Monday, February 01, 2016

Does Amy Schumer steal from other comedians?

If there is one cardinal rule that is broken all the time it is that comedians shouldn't steal material from other comedians.  Especially super successful ones.  I've had people steal my material.  I don't take kindly to it.  That's why whenever I review an awards show I always post it first thing the next morning before other reviews come in.  And for people on my email contact list, I send out my snarky review the minute it's done, shortly after midnight.

I don't want anyone saying I stole someone else's joke. 

Sometimes two people do come up with the same or similar joke.   Great minds think alike and all that shit.   On the other hand, I have taken radio people off my distribution list for stealing my reviews.  You know who you are.   Great minds don't think alike on ten straight jokes.

Personally, it used to drive me crazy when I was a disc jockey in the '70s.  Other jocks would tape my shows and use my material in their markets.  One time I tried to get a job in LA at a station and the program director accused me of stealing from one of his disc jockeys when in fact it was the other way around.   (That story has a happy ending and you can read about it here.)

But there's very little you can do about it, other than shame the guilty party.  

Now comes talk that Amy Schumer has lifted material from other comedians and writers.  This saddens me greatly.  I love Amy Schumer.   But the evidence is pretty damning.  Recently she went on Jim Norton's radio show on Sirius/XM to vehemently deny she ever knowingly stole any material.  But I found this video that compares Amy's bits with their originators.  Uh, quite a few coincidences.  See for yourself.

Part of the issue is that Amy is now the 800 pound gorilla.  And if a comic accuses her of stealing material that comic is viewed as just jealous.  That's been the case with comic Tammy Pescatelli.  She's the one who first cried foul.  And now she's getting blowback. 

I understand that Amy Schumer must generate a lot of material.  She has book deals, movies, her TV show, and concerts.  No matter how prolific you are that's a lot to ask.   But there's a solution --one where you never have to steal another joke.    You know what it is?

Hire writers.

66 comments:

Peter said...

Great minds don't think alike on ten straight jokes.

Ha! That's a great line. Think I'll steal it. ;-)

On a slightly related topic, as you were a DJ in the 70s, are you looking forward to the show VINYL? I only found out about it the other week. For those who haven't heard of it, it's a new HBO drama from executive producers Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger about the 70s music industry. Scorsese directed the pilot. Your old colleague from Everybody Loves Raymond, Ray Romano, is in it. And best of all, the show launches on your birthday! Now all it needs is a couple of scenes about baseball.

Brian Hennings said...

Not passing judgement either on whether Schumer steals jokes or not, but your statement to "hire writers" raises an interesting point. Many of the comments that I've read that defend Schumer place the blame for any stealing squarely at the feet of hired writers. They state that Schumer is just performing the material she's paid for, not knowing that her writers have stolen material. I haven't seen any evidence to support these statements, but is it a known issue in the industry (ie hired writers just stealing material)?

emily said...

GUILTY! Grinder rests.

alkali said...

Obviously there is some level of subjective judgment involved but it struck me that this was not an unusual number of "overlaps" for a working comedian. Would be interested to know what makes KL think this is really more than mere coincidence.

Unknown said...

This type of stuff is hard because joke stealing is so prevalent. Parallel thinking is definitely a thing especially nowadays because there's just so much media available to us 24/7--sometimes something just gets into your head without you even realizing it. We'll never know for sure if there was malice behind this stuff but man...yikes.

Brian Phillips said...

No one likes to be ripped off, but sometimes the mass mind certainly latches on to things.

When Robert Bly's "Iron John" came out, Cheers did an episode about finding the "inner hairy man", "Designing Women" did a show about a boy's initiation into manhood, "Anything But Love" did a show on manhood rituals and I think "Murphy Brown" did, too.

I think what can be drawn from this is...I watched too much TV!

Wendy M. Grossman said...

It's pretty clear from some of her comments that she *does* hire writers, so then the question becomes how much she knows and when she knew it.

There was an analogous case a couple of years ago with, of all things, tennis journalism - the senior tennis correspondent for the (London) Times had the job of putting together the Wimbledon annual post-championships book. Now, this is a hellish job, since you have to pull together two weeks of play across something like 15-20 events, and it has to come out very soon after the tournament ends. But: senior, well-respected journalist of long service. And one of the US writers discovered some of his own work in the book, was brushed off by the All-England club, did more investigating, traced a lot more of other people's work, and blew the whistle in public. I don't think many of us were impressed with the excuse that he had a lot of material on his hard drive and wasn't sure who'd written it all. He got, appropriately IMO, fired.

A case like Schumer's is harder to pin down. But it's interesting that the reuse - if that's what it is - has all happened in the last couple of years when she's been under so much more pressure to produce. That in itself is suggestive.

wg

Brian Phillips said...

The oddest steal (or maybe it was the same writer on two shows?) happened in the days when they used to run unsold pilots on TV. I saw two shows on two different days and networks. Both had this exchange:

Character 1: I gotta go to the bathroom.
Character 2: Don't take anything to read!

I didn't say it was FUNNY, I said I saw it twice.

Apparently, Don Adams was notorious for his thievery:
http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2007/05/would_you_belie.html

Alan Iverson said...

She has a level of fame and fortune which will no doubt forever elude me... but every joke, in every script I write, is my own. In fact, it's a real sense of pride for me. But it's tricky!

I had to come up with around 35 to 40 original jokes for my MASH spec last year. Try that after 250+ episodes of tv genius.

Unknown said...

Not sure what's more damning...how often Schumer has been guilty of "parallel thinking", or that in each instance, the other comedian did the bit better.

Pete Fernbaugh said...

I usually ignore when comedians start accusing each other of stealing material. I know it happens, but it's one of those things that can be hard to pin down.

That said. Wow. The video you linked to, Ken, is damning. Why would someone basically copy a joke word for word, punchline for punchline in this day and age and not expect to be caught in the act?

At least Amy didn't blame her writers.

Yet...

Greg ehrbar said...

It would be easier to blame any hired writers who may have been involved, but the responsibility is still with the decision maker. Accountability is part of the issue, as it is with so many issues today.

Jeffrey Sherman posted this about his wife, comedian Wendy Leibman:

https://www.facebook.com/jeffrey.sherman.3/posts/10154011477971264

Stephen Marks said...

This is going to generate a lot of comments, in fact Pinnacle has the over/under at 38. I just wanted to say kudos to Ken for his post even though he admires Amy. He could have turtled and posted something else but he stuck to his guns and thats why we come here everyday, so thank you Ken. By the way can you tell us which post of yours received the most comments?

Ken Levine said...

Probably my Kickstarter post, which went viral. Got a million hits in one day and more than a few comments.

Bob B. said...

She reminds me of "2 Broke Girls" -- a one joke comedian. If she's stealing, it is not making her less boring.

cadavra said...

This amazes me, because I've never heard anything come out of her mouth that even remotely resembled a joke. It shocks and saddens me that my two comedy gods, Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks, both consider her a "genius." To me she's that drunk at the end of the bar yammering non-stop about all the guys she's screwed while you silently pray she'll pass out soon.

A Friday question, Ken: You think Schumer's great, yet you continually dump on 2 BROKE GIRLS, a show I find hilarious, well-acted (especially by Dennings, Behrs and Morris) and which uses actual jokes to move the characters and plot along. (It can't be because 2BG is "dirty," since Schumer is far, far worse in that regard.) Since we generally agree on what constitutes funny and well-written, any idea why we're on opposite sides of the fence here?

Mike Barer said...

I think you recalled in an earlier post that you lost a job because you were accused of stealing something that you actually originated, and actually the material was stolen from you. That had to be a real double fisted punch.

stonedog said...

I look at the large group of comedians who have come out to defend Amy and I think I'll trust their judgment. Marc Maron had a great takedown of this 'character hit' on his WTF podcast last week, pointing out that you could make a 'theft' reel for any comic if you cherry-picked enough content. The bit that was similar to Patrice O'Neil's covers similar ground but Amy approaches it from a different, woman-focused angle. Maron in particular - I mean, there probably isn't anyone who knows more about comedians and their styles more than Marc, and if he thought Amy was not on the up-and-up, he would say so.

Rod said...

I think sometimes an idea comes into your head and you're not sure where it came from, and you think it was an original idea. There are only so many ways to make certain situations funny, or dramatic. It's like Rock and Roll--The Red Hot Chili Peppers song "Californication" sounds an awful lot like "Mary Jane's Last Dance" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Even Petty acknowledged as much, but blew it off. The same with Phil Collins' "Sussudio" sounding the same as Prince's "1999." In both cases the original artists both just shrugged.

Harold X said...

I think you recalled in an earlier post that you lost a job because you were accused of stealing something that you actually originated, and actually the material was stolen from you. That had to be a real double fisted punch.

Actually, he recalled it in this post, and provided a link to the earlier column.

Johnny Walker said...

I'm so wary of trusting YouTube videos these days. I've been burned many times in the past... and was recently burned by Netflix's Making A Murderer (the lies of omission in that thing!). So I'll reserve judgement.

If Schumer did steal jokes, she's definitely not about to do again any time soon.

tb said...

I think with relentless research everyone could be accused of stealing

GS in SF said...

I sympathize with how hard it must be to be a comedian in many ways. Like a musician I imagine it must get tiring to play the same song/joke night after night. But at least a musician can play the same song year after year but except for maybe a joke or two, a comedian needs to come up with an entirely new act quite often. And on top of that a comedian needs to be witty all the time and come up with engaging and funny stories -- for twitter, magazine interviews, late night talk shows, etc. So I get how hard that is. And the result is that such a demand really separates the greats from the masses. And perhaps Amy Schumer has had her moment so soon and so she does not have 20 years of jokes and timing to rely upon and maybe is not truly a "great" but has somehow been looked upon as such. So, um, yeah, jokes must be taken from somewhere.

Musicians sue other musicians all the time for stealing a riff or melody. Maybe comedians can do the same thing... and put it on television! Everything is better on television. Comedian's Court.





Tyler said...

Much of the feedback I've seen about this boils down to either "I like Amy Schumer, so no, she didn't do it," or "I don't like Amy Schumer, so yes, she did it."

Bugdun said...

I'm a bit surprised at all the hate I'm seeing here. Amy Schumer is really funny. And, while she is not what you would call an Oscar-level actress, she does a great job getting into different characters on her show. She is talented. Very enjoyable stuff. The 12 Angry Men parody on her show last season was simply great.

I was disappointed to hear the accusations. The video is jaw-dropping, though. I'll stay open-minded while this plays itself out.

A Google Images search on Tammy Pescatelli was definitely worth the time. Holy moly.

MikeN said...

A number of historians have been accused of it. It looks like people like Doris Kearns Goodwin and Stephen Ambrose were just putting their name on work written by grad students and others, and the grads were stealing material.

At least Tom Clancy puts the author's name on the cover.

Johnny Walker said...

It's possibly also worth pointing out that Marc Maron is defending Amy Schumer, despite the clip (and weird image) in that video:

"The malignant momentum against Schumer has nothing to do with joke stealing or justice and everything to do with hate and attempted annihilation being carried out by frightened, angry, faceless cowards. They are using her vulnerability and her personality as a portal in an attempted verbal and online gang rape of her career. She is being attacked by an army of unfuckable hate nerds who want to destroy her pride, humanity, career and sense of self. It is so clear if you look where this is coming from who these men are. They are ever-present in the history of this country and this is how they hurt people now. They are afraid of change and feel that their way of life is slipping away from them. Look, I'm a guy. I have my sexist moments, but misogyny requires commitment and these guys are committed to it. And that is what this is about. No doubt."

"They're all dudes who champion this thing. This has nothing to do with justice. This is about annihilating a woman... they put a lot of work into it - to the point where they manipulated my words to suit their agenda and get that through."

Bockers said...

Nobody can be completely original - it's not only unreasonable to expect it, it's stupid. Creative discovery, whether in art or science is a consequence of humans sharing, both their experimental endeavours, and the resultant outcomes, insights and ideas.

It is only pernicious copyright law that creates these controversies.

In relation to jokes by the way, the truism 'it's the way you tell them', will always hold true.

Mike Barer said...

Harold X, you are correct. I missed that on the first read through, however I was impressed that I remembered that post and even more impressed when I went back and saw that it was almost a 2 year old post.

Aaliyah Miller said...

The world is a small place, especially in entertainment and media industries. I'm willing to give Amy the benefit of the doubt, however if she is stealing from her fellow comics, it will catch up with her. The fact that she is getting called out and having to defend herself should be a "press pause" moment. If not, she'll learn the hard way. There is nothing worth than when you're not authentic.

Carol said...

If she is guilty of stealing material from other comics, I have a feeling that she won't be guilty of it in the future.


Ron Rettig said...

Maybe Amy Schumer is channeling Milton Berle.

Mike in Seattle said...

Slightly off topic but had to throw these out here if you haven't seen them. This interview with Marshall Brickman is very well researched and reads like a history of sixties and early seventies comedy. He worked with Woody, Johnny, Dick Cavett, David Lloyd, and others you will know.

http://classicshowbiz.blogspot.com/2016/01/an-interview-with-marshall-brickman.html

And I love the way David Simon describes writers who are also producers working with actors and how annoying it can be when the actor is right.

http://davidsimon.com/whats-my-line

Pat Reeder said...

I really like Amy Schumer and was sorry to see her accused of this (although the Marc Maron excuse of her as a victim of sexist resentment and misogynistic h8ers is ridiculous, especially considering it was mostly female comics accusing her). Even sorrier to see just how blatant some of the infractions are. Some, like the sketches, could be hung on her show writers, and some are of the "great minds think alike" school, but a few, like the ones from Patrice O'Neal, are just too "in your face." And yes, I'm sure I'm not the first person to use that expression about ejaculation jokes.

I look at this from a unique perspective. As the head writer of the Morning Punch, then owner/writer of the Comedy Wire syndicated radio service, I traffic almost exclusively in topical jokes. Our material is based on current headlines, the more current the better. As technology improved and sped up, our deadline moved up. When I started with the Morning Punch, I had to get material into finished form by 5 p.m. the day before to get it faxed to all the stations in time. Eventually, we could email it to morning DJs simultaneously, so our deadline crept up to 5 a.m. and I became as nocturnal as Dracula. Our selling point was that if something big happened at 4 a.m., there would be great jokes about it in your inbox by 6 a.m. That goes a long way toward fighting the charge of joke-stealing, since NOBODY got there before us, not even the other radio comedy services that had much earlier deadlines.

My headache was big stories that happened in the late morning/early afternoon. All the late night comics had time to exhaust the premise, and I didn't want to repeat any of their jokes. So I'd have to watch/record Jay, Dave, Conan, etc., and remove or rewrite any jokes we'd already written that were too similar to theirs. The thing I hated most was when one of them did a line almost identical to my favorite joke I'd already written, and I had to cut mine or else be accused of theft. Even though I knew I hadn't stolen it, our clients and their listeners would assume I had.

It also worked in reverse. Because of our very early deadline, I frequently heard Jay Leno do lines nearly identical to ones we'd sent out 24-to-even-72 hours before (This wasn't as common with the other hosts because Dave and Conan had much quirkier styles and often did jokes that would only fit them). I usually ascribed that to comic minds thinking alike. On the other hand, I knew that Jay did let approved writers submit material free lance, because at one point, I'd been one of them. Every so often, I would hear a line that was identical to one we'd sent out a day or two before, based on something that I knew had been buried 25 paragraphs deep into a news story and that nobody else had mentioned, since I'd monitored them all. I often wondered if that was one of our clients or their listeners trying to resell one of our lines. But I just had to take it as a compliment or shrug it off as parallel minds because in the end, what are you gonna do about it?

The only real solution is just to keep on generating new material. To steal a line from the space aliens in Woody Allen's "Stardust Memories," if you want to do mankind a favor, tell funnier jokes.

Rashad Khan said...

I can't decide which has me in an uproar more: the fact that Amy Schumer steals her comic material from others...or that those others are ones not worth stealing from.

Stephen Robinson said...

Yeah, the MAD TV example (with the young Peele, in fact) strikes me as the example I'd give of a stolen bit. It's not possible that it's a mere coincidence. For example, someone doing a similar routine about iPhone autocorrect.

Anonymous said...

"If you stole from me, you stole twice."

Tim said...

In each of the cases they shown, it's pretty much she and the person she's accused of stealing from had the same idea for a joke. But in each case, the execution is different enough that I really do believe that she just happened to have the same idea as someone else.

It seems like a testament to going that extra mile with your material and really trying to go a little deeper with your writing (wasn't that something you suggested, Ken?). A lot of what they showed, it just seemed like neither person really ran with the idea and went really took it to that next level. They just had an idea that seemed funny.

Philip said...

I agree with Tim. Most of those seemed pretty weak. Same kernel of a joke that isn't exactly mind-bending that they were thought of in the first place. Half of those we had versions of jokes of in Junior high. i.e the patrice one - she even says "the worst one I've heard" indicating that she's not even necessarily making it up and the "Houdini" joke has been around since junior high for us. So Patrice I guess stole it from some kid on the playground in Canada?

I'm not trying to dismiss this by saying "I'm a Schumer fan" - I'm not really a knowledgeable comic fan I don't know any of these people - but a lot of this seems to me like stuff that's been around anyway. Again, a classmate used to do some of the "fucking a magician" type material. He'd go on and on about "what if I banged [girl in class] in [bizarre scenario]" and I think he had variations including magician, santa claus, marine biologist and on and on.

Maybe I'm just being naive?

Anonymous said...

I missed it. Which jokes did she steal that were funny?

Cap'n Bob said...

I've mentioned before that a guy stole a joke from me once and was arrested for it.

Speaking of stealing material, I recently saw the coming attraction for an animated movie and in it they blatantly ripped off Bob and Ray's Slow Talkers of America routine. I wonder how many people will get where that bit came from when it hits theaters.

VP81955 said...

That's damping if I ever read it.

brian t said...

I guess I'm now old enough to remember when Denis Leary was accused of stealing from Bill Hicks. Given how angry some people got at the time, I'm surprised they're not being brought up again. Hicks is no longer with us, and Leary went in the acting and production direction.

I thought at the time that the example that got the most attention - a joke about Jogging guru Jim Fixx dying while Jogging - was a joke that practically wrote itself. I think there was some truth to the allegations, but then Hicks was borrowing ideas from George Carlin and Lenny Bruce anyway ...

Albert Giesbrecht said...

I think Amy's appeal isn't the jokes themseles but her cute face and killer body. Joan Rivers could tell the same jokes and make people vomit, but Amy makes you want to pinch her cheeks.

Johnny Walker said...

Pat, I think it's mostly men accusing her of stealing from female comics. Marc Maron has first hand experience of the hatred famous women get from guys on the Internet: He frequently has to moderate the hateful comments on his site whenever there's a female guest on his show. It always happens when he has female guests.

Johnny Walker said...

Additional information, for anyone who's following this: Madigan, Liebman, and Pescatelli have all stopped accusing Schumer of theft. They have all deleted and retracted their statements and made their peace with Schumer... So if they're OK with things, what's this call for justice? It's anger from parties who weren't even injured...

I strongly recommend listening to Maron's *complete* monologue about it at the beginning of the MICHAEL MOORE episode:

http://www.wtfpod.com/podcast/episodes/episode_675_-_michael_moore

As a videogamer who's seen this thing happen before in the videogame world, I think he hits the nail squarely on the head. There's some scary men out there, and I've seen what they can do when they form cabals together. I think they really believe they're standing for justice, but really they're just venting their twisted anger.

Greg Ehrbar said...

MARIA: Arnold, that wasn't your joke. You stole it from Amy.

ARNOLD: It's not a Schu-MAH!

tb said...

Then again, the Abe Lincoln joke is just too specific to be a coincidence

MikeN said...

CapnBob, I didn't know it was a reference to anything when I saw that trailer. It reminded me of commentary from a Simpsons writer:"If you repeat something it's funny, if you keep repeating it it stops being funny, and if you repeat it more it becomes hilariously funny."
This was when Sideshow Bob was stepping on rake after rake.

Buttermilk Sky said...

From the pre-historic period:

Wilde: "I wish I had said that."

Whistler: "You will, Oscar, you will."

And from the early modern period:

S.J. Perelman: "I could have been arrested for stealing from Ring Lardner."

Aristophanes probably ripped off some other Athenian gag-meister.

Let it go.

Todd Everett said...

Here's Maron from his podcast -- it's all within the first 15 minutes -- after hearing Schumer do one of "his" jokes. Or was it?

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/episode-649-aaron-draplin/id329875043?i=355514373&mt=2

(Ken: no need to post this, but you might be interested)

Anonymous said...

Groucho Marx to Milton Berle: "You're not funny,",
Milton Berle: "Everything I know, I stole from you, Grouch."
Groucho" "Then you didn't listen."

Steve Mc said...

Re: writers Joe Rogan talked about the Comedy Store banning writers from In Living Color for stealing material that would end up on the show

Melanie said...

Along the same lines, what do you do when a show airs a storyline so similar to yours that it can't be a coincidence? An example I always think of is when Frasier did an episode where Daphne dates a man exactly like Niles. Hilarity ensues as Niles realizes what is happening. That same season, Friends had an ep where Rachel dated a Ross lookalike. The Frasier ep aired in the fall, the Friends episode in the spring. Of course, it could be a coincidence but it seems like the Friends writers would have had time to change their script if so. (Frasier did it much better, IMO, and of course David Hyde Pierce was just hilarious). It always struck me, particularly because the shows aired on the same network and night. Your thoughts?

daniel in cherry hill said...

i actually wrote about this in my blog.

http://kenlevine.blogspot.com/2016/02/does-amy-schumer-steal-from-other.html

Diane D. said...

Mike in Seattle: your comment is addressed specifically to Ken, but I had to tell you how very much I enjoyed the essay by David Simon---it was elegant and hilarious.

Diane D. said...

Johnny Walker: Thank you for the link to Maron's podcast. It's shocking to learn they edited his work to make it sound as if he was accusing Amy Schumer of stealing from him. He vigorously defends her and exposes their unscrupulous methods.

blogward said...

If you're going to rip off jokes, at least rip off funny ones. Her delivery is pretty ropey too. Is this Amy's last desperate crack at the big time?

Rebecca said...

I've watched the video, and I'm just not seeing it. The sex position jokes are really, really old-did nobody else attend the 7th grade? I don't think we were supposed to think she wrote those herself. She took some old jokes that are about performing demeaning sex acts on women, and gave them a feminist spin-that's what she does. As for the rest...those skits weren't really all that creative. I have no problem believing multiple people came up with the same idea. Recycled story lines happen all the time in sitcoms-how many "somebody's birthday is on Leap Year so we all need to pretend this person is really turning 5" plots are we going to be subjected to at the end of the month? Nobody is going to accuse those writers of stealing-just laziness. Theft is a really serious charge-I'm not seeing the evidence to support it.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Melanie: memory plays tricks on all of us. I was curious about the FRASIER episode you mention and I looked it up. The FRIENDS episode with Ross's doppelganger, "The One With Russ", aired in January 1996. The FRASIER episode with Niles's doppelganger, "Mixed Doubles", aired in November 1996. So you were correct about spring and fall - but the FRIENDS episode aired ten months before the FRASIER one did.

wg

Anonymous said...

Amy *has* a small team of writers, Ken. Not that she needs defending, but in addressing the accusations she said that, as far the "slap-diet" tv sketch goes, it was the idea of one of her writers - and that the writer didn't * steal* that idea either, as its a different take on the same, common germ of an idea.

More importantly - The A.V. Club posted an interview today with David Morse, in which he discusses "Big Wave Dave's"

Big Wave Dave’s (1993)—“Dave Bell”

AVC: Speaking of being funny, Big Wave Dave’s is very much an anomaly for you, in that it’s the only time you’ve ever been a regular on a sitcom.

DM: Ken Levine was one of the creators of that, along with David Isaacs, and why they took a chance on me for that show, I don’t know. They were two of the writers on Cheers, and they had such status in the comedy world.

It wasn’t too long after St. Elsewhere, and I’d done The Indian Runner with Sean Penn at that point, but I wasn’t getting movies, and I needed money. Sean had asked me to do The Crossing Guard while we were doing The Indian Runner. He ran over to my trailer one day and handed me a scene and said, “Read this.” I read it, and I said, “That’s really cool.” He said, “I want you to play this role of Booth in here, but I don’t know what the movie is yet.” But over the next couple of years, he kept sending me scenes as the script was evolving. And I wasn’t really getting any other work that was paying—just a little bit—but I kept believing that we were going to do this movie. Harvey Keitel was supposed to do it, but he dropped out because he was a big shot at the time, and then Jack Nicholson said he would do it, but we had to wait a year. I was broke. And if I was going to have to wait a year for The Crossing Guard, then I had to audition for television.

So I auditioned for a bunch of pilots, I got offered every single pilot I auditioned for, and they were all dramas except for this Big Wave Dave’s. Nobody would ever hire me for a comedy… and suddenly these two guys were interested in me. And I had to go and test for the network and the studio and do that whole thing, which I hadn’t had to do for awhile, but it was a comedy, so I did it. And I got to do it with my friend Adam Arkin—I’d known him for a long time, and he’s a good friend—and we got to do six episodes.

Because I’d never done a comedy and I heard we were going to have rehearsals, I thought, “Fantastic! This will be like theater: we’ll do rehearsals, and then we get the day that we shoot it!” What I didn’t realize is that the writing process for comedies is that you do your table read, and if you aren’t funny on that first day during the table read, they take your jokes away and give them to somebody else. Or they change it. And the next day, when you do rehearsals during the day, all the writers come, and they all line up at the edge of the stage, and you have to perform for them. And, again, if you’re not funny, they take away your jokes and give them to somebody else. I went, “Wow, this is not the rehearsal process that I’m used to…” I thought the rehearsal process was, you actually get to work on things, and then when you’re in front of the audience, you get to be funny.

It was a little painful for me, that process, and by the sixth episode, I started getting into the swing of it, understanding that I can’t take all this personally, that they just want their jokes to work because this is a comedy, and we’re here to make them work. I wouldn’t mind having another shot at doing comedy, but I’m not sure that’s the way I’d want to go.

Ken Levine said...

David Morse doesn't give himself enough credit. We cast him because he WAS funny. We loved having him on the show and you can seek out some episodes of BIG WAVE DAVE'S on YouTube and see for yourself. If there was another part in a comedy he'd be right for he'd be my first call. I love David Morse.

And by the way, I'm sure this didn't come out -- he was a pleasure to work with. A total pro.

Matt said...

At least she is not Dennis Leary who not only stole jokes but stole a whole persona from Bill Hicks. Lucky for him, Bill died of cancer.

Johnny Walker said...

Amy *has* a small team of writers, Ken. Not that she needs defending, but in addressing the accusations she said that, as far the "slap-diet" tv sketch goes, it was the idea of one of her writers - and that the writer didn't * steal* that idea either, as its a different take on the same, common germ of an idea.

Just a small point, Amy was referring to her show INSIDE AMY SCHUMER (where the "slap diet" sketch appeared). She doesn't write it all by herself. Same goes for the clothing store sketch.

Kiri Blakeley said...

A long time ago, I decided to try a little stand-up at a venue that had amateur nights. For a week at least, I came up with a few minutes of material, and a joke I thought was golden. Before that, I went back to the venue to watch some more performances and struck up a conversation outside. I started to tell the guy my joke (probably not supposed to do that but whatever). Before I could even get halfway through it, the guy finished the joke for me. I thought it was a really original idea too. I decided right then, stand-up is not for me.

Jahn Ghalt said...

In the 80s a friend of Jackie Gleason wrote a biography (some would call it a hagiography) entitled:

How Sweet It Is: The Jackie Gleason Story

Early in the story, when Gleason was first doing standup, Milton Berle (then performing in Manhattan) came to see Jackie's act in Brooklyn. He went backstage and asked Jackie where did he get his material, who retorted:

"Where did you get yours, Pally?"