I wish I liked the Fat Jew’s new book. It would make a far more interesting piece if he exceeded our expectations. No one I talked to expected it to be good. “I bet he didn’t even write it,” said one friend. “I bet he had his interns write it.”
To contextualize this for people who aren’t on the Internet all the time, Josh “The Fat Jew” Ostrovsky became the center of controversy when he was accused of stealing memes and jokes from comedians this summer. Ostrovsky had been doing this for years, and amassed millions of Instagram followers with his admittedly excellent meme aggregating skills. But comedians took a stand when he signed with the talent agency CAA in August.
Upon reading Money Pizza Respect, there is no doubt in my mind that the unfortunately titled book is penned by the Fat Jew himself; I confidently assert that Money Pizza Respect is singlehandedly the worst book I have ever read.
His actual sense of humor—and I’m talking about humor, not the memes he “aggregates”—is painfully abject. He relies on a Tucker Max-esque style of storytelling, glorifying cocaine and alcohol abuse and fucking his groupies, who all embody a different type of “crazy girl” stereotype.
In a chapter ironically titled “The Eleven Commandments of Not Being the Worst Person Ever,” he warns readers that if you aggressively and frequently talk about your sex life, people will think you’re gay. “When you tell me that you ‘tackled a slam pig and stuffed her axe wound,’” he writes, “I assume that your actual goal is having anal sex with men.” Ostrovsky makes sure to note that the only exception to this rule is Dan Bilzerian, who has literally thrown a woman off his roof, breaking her foot, and been accused of kicking another woman in the face.
Money Pizza Respect is laced with homophobic comments. He writes a note to P. Diddy: “Sorry for outing you as a homosexual. I’m pretty sure you are, but I’m sorry.” There’s also a healthy dose of sexism, describing his female groupies as “a bunch of fours and fives who have giant lady hands [and] hate their dads.” To complete the trifecta, he also manages to be transphobic, referring to transgender women as “trannies” in a chapter chronicling his brother’s bachelor party. (When his brother and friends found out the strippers who were giving them lap dances were trans, they left the club immediately.)
Before I met Ostrovsky, I was confused about how he was so successful, especially after reading his book, where he brags about his selfish and generally gross behavior at every possible moment, proudly displays pictures of him wearing a thong made out of beef jerky, and writes things like, “Cocaine is the greatest gift the world has ever seen.”
When I sat down with him at a press junket, located at an arcade in Chinatown, I immediately understood why he’s garnered so much success. He is unfortunately charming and is actually a naturally funny person. He’s like the cool, mean boy in 8th grade, the type who introduced pot to all your friends and made fun of girls for being ugly or not having boobs yet. The type who definitely bullied me, and yet I tirelessly tried to gain his affection.
During our interview, Ostrovsky remained on the defensive, masterful at answering my questions with non-answers. He is somebody who has never taken life seriously, which is perhaps not too difficult for a straight, white, affluent male. He is fundamentally interested in his conception of fun, and hopes you’ll join him for the ride. If not, fuck off.
It’s not that I began to like Ostrovsky or his book any more after meeting him, but I went from hating him to feeling an iota of pity for him. His flamboyant and unapologetic immaturity, his bratty affect: This is what has brought him success, and what I imagine will be his inevitable downfall.
So my approach for this interview, because I know a lot of people have been shitting on you, is to not shit on you.
No one’s been shitting on me.
I was curious about how that affected you emotionally, and how you felt about getting blasted by the media.
It was definitely a shitty situation. I’m of the Internet, so it’s like a lot of people screaming about things. I respect trolling. I respect people screaming at one another, which is why the Internet is so fucking great. I definitely didn’t take it personally. It was also something that needed to get talked about. People were not on the same page. Like a 38-year-old comedy writer and a 16-year-old Filipino millennial were not seeing the issue the same way.
I try to look at it like I was the face of the whole thing. I mean the Internet is a giant, lawless fuckin’ thing. Sometimes we need some rules… But not too many. Because that would be weird. No parents. But you know, sometimes people get pissed. I obviously see it from the 16-year-old Filipino millennial side. I don’t look for credit on my stuff and I don’t ever watermark or anything like that, but I also get the other side too. I’m old enough to understand both sides. I just want everyone to be happy so we’re fuckin’ partying.
Instagram [is] for fucking photos of dogs playing volleyball in sunglasses and iguanas surfing. I just want to have everyone get heard, fix the problem, and then get back to surfing iguanas. It didn’t rock me emotionally because I just saw it as something that needed to be discussed. It definitely got dangerous and exciting at some points. People just get so crazy, there’s a portion of people who don’t even know what they’re screaming about. I got chased by TMZ. Some guy followed me around a Duane Reade recording my phone call. That was tight.
You liked that?
I kinda felt like Leo [DiCaprio], for like a second. It was also scary. No one wants that life. I was trying to look at it like this is a conversation that needed to be had. I didn’t look at it as being shit on. The Internet is more important to me than my family or anything. I would love to be with the Internet, have sex with the Internet, I love the Internet. Now it’s a better place.
Why was it important for you to celebrate drugs, specifically cocaine, in your book?
It’s a mixed bag. I refer to it as the best and worst thing ever. Part of the ethos of this book is that it’s a how-to guide in that it’s like I don’t know what you should be doing but I know what you shouldn’t be doing. I’ve seen every horrible thing. I basically think you read this book and you don’t do coke. Because you’re like, it’s gonna make me unbearable. Like my breath is gonna smell like a diaper and get into a super intense conversation about stuff I don’t even care about.
I think it depends on how old the reader is. For me, I’ve done coke so I understood more where you were coming from in that it can be great and terrible at the same time. From a teenager’s standpoint, it might just look really cool.
It depends. I’m pretty explicit that it’s been responsible for the greatest things that ever happened, but also some of the most horrendous things, too. I think it’s more self-reflective than it is encouraging.
Your book is provocative is many ways. People are going to interpret some of the content as transphobic and homophobic. I was thinking of the chapter where you refer to trans women as trannies.
I don’t know what you’re specifically referring to.
You wrote about “tranny” strippers. That’s a contentious word. Many trans people have spoken out about how hurtful they find that term to be. I was curious about how you would respond to those critics.
[The transgender stripper story] is a factual account of what happened. You’re talking about an actual pejorative word?
Yeah. It’s a slur. There were a bunch of moments in the book where I read something and immediately thought about how angry it would make social justice activists on the Internet.
Social justice people are angry at everything.
I was wondering if you included some things specifically to be provocative.
No, definitely not. First of all, any social justice person can come at me at any time. I literally have more transgender friends who will vouch for me than anyone. They self-identify as “trannies.” Ask a transgender who is not a nerd from the Internet how they identify, and I bet you will find hundreds who identify as “trannies.”
I know transgender folks who identify that way. It’s like the N-word. If they call themselves that, it’s OK. But having a cis person is a different story.
Any person who would find offense in that kind of minutia is not someone who should be reading this book.
It’s not your audience, that’s probably true.
That shouldn’t be anyone’s audience, as far I’m concerned.
No, that’s like bro culture stuff. This is completely different.
Tonally, there were similarities.
I’ve never read it, but I also think that in terms of this book, like I’ve been living performance art long enough to write a book full of debaucherous stories, but I wanted to go with more pathos, truth. From what I understand from Tucker Max’s stuff, he doesn’t really go into too much stuff like that. Not all the stories here are particularly turnt up, as far as I’m concerned. There are some that are honest family stories, not every story is about partying.
But a lot of them are.
We can go through it… When I was writing it, putting in some emotion and truth, and some real feeling on it, like talking about my mom having sex with Shel Silverstein and being a 9-year-old child actor diva. Shit like that, to me, that is not the same as walking around a bar with a breathalyzer [something Tucker Max has written about]. I don’t not relate to it, but I’ve never read any of his stuff.
Do you differentiate between the Fat Jew as your performative character and yourself as Josh?
No. I don’t go home at night and unscrew the hairection [hair erection], sit down, and listen to This American Life and be like, “Oh, what a hard day at work! Being the Fat Jew!” No, it’s all one in the same. To me, that would be disingenuous. I was doing this stuff long before there was anywhere to share it, long before anyone knew about it. Ten years ago, people in New York would be like, “Oh that’s the Fat Jew, the guy who does crazy stuff.” It wasn’t something I created and cultivated in order to share on social media for the masses.
But this is your career, this is your passion, but a lot of artists and actors differentiate between their performative self, which is still their self, and who they are when they’re not performing.
I’m not an artist or an actor. I’m neither.
How do you identify?
I’m the only one who’s really just going for it. I’m genuinely making it up as I go along. I could start a rosé company and that could become a real thing. I’m about to do the world’s first EDM [electronic dance music] cologne.
What is that gonna smell like?
I don’t know. That’s a good question. Like I don’t even know what that means but I’m gonna do it. It’s 2015. Anything is possible. The world is so ridiculous at this point. I might open a yoga ashram in Toronto. Who knows? I’m one of the only people who doesn’t consider anything on or off limits. I don’t think that it can be defined. We have this human need to compartmentalize, to be like, “What are you?” But I don’t know.
I guess it’s my job to say, as a writer trying to make sense of what you do.
I don’t think there’s anything to make sense of. I don’t know. What do you think I do?
I think you’re a content creator and performer.
That’s vague. But yeah. I’m not not. But that’s what I’m saying. I like to keep people guessing, keep people off kilter. If people think I’m a comedian, I will move in a totally different direction and start making cologne. I wanna make people go, “What the fuck?” Keeping people guessing, keeping genuine conversation going about me, whether it’s, I don’t want to say the word negative, but whatever it’s gonna be, that’s what I am. A conversation starter? I don’t know.
Conversation piece? Idiot? All of the above?
What’s your goal with your book? Why do you do what you do? Aside from the fact that you just want to do it.
The end goal with the book is that I think I can get some turnt-up 18-year-old to read. That’s the challenge, like, can you get fuckin’ some kids to read and think it’s really fuckin’ chill? Is that doable? I’ll literally do it just for that.
We’re doing reading raves to promote the book. IRL is what the program’s called. It’s just like huge DJs and books. Like, can you make them read? I think it’s doable. I don’t think publishing knows how to do it. I don’t think parents know how to do it.
So you want to make reading cool?
Kind of. What if I’m somehow the guy to do it?
What are your favorite books?
I love Shel Silverstein, and not only because my mom fucked him. Mostly, I’m the type to read 100 listicles. Like, what kind of bagel is Rihanna? You know what I mean? One-hundred times Rihanna ate fruit. I’m not reading enough books.
No one’s reading enough books.
Maybe now? That would fucking [be] weird. To get a fucking 17-year-old who’s over it to sit down and read an entire book? I mean I put in some stuff to break up the chapters, like you can color in a picture of Tyrese. I mean, I don’t want you to have to read too much.
Illustration by Max Fleishman