The millennial minds behind viral meme-aggregator FuckJerry did not have the best weekend ever, enduring a viral drubbing by Vulture comedy editor Megh Wright, the latest comedian to accuse the company of stealing jokes and making big bucks.
FuckJerry began with a meme-heavy Instagram account run by Elliot Tebele that hit one million followers in 2014 and grew into Jerry Media (which is now Jerry Studios) and merch spinoff Jerry’s World. Jerry Media is credited as an executive producer on the Netflix documentary Fyre (more on that in a minute).
Wright’s beef with FuckJerry is a part of a longstanding claim of joke theft and plagiarism, from creators who say FuckJerry profits off of other peoples work. Using the tag #FuckFuckJerry as a rallying cry to the 14.1 million people who follow Tebele’s Instagram account, Wright and comedians like Patton Oswald and Akilah Hughes encouraged fans to unfollow FuckJerry and provided realtime unfollow stats and stories from creators who said they were ripped off and blown off.
#FuckJerry and their chief content officer James Ryan Ohliger aka “Krispyshorts” stole a bunch of my videos and posted as their own with ads attached,” wrote filmmaker Vic Berger, on Twitter. Berger then posted a screen grab of a DM to Ohliger asking him to “delete my Ted Cruz video or give me credit.” Ohliger’s response — “shut up.”
So far, about 250,000 people have unfollowed FuckJerry and thousands of negative posts and accusations of plagiarism have surfaced around the hashtag. Comedy Central pulled its ads from the platform, and yesterday Tebele published a “we can do better” mea culpa, promising “we will no longer post content when we cannot identify the creator, and will require the original creator’s advanced consent before publishing their content to our followers.”
The company is also seeing renewed criticism for their involvement in the Fyre Fest documentary — Jerry Media were the masterminds behind Billy McFarland’s FOMO-inducing social media accounts and are accused of willfully ignoring multiple red flags about the disastrous event.
The company’s involvement in the Chris Smith-directed Netflix documentary drew criticism from a competing documentary on Hulu (full disclosure: our parent company Billboard co-produced Fyre Fraud). McFarland’s former videographer Michael Swaigen, who appears in Fyre Fraud, took to Twitter over the weekend and said Jerry Media CEO Mick Purzycki had tried to bring Swaigen onto the Netflix project promising that Purzycki had final cut on the documentary and “won’t approve anything done without integrity.”
That seems to contradict a statement by the film’s director addressing the ethical issues and saying “At no time did [Jerry Media, Matte Projects], or any others we worked with, request favorable coverage in our film, which would be against our ethics.” Giving the subject of a documentary final cut rights on a film is clearly favorable treatment, explained Swaigen — “what even is integrity anymore?” he wrote.
And while this weekend brought a six-figure follower drop for FuckJerry, last weekend wasn’t great either. On Jan. 28, a judge approved a subpoena to Jerry Media looking into $90,000 in wire transfers from Fyre Media, nearly triple the amount FuckJerry had said they collected from McFarland. A rep for Jerry Media told me the subpoena dollar amount was inaccurate and said the company had only received a $30,000 payment and had no record of a $90k wire. A lawyer for Tebele also sent me an email explaining “we have been working with a very experienced defamation law firm” and said the firm was “acutely aware of various false and misleading statements and where they are originating from.”
Uh, ok. For the record, the source for Jerry Media’s subpoena is a public report issued to a federal judge as part of Fyre’s chapter 7 bankruptcy in New York. Since the beginning of the year, trustee Gregory Messer has issued dozens of subpoenas to talent agencies like Paradigm, influencers like Kendall Jenner and modeling firms representing the likes of Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski. Matte Projects, which licensed footage to the Netflix documentary, was subpoenaed over a $150,000 wire transfer from McFarland in 2017. A rep from Matte Projects confirmed the wire transfer had been made, but said Fyre Fest still owed them $225,000.