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Standup Guise: Stealing Jokes Isn’t funny


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From Chicago’s Laugh Factory

By Casey Bukro

A funny thing happened on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight show: they were talking about ethics in comedy and joke stealing.

It’s no laughing matter when comics steal jokes from other comedians. How can you stop it?

The Chicago Tonight program was prompted by a lawsuit filed by Alex Kaseberg, a Winnetka freelance comedy writer, who accuses television talk show host Conan O’Brien of stealing his jokes.

“Plagiarism is a huge deal in journalism,” said Phil Ponce, the moderator. “It’s a career-ender. Why is it not a career-ender in comedy?”

Nobody on the panel of comedy experts laughed.

“There’s a history of joke-stealing” that goes back to vaudeville, answered Anne Libera, director of comedy studies at Columbia College Chicago. Performers sometimes stood backstage and took notes so they could tell the stolen jokes later.

It’s not easy to prove when a joke is stolen, said comedian Dwayne Kennedy. People accuse others of joke-stealing all the time, he said, but “the topic is so broad,” it’s hard to prove.

Continue reading Standup Guise: Stealing Jokes Isn’t funny