Saturday Night Live’s 36th season premiere aired over the weekend, including a sketch about tiny hats that has some people claiming that the idea was stolen from Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, including Tim Heidecker himself.
On December 2nd, 2007, Adult Swim aired T&E’s 13th episode of season 2. In it, there was an ad spoof for a store that sells tiny hats for every tiny hat need. At one point a man takes off one hat to reveal that he’s wearing a tiny hat underneath.
The SNL sketch, “Ladies Who Lunch” involved the competition between women to be the most fashionable by wearing increasingly smaller hats. At one point, Trish reveals that she is wearing a smaller hat underneath her already tiny hat. Therein lies the similarity.
Today, various people have been decrying it as joke stealing, demanding SNL apologize. On Twitter, the #tinyhatswar has been flaring up, and the unofficial Adult Swim News blog and Boing Boing have mentioned it. And Tim Heidecker himself Tweeted about it, asking “will there be a ‘betty white’ sized online movement demanding public apology?” amongst other things.
Sean L. McCarthy points out that Jonathan Krisel, who has written and directed for T&E has also been directing SNL’s digital shorts, and could possibly have influenced the creation of this sketch. Although it seems pretty unlikely that a writer on one show would pitch an idea already done on another show they worked on.
So, did SNL actually rip off Tim and Eric? One sketch is about lady’s fashion, the other makes tiny hats into an every-day necessity. The setup, delivery, and conclusion of the jokes were very different, but they both included the same subject. Tiny hats, and tiny hats inside of tiny hats.
Even if Tim Heidecker joked about tiny hats before Saturday Night Live, can he lay claim to being the originator of the tiny hat concept? No, not at all.
In Living Color ran from 1990-1994 and featured the recurring sketch “Men on Film” starring Damon Wayan and David Allen Grier. Wayans played Blaine Edwards, the flamboyant film critic who, on at least 18 different occasions, wore a different comically tiny hat.
As for the hat inside a hat bit, that’s just recursion. You can apply it to anything, and it’s best done with Xzibit’s face somehow involved. Look at Inception. People are into that shit.
When it comes to who did it the best, it’s clearly subjective, but the connection between the two is murky at best.
When Carlos Mencia steals a joke, he goes for the same subject matter, the same setup, the same punchline, and only tweaks the delivery. Now that’s how you steal a joke!
Chris Menning is a writer and researcher at Rocketboom.