Social media this week is seeing an overwhelming amount of calls for people to halt support for Instagram’s FuckJerry and the man behind it. But the joke-stealing account has a long history of plagiarizing content for profit.
FuckJerry is the Instagram-based product of Elliot Tebele, who is now also running a social media marketing agency called Jerry Media. The agency recently sprung into the spotlight after Netflix and Hulu released competing documentaries about Fyre Festival, the luxe concert scam promoted by Jerry Media. The agency was also a producer of Netflix’s “Fyre” documentary, in which Jerry Media denied any culpability for the fraud.
But for comedians, Tebele has long been conning people for profit. FuckJerry has grown to stardom over the years by apparently stealing other people’s comedy and posting it on its own Instagram page, usually in the form of screenshots without attribution.
In 2015, comedian Davon Magwood tweeted a joke related to social media’s outrage at the time over Cecil the lion’s death.
The joke was quickly plagiarized without attribution by FuckJerry and The Fat Jew, another notorious joke-stealing Instagram account run by Josh Ostrovsky. Both accounts have millions of followers. Magwood posted an open letter directed at Tebele and Ostrovsky, saying he’s “not producing shit so [accounts like FuckJerry] can make money off of my work,” according to the A.V. Club
Comedian Vic Berger also recently tweeted out screenshots of a conversation he had in 2016 with a FuckJerry content officer he alleges stole his videos without credit. According to the screenshots, the only response he received was “shut up.”
Jerry Media also had plans to monetize the so-called World Record Egg that recently became Instagram’s most-liked photo ever. The agency, which said it was working in an “unofficial capacity” with the egg’s anonymous creator, told The Atlantic that it pitched a deal to Need to Impeach, Tom Steyer’s anti-Trump campaign, in which the egg would “crack to reveal the words ‘Impeach Trump’ as the president popped out and did the chicken dance.” Need to Impeach ended up passing on the deal.
So while comedians and writers have for years been calling out FuckJerry and The Fat Jew for plagiarism and theft, the accounts continued to benefit from stealing jokes. Ostrovsky reportedly landed a book deal while Tebele created Jerry Media, which makes about $30,000 per post running ads by brands like Burger King and Bumble.
To twist the knife, FuckJerry won Best in Meme at the Shorty Awards last year.
Tired of the lack of consequences, Vulture comedy editor Megh Wright penned a piece aiming to take down the account by hitting its follower count where it hurts with the #FuckFuckJerry hashtag.
Wright particularly called out FuckJerry’s advertising for Comedy Central shows, which are all formatted in the meme template the account would plagiarize.
“There’s just something about advertising on an Instagram account that got successful for posting stolen jokes … 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,” she wrote.
Comedy Central has since pulled its placements from the page.
Tebele released a statement Feb. 2 announcing an overhaul of how FuckJerry curates social media content. He said content will not be republished unless he can identify the original creator and get permission from that person.
“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,” the statement read.
But comedian Patton Oswalt was not satisfied with the statement, which also said there were “no norms for re-posting” when the account was created. Oswalt called the assertion a lie.
“They did EXTRA work removing creator’s names from Tweets to steal credit,” Oswalt said. “They knew what they were doing. They got caught and they’re gaslighting.”
Comedians and writers, including John Mulaney and Mike Birbiglia, continue to push the campaign against FuckJerry.