Photo: Lee Pellegrini

Meet the Fenti Fried Chicken Guy

How Joe McCartney ’19 became a social media comedy star.

Joe McCartney ’19, who studied finance and information systems at BC, is four years into a successful corporate career. But what he’s known for—what gets him recognized every weekend around Boston—are the wildly popular comedy videos he posts to social media. In his riffs on the minutiae of life in the city for a young professional, he portrays a variety of familiar characters—an exhausted participant in an office Zoom meeting, someone on a cringe-inducing first date, or, yes, one of the T subway lines. Capturing these absurdities of modern life has earned McCartney more than one hundred thousand followers on both TikTok and Instagram, and even given him a dose of celebrity in Boston. “Any Boston bar I go out to, someone’s going to point at me and be like, ‘You’re the TikTok guy,’” he said. His most popular video on that platform—in which his love of Hulu’s The Bear inspires him to act like the main character—has been viewed more than ten million times, a number that would have been unfathomable when he started. “Now, if I don’t even get ten thousand views, I’m like, ‘what a waste of time,’” he said. “It’s crazy how quickly the goalposts move as you grow.”

But if McCartney’s face is well known these days, his name is not. He posts his videos under the pseudonym Fenti Fried Chicken, a version of his original handle, Fentucky Fried Chicken, which was a play on his favorite fast food chain. McCartney, who made his first video in 2021, is usually the only person on camera, wearing just enough of a costume to suggest, say, an office worker or a diehard Boston sports fan as he speaks to an imagined character who is out of frame. 

Growing up in Massachusetts, McCartney memorized the stand-up routines of his favorite comedians, including one by Brian Regan that he recited in a third-grade talent show. “Getting that initial laughter from my classmates was a rush,” he recalled. When he got to BC, he began writing for the New England Classic, the University’s satirical newspaper.

These days, McCartney has weekly stand-up gigs at Boston area venues such as Bleacher Bar and Bill’s Bar. He’s also diligent about his social media schedule, posting six new videos per week. “A lot of times I film three or four videos in one go and edit them all, usually on the bus or the train to a show,” he said. He manages all of this while succeeding in his day job as a senior associate at the professional services network PwC. “I like having two jobs,” McCartney said, “because it forces you to sit down and say, ‘All right, I can’t procrastinate.’”

McCartney said he plans to continue building his business career while doing comedy on the side, and to keep asking himself the important questions about his dual pursuits. “It’s, am I enjoying myself? Am I having fun?,” he said. “That’s the best perspective."  

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