I had the good fortune some years ago to have a joke stolen from me and performed on TV by a comic I knew. At first I was upset, but then I realized that, poor etiquette aside, the guy was funny and he would’ve been on TV with or without my joke. I also realized that if I couldn’t immediately write several more jokes to replace it, then I wasn’t funny, and I had no business calling myself a comedian. So I forced myself to make a mental adjustment and decide that the guy had done me a giant favor. And he had. I became much less precious about material. Of course I’d be “proud” of a good joke, but I knew to thicken my skin and just produce. My silent motto when I began to encounter joke theft on Twitter was “Go ahead and take ‘em, motherfucker. Here come five more.” My goal as a comedian became to be a Delta Force Operator of humor that you could throw in an empty room with nothing and I could make something funny and kill people with it. This remains my goal.
From Rob Delaney’s Vice column comes this gem, which anyone who ever plans to publicly accuse someone of joke theft should read five times before going forward with their accusation: Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.
Obviously if you steal jokes, you’re a cunt. I was just saying that I’m not going to hunt down joke thieves; I’m going to write more jokes instead. You can choose where to put your energy. I don’t want to be a joke accountant or cop, I just want to write them. It doesn’t mean joke theft isn’t patently wrong.
Update: Delaney clarifies on his Tumblr: