Amy Schumer recently shot a comedy special for HBO, and several people questioned whether she stole jokes from the late comedian Patrice O'Neal. Structurally, the jokes do appear quite similar. However, many established comedians sided with Amy, noting that the premise of the jokes are identical, and that it does not constitute theft. The jokes are about gross, (hopefully) fictional sexual acts that have been around for a long, long time. In fact, they're not really jokes, it's just describing taboo acts on stage for a crowd that came to laugh in the hands of a skilled comedian. Patrice loved controversial topics, and Amy does as well.
Colin Quinn, a close friend of both Patrice and Schumer, laid out the distinction:
Jim Norton, a very close friend of Patrice, explained in a Facebook post how comedians often use similar pop culture premises in jokes, and that these sexual acts were around long before Patrice or Amy joked about them. Jim also notes that comedians know who the joke thieves are, and assures us that Amy is not one of them:
There have been a rash of tweets sent out today by people questioning whether Amy Schumer stole a bit from Patrice Oneal. The bit in question revolves around describing sex terms like 'The Angry Pirate', 'Dirty Sanchez', etc. Amy did a couple in her special (The Abe Lincoln, The Houdini) that were similar to ones Patrice had done in his act.
So naturally, people just assume that she stole them from him. I think these fans are acting in what they feel is Patrice's defense because they love him, and I can appreciate them feeling protective about anything involving him. But they don't love Patrice more than I do, and I am telling you, without reservation, that she did not steal those jokes from him.
Even comedic geniuses like Patrice would do silly things sometimes onstage. Those terms have been in the Urban Dictionary for years, Patrice did not come up with them (I'm not saying he didn't change any of them to make them original, but they have been around for as long as I can remember). To think that Amy would watch Patrice do something onstage and then decide to close with it on her HBO special is simply ludicrous.
People doing similar bits has been happening in comedy for as long as people have been telling jokes. The comedians know who the joke thieves are. We understand the difference between two people doing a similar bit and one person seeing the bit and stealing it.
Patrice had a lot of respect for Amy. The first time I ever heard her name was when he was talking about how funny she was. There are very few things more repulsive to a comic than joke thief. Which is why accusations of joke stealing should be made with caution, because it's such an ugly thing to accuse a comedian of.
You're certainly allowed to not like Amy Schumer, but to say that she stole this bit from Patrice O'Neal is simply ignorant.
In the environment of today's Internet outrage and vigilantism, it seems everyone wants to catch comedians doing something wrong or saying something offensive. Several prominent comedians have pointed out that this has now gone too far. Everyone should focus more on laughing, and hope that their sexual partner doesn't pull a Houdini or a poltergeist on them.