The Colbert Report rips off Ze Frank? For shame, if so.

BB reader Dave says,

I'm sure I'm not the first to have noticed this, but if you watched The Colbert Report on tuesday night you saw a bit about the Fields Medal and the Poincaré conjecture, in which he smooshed a doughnut into a ball, providing a (somewhat shaky) demonstration that the Poincaré conjecture is b.s.

However, if you watched The Show with Ze Frank that morning, you would have notice that Ze did a suspiciously similar bit, where he too smooshes a toroidal doughnut into a ball and eats it (as well as making a gag about everyone's favorite spherical doughnut, the Munchkin, which Colbert also does!).

Was Ze ripped off? Links to the two video clips are here.

I asked Ze how he felt about it, and he tells BoingBoing,
I was a bit sad at first... but someone in my forum pointed out that whether or not it was a rip off, it was not a great joke to begin with :)
Reader comment: Patrick Allen says,
Regarding the Stephen Colbert seemingly ripping off Ze Frank post, I was a bit sad myself after watching that segment on the Report just a few hours after watching the same bit on Ze's show. But you know, this isn't the first time I've seen Colbert "ripping off stuff" from the Internets. In fact, his shows of late seem to be almost mirror projections of what is 'hot' on the Internets that day, or at least that week.

As someone who spends a good deal of time swimming in the tubes, The Colbert Report is feeling more and more like a rerun of what I read and saw throughout the day. When I say rerun, I mean just that. It's like he takes the stuff that, say, received 1,300 diggs that day and does the same thing on show and passes it off as his own. Unlike Keith Olbermann who takes something that was popular on the Internets that day and files his own, original report on it.

Now I wish I had a bunch of examples to give you to back up my point, but I don't. I know, bad me. But it's something I've only started noticing in the last few weeks, and I really didn't start taking notes or anything like that. The first thought that came to mind after reading your post today was: 'hmmm, maybe I'm not the only one who feels Colbert is beginning to pass certain content off as his own, knowing that only a small percentage of people are going to know where it originally came from. And who's going to have the balls to say anything about it. Colbert's a geek/nerd/dork hero right now.'

Now, I could be wrong of course. I've been a big fan of Colbert since his days on The Daily Show. I would hope he's not starting to stake claim as his own the content created by folks like you or me. Now, I'm also a big fan of fair use, but Colbert getting paid the big bucks telling the same jokes Ze Frank and others created aint cool or fair in my book. Or maybe it's all in my head, and there's only been a few isolated instances that I'm making a mountain out of. I think I'll start paying closer attention...

Ed. Note: Whether the Colbert Report/Ze Frank Show donutgate incident is coincidence or "rip-off," I can't say. But when internet-idea-poaching does happen, remember: TV shows are created by teams of writers, producers, editors, and others. If Ze Frank's donut was poached, it's not reasonable to assume that Colbert, the host, is personally responsible. But screw all that, why doesn't the Colbert Report just poach Ze himself? I hear he comes with free donuts, too. The Show is funnier than just about anything else out there on TV right now, basic cable or otherwise.

BB reader Todd Jackson says,

As someone who worked as a humor writer and editor, I can say in full confidence that Colbert didn't take anything from ZeFrank. They're both using a simple construction for a joke implied by the article itself - that you can't turn a doughnut into a sphere. It's a common structure: one character saying "it can't be that simple" and then another character doing it just that simple. Both came to it because it's a time-tested formula for a gag that works.