Amy Schumer responds to joke-stealing accusations
Amy Schumer’s meteoric rise to fame hasn’t impressed everyone. The comedian, riding high off the back of last year’s cinematic hit Trainwreck, has now been forced to come out in her own defence after several accusations of joke-stealing emerged on Twitter.
Appearing on Jim Norton’s SiriusXM advice show, Schumer made it clear she wanted to set the record straight once and for all; “I’m being accused of stealing jokes and I wanted to come and talk to you about it and clear my name.”
Schumer’s response follows a Twitter discussion involving three comedians, Wendy Liebman, Kathleen Madigan, and Tammy Pescatelli, on alleged similarities between their own jokes and those featured on her Comedy Central series, Inside Amy Schumer, and hit movie, Trainwreck. The thread has since been deleted, but the response from others appears to have been heated enough to garner Schumer’s own attention.
It’s a reaction perhaps also sparked from earlier accusations which made the rounds last year, in which critics brought up alleged similarities between material penned by the late Patrice O’Neal and Schumer’s stand-up special, Amy Schumer: Live at the Apollo. Apparently, both sections of their sets discussed bombastic sex acts with snazzy nicknames like “The Poltergeist”.
“I would never, ever do that and I never have,” Schumer continued. “I’m literally going to take a polygraph test and put it on my show this season, and I promise, whatever the results are — I won’t let them cut — I will show that I had never, never seen Patrice do that bit. I had definitely never seen Tammy Pescatelli do that. I didn’t happen to catch [Pescatelli's] 2006 Comedy Central special and like, sit on that bit until I got a movie.”
“I have to come up with so much material — my TV show, this movie, standup, specials — and I’m so careful. And none of these things had ever reached me. And I will literally take a polygraph. And I just would never do that, like that would be so stupid for me to do that!”
Look, anyone with experience within the comedy circuit will tell you this: if you watch enough stand-up, you’re going to start seeing the same jokes recycled endlessly. Over and over again. Comedians have seen enough “so that’s why I’m single” jokes to haunt their every night until they reach the grave. But no one’s stealing from each other.
No, it’s down to the very simple fact that the human imagination has a limited capacity. We’re not as original as we like to think we are as a species, and vastly different people will arrive at the same joke for the mere reason that our brains really don’t work all that different from each other; especially when comedians are coming to a piece of material with the same cultural influences and experiences.
Let’s take one of these accusations as an example (as previously reported by Refinery29). Madigan referenced a set in which she imagines Oprah paying a man to slap food out of her hand, and Schumer has a sketch on her show involving a new diet in which a private chef violently slaps food out of your hand. Yes, they’re the same idea; but it wasn’t an original idea in the first place. People have been asking other people to slap cake out of their hand since the dawn of dieting; it’s just a thing people say. Schumer’s sketch is funny in its delivery, that’s the originality of it; something that’s in itself wildly different to Madigan’s brief reference.