Are You A Joke Thief?

Joke theft and cryptonesia examined by YouTuber Will Schoder.

Joke theft is a surprisingly widespread phenomenon on the Internet. When you log onto a social media platform, search for a certain topic, or even just open up a browser, chances are someone else has stolen your joke before you even had a chance to.


Well, you know who I am so. *nervous chuckle*, Wow, umm . .

. , Most people are not funny. , Doesn’t mean they’re, bad people or dumb or unperceptive, or even uncreative.

. Just like most people can’t play violin or play professional level, basketball or perform brain surgery or a million other vocational technical, aesthetic or creative pursuits. .

Everyone is created unequal. , But for some reason everyone wants to be funny and feels like they have a right to be funny. , But being funny is like any other talent.

. Some people are born with it and then through diligence and hard work And a lot of mistakes. They strengthen that talent.

Patton Oswalt, one of my all-time favorite comedians, wrote that on this blog back in 2013. As a lifelong comedy nerd, I find it hard not to agree with him. .

Not only does being funny require a baseline sense of humor but showmanship a keen sense of the relationship between language and comedy, countless hours, writing and rewriting, and a willingness to fail. Everyone in the comedy world knows it’s very serious work. , While most of the public sees Only the comedians who have made it to the top playing theaters and arenas, countless other comedians, put their life into getting a chance on the club.

Circuit. Most comedians openly admit that they are addicted to the rush of getting laughs. .

There’s nothing like hearing a roomful of laughter at your command. . It’s an occupation that has the possibility for riches and fame and therefore it’s tempting to cut corners.

. This is where joke theft becomes a problem. Joke, stealing is as taboo as it gets in the comedy community.

. Just take, for example, the controversy between Louis CK and Dane Cook. , It nearly destroyed Cook’s career.

. I wan na look at a couple of cases like theirs and break down, comedy as it relates to originality and intellectual property. .

Let’s start with a side-by-side comparison of jokes by Louis CK and Dane Cook about naming children. Here’s Louie’s bit “ My wife and I were thinkin’ of having a baby and uh . .

. . I’d like to have a kid ,’cause.

You can name your kid anything you want. ! I, like that part. I’d like to get my kid an interesting name.

You know Like a name with no vowels, maybe you know. Just like . .

. , Just like 40 F’s, that’s his name. .

. . go clean, your room.

, You know something like that. ” And here’s Dane’s bit “. I think about having kids I’d love to have some kids.

. I’ve been thinking about kids. I wan na have like 19 kids.

. I think naming them. That’s gon na be fun.

. Whatever the names that you come up with. That’s exciting right, there.

You get to both decide. “, Hey you wan na name that ?””! No! I don’t like that. Name” right.

, It’s like a little game. You try to come up w-. I already have names picked out.

. I don’t even know. First kid boy girl.

I don’t care. The first one that comes out. I’m naming it RRRRRRRRRR.

, I think it’s beautiful it’s feminine, but strong at the same time. “ Time for bed, RRRRRRRRRR. ” “, I SAID TIME FOR BED, RRRRRRRRRR.

”, “, NO COOKIES, RRRRRRRRRR, !”, Typical RRRRRRRRRR. , CK and Cook are only 5 years apart in age. .

They both grew up in Boston and started their comedy careers, there. CK’s version of the joke, preceded Cook’s by four years. .

This is all circumstantial evidence, but it’s indicative of the evidence. Others lay out when convicting a comedian of joke theft. , There’s hearsay, theirs apocryphal stories of one comedian watching another’s set and surreptitiously writing down jokes.

If they’ve ever been in the same room together ever that’s considered damning evidence. . So, let’s start by admitting that most controversies over joke theft are plagued by speculation, personal score, settling and the influence of accuser and accused.

Comedians are highly protective and vigilant when it comes to their own material. And they need to be. , But with 1001 notions of similarity Vs.

plagiarism influence, vs. theft and property right vs. , free culture.

It’s no wonder. Dialogue about joke theft lacks the requisite structure for a satisfying resolution. Did Dane Cook steal from Louis CK.

It’s hard to decide. . Both jokes cover the same topic of naming children.

Both jokes use a similar punchline about nonsensical names. Both comedians proposed a name with a single letter. CK chooses the letter, F and Cook, chooses R.

, But CK and Cook are both observational comedians. And it’s not impossible that they independently thought about the humor of naming children. .

That they both chose a similar punchline, though, is suspect. . There are always other punchlines available.

. The joke first appears on CK’s 2001. Album “ Live in Houston”, while Cook doesn’t tell his version until his 2005 platinum, album, “ Retaliation”, But it’s unfair to imply that simply because CK’s version, predated Cook’s Cook must have stolen the joke.

, A search on YouTube for “ naming children. Comedy” yields dozens of jokes with a similar premise, including one by Steve Martin. .

It’s more likely that several comedians saw the comedic potential in the subject of naming children than that they all stole from CK. . I must admit, too, that there’s sort of a gut feeling that goes along with making a judgment too.

. That gut feeling is an amalgam of a lot of things, familiarity with a comic’s style, the comic’s on and off stage persona, his known influences and my preference. The comic.

, If I dislike them, I’m more inclined to label them as a thief. Cook and CK addressed the joke. Stealing controversy, together on an episode of “ Louie” in 2011.

, Both comedians end up making good points and CK is willing to write off the theft as cryptomnesia. “ Cryptomnesia occurs when a forgotten memory returns without it being recognized as such by the subject who believes it Is something new and original. ? It is a memory bias whereby a person may falsely recall generating a thought, an idea, a song or a joke not deliberately engaging in plagiarism, but rather experiencing a memory as if it were new inspiration.

”. In other words, you tell your friend, you have a great new idea for a startup and they say “. I told you that idea.

Two weeks ago”, You may believe with absolute certainty. You thought of it, but you actually had a lapse in memory. .

Ck Think you saw me do them. I know you saw me do them And I think they just went in your brain and I don’t think you meant to do it. , But I don’t think you stopped yourself either.

. In 1989 psychologists, Alan Brown and Dana Murphy conducted several experiments on cryptomnesia. .

In the first session test, participants were asked to come up with ideas. . They had to brainstorm about solutions to complex problems together, such as a medical diagnosis.

. During the second session, several weeks later, they indicated what their contribution was on the previous occasion. And in a third and final session, they were challenged to come up with ideas that had not been proposed.

Before. About 9 % of the total responses were plagiarized from others. In the group.

Famous psychiatrist, Carl Jung claimed cryptomnesia is not only a normal mental process but a necessary one as well. . If it were not for this process, the human mind would always be cluttered or overloaded with random information.

, But plagiarism is still plagiarism, even if it was done. Unwittingly. And cryptomnesia can get anyone in serious trouble.

. The type of trouble, however, is a little different with jokes. .

They aren’t protected by copyright law like the works of musicians. , So most comics don’t have the proper legislative infrastructure to protect their material. .

So cryptomnesia turns out to be the last resort in the situation where the comic denies stealing and the other side refuses to accept his denial. . It’s the middle ground, where both sides get what they want.

The accusers get confirmation that the comics stole, but the comic can use a psychological scapegoat to abdicate responsibility. . It just shows the treacherous speculation armchair probability and pop psychology that governs these controversies.

And indeed there’s some plausible deniability in a lot of cases. , Unlike observational humor, topical humor is bound to cause some overlap between comics. , Listen to the opening monologues of several late night hosts In a row And you’ll hear the same topics, the same setup and sometimes the same punchline.

And the internet greatly increases the probability of cryptomnesia. Funny jokes are constantly shared and as their likes increase, so does their visibility and the likelihood that famous comedians and everyday people Store those jokes in their unconscious. A few days later, they may think it was an original joke of their own.

. With all these arguments in mind, listen to this side-by-side comparison of Bill Cosby and Carlos Mencia, telling jokes about fathers. Raising football stars.

, You say: “ come here, boy” Two years old you say, “ get down, dad will show you how to do it” “. Now you come at me. Run through me” POW “ Eh see Get back up, get back, up” “ See you didn’t.

Do it right. Now come at me, !” POW, See now this . .

. ” And you teach him Say . .

. . You say “ Now go attack that tree Bite it !”, [, imitates, feral, dog biting ] “ Come on back bite, it again: !” [, imitates again ].

You teach him all that !” Tackle me” BAM And then soon he’s bigger and he’s stronger and he can hit you and you don’t want him hit. You anymore. , You say: “, Alright, son” turn him loose on high school.

He’s running up and down the field in high school touchdown He’s runnin’ touchdowns per game. . You say “, Yes, that’s my son, !” Aand.

He goes to the big college playing for big school. . Three million students and 800,000 people in the stadium, [ mimics, crowd, chanting, ], National TV and he catches the ball and he didn’t even bother to get out of the way just runs over everybody, SWISSH For a TD, (, touchdown, ) and turned around and the camera’s On him and you’re looking and he says, “ Hi mom !”, He gives him a football and he shows him how to pass it.

. He shows him every day how to pass that football, how to 3-step 5-step 7-step drop. .

He shows him how to throw the bomb. How to throw the out how to throw the hook, how to throw the corner? He shows this little kid everything that he needs to know about how to be a great quarterback. .

He even moves from one city to the other, so that kid could be in a better high school. , Then that kid goes to college and that man is still every single game that dad is right, there. And he’s in college getting better.

. He wins a Heisman trophy. .

He ends up in the NFL five years. Later. He ends up in the Super Bowl.

. They win the Super Bowl. .

He gets the MVP of the Super Bowl And when the cameras come up to him and say :”, You got anything to say to the camera. ?” “, I love you, mom !” AA҉A̷A̡A̸AA͟A̡A̴͞A̶͠A҉̷A̛҉A͡A̵̡A Ȁ͖̱̳̜͈̺̓̉̇͌̒͛̓̄̒̈ͧ͛̇͆̇͐͘ͅÅ̷̡̠̘̲ͮͫ̎ͨ͑͝A͆ͧ̓̓̋̎̎ͧ̿̄̉͒͐ͩ̽̿̏͡͞͠͏͙̖̣̲͉̙̖̻͚̬͚͈͝A̵͚̻̳̭̓ͭ̋̊ͮͪͪA̡͋̌̌́̃̿ͬͧ̿́͐͌̒̆ͥ͏͈̩̟̣̤Aͭ̔̽ͮͥ͛͑͊͐ͭ͆ͨͯ̄́͆̉҉͉̙̩̬̖̀͢͝A̭͕͈͇̺̩̩̩̗̟͕̖͔̠͊͊͗ͣ̄̈́͐̀̕͢A̶̧ͥ͗̾̔̍̈ͦ͠͝͏̪̰̖̦̰͉̳Aͥ͐͆̾ͩ͋͑ͯ̇̒͊͗ͤͭ͊͐ͫ͞͏͕͈̯͔͍̪̭̹̳̭̟̝̪ͅȦ̸̧̩̤̗̱͔̗͉̫̦͍̝̮̱̞͉̼̹̾ͦ̅͑̈́ͦ̑͑͗ͣ̽ͯ́̀̚ͅͅA̸̛̛̟̲͕̫͎̱̜̺͚̙̝̩͚̪̗̙͖ͫ̽ͧ̆̌̅ͮͮ͑̃̆̀ͅA̡̛̜͇̩͚̟̠̘͕̗ͬͯͫ̋̍ͬ̔ͦ̆́́͜A̧̲̜̦̻̼͓̻͙̞̅ͪ͒ͭ̓ͬͫ́ͪ͒̋̈ͦͣ̌̚̚͡Å̷̭̜̱̳̺̬̺̝͉̙̣͍͍̭͇̩̍ͧͥͧ̿̇̒ͪͤ̀̾ͤͮ́̚A̷̶̬͔̩̘̱̻̝̗̪̠ͤͪ̎̔̇̽ͣ̒̚Å̈́̅̊̋̓҉̙̳̩͙̘̼̪̭̯̲̮́̕͝A̸ͬͭ͆ͮͧͪ͑͊ͭ̔ͪ̅͏҉̦̼̩̺A̛̫̗̝͎͇͎͖̠ͭ͗̽ͨͤͪ͑̀̌̍́A̛͎̺̳̦͌͊ͯ͊͌͠A̐̍̊̃͗̆̽̅ͮ̅͗ͧ̎̊ͯ̒ͧͣ̐͢͏̷̢̨̦̼̼̤͓̘̖̜͙A̔̿̍ͧ͊͘͢҉̯̣͉͇Ã̈͑ͪͮͣ͒͏͕̮͚͍̫̝͢ͅA̷̛̭̟͍̭̺̜̲͍̙͍̞̟͈͎̝̭̻͆ͤͮ̄͗̍͒͐̆̑̃ͨ͊́͞͝Ą̘͕̰̻͍̹͈̦͍̮͈̱͓͇͖̖̲ͥ͊͐̒̅͑́ͅẠ̴̷̷͙͔͈̘̥̲̦͖͖͎͖ͤͩ͆ͥͭ͡A̢͍̦͙͔̖͙̞͍̙̦͕̙͚̦͇̅̍̈́́̓ͤ̒ͬ̊ͯͧ̽ͤ̍̒́͜͝Ȃ̯̗̫̘̳̱̜̭̦͔̪̟ͫ̃̉͐͛ͣ͜Ă̶̸̬̬̳̦͖͈͇̳̥̮̮̲̦̹͇ͫ̿ͭ͒ͬͫ́̑̂́̕͞ͅĄ̷̷̢̮̮̠̼̟̆ͪ͐A̵̪̱̠̩͎̪̞̟̝͔̮̹̳̦̗͇̋̓͐̄͐ͪ̉͌̆͂͒͊̊̈ͭ͐͠Ą̭̝͉̥̭̱̦̲͍͍ͦͪ̃̊̕͜͡Ȁ̵͓̱̙͙̺͕͎̠̯͖̼͈̈ͮ̊͌̈̎̀̔̅ͩ̽͆̍͐̀͝A̶̝͙̮̙͎̯̩͉ͪ̇̆̾ͣ̚̕͟͡A̟͍̙̪̙̯̠̦̩̠ͦ̇̂ͦ͊ͬ́͟A͊͐̈͒҉̩͔̯̳̻̯̰͙͇͙̦̱̟̤̫̙͜ͅͅA̴̠͚̖̭̰͍ͫͧͭ̓̈̀̒̓̏̀Ã͒͗ͩ͑ͩ̉̀͏̨̖͚̮Å̶̩̻̺̗͎̠͈͊͛̅͆͋͗̂̾̑̏ͨ́̚̚̕A͋̆̋͆͗̑̿̄̚͏̹̮̟͓̜̙̘͓̟ͅA̙̲̩̘̤̫̻̼̭͎͔̗̫͉͈̩̝̪ͫ̎̓̑̌̚͞Aͭ̅͆́̾̿̔͋̂͑ͮ̄͋ͧͨ̆̋̊̕͏͎̳̭̹͔̻̮̰̯͉̦͇̟͈͜͝A̴̶̸̡͙͍͙̼̪̥̘̬̲̭̺͕̋͊̌ͪ̓͊͒̏̇̌ͅÀ̵̧͍̪̤̪̪̦̟͎̘̪̗̲͎̳͂̐͒̈́̋ͫͩͬͫ̽̃͆̆̌̋́A̟͓̟̟̪̩͎̅ͩ͐ͣͥ̓͐̎ͭ͊̓͆͐ͭ̌̋ͥ̚̚͜͝Ạ̶̢̻͚͍̳̳̣̺͚̜̜̰̎̀͆̈́̍̀͢͝Ạ̧̨͇͎͉͕̠̰͓̠̤̙̗ͥͩͪͩ̔́ͫ̿̉̀͋ ̸̛̻̤̗̩̽̅̑́͟. In an interview on Marc Maron’s, podcast, “, WTF” Mencia claims that he never had heard the Cosby joke until people accused him of stealing.

And that the similarities between the two versions were entirely coincidental. . No way.

. It’s not just the topic, it’s the way, Mencia matches the pacing Uses the same intonation and ends with the same punchline. .

Maron gives him the same out that CK gave to Dane Cook. [ Mencia . .

. , right. , ] Maron.

Sometimes people just got sponge brains and their brains are working really quick. . So you all of a sudden, you see a bit that you think is funny.

And then you add a couple tags to it in your head. And a few days later, you don’t remember that you saw the bit. .

You just remember what you added to it and it’s your bit. . If Mencia is unwilling to admit he purposefully stole the joke, then the comedy community will accept the next best confession that he unwittingly stole the joke.

As long as one way or another. They receive confirmation that he is not the creator of that joke and thus does not have the right to tell it. .

I’ve had a hard time grappling with this idea of cryptomnesia. . From one perspective, it’s very useful.

As humans we evolved to cooperate in tribes. Group. Problem-Solving was paramount.

, Recalling exactly who came up with an idea is not as important as recalling what that valuable idea. Was. “ Perhaps”, as the blog Brain Pickings puts it “.

This is the fate of creativity and has always been a part of its essential nature. ”, But we live in a capitalist economy that is far more individualistic than our ancestors’ was. .

The only way to survive is to work hard and hope that it pays off. . If everyone is allowed to steal everyone else’s ideas, the willingness to work, hard disappears.

– So maybe we’ve always subconsciously stolen and nothing is really ever created so much as edited. . But how do we reconcile the plausible evolutionary importance of cryptomnesia with the thieves that take advantage of hard-working creative people In a piece by Javier Grillo-Marxuach, titled “? I Am a Fucking Plagiarist”, he writes.

Maybe then everyone suffers from cryptomnesia to an extent. , Yet there remain the fucking plagiarists. .

Those who selfishly and actively steal from others. , So maybe Dane Cook, is a plagiarist. , But who isn’t Mencia? On the other hand, is a fucking plagiarist.

In stand-up a comedian has an idea. Maybe writes it down, maybe not performs it on stage multiple times changing the phrasing or its order in the routine and the joke vanishes into thin air. Until it’s recorded or performed again.

, A joke doesn’t have the tangible quality of a piece of writing which makes it so much harder to police. And I’m not necessarily lobbying for copywriting jokes. .

In fact, it feels dirty somehow having an encircled C next to a punchline. . So I think what becomes paramount in all of this is respect.

[, A classic Rodney Dangerfield’s bit ]” And that’s the story of my life, no respect. . I don’t get no respect at all !”.

It’s something Oswalt has fought for in comedy for a long time. . There’s too much to refute in these lines.

, So I’ll just turn to what Oswalt feels is the core of the problem. . Everyone wants to be funny sure.

, But the problem is, everyone feels like they have a right to be funny. , But it’s not a right. It’s skill.

! One that requires crafting and hard work. . You don’t have a right to be funny.

Just like you, don’t have a right to be a violinist. . The problem is, while you can’t just pick up a violin and sound like a virtuoso, you can steal a joke and sound.

Like a comedian. , The only way to discourage people from doing so argues Oswalt Is to underscore the fact that stand-up is a creative pursuit. , An art form that deserves the same respect and regulation as others.

. In closing I’ll say this one of my favorite philosophers, Ludwig Wittgenstein believed that the most serious and profound problems and questions and issues could be discussed only in the form of jokes. , And I think the least we could do is show an unwavering respect for the creative, Hard-Working people who present us with big ideas and make us laugh.


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