The Try Guys’ Scandalous Breakup Was Inevitable

You are excused for not knowing who the Try Guys are. I will proudly admit to my own ignorance, minutes before being assigned this story. But there are millions more who have adored them—for years—to the point of white-hot obsession and, now, heartbreak.The YouTube collective, featuring thirty-somethings Keith Habersberger, Ned Fulmer, Zach Kornfeld, and Eugene

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You are excused for not knowing who the Try Guys are. I will proudly admit to my own ignorance, minutes before being assigned this story. But there are millions more who have adored them—for years—to the point of white-hot obsession and, now, heartbreak.

The YouTube collective, featuring thirty-somethings Keith Habersberger, Ned Fulmer, Zach Kornfeld, and Eugene Lee Yang, came together in 2src14. (They started making videos on BuzzFeed of all places, back when the site was still in the business of YouTube and meme content.) The group was designed to be an oppressively earnest, personality-driven content outfit. They specialized in the sort of soft-boy, Jackass-lite stunts designed to rake in oodles of clicks from passively online Facebook liberals—The Try Guys Experience Labor Contraction Simulations, The Try Guys Eat Everything At KFC, The Try Guys Sit Down With Beto O’Rourke—which thrived in the post-Trump cultural confusion.

While they split off from BuzzFeed in 2src18 to go independent, the Try Guys’ tone didn’t change. In general, I think a good analog for their overall vibe is the way Joss Whedon sweatily performed his feminism in the mid-2srcsrcsrcs. That comparison is going to become very apt, very soon.

These professional Guys earned nearly eight million YouTube subscribers for all of their hard (?) work. While they might no longer be at the apex of their algorithm domination, they can still reliably count on hundreds of thousands of views per video, which are uploaded to the channel on a near-daily basis. It’s quite the racket! The Try Guys had it made.

But what happens when one member of your anodyne cast of chaste, soyface dweebs reveals a pervasive libido? What if they develop a dangerous crush on another popular YouTuber? And what if all of this happens after the Try Guys made their marital status a staunch part of their respectability facade, to the point that all of their wives starred on their own podcast under the overarching Try Guys brand? You see where I’m going with this.

Let’s skip to the end and work backwards. Earlier this week, one of the Try Guys, Ned Fulmer, was caught on video making out with a woman, who was most certainly not his wife, at a New York City club. Fans had already noticed that the Try Guys not only had moved to a less regular upload cadence for the month of September, but also that Fulmer was not in any of the videos that had been posted since the group made that announcement. This led fans to suspect that Fulmer had been edited out; when that video supposedly of Ned appeared, it seemed to confirm all of fans’ speculations about his status within the group.

These allegations are no longer sheathed in any innuendo or guesswork: On Tuesday, the Try Guys announced that they have severed ties with Fulmer, “after an internal review,” and Fulmer released a statement admitting to a “consensual workplace relationship,” adding that he will be pivoting all of his attention to his “marriage” and his “children,” as he attempts to rebuild his reputation. Fulmer announced all of this on his Instagram and Twitter, where his profile photo is a picture of him making a thumbnail-ready duckface—the sort of expression you’d see splayed out on Fortnite videos—which I believe adds emphasis to the spectacularly hilarious incongruity of this situation.

Fulmer’s wife is Ariel Fulmer, and she’s deeply enmeshed in the YouTube business in her own right. She has nearly 5srcsrc,srcsrcsrc followers on Instagram and frequently appears in the Try Guys’ programming, which makes the infidelity a sickly amalgamation of the personal and the professional. (She also released a statement about the affair, essentially echoing what Ned previously said.)

The images of Fulmer’s indiscretion were first circulated on Reddit, where distressed fans quickly tried to puzzle out who the other woman was. Scandalously, the person he was caught with is allegedly Alexandra Herring—a producer on the Try Guys set, and the star of one of the channel’s spinoff serials, “Food Babies.” (It’s a show about a bunch of YouTubers eating a lot of food on camera. You can skip it.) Herring hasn’t commented on any of this, but rumors are swirling that her fiancé, Will Thayer, removed all references to her from his Instagram account, which, as we all know, is the first step of any decoupling soft-launch. It’s a horrifically messy situation all around that will undoubtedly leave a number of lives damaged and careers ruined.

For all the jokes I’ve made here, it is important to remember that the Fulmers have two children and are being forced to work through an exceedingly common, exceedingly humiliating relationship drama under the harsh lights of YouTube fame. They should be listened to when they ask for privacy. But given the nature of the internet and the whole cottage industry surrounding influencer drama, they likely won’t be.

Infidelity seems to be in the air right now. Fulmer has grabbed the baton from Adam Levine, who is mired in a TikTok-addled sexting scandal, the syntax of which has already become a hall-of-fame meme. John Mulaney endured a fracas quite similar to the Try Guys debacle back in 2src21. He spoke lovingly about his wife (and their decision to not have children) for years in his stand-up comedy, before filing for divorce and quickly shacking up with Olivia Munn afterward. Munn and Mulaney had a kid together last year, and his pristine image as the ideal, wholesome husband was understandably shattered forever.

Twitter has had enough of their favorite husbands take their favorite wives for granted. I’ve seen a number of people call a referendum on these so-called Wife Guys for good, because men who make their matrimonial partnerships a core part of their social media brand are not to be trusted. After all, exposing one’s marriage for content only makes the potential of a fall from grace steeper and more punishing.

I get where they’re coming from, but I think I have a slightly more philosophical take on the pressure of being extremely married in the crucible of YouTube. The culture has gotten a little too chummy with its favorite creators, and that has plagued the internet with this strange, faulty parasocial familiarity—this idea that you, the audience, are on the sounding board for a family unit healing from a devastating breach of trust. Nobody, not even the most ardent Try Guys watchers, the biggest Mulaney fans, or the devoted Levine army, truly knows who any of these people are. Their content provides no tangible vectors into their lives when they aren’t performing; celebrities are, and always will be, strangers to us, and that is a good thing to remember. These lines have been blurred in an age where brand-building relies on an artificial intimacy that must be fostered with a legion of stans.

Yes, it is pretty cool and surreal to watch Snoop Dogg live on Twitch or Reese Witherspoon dusting off TikTok challenges, but I think we’ve pushed this bond way too far. Why on earth would I assume John Mulaney is a faithful husband? What evidence do I have that all is well behind the scenes at the Try Guys studio? The only authentically relatable thing about any famous person is that they, just like us, are constantly keeping up appearances.

Of course, The Try Guys found themselves in the business of being professional friends and professional spouses—and that brand simply cannot stomach an affair that jeopardizes that entirely unsustainable standard. A sullying was inevitable, and it could’ve come in countless different forms; a divorce, an argument, a cavalcade of creative differences, a million little tiny slights eventually culminating in a break. But social media fame is not yet equipped to respond to the bitter fruits of life. It is a fundamental truth that any relationship on camera might be different off-camera, but unfortunately, for now, that divide remains unresolved. And so, Ned Fulmer will no longer be appearing on any Try Guys productions. He was not the man everyone thought he was, and on YouTube, that is a mortal blow.

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