Giving credit where credit is due

Sometimes blogging involves a burden. One might have a subject of some personal “weight.” One way to lose it is to share it, which puts the psyche on a needed diet and allows the purge of the thing bugging you. This is one of those burden/purging posts.

Years ago, in a book by Marilyn Vos Savant I read that one thing the world lacks most is “justice.” That’s true. Not just ‘cause one of the smartest people in the world (Vos Savant) says so, but because I can see it.

This week I found some injustice in my biz. And yes, I know, this show biz thing can be as wicked a business as any, and more cutthroat than most. But still when something terribly unjust smacks you in the face, no amount of preparation or awareness softens the blow.

For the past few years, there’s been a brouhaha (which is not funny even tho’ it has a “ha-ha” built in) involving credit for the authorship of the funny Letters from a Nut book series. Jerry Seinfeld, a comedy icon,  weighed in and did so in a terribly-awful way, taking away credit from a stand-up comedy veteran name Bruce Baum. I don’t understand why someone with so much clout, would add his Goliath weight to the wrong side of such a clear-cut issue.

Let me start by saying, I’ve worked with Bruce Baum back when I was in the embryo stage of my comedy career. Bruce was (and is!) inventive, original, bold, hardworking, and at times, a true force of comedic nature. One of his calling cards is a unique stage presence—sometimes in a diaper!

Bruce has produced comic books and spent a few years making a movie for which he also secured financing.  It’s clear that he was also a co-creator of the Letters from an Nut books. I’ve always admired people who get big laughs doing something so different (as in a character) than my observational brand of comedy. Throughout his career, he’s been a ball of energy that only would need the right fuse to catch fire—big-time.

In most fights, bets, competitions, even arguments, I pull for the underdog, and believe even more in the righteous underdog. I’ve never been one to cheer for Goliath, especially when Goliath is so wrong. But my confusion is multiplied in that I so admire Jerry Seinfeld. There was a period of time where I ran into more than one comic who thought that Jerry Seinfeld (along with some other greats) had already written everything great worth talking about—and that the rest of us were weak mimics.

I now know that’s not true, but at the time, I was perfecting a “lost sock in the dryer” piece that I had to toss despite never having seen Seinfeld (this was pre-YouTube) and although my bit was different, I knew just mentioning “sock” made my joke seem derivative.

So now, I have a hard time comprehending why Jerry would add his voice to the wrong side of such an easy call. I certainly don’t want to think he’s greedy, despite having a financial interest in a play based on the book. He’s already fabulously wealthy. It is a matter of clout? I would hope that those with a high profile would want to include others instead of working hard to exclude them. Also, I don’t want to think the funny mastermind behind “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” is foolish, because that would mean he’s not as brilliant as I have always believed.

Watch this YouTube video where he presents irrefutable evidence of his role in creating the first three Letters from an Nut books.

Now, who’s side are you on?

Admittedly the idea of writing letters to companies to create humor is not new. I once opened for Don Novello—SNL’s Father Guido Sarducci—who wrote The Lazlo Letters, a compilation of humorous correspondence.

Give credit where credit is due—and as signed contracts would dictate.  Letters from a Nut published under the pseudonym Ted L. Nancy was co-authored by Bruce Baum.

Anybody who knows me, knows I like my money. But these days I often use money to aid others in need, sometimes helping those who have been the victim of an injustice. If there’s ever crowdfunding campaign to fight Bruce’s good fight, I will contribute.

I’m no fan of litigation, but I believe Bruce Baum’s story of stolen credit is an appropriate reason to call in the lawyers. So to fully unburden, I hope Bruce gets his due in the form of money, creative credit, and maybe even a public apology for not getting the money and credit sooner.

Thanks for the purge.

NOTE: Since posting this, new information has come to light. Please see this blog post for details.

One Response to Giving credit where credit is due

  1. Steve,

    Thanks for bringing this to light. I remember a long time ago when Jerry brought up this book on a late night talk show interview and I went right out and read it. As a matter of fact, I was so inspired that I tried writing a couple of letters myself (never got any replies).

    I’ll spread the word about the real story.