My Dry Bar Comedy special on VidAngel is now available to both VidAngel subscribers as well as anyone who want to trade a dollar for some clean comedy. I’m very happy with my performance and think it’s my best recorded-for-posterity work to date.
VidAngel has been serving up excerpts from all its comedy specials on YouTube. Not a bad strategy—those little samples they give you at Costco often lead you to buy the whole package, right?
So the folks who like two minutes of my material might decide to see the whole special. And maybe tell a friend! My job is get as many people as possible laughing. I couldn’t resist checking the comments on my video clips to see how well I was doing. Thomas made my day with “Laughing here in Dublin Ireland.”
But one comment very much bothered me. The person suggested a piece of my performance, my material, my creativity was stolen from someone else. I know that’s not the case, and anyone who knows me knows that I spend enormous amounts of time writing, editing, and honing my jokes.
Still, it’s entirely possible that some of my observations are topics another comic might have weighed in on. I’m not the first guy to ever check into a hotel.
At first I was heartbroken. I work so hard on my material! How could anyone think of me as…joke stealer? What I write and what I perform is all me. It’s my brain, my integrity, my reputation.
The YouTube commenter accused me of performing a bit similar to Brian Regan, a very successful comedian—with a lot more specials under his belt that I have. Meanwhile, I have performed with Dennis Regan (Brian’s brother) who did not see fit to call the Joke Police.
I don’t know which specific joke the person was referring to, but, c’mon, most working comedians fly to gigs. I’ve racked up two million miles on one airline alone. It would be strange if comedians did not poke fun at airlines.
Most of my airline material has been years in the making. Portions of that routine go back to a self-produced comedy album which was produced on cassette. I think I still have six cassettes in the garage. I would love to send one to that commenter, but no one has seen a cassette player in years.
I’ve always tried to write timeless material so I can make people laugh, then crack up their kids and grandkids years later.
So it’s possible that two (or more) working comedians have similar views about topic. That does not mean anyone is stealing jokes. Even one of my wordsmith idols, George Carlin recognized this. In one of his books (it might have been Brain Droppings), he wrote something like “I know others have thought of this, but here’s my take on it…”
No one’s gonna say Mr. Carlin stole anything. He just thought something that other people also thought about and said so. Then Carlinized the concept.
Coincidentally, I saw Brian Regan in an episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” with Jerry Seinfeld. The two of them talked about having the same premise for a joke—but different deliveries.
My rule of thumb has always been to let a fellow comic know if I have a bit that seems similar to his or hers: “I didn’t get it from you, and I don’t think you got it from me, but I wanted you to know we have a joke in common.”
Over the years, I’ve had friends tell me they heard one of my jokes on TV. They want to know if I sold my material, and the answer is always “no!” (Although I have written and sold new material specifically for TV shows.)
Whether a joke is stolen from me or I happen to have a bit very similar to that of another comedian, I drop once that material is heard by a large TV audience. That’s one of the best reasons to keep producing new material.
To prepare for the Dry Bar Comedy special, I sent my material to many comics who have toured nationally and performed on several television shows. They all have similar ethics regarding originality. If they thought my jokes echoed pieces they’d heard before, or were shadows of things others say, they would have let me know. (You’ll see their names in the closing credits of my special.)
I believe that anyone who thinks I lifted a joke is simply not familiar with me. If someone hears two similar jokes, it’s human nature to assume the performer he or she knows is the originator.
No comic can know everything that’s happening on every stage, so more than one performer can get big laughs by sharing their funny take on travel (or car repair or kittens or cholesterol). It’s rare for any act to survive by stealing.
Now excuse me, I need to go write more material for my next headline special so fans of those comedy “household names” will become fans of mine.