Comedian Emo Phillips shares word of international outrage over allegations of systematic, decades-long joke thievery by Italian comedian Daniele Luttazzi, shown above making a frowny face. Mr. Philips says,
Today, the biggest Italian news daily had—on the front page—an incredible scandal about how the top comedian in italy has ripped off American comedians including, but not limited to: George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Wright, Mitch Hedberg, Sarah Silverman, Bill Maher, and myself. He did so for years, flatly denied it, and until now, completely got away with it.Philips points us to the news, in Italian. And alternately, in English-ish. Here is a list of comedians who have been ripped off, and details on the jokes stolen. Chortle, the UK comedy publication, has a story on the Luttazzi scandal here (in easy-to-read English).
John Hodgman alerted Boing Boing to the story, and to Mr. Philips' own personal involvement as a victim of said joke-theft. Hodgman says,
Jokes are plagiarized all the time (Patton Oswalt is constantly being ripped off, most recently by the valedictorian speaker at Columbia University's School of General Studies), but comedians often have no recourse when their work is stolen. If anything, there is a lingering sense that jokes belong to no one.
While it's true that they originally were passed around as a part of a public domain folk culture—like urban legends and ghost stories—they are now clearly examples of carefully crafted artistic expression. Few who practice comedy would debate this. But you'd be surprised at how many people defend joke thieves on the grounds that the original creator of the joke should be glad for the publicity.
And now, I, non-comedian and joke layperson, will attempt to create topical humor about the story:
Q: If Interpol are the guys who handle high-stakes international financial crimes, who do you call when stuff like this happens?