Jimmy Kimmel announced a new segment on his show last Friday, titled, “Will George Santos Say It?,” in which he “pranked” the former congressman by paying for Cameo videos under anonymous names, requesting that Santos read out absurd messages. The first video in the series, “Jimmy Kimmel Pranks George Santos on Cameo,” brought in 1.4 million views in just three days on YouTube; but Santos may have the final laugh.
Having been booted from Congress on December 1, the self-described “People’s Princess” has continued to serve the public through Cameo, a site where fans can pay celebrities for short, personalized messages. Kimmel’s team wondered just what he would say for money, and jumped on the bandwagon, requesting a congratulations video for winning a Florida beef-eating contest, another for the successful cloning of a schnauzer named Adolf and a third video from “Ron,” who was trying to explain to his estranged wife why he burnt down their shed with fireworks. These were just three videos though; Kimmel says he ordered “about a dozen more of these.”
On its face, it’s a pretty lame prank. After all, the “prank” was just giving Santos money to do something he was happy to do, and the segment was basically free, nationwide advertising for Santos’s Cameo. Presumably, Kimmel will next “prank” a Starbucks employee by getting them to write his name on a coffee cup. Santos currently charges $500 a video, and claimed to The Spectator that he is set to hit $350,000 in revenue from it by the end of the month, and has made over 500 videos, with a log over 400 outstanding.
Some in Kimmel’s audience complained about giving the Trump-supporting Santos money for the segment, but it may get even worse for Kimmel, as it’s possible that he owes Santos tens of thousands of dollars.
The Cameo videos of Santos that went viral on Twitter had been requested for personal use, and then posted to Twitter for the delight of the world. By contrast, though Kimmel’s team used the personal use side of Cameo, those videos were purchased for inclusion on his TV show, arguably a commercial purpose, which would be covered by Cameo For Business; a separate branch that grants commercial rights for using Cameo videos, at a far higher rate.
As such, if Cameo’s terms of service are to be believed, Kimmel has underpaid Santos to the tune of tens of thousands on the four videos he has released so far. “The balance is $21,800 and change” according to Santos, which accounts for the videos and 50 percent business rush rate. The total cost of sixteen or so videos, with just a fifteen-day license, would be $40,000 ($60,000 with a rush fee). For a ninety-day license, that would be $99,008 (or $148,512 with a rush fee).
Santos claims that Cameo is supporting his effort for him to be properly recompensed for his efforts; and though it’s hard to take Santos too seriously, given his track record, Cameo has good reason to do so. Cameo has struggled hard in the post-Covid years, and Santos has returned the platform to a relevancy it hasn’t seen since its heyday. More importantly, if they want other creators to use the platform, they have to ensure that their terms of service are enforced. As of writing, Cameo hasn’t responded to requests for comment.
Referring to the title of Kimmel’s series, when The Spectator asked Santos if there were things he wouldn’t say, he was clear; “Oh I have a lot of things that I won’t say. I’ve rejected over sixty Cameos because they just had outrageous shit that money can’t make me say.”
He said that he wouldn’t say “pro-Osama bin Laden stuff” — noting that “I lived through 911 as a New Yorker, and it’s not gonna happen, never” — and “having the background I have, I’m definitely not going to spew an ounce of antisemitism. It’s just not gonna happen.” Santos used to claim he was Jewish, before clarifying he was “Jew-ish”; and he also once claimed that his mother had died in 9/11 (she didn’t).
As he summed up, “There’s no money that could change that, nobody can pay me to change my guiding compass.”
When The Spectator asked Kimmel to address this charge of misusing the platform and shortchanging Santos, he ducked: “The idea that Mr. Santos would claim we shortchanged him and used credit card purchases improperly proves once and for all that the man is a comedy genius.”
But compliments only go so far. If Kimmel doesn’t pay up, Santos will see him in court; and he’s very familiar with courts by this point. “He’s having fun at my expense, but I’m laughing all the way to the bank.”
Santos’s Cameo went viral on Twitter last week thanks to some of the sillier messages he read out. In one clip, Santos helpfully advises that, “Botox keeps you young, fillers keeps you plump… If you have haters, that means you’re doing something right girl!”
In another, Santos tells “Heath” that he is “so proud of you for coming out as a furry,” and that all of his friends and family accept him for his new “beaver-puss” identity (which Santos helpfully informs us is “a beaver and a platypus.”)
Pennsylvania senator John Fetterman even brought attention to his campaign to expel New Jersey senator and reported Egyptian gold hoarder Bob Menendez by paying for a Cameo from Santos, in which he cheerfully encouraged Bobby from Jersey to “stand your ground, sir. And don’t get bogged down by all the haters out there!” Santos replied to the Fetterman campaign’s posting of the video; “I love this! I wish I knew the Bobby in question! LOL.”