Ask Ash: Understanding the Joke Thief
By Paul Ash
This is not in response to a direct question, but there’s been another spat of internet chat on the subject of joke thieves, particularly involving people I respect. This was brought to the fore again by a recent streamed discussion on Extralegal Norms at Harvard University.
“there’s a lot of people in the industry who should drown in their own saliva” – Jim Mendrinos
Joke thieves are a (rightfully) vilified fact of life in the comedy community. They cause stress and sow fear in the lives of creators as well as rob opportunities from those who are deserving. Who could be so vile, so destructive to the world around them and would want the hate and loathing of their peers? ”No one” is the correct answer. This is something that we must keep in mind if we want to lessen the effect this behaviour has on our industry. Brow beating, finger pointing and McCarthy-esque outings are only going to polarize our community and not get to the roots of the problem.
“No one is a villain in their own mind.” – Harry Crews
Let us try to identify the types of joke thieves, work out their motivations and figure out what we can do together to curb their behaviour.
Who: The casual performer is someone out for a good time. They don’t see a career in comedy, they’re the office cut-up, funniest one of their friends. They probably forward videos, post pictures from various sites on their Facebook, and as a lark they decide to get onstage to tell a few jokes. Some seek out comedy clubs, some just go to a local open mic or even a karaoke club – some place that’ll give them a stage and a mic. They just want to have fun, and they’ll bring their supportive friends with them. They’ll do versions of jokes they’ve read online, even bits from their favourite comics (sometimes even giving credit to the original performer).
Problem: The obvious problem most people see is that the Casual Performer (CP) is taking stage time away from people who need it to develop, who want it more. That’s the wrong way to think of it. The problem with the CP is that they are a comedy fan. They love it, they just don’t know how to create it so they mimic what they like. The most damaging problem is that CP’s bring out people. They are the funny one of their friends, they’re constantly told they should get onstage – and bars that are more concerned with drinks sold and butts in seats overlook the poor quality of their act. Correcting their behavior has to be
Source: Paul ash Comedy