Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Reader Response - Stealing Jokes

The comment thread to my previous post about "Literally" has a lot of references to a "Beef" between comics over plagiarism. So I thought I would expand that into a post for today.

I don't have Cable. I read books, I watch my Netflix movies, I play Scrabble, I compulsively check my blog for comments, but I don't watch Television, so I know exactly three things about Carlos Mencia. I know he's got a TV show called "Mind of Mencia" on Comedy Central, I know that he's Latino (late edit: He's German/Honduran, apparently), and I know that he steals jokes.

Here is how I know.

The way my computer is set up (with Firefox 2), when I start to type something in to the Google Search Bar built in to my browser, the Google folks try to "Auto-complete" what it is they think you are looking for based on their database of what other people have searched for. for instance if I type in the letters "back", then Google thinks I am probably looking for
  • "Back Pain"
  • "Background Check"
  • "Back to the Future"
  • "Backyardigans"
  • "Backgammon"
  • "Backstreet Boys" (honestly, who is doing that search?)

If I type the letters "mencia" in the search bar, then I see.... "mencia steals jokes" as one of my options. As a matter of fact, out of the TEN search suggestions listed, six of them are:

  • "mencia steal"
  • "mencia steals"
  • "mencia steals jokes"
  • "mencia rogan"
  • "mencia cosby"
and most succinctly,
  • "mencia sucks"
For those of you not familiar with this topic, Joe Rogan is the guy leading the plagiarism charge against Carlos Mencia (a.k.a. Ned Holness), and one of the comics Mencia is accused of ripping off is none other than Bill "Jello Pudding Pops" Cosby.

I spent the better part of yesterday familiarizing myself with the Rogan v. Mencia case, and here are my insights.

First, many of the jokes Mr. Mencia [The Defendant] allegedly "Stole" were common observations from the news that anybody could have made (and several different people did make). If the news story is that we are going to build a big wall to keep out the cheap mexican labor, then the OBVIOUS joke is "Who's gonna build it?" I would be willing to bet that Jay Leno probably also made this joke. And he didn't steal it from Ari Shaffir. If I were Ari Shaffir, I wouldn't be claiming to have spent all night crafting this wonderful gem of a joke. Probably every "Wacky Morning DJ" type radio show did this joke. I also personally saw two different Editorial Cartoons that did this same joke. Some headlines just write themselves. If you did a joke about Paris Hilton getting advice on going to prison from Martha Stewart, and some other comic more famous than you ALSO did a joke about that, he probably didn't steal it from you. You just both picked a way-too-obvious target.

Next, nearly all of Carlos Mencia's material is in the "Way-Too-Obvious" category. If you do jokes about Air Travel, you are going to have real difficulty saying something that no-one else has said. If you do jokes about Michael Jackson being a pedophile, you are going to have real difficulty saying something that no-one else has said. And if you do jokes about Racial Stereotypes, you are going to have EXTREME difficulty saying something that no-one else has said. That's the reason that they ARE Stereotypes; because they are WIDESPREAD conceptions about people. People have been making Jewish, Black, Irish, Mexican, Polish, Italian and Asian Jokes for as long as these races have existed! You can bet that there were Midianites, and Amorites, and Jebusites making jokes about those stingy "shekel-pinching" Judeans. "What's the Deal with the Judeans?" I can hear it now. If you deal with stereotypical humor, as Mr. Mencia is very forthright about doing, then you're treading a very well-worn path. As those Judeans wrote in their Bestselling Book, The Old Testament, "There is Nothing New Under The Sun" (It's in the book of Ecclesiastes, FYI.)

But, finally..... I delved deep enough that I got to some obvious ripoffery. Sam "Been Dead For Years" Kinison did a bit in 1987 about Jesus trying to explain to a suspicious wife, after the crucifixion, just where he'd been for the last three days. That is not exactly an obvious joke. And then Lo and BEHOLD! "Mind of Mencia" has a sketch with the same premise. Not a word for word ripoff, but if Mr. Mencia claims he didn't get that idea from Sam Kinison, I would have a hard time believing it.

-------Daily Haiku of the Day-------
Carlos Mencia
Finds new Jokes Hard to Come by,
So he Tells Others'

P.S. - In doing my research, I had to listen to a lot of comedy, and have determined that Ralphie May is Freakin' Hilarious!


Valorie said...

I have totally met Ralphie May, and I bought a CD from him. He is incredibly, incredibly nice.

Valorie said...

Also, you should probably watch the video clip on YouTube showing Carlos Mencia doing basically the same act Cosby did.

Frank Gibson said...

Yeah, I did see the Cosby/mencia video. It was pretty bad. That's good to hear about Ralphie. Funnn-ny, funny stuff! He's like John Pinette, from "da 'hood!"