Blogger invites readers to weigh in on joke thievery

by Brian McKim & Traci Skene on June 28th, 2010

The blogger is Scott Wampler. Who’s he?

He’s a blogger for a website called One of his recent pieces, his post-mortem on the first episode of Season 7 of Last Comic Standing, he said:

I know firsthand how brutal, competitive, and political the standup world is: make no mistake, the people that get anywhere on this show are out for blood, and the drama behind-the-scenes has to rival the stunning backstabbery of Survivor’s most evil players.

Did he say, “firsthand?” Yes, he did. (According to his bio, “a stand-up comic, humor writer, and man of constant sorrow from Dallas, TX. He has performed all over Texas and is a regular at the Dallas Improv.”) But anyone who participated in the auditions in NYC or LA would probably laugh in your face if you tried to imply that the atmosphere in either of those situations contained any “stunning backstabbery.”

So… we’re not dealing with someone who has any deep knowledge of comedians or what makes them tick.

But he’s determined to hold forth on every aspect of Last Comic Standing, Season Seven.

And now Wampler has posted “Exclusive scandal news: Did ‘Last Comic Standing’ hopeful Jason Weems steal another comic’s joke?”— an investigation into whether or not Jason Weems’ Magic Johnson/AIDS joke was stolen from an Orlando-based comic Jeanette Cause.

Here are the facts:

Weems did a bit about Magic Johnson on LCS on June 21.

Weems finds out that a comic in Orlando is doing a simliar bit.

Weems wrote a “dickish” private Facebook message to Cause, telling Cause to quit doing the joke.

Cause goes public with the message.

Wampler facilitates a brawl and, on top of that, invites readers to weigh in on whether or not Weems stole the joke, offering “evidence”– video of each comic doing the material.

Wampler interviews Cause.

Firstly: Weems was a dumbass for writing the email. Or, at the very least, he shouldn’t have taken such a combative tone. There’s nothing wrong with informing another comic that you do a similar bit… if for no other reason than you don’t want either him or you getting tagged with the “thief” label. There’s not need to fling around accusations of thievery.

Secondly: Wampler is a schmuck for framing this “scandal” in the way he has. There’s really not much of a scandal here, as we will explain. We suspect that Wampler is so convinced that comics are “out for blood,” that this kind of melodrama was too irresistible to pass up.

Thirdly: Cause is a nitwit for engaging in ridiculous conspiracy theorizing. (Perhaps we’re being too harsh… she is, after all, primarily an “actress who’s done some comedic things.”) But one thing she might eventually learn is that comics quite often come up with the same joke without any thievery involved.

Face it, people– the joke’s not so wickedly original that three people couldn’t come up with it simultaneously.

In the caption, under Weems’ photo, Wampler asks, “Did Last Comic Standing contestant Jason Weems steal one of his best jokes?” (Of course, it makes for a better story if this turns out to be one of Weems’ “best jokes.” Such speculation is tawdry.) Well, we have only seen about 75 seconds of Weem’s material… there’s really no way to determine if that is indeed one of Weems’ best jokes. And anyone who saw the joke– anyone with any experience– would probably not conclude that it is… and, for Weems’ sake, we hope that it isn’t.

Not that the joke isn’t funny, but, when we saw it, we didn’t exactly jump out of our seats. And, hours later, a comedian from New Jersey updated his Facebook status to say (and we paraphrase), “Damn! I just saw somebody do my Magic Johnson/AIDS bit on Last Comic Standing!” His tone wasn’t accusatory… he was merely resigned to the fact that someone beat him to national television with the joke. And, of course, were he to do the bit again, he would forever be dogged by that fact.

This happens all the time. Call it parallel development. Call it what you will. Comedians will, on occasion, simultaneously come up with the same joke, even when separated by an entire continent.

But this is way out of hand. Wampler even asks the “victim” if she might consider suing LCS if Weems manages to win the prize money. Unbelievable.

This entire incident should have gone down like this:

Weems writes the stupid and combative Facebook message.

Cause writes back, “Hey, douchebag, I’ve been doing the bit since July.”

Weems shuts his yap and apologizes.

No one ever hears about this whole sorry incident.

Instead, we have an embarrassingly naive investo, written by an inexperienced comedian, who condemns a professional comic for thievery, egged on by an actress/part-time comedian who, ultimately, is in it for the money and the publicity.

JC: Well, I know it’s a big deal, [it’s] taboo in the stand-up world. He even says that. I imagine that a show that offers a $250,000 prize and a development deal isn’t going to want to award that to someone that could then be sued by a third party for stealing their material that helped win them that prize, that it wasn’t the property of the winner — and, therefore, the show. That’s why it oughtta be a big deal to him. And for me, it’s a big deal because …well, something doesn’t add up. He knew who I was, how to get in contact with me, and just the way he approached it with me? It stinks. That might get him far in the competition, but let’s say he wins. What if that joke helped get him there? If it was his, great, but it seems like it came from me, and that means that he shouldn’t be able to win.

We hope everyone is happy. We warned folks about this when the first Youtube Comedy Wars broke out a couple years back. There is no shortage of people out there who are willing to believe that we’re all just a bunch of thieving, unoriginal hacks. And there are people who are ignorant of just how the creative process works and who are willing to believe that two comics (or in this case three comics!) coming up with the same joke is evidence of just how totally unoriginal comedians are (and just how corrupt and unjust NBC’s Last Comic Standing might be). Job well done.