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January 20, 2016

Liberal It Girl Comic Amy Schumer Accused by Four Comedians of Stealing Their Jokes

Well, three accused her -- one of the sources she seems to have borrowed from, Patrice O'Neal, died of a stroke a few years back so he didn't accuse her.

But others did on his behalf.

Here are three female comics, two of which I'm familiar with, making the charge that Amy Schumer lifted their jokes.

Here's video of one comic -- Wendy Liebman, who got pretty famous for her joke template of say something normal and reasonable and then add in something terrible in low voice -- telling her best joke (as she calls it), and Amy Schumer doing the same gag.

Here's someone noting Patrice O'Neal's joke about oddball sexual positions and bizarre sex acts, which gets repeated, almost verbatim, by Schumer, with Schumer changing the names of the two acts.

Here's O'Neal vs. Schumer.

I don't know what to make of this. Sometimes people steal jokes. Sometimes people repeat jokes not realizing they heard them a while back -- they think they're making the joke up, when they're actually just remembering it.

Sometimes the same joke just occurs to people.

With the Patrice O'Neal gag, "Gorilla Mask" is so old it was a joke even when I was a kid, and while the "Poltergeist" (Schumer's name: the "Houdini") is of more recent vintage, it seems like it's been going around for a while.

Though Patrice did do it before that college newspaper did it as my favorite version of the gag, "The Prestige."

I don't know... It's kind of obvious, kind of in the air, but Schumer really just follows Patrice's script joke for joke.

I know this was a big joke thing like 8 years ago, "The Making Up a Goofy Sex Act No One Would Ever Do." This is how we got "The Donkey Punch" and "The Angry Pirate."

So... it could be they both got these just from jokes going around told by "civilians," and then just incorporated them into their acts.

I dunno. I don't know what the etiquette is there on that. If a joke is just going around, told by so many people it would be hard to establish a clear authorship -- is that a joke you can swipe? Or is that still plagiarism?

The Liebman joke is great, but I think it's now so embedded in the consciousness that I can see people thinking it's a "just something in the air" joke. And I could see Liebman saying: "No way, that's the key joke that is the template for my whole act."

I haven't looked into the other alleged joke thefts.

I don't know. Doesn't look too good for Schumer. But I will say that while I've never deliberately swiped a joke without attribution, I have sometimes repeated a joke not realizing someone else had made it before, or changed a joke so little it still was the same joke.

Also, I've come up with things on my own that people then came to me and said "Hey I said that an hour ago." (My response to those is often: "Everyone said that an hour ago, it's an obvious joke.")

I could go either way on this one, because most writing -- most jokes, most lines, most plots, etc. -- are somewhat-rewritten uses of a previous exemplar. It's often the case that one joke establishes a template that can be used with different nouns and verbs and situations -- but the template itself is the joke.

But when people tell the "new joke," built out of the same template -- they think it's a new joke. When actually, no, it's just a new use of a good, useful template.

So there's a fair amount of thievery in the act of creation. I don't know what Schumer was thinking here. It does strike me as very reckless if she knew these jokes had been done before, and then did them so similarly, with so little effort to just change the wording to get to what people would call a "new joke" (which wouldn't actually be new -- but it would be accepted as "new" by people).


For some reason, the people making accusations about joke thefts have now deleted their accusatory tweets -- read that how you will.

I got this from @ebolaamerican on twitter, who thinks that the accusation-followed-by-deletion suggests that an out-of-court settlement has quickly been reached.

Update: A guy on Twitter tells me the Gorilla Mask/Lincoln and Poltergeist/Houdini all date from the early 2000s, from internet lists and email send-arounds.

So Schumer didn't steal from O'Neal -- they both swiped jokes in common currency.



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posted by Ace at 06:45 PM

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