My first stand up comedy performance was in February 2012. My preparations for this however, started 3 months earlier in November. If I was going to stand up in a room full of strangers and attempt to make them laugh I wanted to be as prepared as I can. In fact, looking back on this now, I don’t think I have ever put as much preparation into anything up until then. I scoured the internet reading blog after blog, forum post after forum post on the subject. One consistent piece of advice that came up EVERYWHERE was DO NOT STEAL anyone else jokes. So much so that I was genuinely scared that I might write my own material but someone had already used it, inadvertently making me a joke thief.
Before my actual performance I went to watch a few gigs, after one gig I got speaking to a Pro Comic afterwards, I explained my fears about what if I unintentionally steal another acts joke. I needn’t of worried. “It doesn’t happen that often” I was told. There might be 2 comics that talk about the same subject and have very similar gags, but it is very clear if someone has intentionally stolen a joke. Just because 2 or more comics have the same punchline, doesn’t automatically mean that a joke theft has taken place. Sometimes the punchline is clearly obvious for the writer and 2 comics can innocently arrive at the same conclusion. If 2 or more comics have the same set up and punchline for a gag, it still doesn’t mean that someone has intentionally stolen another acts material. The comedy community tends to police itself, if an act has “very similar” material to another act, they tend to be informed after they come off stage and told to get in touch with the other comic and have a chat about it. The comics then tend to resolve the issue themselves and everyone is happy, no harm done. I would say most “intentional” joke theft tends to come from new acts, although to be fair this is more so out of ignorance, I guess not everyone tends to read all the blogs and forums before their first performance. Like I say, this tends to be born out of ignorance, I once told a new act who had just come off stage about how his material was “very similar” to another acts and suggested they have a chat. He told me it was similar because that is who he got it from, as in heard it and copied it. When these situations happen on stage, there is always someone there to inform the act of their ignorance. Other acts, the promoter, the sound tech, backstage ninjas who have seen more comedy than anyone, even members of the audience. Whoever it may be, if you take someone else’s material and use it on stage, you only tend to do this the once. Like I say the comedy community polices itself.
The internet however, that’s a much more difficult place to police. One of the reasons I started writing this Blog is ultimately because of Keith Chegwin. My Facebook timeline is full of screenshots of fellow comics blocked on twitter by good old cheggers. I have just had a look over on twitter, had a read of Cheggers timeline and its pretty much full of one liner gags. Some of the gags I recognise from household names like Tim Vine, Milton Jones and Gary Delaney. I don’t want to attack cheggers in a blog online, what I will say though, is even if he was victim to the ignorance of joke theft, I feel enough comics out there have brought it to his attention for him to at the very least have a little search on google and re think his tweets. Keith is by no means the first person to post other comics jokes and by no means will he be the last, he is at the minute the most high profile. Although, there are quite a few cases of TV household comedians stealing jokes and material from the “unheard of” comics from the circuit. I will leave this for another day.
The point here is, there are many comics out on the circuit, who spend years honing their craft, endless hours of writing, re writing and polishing gags, sometimes travelling over 4 hours to die on their arse to 6 people above a pub. When someone takes one of their jokes and posts it online it’s hard to take, when said comic isn’t even credited for the gag it is soul destroying. All those hours wasted and once that gag goes viral the comic cant use it on stage any more for fear of the audience thinking they have actually stole their own joke.
How does the comedy community go from policing the stage to the virtual word then? Last month Comic Freddy Quinne set up a facebook page called the Gag Bible. Its primary function is for comics who want to post their jokes online but dont want them stolen. They would do so through the page and be credited with the joke. Freddy has invited me to help look after the page, but ultimately for the page to work it needs followers.
This is where you come in, the Gag bible will be a page where ANYONE with a unique gag, picture, meme, poem, song, video clip ect. can post AND be credited for it. In the long run it will effectively become an online library for jokes. Think about some of the shit Facebook pages you follow at the minute, take just 5 seconds to like this page. https://www.facebook.com/GAGbible I then ask you to take another 5 seconds to share this article. With the intention of giving people knowledge. Knowledge certainly is power and if enough people know about this and then hopefully, just like using other comics material on stage these people will know that using other comics virtual material is also bad form.
I have now added this bit on to my post, as you can see I was willing to give Cheggers the benefit of the doubt, turns out that the Gaurdian newspaper wrote an article 6 years ago about cheggers doing exactly the same thing he is doing today, taking other peoples hard work and passing them off as his own. whatever job you are doing, when someone takes your hard work and passes it as their own it is wrong, to make matters worse cheggers is actually making money out of other peoples hard work.
Chegwin, who has been blocking the comics on Twitter has been doing so because the comics have been calling him out on his robbery. Gregor Burns has come up with a great idea and it would be great if you all got involved.
Cheggers cant block a hashtag so everyday for atleast a week at 8pm. we need as many people as possible to tweet the hash tag #classiccheggers #cheggersjokethief.
The plan is to get this trending, every night 8pm..