One of America's leading authorities on technology and telecom policy, Motley is a writer, television and radio commentator, political and policy strategist, lecturer, debater, activist, and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.
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The comedy world – like much of the entertainment world – is rife with people of the Left ideological persuasion. There are, of course, exceptions – but on the main they are on the Left.
But then there is Robert Conquest’s Three Laws of Politics. The first of which is: “Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.” A law proven eminently true – when comedians steal jokes from other comedians. Instantaneously, these Leftist laugh artists – become stalwart conservative champions of intellectual property (IP) rights.
What Does Conan O’Brien’s Court Fight Over Jokes Mean For The Wider World Of Comedy?: “Freelance joke writer Robert “Alex” Kaseberg has brought a suit against the writers of Conan (and the man himself), claiming that they stole five jokes from him in 2014-2015 (including one in very poor taste of Caitlyn Jenner’s transition). U.S. District Court Judge Janis Sammartino accepted that there was a possible case surrounding only three of the jokes….
“Even if this suit doesn’t end up going to trial, the taint of even alleged joke stealing can be a real black mark on a comedian. In his deposition, O’Brien said ‘Accusing a comedian of stealing a joke is the worst thing you can accuse them of, in my opinion, short of murder. I think it’s absolutely terrible.’ Clearly this is not something that the late night host is taking lightly. However, anytime an established comedian is profiting off of the work of a less well known entity is cause for concern.”
Get all that? Leftist comedian Conan – thinks stealing IP is just short of murder. About what he knows – he is conservative. Conquest remains correct.
Of course, comedy theft is almost certainly as old as comedy itself. Technological advancements such as infinite video, audio and the written word just an Internet click away – only makes heisting easier. Though, of course, it doesn’t make it right. (Just because you can download it – rather than having to obtain a physical copy – doesn’t lessen or in any way mitigate the heist.)
And, again, it’s especially obnoxious when bigger stars steal from lesser lights – because the lesser lights are poorly equipped to defend themselves.
How on Earth can someone as little known as Tig Notaro (of whom, I admit, I had never heard until reading this story) – do anything to hold at all accountable humongous NBC and their Saturday Night Live? Bullies are bigger – and oft get away with things they shouldn’t.
In the mid-2000s, timidity was the standard reaction to comedians stealing from comedians – which of course only emboldened the thieves. At that time, comic Carlos Mencia was riding very, very high. He had a show on Comedy Central, had had several HBO specials – and was selling out stadiums. But the dirty little secret flowing in the comedy world undercurrent – was that Mencia was stealing tons of stuff.
Mencia was notorious for, amongst other things, slipping into Los Angeles comedy clubs, sitting in the back with paper and pen – and lifting any and everything from comedians less famous than he, and therefore in no real position to do anything about it.
To say this angered Rogan – is a colossal understatement. And after a lot of preceding protestations, Rogan in February 2007 actually walked on to Los Angeles’ Comedy Store stage to confront Mencia. (Here we proffer one of the most obvious “Not Safe for Work” warnings ever. It’s a comedy club, with two angry comedians, off-script, yelling at each other. There was a bit of objectionable language used.)
Rogan unloaded on Mencia. He called him “Carlos Menstealia.” And much of the audience – as is the case with just about any comedy club audience – is made up of other comedians. And it was as if Rogan was letting them out of jail. FINALLY someone was saying out loud what they had long been whispering. And they roared their approval and support of Rogan.
This was the shot heard around the comedy world. Huge comedian Ron White appeared on Rogan’s podcast in 2016 – nine years after the Mencia fact – and praised Rogan for dropping the hammer. (Again – shocker – there’s some strong language to follow.) “Not like you and Mencia. That was just the best thing ever. You had every comic in the country just cheering your f*****g name. Go get ‘em, Joe.”
The point to be drawn at this point is: Here we have the nation’s comedians – again, likely mostly Leftists – as one hailing as a hero Rogan for his staunch defense of intellectual property. You’re conservative – about what you know best.
And here’s Rogan being interviewed by Ana Kasparian in 2014. (And again – language.) Kasparian asks Rogan “Are you saying you believe in intellectual property?”
Rogan responds “I believe that if you create something…well, here’s what I believe in. This is most important. I believe that anybody that tries to take any of your ideas and pawn them off as their own is a piece of s***. And they should be outed as a piece of s***. Now with Mencia the problem was he was profiting off of this and destroying other comedians’ careers.”
Later in the interview, Rogan wisely observes: “It was a bad scene. Because throughout the history of comedy there have been people who have stolen material from other comics. And it’s a horrible situation when an established comedian steals from a guy who’s coming up.
“It takes…say you have a bit…A bit takes a long time to develop. There are ideas – you take them on stage, you figure out the right way to set to up, you sit in front of your computer pulling your f*****g hair out, you bang things back and forth, you shift them around, you try it this way, you try it that way. And it takes a long time to come to fruition.
“You plant that seed – and you water it every time you go on stage. This a*****e (Mencia) used to come along and steal these fully developed plants, pull them – and then pass them off as his own.”
Rogan’s description of the development of a fully formed and functioning comedy sketch – sounds EXACTLY like what an inventor goes through when working his initial idea all the way through to a patentable product.
Rogan decrying that fully formed product being stolen by a much bigger comedian – sounds EXACTLY like some poor inventor working through his idea in his basement – and finally arriving at patentable product success. And then having a gigantic corporation like Google – the Carlos Mencia of IP – swoop in and steal the poor guy’s idea.
So Google is on the IP-equivalent of HBO and Comedy Central and selling out arenas – with this guy’s IP. They’re moving product the world over and making millions (billions) – while the guy from whom they stole remains distraught and destitute.
This ain’t fair. This ain’t right. And as Joe Rogan and comedians everywhere know – this ain’t funny.
Because they know what we all should know: That intellectual property deserves protection at least equal to the protection afforded physical property.
[Originally Published at RedState]