During Louis C.K.’s usually edgy Saturday Night Live hosting duties this past weekend, one (nonpolitical) sketch in particular managed to generate a few headlines: Called “Birthday Clown,” cast member Bobby Moynihan plays a clown who’s hired to perform for a man’s (C.K.) 53rd birthday all by himself. It’s an awkward three minutes of dialogue between the two men, but the digital short has just become a bit more awkward for a different reason. Tig Notaro, who released the comedy-drama short film Clown Service in 2015, is speaking out about how she feels the similarities between the two works — which both utilize the same central narrative of clowns performing for depressed people — are a bit too close for her comfort. “It has been impossible for me to ignore the cacophony of voices reaching out personally and publicly about the potential plagiarizing of my film Clown Service,” Notaro said in a statement to Entertainment Weekly. “While I don’t know how all this actually happened, I did find it extremely disappointing. First off, I have recently learned that a writer/director who was fully aware of Clown Service when I was making it, actually worked on Louis C.K.’s clown sketch that is in question. Secondly, Louis C.K. and I have not communicated in any way for nearly a year and a half.” Here are both sketches:
Notaro stressed that she never gave anyone at SNL permission to “use anything” from her film. “I hesitated to even address any of this, but I think it is only right to defend my work and ideas and moving forward,” she continued. “I plan to continue screening Clown Service with the joy and pride I always have.” It’s unclear if Notaro will pursue any legal action against the NBC series, but watch the two videos above to decide the similarities for yourself.