a kid growing up in the suburbs of New York City, he was extremely passionate about acting, loving to rehearse lines and act out his favorite scenes from Jersey Shore. As a high schooler in Washington Heights, he took stand-up classes at the Gotham Comedy Club. But his fear prevented him from pursuing acting, and by the time he was officially given a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder as a teenager, he figured his time (and dream) had passed. Now, Shane isn’t wasting any more time. The comedian says he’s focused on using his newfound following to make as many people laugh as he can — and credits his rapid rise to audiences’ shifting need for comedy that doesn’t have it all together.
“TikTok has become as big as it has because it feels like you’re on Facetime with a friend,” Shane says. “It’s so authentic. When I was on Vine, the funniest videos were people who had no idea it was going to go viral, just fucking around. So I think the fact that I filmed these videos with my best friends, people are able to feel how much fun we’re having.”
The comic says he still has a hard time conceptualizing just how many eyes are on his video on a day-to-day basis — which can leave him destroyed if he lets himself linger on a single negative comment. But when the thought of newfound fame, and potential for his dream career, gets too loud, Shane doesn’t need to think about his fears of the stage. He’s already conquered the one that matters.
“I view my TikTok as a love letter to my friends and family,” Shane tells Rolling Stone. “My whole life, all I wanted to do is make them laugh. So if I constantly ground myself in the fact that I’m still making the people that love me most laugh, I can block out all the noise. That is where I’m happiest. Making people laugh no matter how scared I get, that’s pure bliss for me.”