Twitter and Instagram lit up last week with comedians urging fans to unfollow the popular Fuck Jerry Instagram account [Ed. Note: Due to the anti-comedy nature of Jerry Media, we will not be linking to Fuck Jerry or his other accounts]. But just what’s behind the boycott? Tired of creating content for free and having others use it for profit, comedians like Patton Oswalt and Judah Friedlander are banding together and calling for their fans to #FuckFuckJerry.
The catalyst for this was the hit Netflix Fyre Festival documentary everyone at your office won’t stop talking about. If one thing stood out, it was how such a shitshow got hyped to the proportions it did. Playing no small part in this was the social media team of “curators”—a title joke thieves adopted in defense to being called out—at the Jerry Media agency founded by Instagram bros Elliot Tebele and Ryan Ohliger. Better known as @fuckjerry and @krispyshorts, they made their names stealing tweets, videos, and content made by actual comedians and the documentary refocused the spotlight on how they profit from others’ work.
Fuck Jerry joke stealing exposed by Megh Wright
A quick glance at the Fuck Jerry Instagram account revealed it to be a goldmine of plundered content. From ads for Comedy Central created using stolen tweets to promote Broad City and Corporate to branded Fuck Jerry merchandise using stolen memes, Jerry Media has grown to a multimillion-dollar marketing company. Journalist Megh Wright uncovered examples of comedy writer and actor Ted Travelstead’s tweets being used on Fuck Jerry’s Cards Against Humanity knockoff game. Travelstead was initially flattered by the attention until he realized they were using it to make a profit and that none of the proceeds were going to him.
With countless examples of this surfacing, an experiment was in order. If Fuck Jerry was profiting based on its follower count, why not try and hit them where it hurts by encouraging people to unfollow through “incessant tweeting”? Suddenly there was an outlet for everyone’s common frustrations. Early on, Friedlander jumped in to suggest the hashtag #FuckFuckJerry and the movement quickly took hold.
Oswalt, Tim Heidecker, and comedy video artist Vic Berger rallied to the cause. Heidecker was so enthused he even penned a new song in support.
Berger took it one step further, creating one of the satirical video mash-ups that made him internet famous, with a focus on Tebele and his craft of curation—or as comedians call it, stealing.
— Just Tim Heidecker (@timheidecker) February 2, 2019
Jerry Media profited from stealing memes from comedians
Berger continued his campaign with an op-ed on Rolling Stone’s website where he detailed exactly how Fuck Jerry profits from their stolen content, earning up to $75,000 per post on their feed and $40,000 for a swipe up Instagram story. In the piece, he shares his own experience asking for credit for one of his Ted Cruz videos in 2016 and being told to “Shut Up” by @krispyshorts. He highlights the numerous other celebrities who have joined the conversation including comedian John Mulaney and Colin Hanks, with Hanks’ post a nod to the orange squares originally used to promote Fyre Fest.
View this post on Instagram
Been thinking about some things lately that I want to tell you guys. A couple of things. @fuckjerry isn’t just some guy. It started that way but now it’s actually a marketing agency that can command thousands of dollars for a single IG post. A company that has profited from stealing jokes and content from comedians and not giving proper credit. Do a quick Google search. They are hustlers. Con men. Not only that, they also helped bring you the Fyre Festival. That’s right. They ran the social media for that. They helped create content for that. They helped sell that. They profited from that. Not only did they profit from that debacle, they helped produce a documentary about it (the Netflix one) and profited off of that as well. So, to put it simply, unfollow @fuckjerry. Unfollow anything to do with @fuckjerry. Fuck those guys.
Then he tackles Tebele’s apology on Medium, where he promised not to use anyone’s work in future without credit or permission. “I reached out to Jerry Media to find out about future payment for creators and if this no-theft policy was company-wide, encompassing all thirty accounts rather than just the main @fuckjerry account,” Berger noted. “But I never heard back.”
Comedians mobilize against Fuck Jerry, Jerry Media
It’s this lack of credit or compensation which has mobilized everyone, with comedians sick of seeing the results of their hard work plagiarised to line someone else’s pockets. The role of curators on a cluttered internet has become celebrated to an insane level with the act of “finding” content somehow more revered than the actual creation of it. Ironic that in this context, the term “curator” was originally coined to give The Fat Jewish a job description after he was called out for stealing jokes.
Berger believes there is a positive way to change this. “I urge everyone to seek out, follow, and support actual comedians and artists that are creating good and unique content every day.” It’s hard to measure if his words are blowing up follower numbers for comedians and creators across the internet, but what is evident is the steep nosedive in followers on the Fuck Jerry account.
— Megh Wright (@megh_wright) February 7, 2019
Fuck Jerry followers dropped by almost half-a-million, a statistic backed up by Joe Rogan on his podcast. Additionally, Comedy Central and Bumble have removed ads or vowed not to work with Jerry Media in the future.
The real win though is that fans are starting to learn that double tapping a screenshot of a funny tweet isn’t so harmless and that’s awesome for people who create things.