The Try Guys, a comedy group that skyrocketed to fame on YouTube and created a mini media empire, announced Tuesday that they would stop working with one of their founding members, Ned Fulmer, after he said he had a romantic relationship with an employee.
Fulmer, who is also an executive producer for Try Guys, apologized to his wife and fans on social media on Tuesday and acknowledged having had a “consensual workplace relationship.”
After rising to prominence on Buzzfeed’s main YouTube channel, the Try Guys started their own company in 2018. Their independent YouTube channel has since garnered more than 7.8 million subscribers and 2.1 billion views. They have also launched podcasts, published a New York Times best-selling book, toured around the United States and struck a deal with the Food Network for a cooking show based on one of their popular video series.
The Try Guys, joined by a wider cast of characters, are known for videos that show them participating in novel activities such as swimming with sharks or being hypnotized on camera. Although their videos are often laced with adult humor, Fulmer has sought to distinguish himself by cultivating a personal brand centered on his image as a doting husband and father. Fan accounts on YouTube have created supercuts of each time Fulmer says “my wife” in Try Guys videos. Fulmer and his spouse, Ariel, also jointly published “The Date Night Cookbook,” a collection of recipes, and launched a parenting podcast.
Fulmer has scored partnership deals with companies such as Target and the Thomas and Friends children’s toy brand. In one Instagram advertisement from last year, he clumsily juggled sippy cups and a bottle of baby powder before revealing a doll in his likeness. The doll shouts “My wife!” in Fulmer’s voice when a button is pressed.
“It’s almost schadenfreude. … People are incredibly sensitive to irony,” said Colin Campbell, a professor of marketing at the University of San Diego. “By positioning himself in that arena, he has gone against himself and has almost made himself a fantastic target for people making fun of him and sharing memes or any sort of content about him.”
Speculation on Fulmer’s departure had widely circulated on social media in the hours leading up to the announcement, and the term “wife guy” trended on Twitter after the Try Guys released their statement. The term is often used to refer to men who get internet fame from creating content about their wives.
The Try Guys could have risked losing advertising partners if Fulmer remained part of the group, Campbell said. Brands often sign contracts with clauses that allow them to reevaluate a deal if their partner does “anything that goes against the brand’s corporate values,” such as a relationship with a subordinate employee, he said.
“If I was a brand, I would be unlikely to want to continue working with them, at least until more information came out,” he added.
The Food Network, representatives for the Try Guys and the publisher of “The Date Night Cookbook” could not be immediately reached for comment late Tuesday.