First we heard some rumblings in late October of last year that Amy Schumer had stolen jokes about sexual positions from the late comedian Patrice O'Neal. Now there appears to be new allegations from female comedians Wendy Liebman, Tammy Pescatelli, and Kathleen Madigan.
We've seen in recent years how damaging joke stealing accusations can be. See Carlos Mencia and Dane Cook. However, let's start at the beginning here.
Although the jokes weren't identical to O'Neal's, they were strikingly similar in content. The positions were named differently, and the timing was a little different, but pretty close. Also interesting is that Amy knew Patrice well, and they were even on the same dais for the Comedy Central roast of Charlie Sheen.
Take a listen to the similarities below.
Okay, now you've seen it. It's creepy to watch, isn't it? I'm having a hard time with it, because I've been a fan of Amy's since I first heard her stand up. I've watched her on Ellen, and various other shows promoting her movie Trainwreck. I was impressed because not only was her stand up hilarious, she's funny on the spot too.
I didn't think too much about the Patrice O'Neal thing when I heard about it at first. When you are in the comedy community, joke stealing is a real thing and people get called out for it all the time. Using someone else's material is the sin of all sins. I've heard multiple comedians telling a couple of my jokes. However, I'm not famous, and I don't have any specials on HBO. Neither do they, so I just blew it off and I continue writing new material. However, if a famous comedian was making the kind of money Amy makes off of my material, I might feel differently.
Still, I thought there was a good chance that the situation with Patrice could be a case of parallel thinking. That kind of stuff happens all the time. I've written jokes about topics that I've heard comedians tell at shows that there's no way they heard me tell them. Again, in that case you just move on and write new material.
Then I heard about this situation with Kathleen Madigan, Tammy Pescatelli, and Wendy Liebman... These are generally well respected, well known comedians. It would be easy to say that maybe they're just jealous of her success, which is possible, but they all have achieved a very high level of success in the comedy world on their own.
However, it has to be said that veins of jealousy run deep in the comedy world. There's a lot of envy and shit talking that occurs behind people's backs. It can be a very petty and immature environment, especially when someone who started after you or who was an opener suddenly shoots to a higher level of fame or success.
There are a lot of reports about this. I first heard about it here, on theinterrobang.com. There is also a full description of the Twitter conversation on Reddit here.
It appears as though most of the original Tweets were deleted, but I did find that Kathleen Madigan retweeted this:
I scoured YouTube for any videos that show their stand up back to back and I did find the one below.Stealing jokes is despicable & should result in being tarred & feathered. @kathleenmadigan & @WendyLiebman work too hard for that crap.— Candy Dax (@iamcandydax) January 19, 2016
Read the full conversation on the Reddit forum and see what you think. It doesn't seem like the accusations are just one joke here or there, it's jokes in her act, sketches on her Comedy Central show, as well as her movie stolen from all three women.
It also seems as though she's opened for all three comedians as well. So was it parallel thinking, did she do it intentionally, or maybe she absorbed material into her subconscious and accidentally used jokes that weren't hers? What do you think?
*Update* 1/19 The guy who posted the thread on Reddit said that his post was deleted so I took a screenshot just in case it happens again. Please do read the full post on Reddit that I've linked in the post, as it has links to a lot of material that you'll want to reference if you're interested.
**2nd Update - 1/20/16
Amy has replied on Twitter as well as on Jim Norton's show. She claims that she's never heard their jokes and would never steal jokes. I included links to both below.
So take a look and see what you think.
On my life, I have never and would never steal a joke.— Amy Schumer (@amyschumer) January 20, 2016
She also added on Jim Norton's show that she's going to take a lie detector test on her show, without editing anything out. I don't know that taking a polygraph really proves anything. For one, they can be wildly inaccurate. Secondly, the public won't care about the results. People are going to make up their own mind.
For the record, I wrote it earlier, but I understand what she's talking about with parallel thinking. That happens all the time. I've seen it happen to me. When I hear someone do a similar joke to mine, I drop it and write new stuff. However, it's really easy to look at a topic or headline and have multiple people come up with the same or similar joke.
It is true what she says about jealousy in the comedy business as well. Comedians can be the most petty, jealous people that you never see coming.
Clearly she's not Carlos Mencia. She's got way more talent, so it's really going to be about what she does from here on out that will dictate what her legacy will be.
One of my favorite comics, Ritch Shydner, weighed in on this and I wanted to share, because I don't think I've heard anyone say this better.
"'Parallel thought' was a term I learned when I moved to NYC in '79. That doesn't even allow for the fact that little is really new, especially if it deals with relations between men and women. Many of the jokes a new generation "discovers" can be found in Joe Miller's 1839 Book of Jests."
He wrote a long post about it on Facebook, but I think this piece sums it up. I don't think there's a better way to say it. If you're worried about other comics stealing material, then you're worried about the wrong things. Of course comics shouldn't steal jokes, but those people tend out themselves very quickly. Even Amy said that when she was on Jim Norton's show.
When I first heard about all of the similarities, I wasn't sure what to think. The more I think about it though, the more I think that if Amy were a joke thief, we would have heard about it before now. Joke thieves are outed very quickly in the comedy community.