Instagram Sensation ‘Fat Jew’ Is Making Big Bucks With His Crazy Antics
”Up until a year ago I was pretty much just getting paid to be an idiot,” says 30-year-old Josh Ostrovsky, better-known as comic and Instagram sensation The Fat Jew. These days, he’s an idiot with a very bright future.
After amassing half a million Instagram followers -- including Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg -- by, say, posing with Jamie Foxx at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards in nothing but underwear and a robe, New York-based Ostrovsky has sold scripted TV shows to Comedy Central and Amazon and lined up a book deal. He is also fielding offers from brands willing to shell out up to $2,500 for product placement in his Instagram snaps or for him to make an appearance at their events.
This year, Stella Artois flew him to the Cannes Film Festival. “Brands will say you’re an influencer, and send you somewhere just to cause a scene, which is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” he explained. “I was like, 'I’m immediately going to get found by a bunch of billionaire Saudi Arabians and be in the most lavish situation pouring rosé on myself', which is exactly what happened.”
Ostrovsky says his Comedy Central pilot will tell the story of how his viral social media persona evolved. “It’s Louis-esque,” he says, referencing comedian Louis C.K.’s FX TV series. “You see an Instagram photo of me in a fountain of nacho cheese with Tyrese and a 9-year-old,” he says. “The show will answer, ‘How did we get there?’”
It’s hard to pinpoint when The Fat Jew became a social media sensation. But last summer, a video of Ostrovsky teaching homeless people spin class on parked Citi Bikes in New York went viral. “It sounds cliché, but me and my crew of maniacs are old enough that we weren’t born out of a fucking hard drive like someone who is 22. Ten years ago in college we were just doing this shit for the love of the game -- like let’s spend a shit ton of money to roll someone up in a giant burrito. Now there’s a million outlets and platforms.”
While at college, Ostrovsky got a taste of fame as a member of rap collective Team Facelift, which he describes as part of the “New York underground.” The group then hit the mainstream by landing a synch on “The Hills” and offers from labels like Atlantic: “They wanted to turn us into some pre-LMFAO where you’re just making songs that are just like, fine.” The band kept going until 2012, and signing with Duck Down Records, but Ostrovsky began to move in a different direction. “I just got really busy, I was on this show on E! called “The Daily 10,” where I interviewed shitty celebrities, and they wanted to go on tour and smoke dust and do weird shit.”
Transitioning from the music world, Ostrovsky moved on to the E! network and also eventually became host of the rap-interview web series An Intimate Conversation, developing a love of interviewing musicians, and especially rappers. “Interviewing rappers is f-ing dope, but it’s so annoying that they never want to do activities,” he explained. “I’d be like so why don’t me and Jadakiss go up to the Hudson Valley and go antiquing so he can help me pick up a new armoire for my house? And their publicists were always like, 'That is so amazing, I love it,' but then Jada would be like, 'Nah, nah, nah.' They’re just afraid of coming off somewhat vulnerable,” he explained. The toughest one to crack, though, was Nelly: “Nelly has been in the game so long that every time I tried to rope him into something crazy where I could get the soundbite I needed, he completely sideswiped it. He was a f-ing pro, because he has done like 65,000 interviews. He has been doing this shit since 1999, he was not going to give me the meme that I wanted.”
While he readies his pilots, The Fat Jew is keeping busy with other projects, including a house album titled Leatherhouse, with heavy-hitter producers DJ White Shadow, Party Supplies and Holy Ghost. “It’s deep and gay and German,” says Ostrovsky, who released a trailer for the project through Boomrat on July 1.
A video will follow where, he says, “I’m in a mask with a chain saw and chaps. It’s very f—ing hardcore.”
An edited version of this article first appeared in the Aug. 23rd issue of Billboard.