Jake Shane had a big month earlier this year. The 23-year-old, who is perhaps better known by his TikTok handle, Octupusslover8, had been slowly gaining traction on TikTok with funny reviews of his favorite food, octopus, for months. But on February 20, he branched out from mollusk critique and posted a deadpan one-man comedy skit where he played Bill Clinton denying his relationship with Monica Lewinksy. The video got 2 million views. Five days later, Octupusslover8 hit 100,000 followers. Over the next week, Shane kept the skits coming: the aggrieved president who didn’t make Mount Rushmore, a put-upon Moses parting the Red Sea. On March 5, he hit 1 million followers. On March 29, the 23-year-old signed to blue-chip talent agency WME. Then he began to figure out what this means for his life plan.
TikTok is saturated with people desperate to become famous, and Shane may have distinguished himself by simply not trying that hard: Unlike other comedians on the platform, Shane’s videos are not scripted, edited, or even really produced. It’s just him, his roommates, and the background giggles coming from his friends behind the camera. You almost feel like you are in the room with a group of friends being silly on their Saturday night.
Now, though, his feed also features some incredibly famous people being silly. Nick Jonas duetted a video of Shane’s in which he personified a shocked Diet Coke finding out about Coke Zero. (Jonas played full-sugar Coke delivering the bad news.) A few days after that, Joe Jonas hopped in as “Scott,” the imaginary Coca-Cola higher-up who devised the plan. Naturally, the videos blew up.
But Shane, who has struggled with OCD and anxiety since the age of seven, tells GQ that all this success has not been without downsides. He knows his rise to fame isn’t normal. And as much as he is enjoying his new found stardom, the TikTok star was already battling his own demons. He caught GQ up with how he’s dealing with that—plus 1.7 million followers commenting on, critiquing, and adoring everything he does.
GQ: What was your first reaction when you started to blow up?
Jake Shane: I was loving it. When it happens, at first, you’re not thinking, All right, well, I’m going to be a TikTok star now. You just think it’s fun. You don’t think anything is going to happen. So I started posting on TikTok 10 to 20 times a day, anything I could think of. I would just grab my phone, be like, “dududu, post” and put it down. I wouldn’t do a caption half the time because I have really, really bad anxiety and really bad OCD, so creating captions is sometimes hard for me. It really triggers part of me. So I decided to not have captions and people can do what they will with it. Slowly, slowly, slowly, it started climbing.
As someone who already struggled with OCD and anxiety, how has all of this affected your mental health?
I think when I realized the growth wasn’t normal is when my mental health got bad. I gained a million followers in a week and I really truly thought that is what happened to everyone with a following on Tiktok, but people started to be like, “This is exceptional, Jake, and what happened to you was very fast.”
I catastrophize a lot of things. Part of my anxiety has always been that when something is going good, all I can think about is how it could go bad. So when you have a lot of people on the internet saying that they think you are funny and that they love you, the only thing that I could think about was that moment that they decided they don’t anymore. It kept me up at night, even right now. It’s so scary because it feels so good when everyone loves you, but I can only imagine how bad it feels when everyone hates you.
When did you realize all of this “wasn’t normal”?
When agencies started to reach out, I was like, Okay, now this is happening. I can’t mess up. At the time I was being really hard on myself with the views. When you have all these people reaching out, you think they are going to be uninterested if you end up doing lower numbers. Realistically, I wasn’t going to numbers again like I did the week I hit a million. That was an exceptional week. So, when you start to slow down a bit you start to think, Oh, my God, everyones going to drop me and no one is going to care anymore. My number one fear has always been being forgotten, ever since I was a little kid, so this put that fear on steroids. I was always scared of being forgotten by my friends or people I know, but now I am scared of being forgotten by the world.
Do you think about all of the people who are watching you when you post?
I kind of still try to post like I’m only at 40,000, which is still so many people—but at that point it felt fun. Now, it’s scary. I have struggled with OCD since I was a kid. Not just the OCD where things have to be in order, but my OCD is a lot about numbers, counting and touching things evenly. When you have OCD it’s a lot of intrusive thoughts around good luck and bad luck. It’s rituals. I’ve struggled with that since I was around seven, and during COVID it got really, really, really bad. I couldn’t get out of bed. I saw a psychiatrist and she was like, “I need to put you on something or you are going to reach a depression of no return.” Sorry, this got really dark. So, I went on meds and it got so much better. But when my TikTok started blowing up, my OCD got worse again. I haven’t done this in so long, but I wrote out a caption and then deleted the caption and just posted it without one. So, that has come back which hasn’t been very enjoyable, but I am trying to work on it. I noticed that my anxiety is in my chest a lot more. I don’t know if this sounds silly, but I try to post about it. Just to let them know, I’m really anxious right now.
Was that a conscious decision, to post about your mental health?
I’m not going to lie! What am I going to do? I’m not going to sit there and cry. I’m going to laugh and see if anyone else is anxious too. It genuinely makes me feel so much better when we all talk in the comments. It makes me feel less alone. I don’t know if it makes my followers feel less alone—I call them my pussies—I don’t know if it makes the pussies feel less alone. But it really makes me feel less alone when I realize that other people are going through it too. I do this thing on my Instagram story where I ask if people are tents up or tents down today. It’s just like a check-in. I never understood the shame around saying I’m anxious or I am really sad today. I feel like that’s the good thing about TikTok. It gives you that platform to be like, I’m really anxious or depressed today, without people being like, What? That is what makes me interesting and that is what makes me me, and that is what makes me relatable.
You primarily gained a following for making people laugh. Did that make you worry about opening up about your mental health?
That is what I was nervous about when I reached so many followers. I reached the followers for the skits. My number one fear was like, Am I still gonna be able to post about my anxiety and stuff? Or is everyone going to be like, “Wait, this is not what we signed up for”? It’s been kind of trying to find that balance, because it’s a new audience—it’s a million new people. I’m trying to introduce this new side of me. Well, to them it’s new but to everyone else this is who I am. I’m anxious. I still want to spam post like 10 things without it hurting this new audience I found. At this point, now this is my life, and I want to make sure that it’s sustainable and that I have longevity in this space. It’s so hard with TikTok, everything feels so fleeting. It feels like you’re holding on and slipping at the same time because it happens so fast. As quickly as it all happens, it can go away again.
You are clearly very aware of your unique position and know how fragile this industry is. Is this what you want? Do you want to be a social media star?
I did acting when I was younger and I loved it, but I was closeted and I was really insecure. I moved schools and I couldn’t do it again. I was too scared and I ended up pursuing other things. It feels like with these TikTok videos I’m kind of getting who I was back then. It’s kind of like a second chance. It feels like, okay, you are 10 again, what are you going to do with this? Are you going to be scared of what everyone thinks of you? Or are you going to walk into a room and be like, I wanna act! Which is exactly what I did. I walked into those agency meetings and I was like, “I want to act. That’s what I want to do.”
I think everyone thought I was going to walk in there be like, I want to be an influencer—which is great and that is amazing, but I don’t think I would be super good at it. I know I am good at acting.
Actually, I don’t know if I am good at it, but it’s what makes me the happiest. This platform has given me a chance to pursue something that has made me as happy as acting, so let’s shoot for the moon.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.