Comedian Khaby Lame has become the king of TikTok, all without saying a single word.
With over 142.9 million followers, Lame has dethroned teen dancer and content creator Charli D’Amelio to become the most followed person on the platform.
Lame, 22, who was born in Senegal, a West African country and now lives in Italy, creates videos in which he reacts wordlessly to absurd tricks, racking up millions of views and likes with each post. In recent weeks, his fans have made an effort on social media to outdo D’Amelio on TikTok. On Instagram, Lame has 78.3 million followers to D’Amelio’s 48.8 million.
Lame, (pronounced Lah-MAY), began posting videos after losing his job as a factory worker in Italy in the early days of the pandemic in 2020. He spent his days holed up in his parents’ house in the city Italian woman from Chivasso, looking for work. One day, he downloaded TikTok and started playing with him in his room, posting videos of himself under the name Khaby Lame. Early on, like many TikTokers, he created clips of himself dancing, watching video games, or doing comedic stunts. In early 2021, he began mocking cheat videos flooding social media platforms, reacting to them with a wordless shrug or an exasperated look.
“I came up with the idea because I was seeing these videos going around, and I liked the idea of giving it a little bit of simplicity,” Lame told GLM late last year. “I thought of a way to reach as many people as possible. And the best way was not to talk.”
In addition to life hack videos, Lame also posts short comedy skits that feature his expressive reactions, but without words. His reactions epitomize the term “head shaking,” or SMH for Internet short. After her common-sense approach to a task, Lame holds out her arms, palms up, as if to say ‘duh’. She sometimes rolls her eyes or shakes her head.
These quiet yet expressive reactions have made him one of the most recognizable digital creators on social media.
“You don’t need to speak to be seen or understood,” Christina Ferraz, founder of the Houston-based public relations agency Thirty6five, told GLM. “Their exasperation is relatable and the feelings are universal.”
Lame’s deadpan humor has attracted fans from around the world, who regularly send him videos of people performing simple tasks in complicated ways. His stoic facial expressions have also made him a meme star, with his face posted in reaction videos on social media.
Lame did not immediately respond to a request from GLM for comment on his new reign as the most followed TikTok account. But she told GLM last year that she doesn’t post the videos to gain fame.
“I don’t care if I’m the first, second or fourth most popular on TikTok. I started making videos because I wanted to make people laugh in that lockdown period,” he said. “And I continue to make videos with the same ideals. I’m happy for my achievements, but that’s not the main thing.”
Lame has said that one of her goals is to work with her favorite movie star, Will Smith.