Josh Ostrovsky, a.k.a. “The Fat Jew,” has turned a single Instagram account into an online comedy career. But that entire career is based on ripping off other people’s jokes.
Last week, the Hollywood Reporter said Hollywood talent agency CAA had signed Ostrovsky, putting the social media screenshot clown alongside the likes of Will Smith and Tom Hanks:
Ostrovsky, 30, has parlayed social media fame — he has more than 5.6 million followers on his Instagram account, @TheFatJewish — into a full-fledged entertainment career. In July he signed a modeling contract with One Management Agency; he recently launched wine brand White Girl Rosé and will publish his first book, Money Pizza Respect with Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group, later this year.
All of this is premised on his Instagram account, which provides a daily stream of funny-ish text and image-based “meme images” in the most generic sense. It’s fine, everyone likes memes, sure. But Ostrovsky’s account is based almost exclusively on jokes that he copied and pasted from other people, without any credit or compensation. It’s bad enough to try to convert yourself into a social media personality—doing it while actually being talentless is even more galling. For years, Ostrovsky has been shitting on the very internet community that’s made him money.
Only recently, after years of obviously ripping off large swaths of the internet, have people started to publicly accuse Ostrovsky, including many prominent, not-plagiarist comedians (Splitsider reports Comedy Central has canceled a TV deal with Ostrovsky).
Here’s how easy it is to catch Josh Ostrovsky stealing from people.
Click on any of his Instagram uploads:
Type the text that appears in the image into Google:
Find somewhere that posted it months, if not years before it appeared on @TheFatJewish:
Look at how easy it is:
In January, New York copywriter Andy Verderosa wrote a post about Ostrovsky and “FuckJerry,” another hugely popular, theft-based Instagram account:
The real problem with Fat Jew and Fuck Jerry, from an ethical standpoint, is that there is money to be made in their curation and re-dissemination of internet content. It’s in the second graph of the Times feature on the Fat Jew: “It is his comedic alter ego, his Instagram persona and, if he has his way, his ticket to wealth and mainstream media success.” Billboard’s article on him claims he gets paid $2,500 to feature brands in his photos or attend their events. This isn’t about Internet people getting paid. It’s about making a profit from other people’s content. The internet is still the wild west when it comes to assigning credit to original material. Because we do not make money from this blog, we don’t worry much about crediting photos, for example. Now that the Fat Jew and FuckJerry have become cultural icons, it’s time we stop allowing them to profit from other people’s material.
Comedian Davon Magwood has also written an “open letter” to Ostrovsky, outlining the ways in which he’s a fraud:
If it’s my stuff you’re posting, and if you give me credit, then I get traffic to my site, maybe that traffic goes to my comedy album and then I get paid for my work! You make money from the traffic you generate and guess what, I’d also would like to be paid and credited for the traffic that I’ve generated. I shouldn’t have to asked to be credit for my work, neither should other comedians or clever social media people. You should assume that If I’m posting online that I want credit for whatever you share. Twitter has this neat thing called “ReTweet” where you share what I’ve tweeted or you can tag me in a post.
I’m not producing shit so you can make more money off of my work, no one is. If you want to post other peoples stuff, go right on ahead, just make sure you don’t crop out their twitter handles. I have a girlfriend-with-fetus to clothe and feed.
The owner of @BrownCardigan, an Australian humor account on Instagram, wrote to me with his experience getting ripped off:
If you ever want to see who the original author of any tweet you can pretty much google the exact tweet word for word, grammar exact and you’ll see the time stamp of the first person to tweet it. That’s no secret but, to people like Fuck Jerry/ Fat Jerry that doesn’t matter too much.
They both do the same thing on Reddit/Tumblr, if a post has not many views or notes on it, they’re rip that off from their own twitter accounts and screenshot it/gram it as their own.
So did the tremendously funny Twitter parodist and photoshop wiz @Seinfeld2000, himself a frequent victim of screenshot theft:
The individual who calls himself “Fat Jew” has reposted a few of my photoshops without credit since 2013. i found out because the nice people who follow me will send me messages or tag me in them when it happens. After a campaign of sending him nasty emails and spamming the comments of whichever photoshop he stole, he started to credit me. But until then it was kind of a distressing experience to spend a couple hours making an image and then have this asshole breeze through and fill up his shopping cart with my work at get all this attention for it with zero effort. But its cool that instagram recognized hes a shameless plagiarist and deleted his account. Oh wait no they didnt and now he has a radio show on Apple. its unfortunate that major corporations have been complicit in the rise of this piece of shit
And that’s the problem: not Ostrovsky’s theft and plagiarism per se, which are as endemic on the web as anime porn and MP3s, but exploiting smaller players to enrich himself and create a “personal brand” (are there any two more toxic modern words than personal brand? No) This isn’t an issue of properly crediting sources, intellectual dishonesty, or moral rights; it’s a lot simpler than that. @TheFatJewish isn’t funny. Other people on the internet are funny. But other people on the internet aren’t getting signed to CAA.
Ostrovsky’s PR team (!) declined to let him speak with me for this article.