I don’t usually do this, but today I’m going to go on a bit of a rant, so prepare yourselves, people. The fussy lady’s just had a bit of string cheese and a Hansen’s all natural soda and now she’s totally steamed up. ROAR! (Wait a sec—just need to adjust my orthopedic chair and get my lap blankie and…there, all better.) Let’s do this.
The Topic: Plagiarism
The Offenders: Dumbasses on Twitter
Specifically, the dumbasses who tweet a comedian’s joke without giving credit. Oh, yes. Them. They just incense me. Incense with a capital Incense.
Now, we all know that there’s a lot of misinformation on the internet. And we all know it’s not always possible to find out where a quote is from or attribute it to the proper author. But that’s not what I’m talking about today. I’m talking about the people who habitually pass off others’ jokes as their own, like the woman who kept tweeting uncredited lines by Ellen DeGeneres, Ron White and Steven Wright last year. (Lines you could easily find with a .5 second Google search.) And what’d all that word stealing get her? A ton of followers and a major city newspaper calling her “the funniest mom on Twitter.”
(See: Wendi, incensed.)
More recently, some guy—who I shall not name because I don’t want the drama and I also don’t want to promote him—tweeted jokes by both Henny Youngman and Milton Berle. (Yes, sadly, I recognized both of those jokes because I’m 90 years old and live in an iron lung.) He sent them from his own Twitter account without crediting the comedians, then when called out, basically said that he wasn’t stealing the jokes because he never specifically said he wrote them.
That’s sort of like me doing this:
@WendiAarons Be the change you want to see in the world.
When I really should be doing this:
@WendiAarons “Be the change you want to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi
Of course, I’m sure nobody would ever be fooled into thinking I wrote that in the first place since I’m about as spiritual as a cereal box, but still. If you’re seriously not trying to steal the line, why not take the extra two seconds to type in the real writer’s name? Is it that hard? Also—and I know this happens—if you inadvertently rip-off someone’s line and you get called on it? Man up and say so. It’s an honest mistake that we’ve all made.
I’ve never been a comedian, and, as far as I know, nobody’s ever purloined one of my tweets. (Which comes as no surprise since I usually tweet about Manilow or cats or Manilow holding a cat.) So I’m not quite sure why this stealing bothers me so much. Is it because I have a ton of respect for humor and joke writers? Or because I hate to see people advance unfairly? Or because I place such a high, high importance on originality? Probably all of those things.
My friend Suzy Soro, who actually is a super smart comedian, put it this way:
@HotComesToDie: When I think how HARD it is to write a joke, makes me INSANE some of you blithely rip them off.
So the next time you see someone like @fancymommytoes or @TexasBabyGurl tweet something like: “Krispy Kreme Donuts are so good, if I told you it had crack in it, you would be like, I knew it was something in there,” take a pause and wonder why that person suddenly sounds like Chris Rock. Then tell them that people who steal other people’s words and thoughts and humor are nothing but unoriginal losers.
And you can quote me on that.