ARTS

  /  

May 22, 2021

  /  

11:43 a.m.

TikTok Famous… Twice: How UChicago’s Brett Katz Found his Internet Fame

Brett Katz (@annumreport) amassed a huge following on TikTok for his retrospective view on the news from a year ago.

Brett Katz (@annumreport) amassed a huge following on TikTok for his retrospective view on the news from a year ago.

Courtesy of Brett Katz

It all started with an idea.  

At the end of autumn quarter, Brett Katz, a third-year biology major in The College, thought it would be fascinating to start a TikTok account (@annumreport) that recounted the news from one year ago each day in order to document the origins and eventual spread of COVID-19 around the globe.  

“I thought it would be quite an interesting perspective of everything going on,” Katz told The Maroon. “[I wanted to document] exactly when everyone was starting to freak out about COVID, what people were really saying, and what actually ended up happening.” 

After deciding that December would be the best time to begin posting videos, Katz settled upon the name “Annum Report” and uploaded his first video on December 16, 2020 to get the page started. When he woke up the next morning, to his surprise, he saw that he had gained 13 followers and 83 likes overnight.  

“I was freaking out,” Katz said. “I didn’t follow anyone [when I made the account]. I kind of just posted [my first video] because I wanted to get it out there so I could start the cycle and get on track, so I was kind of shocked.” 

Little did he know that there was much more to come. That same day, Katz posted another video and watched his follower count reach over 1000. The next morning (December 18), he woke up to roughly 5,000 followers.  

Two weeks of daily posts and 23,000 followers later, Katz posted a video on January 3, 2021 that he claims was by far his worst. 

“I heard that it’s a common thing [on TikTok] that your worst video ends up being the successful one, and I don’t know how true it is, but it happened to me.” Katz explained, “I was going out to lunch with someone and I was kind of in a rush because I wanted to post every day and I wanted to try and post in the morning, so I posted, but I looked awful. I had just gotten out of the shower and I quickly made this video, then got in the car. That video got over 1.4 million views and it’s my most-viewed video.” 

Katz reached over 80,000 followers that day. His next few videos pushed him over to 120,000 followers.  

When asked why he thought the account grew so quickly, Katz speculated that it was because people were interested, like he was, in how and when COVID spread around the world.  

“I feel like hearing about all of the warning signs from very early on when a lot of people just thought it would be nothing, seeing all of that in hindsight was a kind of interesting thing for people,” Katz said. “I guess a lot of people were looking to be able to look at all of the news in hindsight and see how COVID emerged in the first place, and how we got here.” 

@annumreport continued to grow throughout December and January, but soon thereafter, it began to die down. Since then, Katz has also been spending much less time on the account, especially after March, and now only posts two to three times a week, just to keep the account going.  

“As of now, views are down, but I don’t really care,” Katz told The Maroon. “I was excited about what it had done in the first place and now I’m not really as excited about it. The best thing I get from @annumreport now is that because of the fact that I still have 119,000 followers, I get a lot of validation from my comments on certain videos.” 

Whether or not Katz will continue to post the same content on @annumreport is still up for debate, but for now, he doesn’t want to stop posting videos entirely. Although the account has been winding down lately, Katz has been trying to amplify less-covered news, such as one-year-ago updates on the Uyghur Genocide, and has been using the account to post a few other, non-news-related videos. Yet, even with the accounts’ recent inactivity, Katz still gets recognized online and on-campus by friends and strangers alike who have seen his face on TikTok, not only from @annumreport but from Frankie Jonas’s TikTok (@iamfrankiejonas) as well. 

For those that don’t know, Katz is the President of Chamberlin house in Burton Judson Courts, and for years, Frankie Jonas has been a central part of Chamberlin’s house culture. A shrine to the “other Jonas Brother” (not Nick, Joe, or Kevin) sits on the third floor of the house, where students make ramen, CD, and other offerings to Frankie. The house also organizes a gift exchange, called the “Festivities of Revelry and Anonymous Non-Denominational Khamberlin Item Exchange” or “F.R.A.N.K.I.E” for short.  

In December 2020, right around the time when Katz started @annumreport, he also posted a video on his personal TikTok about the Frankie Jonas-related traditions unique to Chamberlin house and used one of Jonas’ incredibly long and obscure hashtags to try and get his attention. Jonas, who was also starting to go viral at the time, ended up dueting the video and posted it on his own account. From there, Katz and Jonas connected over TikTok DMs, and swiftly got Frankie involved with the gift exchange of the same name, and possibly implied his involvement could be a yearly thing. 

On a separate note, in addition to his TikTok fame, Katz also became rather well-known on UChicago Poll Party this year, to the point where people would recognize him on campus from Facebook as well as TikTok. From September to March, he was incredibly active, until he deleted Facebook and YouTube from his phone. 

“I still get recognized all the time,” Katz told The Maroon. “If someone says, ‘Oh you were on my For You Page on TikTok,’ that’s kind of cool, but if someone’s like, ‘Oh I recognize you from Poll Party,’ it’s kind of embarrassing.” 

If Katz learned anything from his internet fame, it wasn’t how to awkwardly interact with people in-person who recognize him from TikTok or Facebook. Rather, there’s no reason you shouldn’t do something out of your comfort zone or something that isn’t related to your usual interests. 

“It’s okay to try things that are way beyond your field of study or your comfort zone or what you’re typically used to,” Katz said. “I guess I’ve always been interested in the news, I check the BBC news app like 30 times a day, but I’m very much a science major and a lot of my interests surround that, but it’s cool to try new things because you never know what’s going to happen. If you think it’s a good idea, maybe other people will too. Even if it’s way beyond what you’re typically used to doing, it’s worth trying.” 

You can check out @annumreport on TikTok here.