If you use Instagram, you’re probably familiar with the account FuckJerry. Elliot Tebele created FuckJerry in 2011 and cultivated over 14 million followers through one easy trick: stealing jokes from comedians and other social media accounts. Tebele and his team of self-proclaimed “aggregators” take posts from other accounts, crop out the usernames, and then post them on FuckJerry’s various accounts with no credit to the creators whatsoever. They also sell sponsored posts to brands for $30000 or more, writing ad copy in the comments to posts that used those memes and jokes they stole from other accounts. It was a lucrative enough grift for Tebele to launch Jerry Media, a company devoted to social media advertising, and to take a few awkward steps into somehow turning FuckJerry into some kind of lifestyle brand. Like, there’s a clothing line. They made a (mercifully rejected) pilot for MTV. Tebele made a fortune reselling shitposts to frat boys and middle schoolers, two demographics that the FuckJerry brain trust, by all accounts, are perfectly in tune with.
This has been common knowledge within comedy circles for years, and yet for some reason it was pretty much tolerated by the industry. All kinds of comedians followed FuckJerry on Instagram, performed at their stand-up showcase at Just For Laughs in 2015 (Louis C.K. apparently played that show, in what is at most the second most unforgivable thing that guy ever did), and seemed to have little problem with the account’s joke theft.
That’s changed over the last few weeks, due to the determination of Megh Wright, a writer for Vulture and Splitsider. Wright noticed that Comedy Central was running sponsored content with FuckJerry, realized how unacceptable it was for one of the biggest companies in comedy to support the biggest joke thief in comedy, and thus launched the #FuckFuckJerry campaign. She tweeted at various comedians and celebrities who followed FuckJerry’s accounts, urging them to unfollow. Many of them then spread word to their own followers, exhorting them to likewise unfollow FuckJerry. Tim Heidecker even recorded a song, called “Fuck Fuck Jerry.” Media outlets gradually caught on, and at this point any website or magazine worth a damn has written about Wright’s #FuckFuckJerry campaign. (I’m a little embarrassed Paste is just now getting to it, but, like, I’ve been at Disney World for days now. Cut me some slack.)
Wright’s gotten results. FuckJerry’s Instagram following has dropped by hundreds of thousands over the last week. Tebele responded with a Medium post outlining a new policy of always crediting the creator of any content they run, after only a mere eight years of brazenly stealing the work of others. Before that, as Wright detailed on Twitter, 260 posts were deleted from the FuckJerry Instagram account. Comedy Central also announced that they were pulling their ads from all FuckJerry accounts.
FuckJerry still has millions of followers. They’re still reposting content made by other creators, and still selling sponsored posts. They’re still total assholes, getting YouTube to pull down an amazing video Vic Berger created about their utter lack of creativity—Berger didn’t just hopelessly embarrass Tebele and his colleagues, showing how they had no ideas of their own and would taunt comedians who complained about them stealing their work, but he also gave them a crash course in how you can appropriate the work of others to create new art with new and greater meaning. FuckJerry’s still emblematic of how social media and the internet has ruined the concept of creatorship, among the myriad of other things that social media and the internet have ruined. But to anybody who’s felt helpless in the face of these content-stealing marketing companies masquerading as comedy accounts, it feels good to see that one dedicated individual like Wright can still actually spur some amount of change.
So hey: good job, Megh, and everybody who followed your advice. And yeah, fuck FuckJerry.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s games and comedy sections. He also writes about music, travel, food, theme parks and more. He’s on Twitter at @grmartin.