He Went Viral Over Claims of Shrimp in His Cereal—and Then Things Got Dark, Fast
Former girlfriends accused Karp of manipulation and abusive behavior. Industry peers, meanwhile, tell The Daily Beast he ripped off Black writers’ ideas and screamed at coworkers.
Jensen Karp started off the week by going viral for finding what appeared to be sugar-coated shrimp tails in a box of his Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. Karp, a Los Angeles-based comedian and writer, seemed to revel in the spotlight, eagerly talking to The New York Times for a humorous interview about scarfing down a bowl and going back for seconds when the apparent crustaceans’ remains “plopped” out and discussed his ongoing talks with General Mills.
But by Wednesday afternoon, as Karp kept gleefully tweeting about every development, rumblings began to emerge from former girlfriends who accused the 41-year-old of manipulation and abusive behavior. Industry peers and former coworkers also began to speak out, detailing repeated incidents where Karp allegedly screamed at people and ripped off ideas and spun them as his own.
One of the first to speak out was Melissa Stetten, who previously worked with Karp on her documentary Pistol Shrimps and on a Bachelor podcast in 2016. “‘What you may not know about the man behind the viral posts’ what like he’s a manipulative gaslighting narcissistic ex-boyfriend who once told me he was surprised I hadn’t killed myself because my life was so worthless,” she wrote. “Getting lots of texts from girls still in therapy over his terror. At least we have this fun little club!”
Soon after, more women began Tweeting out similar sentiments. Actress Rory Uphold shared, “This is the most abusive person I have ever been with and I am crying as I type this.”
Writer Stephanie Mickus alluded to an alleged incident with Karp where he blocked her on Twitter when she was not “gracious enough after a surprise threesome” and allegedly told her to “be careful or I would never work in this town again.” She later added that she’d been contacted by several women who had “shared experiences” with Karp.
Another woman, who goes by the name of Meghan, tweeted that Karp “is selfish, controlling, manipulative, and ruined my life for close to a decade. Even after he broke up with me, he kept in close contact to try to mold me into the person he wanted me to be under the guise of ‘if you just do this, we can get back together and live happily ever after’ but that was never the case.”
Upon hearing all of these women’s stories, a former girlfriend of Karp’s told The Daily Beast that she feels that she’s one of the “lucky ones'' for being able to recognize that Karp was “verbally abusive and a manipulator.” She credits this in being able to walk away from the relationship when it went south.
“He constantly makes you feel like he's the victim of something,” she said. “That you should be apologizing to him for something you did, even though you didn't do anything wrong.”
Stetten, Uphold, Mickus, and Meghan did not comment on the allegations when reached by The Daily Beast.
Stories also began to circulate about Karp professionally, as many began casting doubt on his cereal story. (In an interview with The Daily Beast before the allegations surfaced, Karp insisted the incident was legit. “I have a career outside of being the stupid shrimp guy that would be on the line as you know, including being an Emmy-nominated writer,” he said. “I wouldn’t do this. That’s very annoying and I don’t want to be part of that.” He has not since responded to requests for comment on the allegations, as well as going silent on Twitter.)
But the suspicions still swarmed, and artist Brandon Bird piped up to claim Karp is “both a marketing professional and someone who’s lied to my face without flinching.”
“He co-owned the gallery I did most of my shows at when I first moved to LA and the experience of how that soured and how he lied and gaslit over nothing made me never, ever want to deal with a gallery ever again,” he Tweeted.
In addition to his other work, Karp has run Gallery1988 alongside Katie Sutton since 2004. The pop culture-focused gallery is well-known in the Los Angeles art scene and describes itself as being a “premiere venue to witness the rise of emerging artists before they break.”
Artist Amanda Visell worked with the gallery on a couple of group shows before having her first solo exhibit there in January of 2007. She echoed Bird’s claims, telling The Daily Beast how Karp tried to gaslight her about a dispute over chipping in some money for costs related to the show. She admits it’s a small detail in the wider claims surrounding Karp but felt so weird about the situation she kept the chat transcript with Karp all these years. In the messages, seen by The Daily Beast, Visell becomes so frustrated with Karp, she accuses him of being a liar. Visell said because of the experience, she never dealt with Karp’s gallery again.
In a Twitter statement on Friday afternoon, former Gallery1988 manager Lily Idle said that when she managed the venue, she witnessed Karp “completely screw an artist out of any profit from a solo show that was the culmination of a year’s worth of painting.” Idle withheld the name of the artist, citing their privacy, but claimed Karp convinced them to create a show around a certain intellectual property which Karp wanted to work with down the line. However, right before the show, Karp was allegedly concerned that the show would “jeopardize” his “potential chance of getting an officially licensed show with the property.'' Idle claims he basically blocked the sales of the artwork by not displaying the prices on the show cards. People could not purchase the pieces off Gallery1998’s website either, according to Idle.
The Daily Beast has reached out to Idle for comment.
Another source who worked closely with Karp’s gallery in the 2000s described him to The Daily Beast as being “ego-driven, fame-hungry, un-collaborative, selfish, and narcissistic.”
“He’s like the Loki in the gallery, comedy, and writing world,” added the source. “He’s not untalented, but he’s not talented enough to be doing what he’s doing because he doesn’t put the work in. He’s not a hard worker. He just kind of takes, takes, takes and then moves on. The real Loki trick is that he’s very charming. When you talk to him, he uses language really well, he’s funny enough. The charm and the moxie are disorienting at first, you get kind of lost in it. Then you peel the layers back and you realize that [he] is there to take what you’ll let him until you’re left with nothing.”
Eliza Skinner worked with Karp on Drop the Mic, a comedy rap battle show that aired on TBS and was produced by CBS and production company Fulwell 73, and described to The Daily Beast a hellish three seasons working for him on the show. For Skinner, the experience was “awful,” she said, detailing how Karp often screamed at her. She admitted she regrets taking the job, even though it was a concept she had been working on for years.
Comedy writer Brittani Nichols, who also spoke out in a tweet about working with Karp on the show, told The Daily Beast that she often heard Karp yelling for Skinner to come to his office instead of walking the few feet it took to reach her.
The source who knew Karp from Gallery1988 made similar claims of Karp routinely erupting at people, both over the phone and in person, describing his volume as being at the top of his lungs. “It was super distressing,” they said. “It wasn’t uncommon for anyone to walk in the gallery and witness Katie and Jensen in a screaming match, like a yell-out fight that ended in tears.”
“He’s a big crybaby and definitely a yeller,” the former girlfriend who spoke to The Daily Beast agreed. “Screaming, yelling, manipulating and saying mean things,” were all tactics Karp used to get his way or in a show of power, she said.
But beyond just yelling at her, Skinner also claimed that Karp would constantly rewrite her team’s jokes, often making them worse, with no constructive feedback—simply labeling them “bad” or “I hate this.”
“By the third season, which was my final season, Jensen wouldn't look at or speak to me in the office,” Skinner said.
Skinner claims that when she tried to raise concerns about Karp screaming at her and the overall treatment she endured to another executive producer, she was instructed to go to Karp with her complaints and to hash it out.
“It was a very difficult response,” Skinner said. “When you say, ‘Someone is abusing me that you put in power, you gave them power over me.’ And now I’m the one who has to fix it? But I did. I sat down with him with my list of complaints and said, ‘Please, you cannot do these things to me, you cannot do these things to the writers,’ and he agreed to them.”
“But eventually, as we worked, it kind of eroded away,” she said. “It was really tough. I ended up feeling like a lot of my job was to protect the writers from the way he was treating me and to fight for salvaging as much of their work as I could.”
Some of Karp’s joke revisions or straight-up replacements involved lines that referenced people of color, Skinner claimed, adding that he often made them offensive. As one example, Karp allegedly kept revisiting the trope that all Black people look the same, using it as a punchline.
Nichols also made similar claims in a tweet, writing that Karp “routinely replaced lines about Black celebrities with couplets about how they just looked like other Black celebs that they did not at all resemble. I expressed discomfort with this several times but again, he never spoke to us, so I had to shuffle this through the head writer.”
“His feeling was that’s part of rap battle culture,” Skinner said. “My feeling was we’re not just a rap battle culture show, we’re a comedy show. So, these should be funny jokes and, to me, racist jokes, any kind of bigoted joke is lowest common denominator.”
Skinner said she was eventually fired according to Karp’s wishes in summer 2018. She hasn’t spoken to him since. A representative for TBS deferred comment to CBS and Fulwell 73 when reached by The Daily Beast. CBS declined to comment.
When Karp’s story about his shrimp saga went viral, Skinner couldn’t resist liking some of the tweets from people hinting at their stories, explaining she knows that he’s treated people “very badly.”
And while she admits she’s squirrelly about speaking out because of potential blowback on her career, Skinner said she was compelled to do so in a show of support for others. “I noticed a pattern of behavior from him because he’s done it to me,” she said. “I’ve seen him do it to other people. I especially feel bad for the women that he was involved with, who were mistreated by him and seeing him praised. I know that can be really shitty. So, I want to support other people when they speak out about that.”
For the art gallery source, watching the events unfold around Karp has been “karmic.”
“You can’t shovel that much shit and serve it to so many people and not have expected it shoveled back eventually,” they said. “I almost think it’s too perfect that he found black specks in the [cereal] bag. If it’s rat shit, it’s just too specifically poignant.”
Laura Bradley contributed reporting.