If you’ve watched the Fyre Festival documentaries on Hulu and Netflix, you may be familiar with Jerry Media, the social-media agency hired to promote the now-infamous event (the company was also a producer on the Netflix doc). Jerry Media first started as the extremely popular @fuckjerry Instagram account, and if you’re in the comedy world, you’ve been very familiar with FuckJerry since long before the idea of Fyre Festival was even conceived.
Alongside Instagram star Josh Ostrovsky, a.k.a. “The Fat Jew,” FuckJerry’s rise to social-media stardom was built on stolen jokes — or as both account creators like to call it, “curating” jokes. Like Ostrovsky, the man behind FuckJerry, Elliot Tebele, has managed to attain over 14 million Instagram followers by passing Twitter jokes and memes off as his own — the general style being screenshots with proper attribution (most commonly, Twitter usernames) conveniently cropped out. Ostrovsky and Tebele’s long-running joke theft has been called out and covered extensively by comedians and writers over the years, so more recently, the accounts have included attribution, presumably to ward off further criticism. Still, they both continue to reap the rewards built from other people’s work, with Ostrovsky landing a book deal and his own wine brand and Tebele evolving FuckJerry into a marketing agency that has run ads by Burger King, Bumble, DirecTV, and Jack in the Box, making as much as $30,000 per post.
So, okay, fine — life is unfair, jokes get stolen all the time, and it’s unlikely a lot of the brands that have hired Jerry Media are even aware of how many comedians Tebele and crew have ripped off over the years. But it feels particularly egregious to see the latest series of ads FuckJerry has been posting this month … promoting Comedy Central shows. Broad City, Corporate, and The Other Two have all gotten their own FuckJerry Instagram ads over the past two weeks, and to twist the knife for comedians everywhere, they’re all formatted like the stolen jokes Tebele used to post regularly:
There’s just something about advertising on an Instagram account that got successful for posting stolen jokes — and spending ad money to run sponsored posts stylized like stolen jokes, no less — that feels antithetical to everything Comedy Central stands for, especially considering that the network likely employs comedians and writers who have had their jokes stolen by FuckJerry at some point. Comedy Central did not respond in time for publication when we reached out for comment, but maybe the advertising team just isn’t aware of FuckJerry’s (well-documented) past? Perhaps that will change now that FuckJerry’s relation to one of the biggest pop-cultural scams in recent history is back in the news, but judging from how long they’ve gotten away with their other scam, it seems unlikely.
Update, February 1: Today, all of Comedy Central’s ads were removed from the FuckJerry Instagram page. “Comedy Central requested to have any existing ads pulled from the FuckJerry account,” a spokesperson for the network confirmed when reached for comment. “We have no plans to advertise with Jerry Media in the future.” Presumably, Comedy Central did some digging into FuckJerry’s past and present shady behavior and decided to take action. Turns out there is hope for those who want joke thieves to stop getting advertising dollars after all.
Update, February 3: In a statement published on Medium, Tebele announced an overhaul of how FuckJerry curates and obtains content for its social media channels. Going forward, content will not be republished on FuckJerry accounts unless Tebele can 1) Identify the original creator, and 2) Obtain explicit, advanced consent from the creator. “It is clear that attribution is no longer sufficient, so permission will become the new policy,” he wrote. “As the social media landscape changes, we know our policies will have to continue to evolve, and we look forward to engaging with our followers and Instagram in conversations about these important issues. We want to apologize to anyone who feels we have wronged them in the past. We want to do the right thing by creators by seeking permission and giving them the credit they deserve.”
Update, February 6: Another brand that has worked with FuckJerry in the past has now confirmed that it’s severed ties with the company. According to a source close to dating app Bumble, the company has not worked with FuckJerry in over a year and has no plans to work with them moving forward.