Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Rob Delaney Has What Should Be the Final Word on Joke Plagiarism

From Rob Delaney's Vice column comes this gem, which anyone who ever plans to publicly accuse someone of joke theft should read five times before going forward with their accusation:

I had the good fortune some years ago to have a joke stolen from me and performed on TV by a comic I knew. At first I was upset, but then I realized that, poor etiquette aside, the guy was funny and he would’ve been on TV with or without my joke. I also realized that if I couldn’t immediately write several more jokes to replace it, then I wasn’t funny, and I had no business calling myself a comedian. So I forced myself to make a mental adjustment and decide that the guy had done me a giant favor. And he had. I became much less precious about material. Of course I’d be “proud” of a good joke, but I knew to thicken my skin and just produce. My silent motto when I began to encounter joke theft on Twitter was “Go ahead and take ‘em, motherfucker. Here come five more.” My goal as a comedian became to be a Delta Force Operator of humor that you could throw in an empty room with nothing and I could make something funny and kill people with it. This remains my goal.

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

Update: Delaney clarifies on his Tumblr:

Obviously if you steal jokes, you’re a cunt. I was just saying that I’m not going to hunt down joke thieves; I’m going to write more jokes instead. You can choose where to put your energy. I don’t want to be a joke accountant or cop, I just want to write them. It doesn’t mean joke theft isn’t patently wrong.

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  • http://twitter.com/joshung Joshua Ungerleider

    The article is worth the read just to find the reason behind that Twitter avatar of his.

  • Jacob Bartoszek@facebook

    I'm sorry but I COMPLETELY DISAGREE with Delaney's and this author's take on plagiarism. It sounds like Delaney is rationalizing the poaching of his work by a friend to preserve his relationship. While striving for continual development of material is admirable, I don't think it should come from the mental laziness of other "comics." It doesn't matter how talented someone is as an comic/orator, if you can't create something funny from your own thoughts, then don't perform. Simple as that.

    The same argument can be used for stealing intellectual property. When one university steals the research of another university, and publishes these finding as their own, THAT'S ILLEGAL. The university who was victimized didn't "look at the bright side" and say, "Oh gee, lets start researching 5 new subjects for the betterment of this establishment!" NO! It's fucking stealing. Comedy is an art, and the artists in the genre of comedy own the jokes they produce. Would it have been OK for Da Vinci's brother to steal the Mona Lisa and proclaim it as his own? Of course not. What if Da Vinci painted 5 more masterpieces as a result? STILL WRONG.

    If you honestly believe people like Ned Holness should be put in the same category as genius comics like Carlin, Pryor, or Louie C.K., then you have a very distorted view of reality.

  • Elliott83

    Says the guy who has been caught stealing tweets more than once….

    • robdelaney

      @Elliott83 To whom are you referring?

  • debraswheel

    Rob Delaney has run his share of plagiarized tweets. It's pretty ironic he would be picked to write about them.

    • robdelaney

      @debraswheel Hi. I have never plagiarized a tweet. But thanks for weighing in! Have I posted tweets similar to ones that someone else thought up somewhere else, earlier than me? Of course. In the realm of joke writing, that happens all the time, especially on Twitter. But consciously taking a joke someone else made up and claiming as my own? Nope. Not only is that a shitty, lazy thing to do, it's also roughly impossible to get away with. Why would I make the career of comedian, in which the odds of success are so remote, even more difficult? I like to sleep at night and that would be difficult if I, as you incorrectly say, plagiarized. You have quite literally no idea what you're talking about.

  • Stephen Symmes

    unfortunately i agree with everyone else that rob delaney has plagiarized quite a few jokes on twitter. of course he'll deny it here. i'd invite people to ask around for themselves.

    it's pretty well established in the favstar community. many of rob's thefts weren't "similar", they were pretty obviously jokes that he slightly reworded or took half of, but verbatim.

    despite his claim that its "impossible", it's actually quite easy if you hve over 100,000 followers and cherry pick from people with a small following. no one noticed, and pleas from the few people who bother to help police that sort of thing (people like thiefpolice or heddahopstar with small follower accounts that no one notices) go ignored by rob's blindly loyal who are happy to look the other way.

    • robdelaney
  • Joshua Dallas Razo@twitter

    I never heard of Rob Delaney stealing jokes

    • Cora

      @Joshua Dallas Razo@twitter That wouldn't surprise me considering you aren't apart of the favstar community.

    • Joshua Dallas Razo@twitter

      @Cora You got me there. I am not apart of the favstar community

  • Greg Howard@twitter

    And obviously favstar is the be all, end all of commitments that legitimize your comments/postings?

    I think not.

    I have no horse in this race. I barely know who Mr. Delaney is. But after being online all these years, since before the WWW existed, I feel comfortable identifying those who are a horse's arse vs. those who are what they claim.

    In this instance I vote in favor of Delaney, as his detractors seem to have clearly visible resentments that depend on emotional arguments rather than facts.

    • Cora

      @Greg Howard@twitter I haven't read anything that even connotes high emotion here. I'm not sure where you conjured that from.

      Further, if you "barely know who Mr. Delaney is," then how are you in any position to judge whether or not he has plagiarized jokes? How are you not simply the blindly faithful Delaney fan Mr. Symmes spoke of earlier?

      I never saw anyone claim that Favstar was the "be all, end all." You're building straw men there. Though I'm inclined to agree with a community, encompassing a large group of people, over the opinion of someone who admits "barely know[ing] who Mr. Delaney is."

  • Walter White @twitter

    Rob Delaney is one of the funniest people on earth. He does not steal jokes. Some jokes sound similar to others and it is coincidental. You guys are acting like aids babies.

  • http://splitsider.com Adam Frucci

    Accusing Delaney of joke theft is fucking ridiculous.

  • Donni Saphire@twitter

    Hi. I'm a "part of the Favstar community," and Rob just doesn't have the reputation you guys are implying. I can think of only one time he was accused of plagiarism, over a year ago, and the dude didn't have a link to the alleged stolen tweet. That was it.
    There are sometimes "great minds think alike" situations with Twitter jokes, because alll the corny old premises have been done at this point. To his credit, that was never Rob's thing. He's in his own lane.

  • http://twitter.com/joshung Joshua Ungerleider

    I don't think tweets can really be plagiarized. A tweet is just a quip, to be stealing it needs to be a whole bit IMO. I don't see the point in stealing one tweet here and there either (unless the claim is he steals EVERY tweet, and c'mon). I doubt Delaney ever got a job based off of one tweet. No upside, and incredible downside.

    And what is this Favstar Community? Never heard of it.

  • Freon Deadzone@twitter

    I have followed Rob Delaney for a couple of years. I've NEVER heard him accused of stealing jokes. And all of you accusing him of such behavior in this thread are plainly and simply f***ing tools. You accuse him of something with zero basis. You know how I know you have zero basis to accuse him of joke theft? You didn't even provide any examples. Get better at trolling, dickbags!

  • Big Mamma Jamma

    There are very popular tweeters who steal right and left. Rob Delaney is not one of them and if you accuse him of such you should have the balls to find a way to cite the instance. It's very easy to determine and cite stolen tweets; Twitter time stamps don't lie. Worst thing Rob is guilty of is FF'ing people not as funny as him.

    Also, non-ironic reference to the Favstar community makes me dizzy because my eyes begin to spastically roll non-stop at the very idea of it. The "Favstar Community" is a lot of marginally funny folks gaming the system by non-stop starring of each others' stuff. In some ways Favstar is one of the worst things to happen to comedy on Twitter.

    In short, Rob is definitely well-qualified to comment on this. Some folks just as popular as him (follower count-wise) are not, but at least they seem to have the sense to know it.

    • Donni Saphire@twitter

      @Big Mamma Jamma haha that's why I put it in quotes. It's a good place to find new funny at all hours of the day, though. Not from the. "community" or whatever. Just by seeing what the funniest people favorite, then what THOSE people favorite, and so on. (http://favstar.fm for the guy who asked upthread.)

    • Rob Brayer@facebook

      @Big Mamma Jamma I don't know what you meant by FF'ing but I assume it's not the Google "I got lucky" result: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flirty_Fishing

  • robdelaney

    Here's a post I did a year ago on the subject:

    shocking twitter controversy!

    Hi! I just posted a tweet and soon after, two people told me I “stole” it from someone who’d written it “back in like March.” Neither of the people who contacted me were the purported “original tweeter” however, nor did they provide a link or anything. HERE’S THE FUN PART THOUGH: the tweet I posted today was a repost of a tweet I’d done last December! (http://twitter.com/robdelaney/statuses/6573275671)

    Issue 1: I’d rather get hit by a car than steal a joke or a tweet. I pride myself on creating funny, original stuff, and while I realize I’m not curing cancer or teaching a kid to read, somebody’s gotta write the jokes, and that somebody happens to be me. I do my best and am honored and humbled that ANYBODY follows me and reads my silly jokes. And I would rather never tweet again than steal one tweet. Barf on my dick five times; the idea makes me physically sick.

    Anyway, I posted the link to those two bumbling cybercops, and asked them if they had a link to their guy’s tweet. Haven’t heard back from them yet. BUT THEN! another guy wrote me, chastising me for recycling a tweet of my own!

    Issue 2: I repost old tweets from time to time, and will sure as shit continue to do so. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, at all. I’m a standup comedian first, and I like to get my jokes in front of as many people as possible. If I’m combing through old tweets to see if I might want to build some standup around them and see one I like (and it’s at least several months old) I will repost that motherfucker with a smile on my face. I have written a lot of jokes on Twitter, and though I write for a living, you all know Twitter doesn’t pay. So if I feel like I’ve got an older joke that a few newer followers might laugh at, you can bet your zitty ass I am reposting it.

    Finally, to the folks who called me a thief, if you’ve been on Twitter for more than twenty minutes, you should be familiar with the concept of parallel thinking. Case in point would be all the shitty Tila Tequila/Gathering of the Juggalo tweets the last couple of days. Countless people are writing their horrible, unoriginal, clumsy jokes on that subject and guess what? There’s been some overlap in ideas! Thievery? No, it’s just that sometimes two or more people swirl the day’s news around in their addled melons and what comes out is similar; a variation on the old “If you give 1,000,000 monkeys 1,000,000 typewriters…” So in the “virtual writers room” that is Twitter, you might want to pause and consider before calling someone a thief, especially if it’s me, because a) you’ll be wrong and b) I’ll eat your kids.

    • http://twitter.com/joshung Joshua Ungerleider

      @robdelaney I just wanted to reply to Rob Delaney…

      But your right, similar tweets are to be expected. And with a character limit, each person is less able to mold the joke in their voice, so they'll seem even more similar.

      Splitsider posts a WitStream each day, with the days best tweets, usually the first half are on the same subject, and while aren't "the same tweet" they have the same idea. It's silly to excuse somebody of theft of a tweet.

      And if you google "Rob Delaney st…" none of the autocomplete options are "steals," and in 2011, I think that qualifies as scientific evidence.

  • Stephen Symmes

    rob delaney enlisting the help of his followers to claim the opposite of what everyone else knows is expected, but i would take it with a grain of salt people.

  • Donni Saphire@twitter

    I don't follow Rob or vice versa. What YOU are claiming is the opposite of all posted evidence. You're also not on Twitter under that name, apparently. Scared to spread this BS with your real name? I bet.

  • Freon Deadzone@twitter

    Hey, Stephen Symmes. You're a shitposter. You don't know anything about the situation. Who are you on Twitter? I'm faultypancake. Let's see how many of MY jokes you think are stolen, dickface.

  • robdelaney

    @Stephen Symmes Hi Pal! Your posts are fun. Let's look at them!

    "unfortunately i agree with everyone else that rob delaney has plagiarized quite a few jokes on twitter. of course he'll deny it here. i'd invite people to ask around for themselves."

    Yes, I suppose I would deny the VERY SERIOUS charge of plagiarism on a comment thread under a column I WROTE about joke theft. So – well said there. I too would "invite people to ask around for themselves." I would REVEL in it. I cordially invite any and all to crawl up the ass of my writing on Twitter and elsewhere (warning; they'll have their work cut out for them, due to the amount of stuff I have out there: Twitter, blogs, magazine articles, online columns and then hours of standup) and see if they can then say I steal material.
    You reference "thiefpolice," but my only interaction with them has been when they've called out others for stealing MY tweets. I don't know "heddahopstar."
    Finally, I haven't enlisted anyone to weigh in on this thread. I'm a big boy. And though you are showing me a tremendous amount of disrespect in a public forum (And I don't mean "me," as someone with a large amount of followers, or the author of the column this blog is quoting, I mean "me" as another human being you are baselessly calling a thief) I would ask you to really think about whether or not it would make sense for me to steal jokes. I guess I'm wasting so much time in the toilet of a comment thread because I work with words and you're calling into question the integrity of THE ONLY MATERIAL I HAVE TO WORK WITH, my words.
    So, just for you, I will right now craft some original tweets, about you.

    1. It is beautiful outside. Great day to go outside and show an Italian man your prolapsed asshole
    2. I'm sorry an alligator is going to chew off your dad's dick on Tuesday.
    3. You sad, sad, internet saddy. You're a weird mean coward and your nipples are misshapen & crusty with cop jizz.
    4. Dial 911; you're about to rape yourself with a toilet brush.
    5. Hello talentless diaper wearer! Jesus beats off to the idea of you getting in a car accident.

    I just made those up, just now! Some are better than others, but I think you get the idea. I even feel bad that they're mean, but they are funny and fresh off the griddle and I know that's what you look for, Stephen.

    • Kelly Oxford@facebook

      @robdelaney genius.

  • http://twitter.com/joshung Joshua Ungerleider

    @robdelaney I just wanted to reply to Rob Delaney…

    But your right, similar tweets are to be expected. And with a character limit, each person is less able to mold the joke in their voice, so they'll seem even more similar.

    Splitsider posts a WitStream each day, with the days best tweets, usually the first half are on the same subject, and while aren't "the same tweet" they have the same idea. It's silly to excuse somebody of theft of a tweet.

    And if you google "Rob Delaney st…" none of the autocomplete options are "steals," and in 2011, I think that qualifies as scientific evidence.

  • Fidelio

    Sorry, Rob, but in that follow-up statement you backtracked on your column, and did a complete 180 on the morality of stealing jokes, whether you admit it or not.

    Saying, "I forced myself to make a mental adjustment and decide that the guy had done me a giant favor. And he had," is not consistent with saying, "Obviously if you steal jokes, you’re a cunt." Did your so-called friend do you a favor, or is he a cunt who did something that's "obviously wrong?"

    If you just worded your column poorly, and what you meant to say was, "I made the best out of a bad situation when someone stole my joke, because even when someone stabs you in the back, you should still make the best of it," then you should just say so. But don't try to convince your readers that it's been obvious all along that your position is that joke stealing is inherently cunty.

    • robdelaney

      @Fidelio Joke theft is empirically, indefensibly cunty. Read the post I wrote A YEAR BEFORE this article which I've added to this comment thread. It's a few comments up. Since your time isn't worth shit to you (as demonstrated by your addition to this thread) I'm sure you'll do so.
      You suck more than the people accusing me of theft with your "this or that" mentality. Are you ready to have your mind blown, "Fidelio?" (AMAZING choice for a name, by the way) The person who stole my joke both did me a "favor" AND something "wrong." AND – my choice of the word "adjustment" means I DECIDED to view it as a positive when it sure the fuck presented itself as a negative – a THEFT – as I stated in the initial VICE column. Since you're either an idiot, or don't understand nuance, or can't allow that a thought process can evolve, I'll state it one more time, ADDING NOTHING NEW: Joke theft is wrong. If you steal jokes from me, rather than freak out and hunt you down, I will write more and focus on my job of making people laugh. I will ALCHEMIZE, LIKE A WIZARD, a negative into a positive. Go get some sunlight.

  • CarmelaBing

    Wow, not only is this Rob Delaney guy struggling with an immense forehead, and lumpy facial features, but he seems to have some deep seated hostility issues that come out whenever anyone doesn't agree with him.

  • Kelly Oxford@facebook

    Thoughts on anonymous commenters:
    If you don't have the fucking balls to put your name or @name to your accusations, even you don't fully believe your own words.
    They mean nothing.

    Also, I heard Carmela (anonymous) and Fidelo (anonymous) and Stephen Debraswheel (anon), are all baby rapers and I'm typing it on the internet now, so it's gospel. Everyone is talking about it. Everyone knows it. I get texts from people about Stephen and Deb the baby rapers, and also from the babies they rape.
    Believe what I say, because I'm saying it on the internet AND I'm putting my name on it. THAT'S HOW ACCUSATIONS WORK YOU KNOW!!

  • Kelly Oxford@facebook

    Holy shit, another text from a baby saying Stephen Symmes and all of his anonymous names raped it. :((

  • CarmelaBing

    Oh hey look, it's Kelly Oxford, the queen of all elitist c-bags convinced of their own virtue. For those who aren't familiar with Kelly, she posts boring tweets and is worshiped for things thousands of others are doing better with less followers. Kelly is angry about this and it shows.

    I can only speak for myself, but I would welcome our ip addresses be shown so that Kelly's desperate, spurious claims that I'm someone's puppet account get the ridicule it deserves.

    • IBentMyWookie

      @CarmelaBing "fewer" followers, dear.
      Also, what is a c-bag? I'm not sure I have one. Should I? My doctor's not available until Monday, so is my possible lack of a c-bag something that requires immediate attention, or can it wait until after the weekend?

  • Kelly Oxford@facebook

    Holy shit! It's the infamous baby raper Carmela Bing. I'm HONORED!!!

    Also, your tits are epic. Thanks for sharing.


  • Baxter Punch@twitter

    First of all, let me say, I have, like, no followers on twitter, and I don't pretend to be any sort of authority on this subject.

    A few months ago, I starting following a funny twitterer that I had seen retweeted by a lot of comedians I respect. A few hours after I started following her, she tweeted a joke crazily similar to my motto. Now, if you look at your list of followers, the newest are usually at the top, and the motto is clearly visible.

    Did she steal my joke? Who knows, and who fucking cares. She could have forgotten she had seen it, came up with it by herself, or a million other innocent things. The thing is, when you are a half decent person (that's all I'll give myself), you may start to assume other people are decent, too. Your first reaction shouldn't be to call the joke police, but instead assume the best.

    Leave it to the Joe Rogans of the world, or their actual peers to call them out- people that might actually know them.

  • Phil Davidson

    I don't understand people who get all bent out of shape about joke theft that has no impact on them whatsoever. Even if Rob Delaney has used another person's joke, and I'd bet the farm that’s not the case, why the hell do you care, Stephen Symmes? Unless you wrote the joke and Delaney is taking credit for it and raking in all those non-existent riches that come with clever tweets, why even give it any thought? When I read a story about joke stealing, my reaction, which I believe is the most appropriate, is to say, “Well, I’ll be. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to return to masturbating.”
    It’s not something to get hung up on, which was Delaney’s point in his essay. Why be bothered by it? Go write new jokes. This is beside the point, but in Delaney’s defense, his is a pretty singular voice on Twitter. He plays your typical oversexed, left-leaning, chubby-chasing, fart connoisseur. I haven’t seen many similar personas on Twitter that Delaney could poach from. He has a style and he sticks to it.
    As for joke thieves, it’s hard for me to grasp how some people can consciously take someone else’s work and pass it off as their own. My guess is that these people have deeper issues to deal with. One guy I grew up with was always updating his twitter with lines stolen directly from Conan and others. He was a teacher and a few months back was charged with having sex with one of his underage students. So there you have it, all joke thieves are child molesters.

  • Kate Holzemer@twitter

    This take on plagiarism is so thoughtful and badassed. This comment thread is so disproportionately yucky.

  • sally smith@twitter

    Rob Delaney can steal my tweets anytime. I'd be honoured. Thats how I know someone is stealing my tweets, cause I stide u's in words sometimes.

  • Vincent@twitter

    @RobDelaney stole my butthole virginity!! I wish he'd stolen a joke from me instead.

  • Jason Cook@twitter

    Everyone here is a monster.

  • Kayla Pohl@twitter

    Rob Delaney, please steal my tweets, you sexy joke monster.

  • jamonthirteen@twitter

    Anybody who's anybody is here! @RobDelaney rules! #chaos

  • Luke Stanek@twitter

    I have an opinion on this topic, which I choose to keep to myself, because who the fuck cares what a non-comedian thinks about joke plagiarism? As a proud non-comedian-for-a-living I will defer to the comedians as experts.

  • CommanderPrissypants@twitter

    I'm stealing Internet Saddy as my new motto.

  • Heather Ray@twitter

    Rob Delaney stole my great grandpa's green speedo and is now FAMOUS for wearing a STOLEN ARTICLE OF CLOTHING. My great grandpa worked hard his whole life and finally earned that Speedo after winning a wrestling match with a wolverine (whose hair, incidentally, Rob shaved off and glued to his chest for the same photo). This guy is a thieving thievetastic thievebag!

  • patrick graham ©@twitter

    errrm – is this the right room for the Christian comedy classes?

  • Dan Eastman@twitter

    At the time of my writing this the account known as @robdelaney has over 6,000 tweets. In the realm of logic, I cannot find any reason why Rob would look at another user's tweet, then at this number and think "That is funny. After thousands of tweets I cannot measure up to that nor will I make any attempt. I shall take it as my own." After 6,000 tweets it'd be a shame if any single one or even two fell into the realm of parallel thinking. For a guy who writes and performs comedy for a living and is constantly writing, is that even posssible!?

    I sense some bitterness among the crowd of Twitter users that constantly calls out the more successful ones. I think it's because Twitter is all they have. Sure, they could attend an open mic and try out some comedy skills. It's just easier from a safe distance on the internet behind a screen name. Let's not forget that as far as Twitter is concerned, we're all just shitty one-liner comics on a social networking site. They are status updates. It's not some timeless literature. You are not F. Scott Fitzgerald. Even if someone is stealing some trite nonsense you wrote about dicks, write more. That's what Rob is saying. If your brain absolutely must believe he's stealing from others, and he isn't, take it as a challenge and write more.

    With that said, I don't have many followers. If you steal one of my tweets I'll fucking murder you.

  • rd