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With an Oct. 8 Saturday Night Live sketch, the Try Guys — the viral video quartet who’ve racked up billions of views trying everything from makeup to jousting — reached a level of mainstream visibility not even they could have dreamed of.
Unfortunately, the sketch mocked the alleged cheating scandal that led to the ousting of member Ned Fulmer — not exactly the kind of celebrity the group probably had envisioned when they broke away from BuzzFeed, where they got their start in 2014, to form their own digital content factory in 2018.
“I’m trying to understand why this story is such a scandal,” asks a bewildered CNN anchor played in the sketch by SNL’s Ego Nwodim. “Was this affair non-consensual? … The full story is your friend had a side chick, and you had to fire him?”
The sketch has drawn criticism for making light of the situation. It all began with photos snapped at a bar of Fulmer — known as the group’s “wife guy” for the frequency with which he references his marriage to Ariel Fulmer, whom he wed in 2012 — kissing an employee who stars in the Try Guys spinoff, Food Babies. The photos, which proliferated on Reddit and TikTok, led to an internal investigation that resulted in Fulmer’s firing.
Fulmer has tweeted a statement saying “family should have always been my priority.” The remaining Try Guys, meanwhile, released a shell-shocked video statement (parodied in the SNL sketch and soon to reach 10 million views) plus an hourlong podcast episode (“OK, Let’s Talk About It”) offering their version of events.
The Try Guys did not respond to The Hollywood Reporter’s request for comment.
Details of the internal investigation have not been revealed, but the group did acknowledge the objectionable activity between Fulmer and the employee had “been going on for some time.” The employee remains at Try Guys.
According to TikTok-based digital trends predictor Coco Mocoe, Fulmer’s co-stars did not overreact. “I felt like it was always kind of a ticking time bomb because it’s an uncontrolled variable,” says Mocoe, referring to Fulmer’s marriage-focused persona.
“He was the ‘wife guy’ more so than the others who had even gotten engaged or married. It made him really profitable. He did an Architectural Digest home tour [with his wife]. He published a cookbook with his wife [called The Date Night Cookbook]. I think it was definitely a business move that was smart — but not necessarily as stable as just leaning into yourself,” she says.
Mocoe contrasts this incident to another recent celebrity scandal — that of Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, whose alleged DMs to a model became viral meme fodder.
“Adam being faithful to his partner doesn’t affect his ability to sing well,” Mocoe explains. “Whereas Ned’s entire personality and character was being the ‘wife guy,’ so him not being faithful has a direct influence on his ability to maintain that connection with his audience.”
If Try Guys member Eugene Lee Yang (parodied in the SNL sketch by Bowen Yang) looked furious in the group’s “What Happened” video, it might have as much to do with feelings of personal betrayal as it does with money — which the Try Guys were making quite a bit of.
According to Eyal Baumel, president of Yoola — where he has overseen the career of YouTube sensation Like Nastya, an 8-year-old with the seventh-most-subscribed-to channel on the service (101 million subscribers) — the Try Guys occupy a rung at the very highest tier of digital content earners.
“In terms of their influence, they have around 15 million followers across their social media pages and received more than 2 billion views since launching the brand and their channels in 2018 — so they are very popular and understand internet culture very well,” Baumel says.
“In terms of revenue, they have 4,000 patrons on Patreon, so if the average patron gives $25 a month they generate around $100,000 monthly. On YouTube, they average 30 million monthly views. With an average RPM [revenue per mille, a metric representing money earned per 1,000 views] of $5, they should generate $150,000 monthly on YouTube. If you add merch, Facebook, Snap and sponsored content, they can generate around $500,000 a month or even more.”
That’s $6 million per year for online content alone. Add to that supplementary revenue sources — the group stars in No Recipe Road Trip With the Try Guys, a TV series that premiered in August on Food Network and Discovery+, and released a book, The Hidden Power of Fucking Up, in 2019 — and the group earns even more. All of which is now in jeopardy.
Baumel feels the group has handled the situation about as well as can be expected. “Especially when such a close team works together for a while and discovers such a big scandal from a fan and not from the source, meaning Ned,” he says. “It’s hard to keep working together, and the backlash from the fans and sponsors could really hurt the brand, so they didn’t have a lot of other options.”
The other two members, Zack Kornfeld and Keith Habersberger, made it clear in the podcast that they are not looking to replace Fulmer, whose situation is by far the most precarious of the four.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him and his wife on Good Morning America or Red Table Talk,” predicts Mocoe. “I feel like a lot of celebrities go on Red Table Talk as a way to test the waters to see how people are going to respond to them, so I could see them doing some press together to see how people respond. I think it’s going to be really hard for him to recover that ‘happily married’ image that he really had profited from, especially if they don’t stay together.”
So far the Fulmers, who raise two young sons together, have displayed a united front; they were photographed emerging from their L.A. home the day after the Try Guys acknowledged the scandal. Both were wearing their wedding rings.
As for Yang, Mocoe suspects the group’s sole diverse member — Yang is of South Korean descent and is gay — will use this moment to distance himself from the Try Guys.
“He wasn’t even in the [“OK, Let’s Talk About It”] podcast,” she notes. “And if you look at Eugene’s social media, my prediction is he’s going to go into politics. He was just on the campaign trail with Beto [O’Rourke] in Texas. He’s from Texas, as well, and he talks about that a lot. A lot of his photos are at different campaigning events.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he tries to be a progressive figure in the Texas political sphere,” she says.
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