As a man of internet-renowned sass and wit, with a huge fan following, I don’t mind if my followers sometimes repeat my quotes. In fact, I love it. At this point I’m sort of a walking meme. I’ve lost count of the times my fans have used one of my catchphrases in mashups, YouTube videos and Photoshops.
When professional comedians steal your jokes, however, that’s another matter. And when the professional comedian in question works for that floundering, unfunny home of progressive talking points, The Daily Show, the only possible response is to write 400 words making fun of them. So here we are.
Trevor Noah, the handsome yet comedically challenged replacement for Jon Stewart, has been stealing my jokes — specifically, one joke I made about Carly Fiorina looking like a middle-aged Buffy the Vampire Slayer at last night’s GOP debate.
A little while after I tweeted about it, I noticed a similar tweet from The Daily Show. And so did others. I know it was my joke not only because so many people pointed out the obviousness of the theft but because a Daily Show writer who followed me at the time then unfollowed me when I noticed the pilfering.
— ULTRAHARDCORE (@dunnolol4) December 16, 2015
— Ponstory Games (@Gamewizdom1) December 16, 2015
— . (@AyyItsJT) December 16, 2015
— Mel (@lordhumungus123) December 16, 2015
It’s no surprise that Noah would want to steal jokes from the funniest journalist in Britain, but you’d think the host of a late-night institution like The Daily Show could come up with original gags.
Or at least, as is more common, get the show’s writers and researchers to come up with original material for him. I get that it’s not the most brilliant or original line in history… but Noah has form.
That’s why I’m disinclined to give the Daily Show team the benefit of the doubt: this would hardly be the first time Noah has been accused of stealing jokes. His recent stand-up skit at L.A.’s Politicon included a monologue on racism that almost exactly mirrored a Dave Chapelle routine from 1997. Just look:
Trevor Noah (2015):
Before I came to America, I thought I knew all kinds of racism. I’ve always considered myself something of a racism connoisseur. I appreciate the finer racism. Not to say I appreciate all racism, but a finer racism. Before I came here, blatant racism was my favorite. Blatant racism, where you know exactly where you stand, often perpetrated by old people, which I have always appreciated. They’ll just tell it to you like it is. ‘This is what I think about you!’ Yeah, you’re going to die soon. … Charming racism in America changed my life. I discovered it in a place called Lexington, Kentucky. Probably one of the most wonderful places I’ve ever been — charming, friendly people. Racism with a smile and a tip of the hat. … I was walking through the streets, a man walked up to me, didn’t know me from a bar of soap, came straight up to me and looked me dead in the eye, and he was like, ‘Good afternoon, n—er.’ ‘Good afternoon.’ I’ve never seen racism with a smile. I didn’t know what to do. He just said it like it was a fact. As if I fought him, he would have been like, ‘What, didn’t you know?
Dave Chappelle (1997):
Travelling has made me a racism connoisseur, if you will. You know, it’s different region to region. Anyone ever been down South? So you guys know what I’m talking about. The racism down there is just f—ing (bon appetit gesture) — it’s perfect. Stewed to a perfection. It’s conformable. It’s out in the open. There are no secrets in Mississippi. Everybody knows the deal. ‘Morning, n—er!’ ‘Morning, sir!’ Not up here. Here in the big cities, it’s a secret. And we should be like them. We should keep our shit out in the open and vent a little — I mean with limits. You don’t want to say whatever comes to your mind, that might be a little much. White dude be walking down the street minding his business and a brother walk up to him: ‘Hello, you white oppressor, you slave-master rapist of Africa.’ ‘Why hello, my big-lips, spear-chucking friend.’
Canadian comedian Russell Peters once accused Noah of stealing material from himself and fellow comedian David Kau, too, although he later ducked out of the controversy by claiming the accusations were just a “prank.”
More telling was Noah’s initial response to the allegations, when they were initially made by Kau: “Nobody owns comedy, nobody owns a premise, nobody owns an idea.” Sorry, Che, but they do. You can’t build a high-flying career as a celebrity comedian on the back of other peoples’ talent and expect to get away with it. Especially talent as distinctive as mine.
I spoke to a few well-known comedians last night, one of whom noticed the similarity between Noah’s joke and mine independently. His response was: “I don’t want to be looked at like the joke police but that shit really fucking pisses me off. Trevor Noah is a fucking joke thief and they made him the head of the Daily Show.”