People have been stealing jokes for as long as people have been telling jokes. Like almost everything else that society has deemed unsavory, joke thievery only became more widespread with the advent of the Internet. A comic doesn't just have to worry about other comics stealing his jokes now, but also an endless stream of bloggers and Twitter and YouTube users who, even after amassing a sizable following, operate in relative obscurity, delighting their thousands of fans who have no idea the things they're laughing at were written by other people.
Luckily, the other side effect of having an Internet box in every home is that getting away with shit like that forever is next to impossible, as these five joke-stealing creeps eventually learned.
These are the five most brazen joke thieves in social media history.
5Fred Thompson Forgets That Some of Us Can Still Afford Cable
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In the days after President Obama's 2010 speech about the BP oil spill, former senator and forever Law & Order rerun marathon star Fred Thompson took to Twitter and displayed some of that razor-sharp wit he's always been known for.
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Seen here doing his famous "If Obama Was Hitler" bit at the RNC.
Except that's not true, because no one expects wit or humor from Fred Thompson, which is exactly why this outpouring of spontaneous Internet comedy ...
... caught the attention of a writer at Fishbowl LA. Most likely employing the technological voodoo magic of sites like Hulu and HBO GO, she was able to uncover the true source of Fred Thompson's newfound comedy chops: He was lifting jokes from episodes of The Colbert Report and Real Time With Bill Maher that had aired within the last few days.
It's a joke about vuvuzelas, you probably don't want to watch the video.
To be fair, when it comes to knowledge of modern technology, I suspect Fred Thompson is probably the kind of guy who couldn't successfully call 911 on a Jitterbug without letting out a few frustration swears and lamenting the days when "a phone was just a phone."
The same cellphone the Founding Fathers used.
So it's highly unlikely that he's personally responsible for the comedy crime in question here, and that just makes what happened even less forgivable. To think that this heist would be successful requires the responsible party to honestly believe that a person who follows Fred Thompson on Twitter and a person who watches Colbert or Bill Maher could not possibly be one and the same.
That's the kind of narrow-minded view of the modern political landscape that you'd normally only expect from ... well, someone who would use their bullshit social media degree to land a job running Fred Thompson's Twitter page, I guess.
4Ironically Mustached Minister Ironically Forgets Ten Commandments
South Carolina minister and Twitter sensation @ProdigalSam (Sammy Rhodes, to his flock) had a not-too-shabby following of over 130,000 that he seemingly built the right way ... by consistently tweeting funny things.
Except there was a minor hitch. As it turned out, a lot of those "hilarious" tweets were stolen from other Twitter users, both famous and obscure. Take that duck joke, for example. If you have any doubt about what inspired it, check out the second name in the list of people who retweeted this:
He actually repeated the tweet several times over the ensuing months using a litany of different animals.
So if nothing else, at least give him credit for understanding exactly how Internet comedy works.
That said, while it's true that both sides are wrong because everyone knows that ducks and giraffes just use their armlike necks to hug, that definitely doesn't make what @ProdigalSam did any less shady.
He didn't see it that way, of course, and like many other religious types, he wasn't going to let an abundance of evidence to the contrary stop him from sharing his mistaken beliefs with the world. In his mind, most of his offenses could be chalked up to a simple case of parallel thought. Just two people happening upon the same idea. Kind of like how I wanted to point out that changing the word "duck" to "giraffe" and claiming it as all-new comedy gold is a lot like the absurd logic Vanilla Ice used to explain why the ghost of Freddie Mercury had no cause to sue him for stealing the "Ice Ice Baby" bass line from a Queen song:
The problem is, after coming up with that joke, a little further research revealed that the lovely and talented Jake Fogelnest beat everyone else to it.
So I guess I can't use it now, but the fact that we both landed on that same premise doesn't mean I intentionally set out to steal from him. It just means that it's a goddamn fantastic joke that deserved way more retweets, and also that we're both old enough to vividly remember that Vanilla Ice interview. I suspect he beat a lot of people my age to that joke when this story got huge.
It's way harder to claim simple coincidence when the premise is something like ducks hugging, though. So what was Sam's excuse in all of those cases? Why, he was just "riffing" on ideas originally put forth by his "Twitter heroes" (as if referring to Twitter users as "heroes" isn't also an egregious affront to comedy).
Unsurprisingly, no one bought his lies, and Sammy Rhodes was eventually forced to disappear into the Twitter ether.
There's no telling where @ProdigalSam might be these days, but wherever he is, I sincerely hope he's all right with me using so many of his tweets in this article.