Slowly, The Fat Jew seems to be engulfing the media. While it may sound quite loaded, that statement is neither an antisemitic nor a fat-phobic remark generalizing on the prevalence of Jews in media who avoid the gym (such as myself.) Rather, it’s an introduction to web-(semi)-celeb comedian Josh Ostrovsky, AKA Fabrizio Goldstein, AKA @thefatjewish, AKA Fat Jew, who, as tells the New York Times in their just-published profile, “would prefer that you not call him a fat Jew… but hope[s] millions more people will soon come to know him as ‘The Fat Jew.'” The emphasis on “The” indicates that this is a man – who, like most rising, er, artistes – wants to be notorious.
While he nods – in his (wonderfully? terribly? insensitively?) insensitive and self-body-shaming humor (“fat!” “hair!” “tiny penis!” bwahaha?) – to the late Joan Rivers, his stunt-filled rise to online “fame” falls somewhere between Tao Lin, Horse_ebooks and ISIS. His pluralist sensibilities have conformed, over the course of his active Instagram career, to make something resembling “The Internet,” and in turn, The Internet has vaguely conformed to make THE Fat Jew. It’s a cycle of amusing mutual masturbation whose translatability to other media even the New York Times, in their relatively favorable profile, questions. For he’s now, as the NYT reports, in talks with Showtime for a reality TV series, and has just signed a book deal with Grand Central Publishing.
So, the Instagram celeb has contributed – as we all have – to our reliance on fragmentary pleasures, yet now he might be going long-form. It’s interesting that someone whose success expresses and reinforces our culture’s desire for an indiscriminate confluence of all things now wants to exist within a supposedly structured, discriminate form (though it’s not like the #Rich Kids didn’t already do that). Will his show just be a slideshow of Instagram posts, like a funnier version of a digital frame on your grandparents’ mantle? Because I guess I’d watch that.
And “I guess I’d watch that” pretty much characterizes the capitulatory fondness I have for “acts” like that of The Fat Jew. In the way I immediately go to Facebook when I open my computer, but couldn’t tell you the last thing I remember reading on it (and by “reading” I of course mean “opening the gaping holes of my life to gorge on the sustenance of hundreds of other falsified lives, then, mother bird that I am, spitting a bit of my life, essentially a mashed up version of theirs, back into the gaping holes of their lives” and by that I mean “I’M NOT UNHAPPY”) so too do I equivocally find The Fat Jew familiar, digestible – indeed, it courses through and out of you like a rare strain of salmonella that, under a microscope, reveals itself to be a million floating Kim Kardashian heads.
The Fat Jew first emerged as a creator of viral content with his polarizing video where he led a spinning class for homeless people on Citibikes. This, coupled with his goofy exhibitionism, has made him a pretty recognizable public figure in New York, and the fact that such stunts, alongside an active Instagram, have landed him a major profile in the Times, suggests a fame predominantly founded on a fame-seeking public-and-virtual-persona. So if he does, indeed, rise to said fame that he seeks — which today’s profile suggests he’s well on his way to doing — won’t he have reached the endgame of both his fleshy and virtual forms of ostentation? And without the need for those things to boost his Instagram following, what exactly will he have? What will he be?
It was an ex-boyfriend (and current friend) who first introduced me to The Fat Jew. Substituting proclamations of love and affection with those of desultory irreverence, our courtship began with the exchange of goofy photos we’d stored on our phones, things that seemed either out of place or too in place in the everyday. As a couple, we thrived on deflecting whatever nice things we actually thought of one another with conversations about breast milk cocktails, Rosie O’Donnell, George Saunders, whatever. Later in the relationship, when we stopped needing to woo one another with our “original content,” I got a text of a post from The Fat Jew’s Instagram. Ostrovsky’s content – or jokes – looked surprisingly just like ours – just like any pop-culturally aware 20-something’s fodder for anti-emotional courtship. Funny-ish, terse, just unfulfilling enough to be addicting.
The Times notes that he’s “trying to become a new kind of comedic celebrity — one who eschews the stand-up circuit in favor of stunt jokes.” Of course, his comedy — especially in his Instagram page, which is relatively funny, as opposed to some his videos, which are less so — in some ways seems like a set of blueprints for what most comedians do: turn fragmentary jokes into some kind of connected routine. It’s not that he’s deconstructing comedy, it’s that he’s made a career thus far of not fully constructing it (much like we internet writers make careers on aggregating content, blurbs and opinions in inchoate pieces about not-yet-famous comedians, and much like the internet itself is a series of things that must get both made and consumed quickly in order to thrive).
Amusing, fast, disposable humor like the photos/illustrations/etceteras on The Fat Jew’s Instagram once helped build me a relationship. But just as it’s hard to tell what exactly The Fat Jew’s long-term career of allegedly longer-than-Instagram-or-youtube-video content will look like, so too is it hard to measure or understand our lives and relationships beneath the tyranny of amusing pastiche. Here’s to our happily reality-deflecting future together with The Fat Jew.