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June 26, 2011
Oh Right: Bill Maher Was Pretty Damn Proud of His "Afterbirthers/Placenta" Not-Funny Joke
I forgot. Treacher reminded me.
Bill Maher accused The Onion of stealing a joke he'd made about "Afterbirthers." Not birthers, but afterbirthers. Ha-ha.
There are two problems with this. Once again, I would like to look past the obvious problem.
The first problem -- the obvious one -- is that it would be very difficult for The Onion to have stolen Bill Maher's joke, given that The Onion made the joke in August 2009, whereas Bill Maher "created" the joke in February 2010.
So Bill Maher actually lifted it. One of his writers pitched it to him (yes, they all read The Onion), or he saw it himself in The Onion, or someone who saw it in The Onion said it in casual conversation as a joke and Bill Maher "wrote" it in the sense that after having heard it he then wrote it down.
Or there's another possibility, which brings up the point I really want to talk about: The other possibility is that Maher thought it up, and The Onion thought up before that, and other people also thought it up, because... it's an obvious joke and not very funny.
This is what I want to talk about.
This is not a good joke. Would I tell it myself? Ehhh... I don't know, maybe. It's weak. But sure, you pitch out weak stuff a lot. As I keep saying, it happens. Weak jokes are frankly the biggest part of any comic's repetoir.
But here's what I wouldn't have done: I would not have jumped up screaming about someone lifting my killer joke saying "Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!"
I would have had no pride in it, no pride of authorship. I would have chalked it up as a very weak joke, just barely good enough as filler on TV (if it rises to that level at all), and furthermore a very obvious bit of wordplay that literally anyone could have thought of.
Including amateurs who aren't funny. Such as Bill Maher.
I want you to note how The Onion treated this joke.
It's a quickie headline, with a short paragraph appended, largely for purposes of supporting the illusion that The Onion is a real news organization.
The joke is not prominent on the website. It's a disposable "News In Brief" throwaway line.
The Onion did publish it, but The Onion also gave it the prominence it deserved, which is to say, not much. It's filler. It's a smile at most.
It's not like The Onion seized on this wordplay and constructed one of its more extensive bits on it, like a long article, or one of their traffic-drawing video report bits.
They elevate the best jokes to that level of prominence. This is throwaway snark like you might see here as a took-me-five-seconds gag in the headlines.
It's a joke, barely, but nothing to get all worked up about.
But for Bill Maher, this was really top-drawer, banging-on-all-cylinders stuff that he had to proudly announce he'd thought of first and then accuse The Onion of stealing his super-funny stuff.
This gag -- which barely even made The Onion at all -- was a treasure to Bill Maher, a fine moment, a carefully-crafted, inventive joke he wanted the world to know he'd created himself.
Well, he hadn't, but who cares, what really interests me is what the hell is going on this no-talent's head that he imagines this is a joke to to go the mattresses over?
This is why I say: His writers, who are funny, cannot rescue him, because Bill Maher is not only not funny on a creative level, he is also not funny on an editorial/simple recognition of other people's comedy level.
His writers cannot save him, because he cannot tell when they've proposed a strong joke and when they've fed him yet more audience-validating clapper material.
He actually thinks the clapper material is awesome, awesome enough to accuse a well-respected, real, professional comedy troupe of thievery over.
I'm curious. There are a lot of lower-level stand-up comics at The Onion.
Did one of those stand-ups propose this joke? Did they actually bother to use it in their live act, or dismiss it as "only good enough for a quickie headline?"
I have a feeling no one except Bill Maher deemed this strong enough to use in a stand-up act. It didn't make the cut. It was a throwaway. Filler for the headlines.
But here's Bill Maher, parading around his own lack of talent as he rants about people stealing all his hilarious stuff.
What a loser. What an absolute, unmitigated embarrassment to comedy.
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