I Started a Joke (Then Some Idiot Stole It)

May 9th, 2011

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.




Entry Filed under: Uncategorized


Add your own

  • 1. Issa  |  May 9th, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    I’m with you. 100%.

    If I were going to tweet other peoples tweets and act like they were mine, it’d be yours and Marinka’s. Hmmm…maybe I shouldn’t have told you that first.

  • 2. hokgardner  |  May 9th, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    OK, spill. Who was the woman who stole?

  • 3. Ann's Rants  |  May 9th, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    I am sure that someone has ripped off your tweets.


  • 4. Sarah  |  May 9th, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    You go, girl! ~ Oprah

  • 5. gigi  |  May 9th, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Wow, you are sassy today.

    But I agree wholeheartedly. And can I add in I can’t stand people who take other people’s blog post ideas? And business ideas? And make THEM their own and then everyone thinks they’re so funny and a rockstar?


    In other news, I knew you reminded me of someone, and it is, in fact, Mahatma Gandhi.


  • 6. Bob H.  |  May 9th, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    I don’t really get it either – because on twitter, if you find a tweet you really like, the option to “retweet” it is right there, giving full credit to the original author. Thieves – plain and simple.

  • 7. Crystal R. R. Edwards  |  May 9th, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    It’s extremely frustrating to find your work ripped off and building up someone else’s platform. See, publishers require us to come to them with a platform in place. Every follower I have on Twitter, every “like” or fan on Facebook — these translate to a percentage of likelihood that a publisher will pick me up. So when my joke is stolen and it somehow gets the thief, say, 5 new followers because of retweets, that’s 5 followers I can use to convince a publishing house I’m worth the risk.

    There are also immediate financial issues. I build my platform naturally, by posting jokes, by information relevant to the markets I write for, and by engaging with others. I don’t have a huge following, but I have a loyal one which also translates into numbers for my publisher, and at times I am paid according to that. If someone thinks to steal my lines, they’re stealing not just my words, but hours’ worth of work. My big paid stuff (copywriting and ghost writing) nets me about $35/hour. My humor articles net me between 10 and 15 cents/word. I’ve been tempted to start charging the thieves for my work. I don’t think they’d like those bills.

    Thank you for posting this, Wendi. And for what it’s worth, “Weekend in New England” was written about a cat. (Okay, maybe not. But it should have been.)

  • 8. Lucy  |  May 9th, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Totally agree with you.
    someone who wishes they had smart and pithy (yes, I said “pithy”) comments to share on Facebook but has to content herself with what funny and cute thing the dog did this morning *sigh*
    “what she said”-Martin Luther King Jr

  • 9. habanerogal  |  May 9th, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    I steal tweets from my cat but he has no thumbs and can’t write them down anyhow.

  • 10. Marinka  |  May 9th, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    I was just about to tweet the same thing.

  • 11. Tug  |  May 9th, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    I must not follow the offending twats, & I’m OK with that. I do notice people posting photos with no credit a lot though, so I always leave a comment telling them to give credit where due. asshats.


    We all know Mandy was Manilow’s cat. – George Washington

  • 12. Suebob  |  May 9th, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    @hokgardener – The “funniest mom” is mommyneedsanap

  • 13. Becky  |  May 9th, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    Word up. -Cameo

  • 14. Kristine  |  May 9th, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    ::high five::

    Remember when Jimmy Kimmel used a joke on his show that had allegedly written by someone on Twitter? He denied it & I heard the joke was identical.

    But I have no idea what the joke was even about, so it was probably a stupid one

  • 15. julie gardner  |  May 9th, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    I didn’t know they let you have string cheese and Hansen’s in an iron lung or I would’ve moved in years ago.

    Yes, I’m too lazy to breathe on my own. Or to intentionally steal anyone else’s joke.

    That sounds like a lot of work.

    Loved the rant.

  • 16. Kristin  |  May 9th, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    I followed that whole exchange today. I felt kind of bad for the guy, but then I didn’t.

    In the same vein, as a mini-blogger who used to be slightly less so in a past life, it’s ultra irritating when established (and monetized) blogs use posts/photos/information from hobbyists to boost their own pennies from advertisers. At least throw me a link so I can be titillated by the spike in page views for a day. That, or “I want my two dollars!” ~ Johnny, the bike riding newspaper guy in *Better Off Dead.*

  • 17. Kate Coveny Hood  |  May 9th, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Having someone else take credit for your words, humor and personal view of the world must feel like a huge violation. What a good point that the hard work that goes into creating an original combination of words to elicit a reaction – and a successful combination at that – makes the purloining of those efforts an even bigger outrage.

    That said – I haven’t actually experienced this. So I may be a tad too preoccupied with feeling miffed that no one wants to steal my words to give this issue my full attention.

    Seriously though – I agree wholeheartedly. And I’m totally stealing @fancymommytoes for my Twitter account.

  • 18. Cass  |  May 9th, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    I, for one, think you’re more spiritual than a cereal box. More like you’re as spiritual as a Twinkie, because I have a ‘come to Jesus’ moment when read most of your stuff. Or when I eat a Twinkie.

    Now that I’ve cleared that up, I completely agree with your point. Being funny is not easy, and the tweet stealers are dirty, rotten kitten kickers. FYI, you can report those a-holes to @thiefpolice.

  • 19. Libby  |  May 9th, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    Whenever I write something great on Twitter my Mom always asks who said that. When I say I did she usually responds “you’re not that clever.”

    That’s why I steal quotes from mimes.

  • 20. Lynn MacDonald (All Fooked Up)  |  May 9th, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    You go girl! and by the way…i’m planning on reposting this entire post without giving you any credit.

    After all, you didn’t specifically say i couldn’t do that in this post.

    HAHAHA…Jeez, i’m just kidding….

    great post…

  • 21. Kathykate  |  May 9th, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Ooooooh,I like wendi all pissed off and raring to go! Fight-Fight-Fight!!! ‘Cept it’s not 8th grade and this shit is serious.
    Like intellectual property mother fucking serious. thanks for being furiously funny.
    full-disclosure: FYI, I didn’t invent “mother-fucking.” kinda gross. ‘Cept now I’m the mother. So maybe not-so-gross. I hope.

  • 22. suburbancorrespondent  |  May 9th, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Amen. It’s so easy to give proper credit, why not?

  • 23. Suniverse  |  May 9th, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    There are few things more infuriating than people who are liars.

    And that guy? Is a liar.

    Well done, Wendi.

  • 24. Jason  |  May 9th, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Plagiarism rocks.

  • 25. drhoctor2  |  May 9th, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    I have much the same issue with bloggers not citing sources and using the rather pretentious alibi that the writer is so famous no one would NOT know who wrote the original line they are quoting or riffing off of..DUDE. If you do not cite your source for whatever original content you’re referencing then you are plagiarizing someone else’s work. PERIOD. You know the author/ copyright holder ? Then cite them. Don’t know who you’re referencing? Admit that or don’t use it.

  • 26. Stephanie Smirnov  |  May 9th, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    I guess I better delete that “Letter to a Kotex Brand Manager” out of my draft folder.

  • 27. Bejewell  |  May 9th, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    I was just thinking about this the other day while I was having lunch with a friend and telling her all about that time when I was trying to get pregnant and my mom told me I should take Robitussin to increase my vaginal mucus flow. It was so funny and we laughed and laughed! And she told me I was so funny I should write a book or something, and I told her I was already writing one about how mean mothers are to each other and I was working on this one section where these three moms are talking to each other and saying things like “You have a hulk baby because you drank milk from a cow while you were pregnant” and “You have a cannibal baby because you drank bottled water” and my friend thought it would surely be a best seller. And then I said “Stop calling me Shirley!” and she just died of the laughter because I AM SO ORIGINALLY FUNNY!!

    And then later I was thinking “God I hate it when people steal my funny stories and pass them off as their own. They’re such assholes.”

    So sing it, sista.

    (P.S. For the record, I wrote this entire comment “blithely.”)

  • 28. the mama bird diaries  |  May 9th, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Man, I love it when you get all mad. You said it sista!! You know I’m still mad about people ripping off Demitri Martin’s line… “Glitter is the herpes of craft supplies.”

  • 29. Thomas C  |  May 9th, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    I would like to argue for an exception. Namely, the pre-internet meme known as an “urban legend.” Part of the point of an urban legend is that you’re supposed to tell it as though it happened to “a friend of a friend.” Because anyone who ever hears an anecdote that starts that way should know, automatically, that what they’re about to hear is a funny story that did not actually happen to a friend of a friend. The art is in how the story is told, not in the substance.

    As for tweets and one-liners… I’m one of those people who will hear something and then three days later, repeat it in my mind never realizing that it wasn’t an original thought. Until someone reminds me that they said the exact same thing a week ago. But allowing for those momentary lapses is one thing. Stealing someone else’s funny in order to get people to pay attention to you is quite another.

  • 30. The Mommy Therapy  |  May 9th, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    Amen Wendi. Amen.

    Wouldn’t it be sort of funny if I just copied everything you said on Twitter tomorrow? Hmmmm….

  • 31. Alexandra  |  May 10th, 2011 at 6:20 am

    I’m too much of a wimp to steal.

    Too scared and positive some of the insanely knowledgeable and worldly savvy people out there would recognize for sure.

    Besides, I wouldn’t want someone to do it to me.

    Also, not very nice.

  • 32. Muffintopmommy  |  May 10th, 2011 at 6:42 am

    You’re right, Wendy. I should stop copying people’s tweets which leads me to enjoy the fame and fortune I do. I totally retract this hi-lariously unique tweet from the other night, “Tom from DH is such a wienie.” and “I would seriously sell my soul to the devil for an allergy pill that works.”

  • 33. Erin@MommyontheSpot  |  May 10th, 2011 at 7:02 am

    I hear that! One time, a million years ago, I taught English. This kid totally plagerized his research paper, which meant he failed a semester of English. His Mom and the administration told me that I had to let him redo the paper. I had to come in every morning 40 minutes before starting time to help him do his paper . . . even though that’s what I did during class while he did nothing.

    I so detest cheaters and liars.

  • 34. Tara  |  May 10th, 2011 at 7:04 am

    Loved the rant. More please.

  • 35. Kyle  |  May 10th, 2011 at 7:47 am

    You can tell I’ve never stolen a joke for Twitter. It helps that I’m unfunny and no comedian would write to crap I do.

    But in all seriousness people, at least try to be original. If you bomb, do what I do in real life: Cry loudly until someone buys you something.

  • 36. Becky (Princess Mikkimoto)  |  May 10th, 2011 at 8:23 am

    Right on! And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

    I totally just came up with that. Myself. I just felt super patriotic reading this post.

  • 37. annie  |  May 10th, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Damn right! you tell ‘em Wendi!

  • 38. Kizz  |  May 10th, 2011 at 8:59 am

    “@WendiAarons is 100% correct…this time.” – Me

  • 39. MommyLisa  |  May 10th, 2011 at 9:29 am

    “…because I’m 90 years old and live in an iron lung.” – Wendi Aarons <–That was funny.

  • 40. anymommy  |  May 10th, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    I love your rants. But, I’m too busy laughing at “as spiritual as a cereal box.” Can I steal that?

  • 41. Weebeefirkin  |  May 10th, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    “Cereal boxes can actually have a high degree of spirituality. It just depends on how deeply you ponder them…and where….” She said seriously. Sort of.

  • 42. dusty earth mother  |  May 10th, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    Awesome rant, Wendi. And I completely agree. But still… it would be nice to be worthy of plagiarism. Oops. Did I think that out loud?

  • 43. Rikki  |  May 10th, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    Don’t you know that plagarism has a long and venerable history? John F. Kennedy never attributed “Ask not what your country can do for you…” to Khalil Gibran, who said it first.

  • 44. The Flying Chalupa  |  May 10th, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    HUZZAH! I love it when you get on your high horse. You look like Dale Evans.

    But you’ve got a point here. It IS hard to write a good joke and just not fair when it’s stolen.

    Unfortunately, unoriginal dumb-asses abound.

  • 45. Ilana @ mommyshorts  |  May 10th, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Jokes stealers are bad news. But I also hate quote people. Even when the quotes are credited. I’m not following someone to hear what Winston Churchill had to say sixty years ago. Just say something stupid about your day. SHEESH.

  • 46. Elizabeth Blaze  |  May 10th, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    I’m confused about the “I’ve never been a comedian” comment. Did you hijack this blog from the real Wendy Aarons??

  • 47. Laurie  |  May 10th, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    I hate stealing and as a teacher I’m fundamentally opposed to plagiarism. So it’s terrible that all I can keep thinking is that WHY would these people reprint bad jokes, unattributed? And why do people follow them and read their other stuff, therefore?

    Back to the evolution bin with me.

  • 48. Alexandra  |  May 11th, 2011 at 10:11 am

    I heard someone on twitter call them twiefs. But I can’t remember who and I don’t want to be called a stealer!

  • 49. marathonmom  |  May 11th, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Send them live ferrets.

    One time, at band camp? I got my period. And I was so pissed that I wrote a letter to the head of Kimberly Clark. He saent me a years supply of product which I turned around and sold on eBay. Then, we bought an Italian villa next to George Clooney.

  • 50. Sarah  |  May 11th, 2011 at 10:39 am

    The quote I live by…”Never believe anything you read on the internet.” – Abraham Lincoln.

    And that’s all I have to say about that. :)

  • 51. Suzy  |  May 11th, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Did I not leave a comment here? Did I die?

    (It was one of my followers who called twitter thieves Twiefs but don’t know if it’s original to her)

    You were witness to the twitter battle I waged against dadarocks, the offending thief. I have to call them out because it’s my business he’s messing with. And I don’t like people who advance unfairly either.

    And dadarocks, who I’m convinced is the same guy as dadstreet, is such a coward he would respond, “Nuhn uh.”

    Dadstreet was DMing me the entire time saying lame things like “I’m sure dadarocks meant no harm.” Then another guy DM’d me and told me Dadarocks is reviled by many moms. Then I c+p’d those lines right into Twitter, baby!!

    I guess it goes without saying that I have no life.

  • 52. Carol Ramsey  |  May 11th, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    So, yeah, that sucks and all. But I just realized I’m not funny enough to comment on your blog. You are funny, but oh my, so are the ladies who comment.

  • 53. Jen  |  May 11th, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    It takes me so long to come up with something even mildly humorous that I’d be pretty tweaked if it were taken. Although I’m starting to wonder if there are really any original ideas anymore.

  • 54. always home and uncool  |  May 11th, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    Word for word Tweeting of mindless PR pitches for useless products doesn’t count as joke plagiarizing, does it? Does it?

  • 55. Andrea P.  |  May 11th, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    I think the best part of this post is the fact that I learned two new words today in reference to Twitter: “tweifs” and “twats”. Ok, heard “twats” before but never in reference to Twitter…

  • 56. dadand  |  May 12th, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    Too bad you didn’t bust him pumping out Rodney Dangerfield jokes in late April.

  • 57. Invader_Stu  |  May 13th, 2011 at 5:10 am

    Good point. In fact, I’m going to quote you right now.

  • 58. Erin I'm Gonna Kill Him  |  May 13th, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Wait, I’ve been telling everyone to be the change they want to be in the world, just like my writing friend Wendi always says??

    This was a hot button issue indeed. It’s maddening that the internet is so rife with stolen material. I would be irate if someone ever ripped my stuff and I’m certainly no aspirational figure. That said, I actually think for the humor writer, the idea of someone stealing a post over a joke would be the hardest pill to swallow. As you probably feel, it takes hours to craft a story that is laden with comedy and good jokes.

    I think Bill Mahr stole one of my this week, but I’m gonna let him have it. And his millions.

  • 59. Diane @QuirkOut  |  May 15th, 2011 at 10:50 am


    Agree with you 100%.

    Your tweets are so funny, I want to be your BFF so we can laugh all the time. That’s why I love RT-ing, because it gives the original writer all the credit. Also, I post funny items on our QuirkOut facebook page, always giving the author credit.

    It’s a great way to win-win for the original author and to give your fans a good laugh. Hopefully they’ll go and LIKE the author, too.

  • 60. Holly  |  May 16th, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    I would be so bad at stealing someone else’s joke. I’d screw it up. And then the comic would be doubly pissed. So I’ll just stick with my own lame “humor.”

  • 61. Al Eluia  |  May 21st, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Milton Berle!?! Considering his reputation for stealing jokes, I’d consider plagiarizing a Milton Berle joke to be a form of homage.

  • 62. Texasholly  |  July 5th, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    Holy crap. I am totally stealing “I’m about as spiritual as a cereal box”.

  • 63. vodkamom  |  July 11th, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    May I just say that INTEGRITY and HONESTY are values that we all cherish. Why oh WHY are they gone?



  • 64. vodkamom  |  July 11th, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    p.s. Have I told you lately that I love you?

  • 65. Kristi  |  December 5th, 2011 at 1:28 am

    I just steal the unfunny stuff. That way if someone complains I go, “See how it wasn’t hilarious but now they think I came up with it. And you’re welcome”.

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