OK, pay attention, because this is important stuff. As you are no doubt are aware, particularly if you’re a huge fucking nerd on the internet, a user by the name of @prodigalsam has been rankling the comedy community. Normally this wouldn’t be news, (it probably still isn’t), but he’s built up a healthy following in the neighborhood of 130k, and he’s done it the old fashioned way: seeing other funny people’s material and then passing it off as his own.
All of this ground has been covered ad nauseam elsewhere. This Tumblr, Borrowing Sam, collects his most egregious bits of thievery. Jeb Lund, erstwhile Gawker contributor, explained the situation succinctly here. If you can muster up even the barest whisper of a fuck about the politics of writing jokes on Twitter, all of this will be familiar to you.
What’s even worse than the joke plagiarism, however, are the comedian’s constant justifications for his process. In an interview with Salon today, @progidalsam, aka Sammy Rhodes, a minister in South Carolina, explained, yet again, that what he does is not actually stealing, but just another page in the long tradition of riffing off of other people’s creations. As usual, the cover up here is ending up being worse than the crime in the first place.
It’s worth a read, if only to see the ways people can contort themselves into any sort of justification for wrong-doing when called out for it. Also if you’re a huge fan of steaming bullshit. Here are a few of the biggest lies:
That means some of my early tweets were kind of like covers, and as I tried to find my own voice and style I probably did sound similar to some of my favorite tweeters. But I never sat down and thought, “Hmm. Who can I rip off today?”
In other words, he didn’t think about ripping people off, it just came really naturally to him without much effort.
It’s like Jack White accusing the Black Keys of ripping off the White Stripes. Lot of similar ideas and sounds at play there, but ultimately they’re two different bands.
This analogy would only make sense if bands regularly played other band’s entire songs but occasionally switched the order of the lyrics around and never ever told anyone that it was a cover.
…For example there was a Kelly Oxford tweet that I loved where she said, “I have a Victoria’s Secret model’s body!!! (in my basement).” I still love that tweet with all my heart. So I thought it would be fun to do a similar one: “I have the body of a Hollister model. His name is Taylor. He’s in my attic.” I still love that tweet and felt like it was a riff on Kelly, not a rip-off.
One popular way to show your appreciation for someone’s tweet is by retweeting it. Another is favoriting it. A third is re-writing it and presenting it to the world as your own.
At the end of the day, there are similar jokes about similar topics. Which is what Rainn Wilson said when he came to my defense: “If someone spent hours sifting thru my tweets & comparing w/ the rest of twitter, I’m sure they’d find ones I’d plagiarized.”
This is true indeed, and it happens all the time to various people in the world of comedy, and especially on Twitter. When it happens to the same person all the time, that’s the difference. No one would be writing dozens of articles about some guy who made a similar joke to someone else that one time unless it became a blatant pattern.
…I went on to say that I never intentionally stole a tweet from any of my “heroes” but still the right thing to do would have been to ask their permission to do a tweet similar to theirs.
No it wouldn’t, it would have been to RT the joke you liked like a normal fucking person.