Tracing the Bloomington roots of the Jake from State Farm ads

By Farah Bassyouni Mar 25, 2022
Jake Stone in a screenshot from the famous "Jake from State Farm" commercial. Commercial shot by Doyle Dane Bernbach
Jake Stone in a screenshot from the famous “Jake from State Farm” commercial.
Commercial shot by Doyle Dane Bernbach

“What are you wearing ‘Jake from State Farm’?” a suspicious wife asked over the phone. “Uh…khakis,” Jake said. 

 

Who knew that such a simple line would take over the media, let alone be the epitome of Jake’s career? Not even Jake from State Farm knew.

 

 The 2011 commercial “State of Unrest” was shot by the public relations firm Doyle Dane Bernbach and featured a mistrustful wife in her robe wondering who her husband was talking to at 3 a.m. That scenario gave birth to the Jake from State Farm phenomenon that we still see today. 

 

“We thought it would be something that would be quick and fun, lasting only a month or two, but did we know that almost 11 years later we’re still talking about it?” An unspoken “no” was the answer Jake Stone gave in a video phone interview. 

 

The original Jake from State Farm, Stone said he was not an actor at all. He was a working employee of State Farm and still is to this day. Back in 2011, he worked at the call-center at State Farm in Bloomington, Ill., that in fact was a 24-hour call line that assisted customers at 3 a.m., if need be. 

 

Stone was a “townie,” as his former art teacher described him. He was born in Bloomington-Normal, attended Illinois State University in Normal and has worked in Bloomington all his life.

Stone on a Zoom call with The Argus
Photo: Alessia Girardin

 

“Normally people who make it on the big screen come from the acting or music department at ISU, but definitely not a painting class,” ISU art director Michael Wille said. Wille taught Stone when Stone was pursuing his studio art major there. With the close student-to-faculty connection of three-hour class periods, Wille got to know Jake in his painting class of about 11 students. 

 

Back in college, Stone was “super fun to be around,” Wille said. He was someone who liked to learn and wanted to be social in class, which made classes enjoyable for both Wille and the other students. 

 

Stone said that his outgoing personality has come in waves throughout his life. Before the commercial aired, he described himself as more reserved.   With the success of the commercial, he said he developed more confidence—and not only in the business world.  Stone said he became more confident just generally interacting with other people. 

 

But Hud Venerable, an IWU alum and Stone’s football coach at Normal Community, said Stone was quite the confident team leader even in high school.

 

“He was extremely respectful, very coachable, with a father that is also a coach, and was a leader for us, led by example all the time,” Venerable said. 

 

 “Jake was very much someone I looked up to, and [he] always looked out for me as a kid,” said John Venerable, Stone’s teammate and Pub II co-worker. 

 

Although Stone said he didn’t agree he ever achieved celebrity status after the commercial aired, the senior Venerable begged to differ.

 

“I remember when my daughter, same class as Jake at the time, said ‘Dad, we were trick or treating and the kids were dressing up as Jake from State Farm,” Hud Venerable said. 

 

            Although the commercial did not receive any awards, it undeniably made a mark on the State Farm brand for years to come. Stone said that after about a year of the commercial airing, he started getting recognized. People started reaching out to him.

 

When the commercial first aired, Wille thought, “Man, this guy looks a lot like this dude that used to be in my painting class.” 

Wille said that as people began to put two and two together, they might see Stone walking around the neighborhood and shout something like “Yo! You’re in this commercial!” 

 

“I did get a lot of feedback, and that was pretty cool,” Stone said. At Pub II, where he worked part-time, his friends had framed his khakis while he was working one night. The pants still hang there as part of the decor and a testament to the phenomenon.

 

Stone said he had to audition for the commercial, but it was not competitive. For Stone, the audition process was a matter of a few questions over Skype and a call.  Stone said they told him he would appeal  to the young demographic the commercial would target.

 

“I was lucky to be in the role I was at the time and knew the right people,” Stone said. “It all kind of connected.” 

 

In 2020, nine years after the commercial first aired, actor Kevin Miles became the new Jake from State Farm, and Stone took his replacement well.  

 

“I was more surprised because I didn’t realize we were bringing something back from 10 years ago,” Stone said. 

 

Now that he has a family and a career, Stone said that it would be  “virtually impossible for me to do what Kevin’s doing, along with having a career.”

 

            Stone now has built a family with his wife, Stephanie, and son Remy, age four, and daughter Reina, age two. He is a dedicated father, and traveling would not have worked as family is more of his priority. 

“My family is great, my wife Stephanie is very supportive of our family, [and she] does a great job being a wife, being a mom. I couldn’t be happier,” Stone said. 

 

 “It was not a negative feeling,” Stone said. “It was cool to hear that it was coming back, and it was even a bigger honor that they wanted me to have that cameo to bridge the gap between the old commercial to the new ones with Kevin,” Stone said. 

 

When the new commercial aired, the camera showed Miles sitting in the same chair as Stone did nine years earlier. After Miles delivered that now-famous “uh…khakis” line, he turned to Stone in the cubicle across from him and said, “Do they ask you what you’re wearing?” Stone, experienced in that department, responded, “Uh . . . yeah.”

 

The new Jake had the opportunity to film commercials with football stars like Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers. Did that make Stone jealous?

 

“Just having the experience to meet different people on different levels and have that interaction with them is great,” Stone conceded. “The year before, Kevin got to meet Drake and Paul Rudd along with Mahomes and Rodgers, so jealousy in the most positive way, absolutely,” Stone said. “I am a big football fan myself.”

 

Stone said that the media likes to criticize, but there was nothing negative about his leaving the role. In fact, he made sure to give Miles advice “Be yourself, have fun and smile,” Stone said. “He’s got one of the best smiles out there. He gets a lot of comments on it, and rightfully so.” 

 

After working with Miles, Stone said, “He’s been pretty amazing with the spot and helping our company as well. He’s one of the kindest people you will ever meet, and it is a big honor to have him move forward with it.”

 

While Miles may now be the one saying “Uh…khakis,” he does so still using the real name and occupation of the original: Jake from State Farm.

Related Post