GQ, TWO LLAMAS AND THE FAT JEW TAKE NYC
A polarising persona and occasional comic thief he may be – though few match the social media hype this guy delivers. We run riot with Josh Ostrovsky for a day, to see what all the fuss is about.
"You should see this. I’m just out getting cwaffee and there’s two – what are they? Alpacas? – in the back of a beat-up convertible with some fat dude with crazy hair at the wheel. I don’t know what the actual fuck is going on. Shit is seriously fucked up. Wait, I gotta take a picture. Call you right back.” So says a bemused security guard on his phone as he walks by. It’s an accurate, albeit salty, description of the scene. And if we’re going to split ultrafne hairs, they’re llamas, not alpacas. A runner then rounds the corner and performs a textbook double take. “Fat Jew!” she screams. It’s not an anti-semitic slur, rather, she’s recognised the driver with the ridiculous hair as the @thefatjewish of Instagram fame, aka Josh Ostrovsky, a 33-yearold New Yorker who over the past year has blown up to become the most infamous comedian in the world. It’s 9.30am on a sunny October Friday and we’re underneath Manhattan Bridge in the DUMBO area of Brooklyn. Ostrovsky is here orchestrating some “performance art” which he’ll release on his Instagram to help promote forthcoming book, Money Pizza Respect. The llamas are getting feisty so Ostrovsky leaps out the car while the animals’ handlers attempt to soothe them. They’ve been brought to the city from a farm in upstate New York, not in a truck but in the back of a saloon car, which smells, strongly, of the droppings that now cover the fattened backseat. Even the llamas don’t seem happy about it. “Can I get a picture?” says the runner, spotting her chance and handing over an iphone. She continues to jog on the spot, alongside Ostrovsky, as GQ snaps away. She quickly views the pictures then hands the phone back demanding a better shot. It’s the frst of many photos we’ll be asked to take for elated members of the public today – a day spent shadowing The Fat Jew. A crowd’s gathered as Ostrovsky strips down, literally stopping traffc while removing his white hoodie (emblazoned with the logo of a porn site) to reveal a rotund, tattooed torso. A gold ‘chai’ (Hebrew for life) medallion nestles in his cleavage. One of his tattoos reads ‘Mazel Tuff’; another is the Star of David formed by two pizza slices. “This is my religion,” he says while plucking a chopstick from his carpetbag to feed into the vertical ponytail of Jew-fro that shoots straight up from the crown of his otherwise shaved head. He has various names for this signature hairstyle: the “hair dildo”, “jewnicorn” and the “hairection” which, he quips, he’s unable to maintain for long without support. On top of his 111kg, 6ft 3 frame, it’s a footlong divining rod for trouble. Concerned the GQ shoot is attracting too much attention, we move to a quieter location a few streets away. As Ostrovsky and his long-term collaborator Baron Von Fancy (a multimedia artist and childhood friend, real name: Gordon Stevenson) set up the next shot, a group of girls walk by. One of them is uncommonly attractive and not shy about it, grabbing one of the llamas by its leash and posing next to Ostrovsky like a pro. Turns out to be Martha Hunt, a Victoria’s Secret model. She immediately posts the picture to the 1.1 million followers of her @marhunt Instagram feed. “I haven’t been able to get an erection in months but I just came close,” says Ostrovsky as she skips away. The dick jokes are incessant. Moments later, a van cruises past, one of the passengers taking a drive-by snap before ficking the bird and shouting, “Fuck you, Fat Jew! Joke thief!”
Ostrovsky is quite the opinion-splitter. There are those who belly laugh at everything he posts and consider him a social media master. But haters also exist, those who think he’s a parasite getting rich off others’ talent. His Instagram handle is a blend of his own profane sense of humour and a stream of unknown people’s jokes which, until being recently called out, he used without attribution – often removing the originators’ details. In August, when it was revealed he’d signed with top talent agency CAA to push into Hollywood, the backlash began. Comedians who’d been justifably grumbling about having their jokes stolen joined forces to loudly call foul. Damning evidence of his plagiarism was compiled and shared as stand-up comics wrote embittered pleas for people to boycott. It later emerged that Comedy Central dropped a planned TV show they’d been developing with him – though the network subsequently claimed the decision had nothing to do with the controversy. Ostrovsky, who also has a tattoo of New York Magazine’s masthead on his chest, responded to the uproar by issuing a mea culpa, of sorts, via an interview on the magazine’s Vulture website, stating: “I get it, I should have been providing attribution for all posts.” And this: “I’m working to add attribution to every one of my posts, and will continue to do so.” Also: “I will never again post something that doesn’t have attribution, because I realise now that when the stage is large enough, and the voice is large enough, these things matter.” He has so far stayed true to his word. The portly digital star is by no means the only person repurposing jokes in this manner. But alongside fellow Insta-comic @fuckjerry, he’s the most high profle. Instagram, a stickler for strict rules on plagiarism, took no action in this instance, though they’d previously suspended his account on three separate occasions for inappropriate content (the frst time after he photoshopped an adult man’s penis on to a baby), hence having to change his handle from @fatjew to @thefatjew and now, but who knows for how long, @thefatjewish. After being banned in 2013 for reasons unexplained, the selfconfessed “habitual line-crosser” chained himself to Instagram’s New York offces wearing a sandwich board that read: ‘They’ve stolen my memories, my freedom of speech and the joy of those I bring laughter to every single day… Join the fght, use #freefatjew and demand they return my Instagram to me. Freedom!!!!’ Within 15 minutes of the protest being live-blogged by vice.com – where Ostrovsky was a then contributor – the company reinstated his account. As one of Instagram’s biggest stars, his posts average 200,000 ‘likes’ a pop. The images might not be original but his captions are. One recent picture showed the message ‘Home is where your Wifi connects automatically’, beneath which the caption read: ‘Meaning not my parents house where the Wifi password is RHXFGJIJ0000055$T.’ Another is a picture of a man who lives by the airport in Milwaukee standing on his roof next to a huge sign he’s painted saying ‘Welcome to Cleveland’, in order to confuse passengers as they fy overhead. The Ostrovsky caption: ‘This dude’s name is Mark Gubin, and he’s a great fucking American. Why can’t my dad be more like this? FUCK YOU DAD.’ In the past 12 months @thefatjewish’s following has exploded from under 500,000 to… how many is it now? “I don’t know, I don’t keep track,” he deadpans before adding mock-precisely: “6.1572 million.” Even his pet King Charles spaniel rescue dogs, which he carries in a day-glow Babybjörn, have sizeable accounts. At the time of writing Toast (@toastmeetsworld) had 311,000 followers and models Karen Walker sunglasses, while Muppet (@muppetsrevenge) claims a more modest 43,800 devotees.
Ostrovsky’s rapidly become one of the most powerful authorities of millennials, with the odd Bloomberg TV appearance. In March, TIME magazine named him one of the ‘30 most infuential people on the internet’, alongside Barack Obama, Beyoncé and Justin Bieber. What the hell is an infuencer? “In layman’s terms, it means if you have a large following, either online or in real life, you can get paid to talk about stuff,” he says, candidly. “Companies pay me to put their product on Facebook/twitter/instagram and pretend that I use it so that teens who follow me will buy said product.” In the past year he’s shilled for brands including Burger King, Virgin Mobile and Bud Light. This New York summer he was plastered topless all over subway trains and buses as the bearded face of takeaway app Seamless. “Look at me. I’m the unoffcial poster child for internet fame.” The Financial Times recently reported that Ostrovsky earns around $8000 per sponsored post – a sizeable increase on the $3500 fgure quoted a year ago. It means he can comfortably pay a month’s rent with just 140 characters. Then there are personal appearances – for which he’s also handsomely remunerated. Last year Ostrovsky headed to Tampa, Florida, to judge a wet T-shirt contest for pregnant women (true) while Stella Artois paid him to hit up the Cannes Film Festival where he partied on a yacht with billionaire Saudis, a pet ostrich called Bradley Cooper and actual Sharon Stone. He tells us a billionaire has just booked him for his daughter’s ‘sweet’ sixteenth. “It’s an easy gig but it comes fraught with moments of deep, deep self-hatred,” he quips. “But that’s every job, right? Overall I feel incredibly blessed to be able to call it my life while some people are slaving away doing lame stuff like being teachers and doctors.”
Ostrovsky grew up on the Upper West Side, one of Manhattan’s more salubrious neighbourhoods, and was educated at private school. His father, Saul, is a radiologist; his mother, Rebecca, was a nutritionist. How Jewish is the Fat Jew? “Religiously, hmm, I used to go to the synagogue to pick up girls; culturally, very much so – I have so much unfounded anxiety; genetically, 100 per cent – my pubic hair’s longer than my penis.” He has a bodybuilding younger brother whose name he tries to keep out of the press because he works at the Pentagon. “[Your brother] makes up for everything you fucked up,” his father told him in a vice. com video about parenting a couple of years back. “The fact that you are not dead or in prison is an accomplishment.” Young Joshua had his frst taste of fame as a child actor in a few TV commercials, though he says the experience turned him into a brat. “I was like Mariah Carey at the height of her career, except with a tiny, little penis.” He’s always been preoccupied with his genitalia. His Wikipedia entry – which looks suspiciously like it’s been doctored in places for comedic effect – says Ostrovsky was expelled from both Skidmore College and New York University (reasons unspecifed) before enrolling at the State University of New York at Albany from where he graduated with a degree in journalism. It was here that he decided to embark on a career in being “professionally ridiculous” making performance art. Not everything he’s done has hit the mark, but two of the more successful early videos involved running spoof ftness classes for the homeless. One was a spin class conducted on New York’s public hire bikes in their docking station, the other a Bikram yoga session held on a ferociously hot subway platform in the height of summer. And we recommend googling mock reality show, Girlhattan, in which Ostrovsky played a New York fashion PR girl – think Chris Lilley. What does his Dad think of him now? “Dad doesn’t exactly know what I do. He tells his friends I’m an adult entertainer, which is probably not the best thing to tell them. He literally cannot believe that this is something that makes money and that I have employees who I give dental insurance to.” Ostrovsky has three interns – each reportedly forced to endure a Hunger Games type trail to get the position – who work out the back of a nail salon in Queens, mining the internet for meme gold. Occasionally, they get caught up in the carnage. One of his assistants was pictured being tattooed by a ‘grandma with cataracts’ as part of Bud Light’s #upforwhatever social media campaign. Another was flmed topless getting into a bath of ramen noodles for a video stunt.
The llama shoot in Brooklyn wrapped and it’s lunchtime. The original idea was to head for a mani-pedi, then on to Ostrovsky’s favourite strip club where they do a three-course meal for $10. “I don’t go for the girls, I go for the caesar salad.” Plans have changed and instead we’re heading to the Museum of Natural History cafe on the Upper West Side, near where he grew up. We meet Ostrovsky’s manager, Alex, outside the museum. Both men place a protective hand in front of their testicles on greeting each other. Apparently they try to catch the other off guard with a punch to the balls. It speaks volumes for their working relationship. The entrance hall, with its life-size dinosaur skeletons, is heaving. “This is where I used to meet my pot dealer, in the foyer,” recalls Ostrovsky. “He wasn’t very well – he used to drink those milk capsules you get in hotel rooms. He’d sip them like espressos. But he sold great pot.” Ostrovsky’s experimented with drugs a great deal – there’s nothing he hasn’t tried. “I love drugs. Love them. Love-love-love them. Kids, stay in drugs – don’t do school.” Like Jamie Oliver’s worst nightmare, the museum cafeteria’s menu is comically bad. And it’s full of kids. Ostrovsky orders the house specialty: a plate of dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets. We opt for a hotdog before taking a seat. Again, everyone is staring. “Let’s Lady and the Tramp that dog!” bellows Ostrovsky, putting one end of it in his mouth and encouraging GQ to eat from the other, so as we meet in the middle. The couple on the next table get up and move. Over lunch we discuss his many business interests. As Woody Allen famously said, 80 per cent of success is showing up. And Ostrovsky is doing so everywhere – you can’t fault the guy’s work ethic, he’s a doer and he’s prolifc. “I’m trying to go a little more off the URL and get a little more into the IRL,” he offers. Translation: off the internet and into real life. “Some people say, do one thing and do it well, I say, do many things and do them very mediocrely.” As for overexposure, it’s not something he fears. “Set the bar low and step right over it.” In the summer of 2014, the Hamptons – New York’s answer to Sydney’s Northern Beaches – ran dry of rosé. And so this past summer The Fat Jew launched White Girl Rosé in partnership with
“Celebrity is super crazy, it gives me a fear-boner. But as terrible as getting slandered in the media is, I’m into it.”
his co-writer David Oliver Cohen, his brother Tanner Cohen and Lara Schoenhals (the writing team behind @babewalker on Instagram and Twitter’s @whitegrlproblem). ‘It’s free range, macrobiotic, fair trade, grass fed, confict free, cage free, low carb and gluten free,’ reads the description on the wine’s website. ‘And delicious enough to put in your cereal, yet inexpensive enough to fll a Jacuzzi to sit in with some close friends.’ If you call $25 a bottle inexpensive. One Management Agency – who boast supermodels Bar Rafaeli, Claudia Schiffer and Karolina Kurkova on their books – signed Ostrovsky as a plus-size model this July. GQ frst met Ostrovsky during New York Fashion Week a month back, when he put on a ‘Dadbod’ catwalk show modelled by real dads he’d mainly found on Craigslist. At the time it wasn’t clear whether or not it was a joke. But plus-size modelling is something he’s taking seriously – as seriously as it’s possible to take anything from a man who eagerly inhales breadcrumbed stegosauruses. “I was [originally] doing photoshoots because I enjoy being in front of the camera. But then, all of a sudden, I started getting these emails from kids saying things like, ‘Thanks for making it cool to have some small breasts as a man.’ And I was like, ‘Wait a minute, maybe I can do some good here.’ There are no guys with girthy bodies being repped. Plus-sized female models have become really inspirational but men don’t have that. Not every guy can get those weird deep lines that go down to the genitals, you know? I want to popularise the Shrek- bod. I’m trying to inspire people with mediocre bodies as it’s OK to let yourself go and not care. It’s all good.”
At the end of 2014 Ostrovsky married his long-term partner, Katie Sturino, a striking 5ft 11in, 34-year-old who runs her own Public Relations company called Tinder. Her Instagram profle reads: “I was Tinder before it was Tinder but now everyone thinks I’m that Tinder.” On recently being asked by Mashable what she does day to day, she said: “I’m basically a professional selfe taker. People throw their phone at me on the sidewalk.” We feel her pain. She also has a plus-size fashion blog called The 12ish Style with the tagline, ‘Style for the size 12ish-18ish girls living in a size two world.’ Ostrovsky’s new book, Money Pizza Respect, won’t trouble the Pulitzer Prize committee, but to use the acronymic parlance of our time, there are many LOLS, ROFLS and LMFAOS. Ultimately, reading it will leave you queasy – with a need to rebalance the depraved debauchery by comsuming Wordsworth while listening to Beethoven and drinking kale juice. The book will doubtless sell well. If it reaches No.1 on The New York Times bestseller list, Ostrovosky has vowed to legally change his name to ‘#1 New York Times bestseller Josh Ostrovsky’. “I’m doing this to become the book industry’s accidental hero, to reinvigorate reading on a mass scale.” Eighteen months was spent writing it, “dredging up horrible memories from my past to entertain you.” He says he’s never worked so hard. “I haven’t sniffed coke off a stripper’s C-section scar in months,” reads the introduction. “My penis hasn’t been used in so long that it’s collecting dust – if you wanted to give me head, you’d have to blow on it frst, like people do when they fnd an old book in movies.” It’s part memoir, part fantasy. It includes, for example, a bizarre short story of erotic fction about an imagined threesome with Kim Kardashian and Kayne West. But even the autobiographical chapters should be taken with a sea-ful of salt. (The book’s description of his web series, ‘Hookers Doing Nonsexual Stuff’, doesn’t quite tally with the videos on his Youtube channel.) The chapters are interspersed with ‘chill zones’, to make the book more digestible to those usually accustomed to bite-size social media grazing. “It’s pretty crazy that people still read books at all. It’s so ’90s,” he says.
Every so often there are a few pages of off-colour cartoons, or a haiku, such as, ‘Please don’t hold the door / If I’m like 12 feet away / I HATE THAT WEIRD JOG.’ The most troubling chapter is one detailing Ostrovsky’s depraved sex with groupies. “Most humans aren’t on my level of deviance,” he writes. What must his wife think of all this? While he’s only too happy to embarrass his parents and even his grandparents for the sake of a cheap laugh, he leaves Sturino out of it – not once mentioned in the book. “The internet is beautiful, my favourite place on earth. And yet it’s also a fucking trash can, an endless ocean of horrendousness,” he recently told the FT. “And some people aren’t ready for it. I’m not hiding my wife – she has a nice symmetrical face – but if people say horrible shit about her online, she’ll take it personally, she’s an internet amateur. Me, on the other hand, I’m the president and frst lady of the internet. I can troll better than anyone in the world.” What about family? Is he worried they’ll hate the book? “They understand it’s all part of the game,” he says. “And I warned them years ago that I’m going full speed at this and am defnitely going to drag their highly respectable names through the dirt. I’m all about having no boundaries and I’ve been putting it all online for years.”
After lunch we head to the Midtown offces of his publisher, to put the fnishing touches to the audiobook he’s recorded. Once again, this presents an opportunity to flm content. Ostrovsky places scented candles around the recording studio and strips completely naked while Alex circles him with a camera. The question’s asked whether GQ wants to partake. We decline – though eyeball more than bargained for when the fat man tackles Alex, wrestling him to the floor. A scene from Borat springs to mind. Urgh, that hotdog is repeating. As we fnish the recording session, his editor arrives with a timely surprise: the frst box of books from the printers. The day Ostrovsky signed his book deal, he celebrated with a night out at Julius, his favourite West Village drinking hole and “gay bar for tough gay dudes who watch sports and can kick your arse”. So it seems only ftting to fnish the day back there for a celebratory drink. The cab downtown is the last opportunity to engage Ostrovsky in serious conversation – not easy for someone always ‘on’, always performing, always reverting to the gag reflex. It’s possible to suspect the nonstop stream of jokes come, in part, as a defence mechanism – the comedian’s way of deflecting incoming missiles. After a day rolling with the various punchlines, what of a few minutes to deliver straight answers to straight questions? And so, what’s it like to suddenly fnd this level of fame? “Celebrity is super crazy. But I embrace that, it gives me a fearboner. Screaming tweens, getting slandered in the media, as terrible as that is, it’s been exciting and I’m super into it. And it’s been cool to see things come to life, like, ‘Let’s start a rosé company, it’ll be fun!’ And then actually have it become real.” Come on, you can’t possibly enjoy the hate endured of late. “It’s defnitely not awesome but I’m from the internet,” he says. “I like to think I was birthed out of a wireless router. It’s not fun but it was an important discussion that was had and we all learnt something and I was cool being in the middle of it. It’s part of the internet – for all the love thrown your way and girls being like, ‘I want to rip your dick off and bronze it and wear it because I’m obsessed with you and I need your penis with me at all times,’ someone’s always going to scream something absolutely horrible at you. I’ve been on both sides. I recognise it’s part of the deal. It’s horrendous…ly awesome.” And this notoriety, or whatever you want to call it, surely it’s changed him? “No, not really. It’s taught me that I can use the platform for good things, which I never would have thought. Kids have come up and said, ‘Hey you’ve made it cool in my school to be Jewish and to have a shitty body.’ That makes me proud. I’m not suddenly going to be all like, ‘Let’s get clean water into Africa’, but I’ve realised I have an important voice and I can use that in a positive way.” We’ve picked up some of Ostrovsky’s friends en route and on arrival at the bar play a game of ‘guess how expensive the Uber was’ to decide who’s buying the frst round. GQ loses. On returning with the drinks, Ostrovsky’s manager is doubled up in pain and those around writhing about in laughter. What happened? “Dick punch!” says Ostrovsky. “Score!” n