Recently it was announced that Josh Ostrovsky, a “social media personality” was signed to CAA to represent him in “all areas.” The 30 year old New Yorker has 5.6 million followers on Instagram, has launched a brand of wine called “White Girl Rosé” and has a book coming out called Money, Pizza, Respect so being signed to a talent agency isn’t a huge surprise. He’s already a hosted a radio show on Apple Music’s Beats station and has been used in advertisements. So he’s had an unconventional rise to fame, though Twitter and Instagram, but still nothing that would warrant the kind of backlash he seems to be getting. Why, then, are so many people angry about his success?
Simply put: his social media persona is not so much a product of his own great wit and more a carefully curated (read: stolen) collection of other people’s tweets and jokes. This isn’t a case of many people coming up with the same or similar jokes, he actively steals jokes verbatim (sometimes with spelling and/or grammatical errors copied and pasted) without attribution and uses that to develop his own following.
The thing is, this isn’t a secret. Here’s a Washington Post article from January that says “Ostrovsk’s [sic] secret is sort of joke laundering that divests a piece of content from its source. That can mean screen-shotting someone’s tweet and posting it to Instragram or Facebook and sometimes, more egregiously, chopping off the originator’s name altogether. Also in January, Street Carnage collected hard evidence of his joke recycling and stealing. Here’s a Cracked article from last November that references the rampant joke-stealing of The Fat Jew account. In July, his Wikipedia page was updated to mention his joke-stealing by the folks at death and taxes after bragging that he makes $6,000 every time he mentions a specific brand on his instagram account. Earlier this month The AV Club wrote up a specific instance of him stealing a joke relating to the Black Lives Matter movement that doesn’t even make sense coming from him. At least that time, he added a credit to Davon Magwood, the original tweeter, after he was called on it. Even Patton Oswalt, a man with a large twitter following himself, has publicly lambasted Ostrovsky and The Fat Jew social media accounts for joke stealing.
The point is, it’s not hard to find evidence that Josh Ostrovsky is better at finding funny, retweetable material than he is at coming up with it himself. This is a kind of talent, but it’s more the kind you need to be a talent AGENT, not the talent yourself. I’m curious to see what studio would want to take a chance on anything Ostrovsky pitched, as it seems likely that the plagiarism suit would come in immediately after the press release. But he will hardly be the first plagiarist to find a place in Hollywood, the only question is if he has the tenacity to stay there. After all, walking a project through production is a much longer and more complex process than copy/pasting someone else’s joke to your Instagram account.