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Putting the "Dic" in Valedictorian
May 25, 2010 12:48 PM   Subscribe

Columbia University valedictorian steals a bit from Patton Oswalt.

Brian Corman, a 2010 graduate of Columbia University’s School of General Studies, gave the valedictory address at his commencement. What surely nobody knew when he was selected was that his speech cribbed from Patton Oswalt's "Physics for Poets" bit. Patton jumped all over it on his Twitter, then took it to his website after Columbia privatized the video then opened it back up with an apology misspelling his name. (Previously, Patton ripped apart a comedian who stole a good amount of his material)
posted by moviehawk (98 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Honestly, isn't "Ivy Leaguer Shows Lack of Morals, Bad Judgement, Asshole Tendencies" more of a Dog Bites Man situation?
posted by Copronymus at 12:52 PM on May 25, 2010 [12 favorites]


While I don't think comedians should steal other comedians jokes, I imagine somebody doing one of Oswalt's routines in a lunchroom for some friends and Oswalt marching in and shooting him in the face. And then a child says a line of dialogue from King of Queens, and Oswalt kicks him.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:53 PM on May 25, 2010 [12 favorites]


That's OK my school valedictorian used the line "with great power comes great responsibility" from the Spider-Man movie. Some comedy would have been better and made me want to slap fewer people.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:55 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


And then a child says a line of dialogue from King of Queens, and Oswalt kicks him.

To be fair, this is the rational response to anyone quoting a line of dialogue from King of Queens.
posted by SpiffyRob at 12:55 PM on May 25, 2010 [26 favorites]


I would say that you should put this in the Patton Oswalt plagiarism thread that's already open, but apparently it's already there.
posted by koeselitz at 12:55 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


And the dude is so criminally unfunny that I don't think this really deserves another thread. But hey, what do I know?
posted by koeselitz at 12:56 PM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


AZ, you're right; there's a threshold at which it should be okay to repeat a joke. I'm not sure that a commencement address is below it, though, especially when it would have been just as easy to tell the story, then give Patton credit.

Didn't realize someone had given the heads up in the old thread, and my memory had it happening so long ago that when I linked to it that I assumed it was closed anyway.
posted by moviehawk at 1:00 PM on May 25, 2010


But hey, what do I know?

agreed
posted by found missing at 1:00 PM on May 25, 2010 [19 favorites]


I'm not sure that a commencement address is below it, though, especially when it would have been just as easy to tell the story, then give Patton credit.

He should have given credit. And Oswalt should have said, well, I'm not losing money, and why kill an insect with an elephant gun, and let it go.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:01 PM on May 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hey, the kid cribbed everything else, why not his final speech?
posted by Thorzdad at 1:03 PM on May 25, 2010


And Oswalt should have said, well, I'm not losing money, and why kill an insect with an elephant gun, and let it go.

Agreed.
posted by moviehawk at 1:03 PM on May 25, 2010


I wonder if the kid really took the class called Physics for Poets? I mean, stealing a joke is one thing, but how odd is it that he went through this whole fake anecdote as though it happened to him?
posted by purpleclover at 1:06 PM on May 25, 2010


I've got to say, this really doesn't seem like that big of a deal to me. People open speeches by telling jokes all the time. It's, like, the cardinal rule of giving a speech-- lead with a joke.

Sure if you're not really paying attention, you could think he's purporting to tell a story about something that happened, but here's the thing: he's telling a joke about two people who are probably in the audience (the professor and student in question) and thus know it's not supposed to be a true story because they know it never happened (as does everyone in the class). Plus, it's got a punchline, so it's a obviously fucking joke.

Who the hell expects that everyone should tell only original jokes that they themselves have written just for the occasion? That's completely insane and betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of how humor works.

The only thing that's really interesting about this is the revelation that Patton Oswalt apparently believes that nobody should ever repeat one of his jokes, ever, under any circumstances, or they're guilty of "stupidity" and "thievery" and probably cheated on their classwork. He's a funny guy, but what a fucking prick.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 1:09 PM on May 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


could be worse
posted by availablelight at 1:09 PM on May 25, 2010


And the actual head of the physics department was probably sitting right in the audience.
posted by naju at 1:11 PM on May 25, 2010


Sorry, preview
posted by naju at 1:12 PM on May 25, 2010


Sounds like the valedictorian earned himself a failure pile-on in a sadness bowl.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:18 PM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ok, I get that Oswalt isn't funny, and this guy is a dick and everything, but shouldn't the valedictorian of an Ivy League university be held to some sort of high standard?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:18 PM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hey, do I have to watch the whole thing? Where is teh joke-stealing scene? I can't sit through that much of Effeminate Ben Kingsley Guy.
posted by Mister_A at 1:21 PM on May 25, 2010


There's a difference between "opening with a joke" and "five minutes into your speech, launching into a routine taken word-for-word from a stand-up comedian's album, claiming it to be your own material." This is not some joke whose origins are lost to the winds of time - the album came out during his sophomore year.

The valedictorian at my graduation told a story that wasn't her own original work, too. She gave attribution. Everything else, she wrote herself. That's what you do.
posted by kafziel at 1:23 PM on May 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


Mister_A: Here's the bit of the valedictorian's speech, and here's the material he ripped off.
posted by kafziel at 1:24 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ok, I get that Oswalt isn't funny, and this guy is a dick and everything, but shouldn't the valedictorian of an Ivy League university be held to some sort of high standard?

Exactly, and here's the thing: I write the commencement speech for the president of the university where I work every year, and I get annoyed when he wants to keep things the same as a previous speech, essentially cribbing himself. I can't imagine how frustrating it is to hear your work used by someone else. Sure, it's flattering that they guy likes Patton, but has nothing interesting or funny happened to that guy in four years of college that he couldn't tell his own story?
posted by moviehawk at 1:25 PM on May 25, 2010


Ok, I get that Oswalt isn't funny, and this guy is a dick and everything, but shouldn't the valedictorian of an Ivy League university be held to some sort of high standard?

It's Columbia. Like many people there, this guy actually would have rather been a liar at Harvard, but couldn't get into his top choice.
posted by allen.spaulding at 1:25 PM on May 25, 2010


And then Ann Curry showed up and she was all like "Wear sunscreen..."
posted by fixedgear at 1:26 PM on May 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


Yes, credit should have been given. It wouldn't have detracted from the joke at all. And I don't think that Oswalt says that nobody should ever repeat any of his jokes. More like, if they're going to quote him, then it should be a quote and not something they claim to have written for themselves. But then, doesn't EVERY author feel that's the right way to do it, whether they deliver their material orally or on the page?
posted by hippybear at 1:28 PM on May 25, 2010


has nothing interesting or funny happened to that guy in four years of college that he couldn't tell his own story

This guy had plenty of his own stuff to draw from, you'd think:

First, a bit about myself: I grew up in Virginia and attended UC Berkeley for a semester before getting a job as a professional dancer. One of my greatest achievements in my six years of dancing, aside from meeting my beautiful fiancée, was helping to unionize the Washington Ballet. I acted as union delegate at large for one year, representing the company in Mid-Atlantic meetings and conferences. Here at Columbia I have been Outreach Coordinator for Amnesty International, organizing film screenings and Congressional lobbying trips to D.C. This past year I have been an intern at Congressman Charlie Rangel's district office in Harlem. I have enjoyed doing one-on-one casework and personal advocacy at Rangel's office
posted by availablelight at 1:30 PM on May 25, 2010


Surely I'm not the only one disappointed that it wasn't the "Fucksquatch" bit.
posted by Ufez Jones at 1:30 PM on May 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


Who the hell expects that everyone should tell only original jokes that they themselves have written just for the occasion?

People who make a living (or at least a few dollars) out of telling only original jokes that they themselves have written. There's an extremely low barrier to joke-theft and part of that barrier is being called a joke thief.
posted by Comrade_robot at 1:30 PM on May 25, 2010


If I were a Columbia student, I'd want my money back. Columbia just graduated someone in 2010 that a) cribbed from a stand-up and presented it as his own material; b) didn't realize he was being filmed; 3) doesn't understand how the Internet works; 4) possibly knew all of these risks and did it anyway.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:32 PM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, and by the way, this is the VALEDICTORIAN.

Who the hell came in second to this jackass?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:34 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh I see now... the MeFi player just goes to the start of the thing...
posted by Mister_A at 1:36 PM on May 25, 2010


To all of you out there making amoral Ivy Leaguer jokes, (which believe me, I have no problem with, being one myself) I just want to point out that this guy is from the School of General Studies, not Columbia College. The School of General Studies is a pretty awesome non-traditional student program that attracts people from all walks of life, who typically have it much tougher than regular Columbia undergrads, as they don't have the same access to funding and aren't provided housing (keep in mind, this is New York). Don't know if that's the case with this guy, at all, but as a former Barnard student, some of my best class experiences were with some of the older GS students who had done some pretty cool things with their lives prior to returning to college, and well, I feel a bit protective of them being lumped into the same category as some of the privileged asswipes from the College who I also had to deal with.

Of course, that being said, Really? Plagiarizing your valedictorian speech? Come on.
posted by Polyhymnia at 1:38 PM on May 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Making jokes isn't hard, knock, knock, Yo Momma.
posted by wcfields at 1:40 PM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


moviehawk: "And Oswalt should have said, well, I'm not losing money, and why kill an insect with an elephant gun, and let it go."

Plagarism is as wrong for Ivy Leaguers as it is for hack stand-up comics. The moment Oswalt responds to the latter and not the former, he's made an unfortunate distinction.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 1:43 PM on May 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


4) possibly knew all of these risks and did it anyway

Every cloud has a silver lining. In honor of Brian Corman's bravery, Carlos Mencia has pledged another $10 million to Columbia. The donation will help it put the finishing touches on the university's new Mencia Student Recreation and Laugh Shack Center.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:44 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love Patton Oswalt. I think he's funny as hell. But does anybody really think he wrote those jokes alone? I think that's why he's so hyper-sensitive on the subject. Sure, he kills with that material. But there had to have been a second writer, unless you buy all that magic punchline crap. Oswalt probably came up with the premise, maybe got off a riff or two, there in the dark with a bottle of Jack and a book suppository. But who really wasted Jamie Kennedy? I don't know, man. I just don't know.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:45 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


OK that was pretty bad. I thought it was just a one-liner, not a whole story. Bad bad valedictorian!
posted by Mister_A at 1:45 PM on May 25, 2010


Ok, I get that Oswalt isn't funny, and this guy is a dick and everything,

I think that most people here are saying the opposite, actually: that while Oswalt might have gone with a more measured response, plagiarism (in a valedictory address for an Ivy League school, no less) isn't cool.

I just can't figure out what the creative process behind the writing of the address is. I mean, at some point, Valedictory Guy had to write down at the very least recipe-card notes, which means he had to consciously jot down somebody else's comedy bit verbatim, and then perform it in front of a crowd of hundreds, thinking

a) this was totally cool, just boosting some guy's material without crediting him, and
b) nobody would notice, or if nobody noticed, nobody would care, and
c) there was no way that this taped, probably to-be-YouTubed speech, could ever get back to the creator and owner of the copied routine.

Seriously? Ivy League, huh?

On preview: shit, I just totally plagiarized Cool Papa Bell, didn't I?
posted by Shepherd at 1:53 PM on May 25, 2010


Plagarism is as wrong for Ivy Leaguers as it is for hack stand-up comics.

Yes, he has every right to contact the school and point out the plagiarism. But HEY FUCK YOU LIAR AND THIEF ON MY BLOG TO EVERYBODY I AM SOMEBODY AND WHO ARE YOU TO STEAL MY STUFF when it was a graduation speech? Let's have some perspective.

And plagiarism isn't just about whether the material came from somebody else. There is a difference between turning in a term paper you plagiarizes, in which case you get school credit for work you have not done, or standing up at a professional comedy club and telling somebody else's joke, in which case you get paid for work you have not done, and giving a speech. Those distinctions are only unimportant to absolutists.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:53 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it's a lot easier to get into General Studies than it is to get into Columbia College, which is the main undergraduate school. So, while this is ridiculous and he should be held to a higher standard, it's not fair to impugn Columbia College with it.
posted by Maias at 1:53 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't understand how so many people think Patton Oswalt is an obscure enough comic that they can take his stuff without anyone noticing. He's famous enough for lots of people to sniff about how unfunny they think he is, that's like Robin Williams famous.

The best part for me is that he stole a joke that relies on telling it in the third person. He doesn't even have to be in the joke for it to work! What a maroon.
posted by Errant at 1:54 PM on May 25, 2010


How come no one ever steals Jay Leno's funny material?



oh
posted by found missing at 1:56 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love Patton's work, and the other guy who was working in a comedy club deserved the lashings, but I'm with Astro Zombie in that there's no need for such zeal from Patton in this case.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:59 PM on May 25, 2010


And plagiarism isn't just about whether the material came from somebody else. There is a difference between turning in a term paper you plagiarizes, in which case you get school credit for work you have not done, or standing up at a professional comedy club and telling somebody else's joke, in which case you get paid for work you have not done, and giving a speech. Those distinctions are only unimportant to absolutists.

I'm curious where you draw the line, then. If somebody does a giant chunk of Patton Oswalt's routine at an open-mike, at which they're not being paid, is that still OK? I mean, I get it that if you're telling a joke to a few of your friends, then, hey, who cares. But a Columbia commencement's a pretty big event, isn't it?
posted by Comrade_robot at 2:00 PM on May 25, 2010


I'm curious where you draw the line, then. If somebody does a giant chunk of Patton Oswalt's routine at an open-mike, at which they're not being paid, is that still OK?

No. And I didn't say what this kid did was okay. I said Oswalt's response was out of proportion to what happened.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:04 PM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


He should have taken a George S. Patton bit instead.
posted by ODiV at 2:06 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Interesting fact: Patton Oswalt is named after Gen. Patton. This is my only Patton Oswalt Fact™.
posted by Mister_A at 2:13 PM on May 25, 2010


He should have taken a George S. Patton bit instead.


Which one? "No sonofabitch ever won a war by dying for his country" or "I shoveled shit in Louisiana."
posted by fixedgear at 2:15 PM on May 25, 2010


Interesting fact: Patton Oswalt is named after Gen. Patton. This is my only Patton Oswalt Fact™.

I learned that fact from watching his May 21 appearance on 'Real Time with Bill Maher.' I loved his quip: "Stop saying 'Tea Party.' Can't we all just say 'Ball Sack in the Mouth' movement, please?"
posted by ericb at 2:49 PM on May 25, 2010


1. Patton Oswalt works really hard on his material.

2. Someone, anyone—stand-up comic hopeful, valedictorian in a commencement speech, etc—tries to pass it off as their own, in a public forum, to please and entertain others, making themselves look good in the process.

3. Patton Oswalt reacts negatively and thinks the person is shitty.

It doesn't seem like an "out of hand" response to me.
posted by defenestration at 2:53 PM on May 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


In similar news: Idaho GOP Congressional Candidate Vaughn Ward Plagiarizes One of the Decade’s Most Famous Speeches.

Video comparison.
posted by ericb at 2:53 PM on May 25, 2010


I used to tell Douglas Adams's biscuit story as if it happened to me (because it's funnier that way). I would have felt stupid footnoting myself by saying, after everyone laughed, "Oh by the way, I got that story from So Long and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams, published in 1984 by Pan Books, UK; Harmony Books, U.S. pages 32-34."

Especially since Adams claimed the story had really happened to him, which is technically possible, but the same story has been going around since before he claimed it happened to him.

My point is that most people repeat jokes without feeling a need to say where they came from. The whole point of using a joke is that it gives you a smooth introduction into something else you want to say. To stop and cite where the joke is from would break the flow, ruining the whole point of telling the joke in the first place. When's the last time you heard a public speaker tell a joke and then stop to tell you where he heard it?
posted by straight at 3:01 PM on May 25, 2010


If somebody does a giant chunk of Patton Oswalt's routine at an open-mike, at which they're not being paid, is that still OK?

There's a few different layers there.

* First, let's assume that Oswalt has copyright ownership of the work. For example, it's published as an album or book.

* Second, let's assume that the infringement does not fall under Fair Use. Enough of the work is appropriated to be infringing, etc.

* If our imaginary open-mike comic is not being compensated monetarily, Oswalt could, in theory, still make a claim of tortious interference. If I stood up and performed Oswalt's act enough times for it to be associated with me, I could garner publicity for the act, and in theory, Oswalt may lose the chance to be paid for his work. I'm making it hard for Oswalt to maintain a business relationship with other clubs.

* The club owner would technically owe something to Oswalt. Even though the open mike comedian is not being paid, a performance of Oswalt's work is being done for patrons of the club, for which Oswalt is owed royalties, just like the club owner pays for ASCAP/BMI/Harry Fox licensing, for music.

There are probably other layers. This is just what occurs to me now.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:03 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is probably more abstract than is at issue here, but should we have to research where our jokes come from before we use them (in a public setting)?

Assume that this guy heard the Patton Oswalt story from a friend of a friend, and had no idea it was a Patton Oswalt standup bit, he just thought it was a pretty funny anecdote or something. What responsibility should a person have to give proper attribution? Or, would simply saying "I didn't make up that story, someone else did" without actual attribution be sufficient?

Like I said, more abstract as there needs to be evidence of ignorance of source material.

I reminds me of the Richard Matheson-cum-Family Guy story, "A Splendid Source."
posted by jabberjaw at 3:05 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Isn't Columbia's School of General Studies just like Harvard's Extension School?
posted by anniecat at 3:07 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who cares?
posted by Dick Laurent is Dead at 3:08 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


While I don't think comedians should steal other comedians material, I picture somebody doing one of Oswalt's routines in a break room for some friends and Patton marching in and stabbing him in the face. And then a kid says a line of dialogue from Reno 911, and Oswalt punches him.
posted by quin at 3:16 PM on May 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Well, I guess the question was less about the legality of joke theft, though you might be interested in this article (Oliar D, Sprigman C, There's No Free Laugh (Anymore): The Emergence of Intellectual Property Norms and the Transformation of Stand-Up Comedy, 94 Va. L. Rev. 1787 (2008) ) from the Virginia Law Review.

One thing is perfectly clear: copyright law has played little role in stand-up comedy. Formally, jokes and comedic routines can enjoy copyright protection. Jokes are literary works, which constitute a protected category under copyright law ... In practice, however, copyright law does not play a significant role in the market for stand-up comedy. Despite what appears to be a persistent practice of joke stealing among stand-up comedians, there have been few lawsuits asserting copyright infringement in jokes—and none we could find involving disputes between stand-up comics—and there is also little evidence of threatened litigation or settlements.

I think part of the reaction here is because of differing subcultural norms. For a comedian, joke theft is incredibly serious, partially because it's so easy. For people who aren't comedians, jokes are repeated all the time. What starts to blur the line in this case, for me, is the fact that this guy is stealing a joke (and word for word), and preforming it in a public arena.
posted by Comrade_robot at 3:16 PM on May 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Steal from someone funny next time.
posted by L'OM at 3:25 PM on May 25, 2010


My point is that most people repeat jokes without feeling a need to say where they came from.

That's true. But if you're giving a speech as valedictorian for a graduating class, you could be quoted later as the source, and it's just bad form all around.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:25 PM on May 25, 2010


This is probably more abstract than is at issue here, but should we have to research where our jokes come from before we use them (in a public setting)?

If you're quoting a joke, you quote the person or say "That reminds me of the story about the guy....". If you claim it happened to you, you're fabricating, which is already borderline but possibly OK if you made it up. Unless it's absurdly fantastical, I'd call that bullshitting.

If you claim it happened to you AND you stole it, you're stealing bullshit, which is definitely over the line. Unless everybody is wasted, then you're hilarious.
posted by msalt at 3:27 PM on May 25, 2010


Assume that this guy heard the Patton Oswalt story from a friend of a friend, and had no idea it was a Patton Oswalt standup bit, he just thought it was a pretty funny anecdote or something. What responsibility should a person have to give proper attribution? Or, would simply saying "I didn't make up that story, someone else did" without actual attribution be sufficient?

"Reminds me of a story a friend of mine told me ..."
posted by krinklyfig at 3:29 PM on May 25, 2010


By the way, it doesn't detract from the humor in a speech if you give credit or attribution. You don't have to be snotty about it, just quickly acknowledge it.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:30 PM on May 25, 2010


Astro Zombie: "And plagiarism isn't just about whether the material came from somebody else. There is a difference between turning in a term paper you plagiarizes, in which case you get school credit for work you have not done, or standing up at a professional comedy club and telling somebody else's joke, in which case you get paid for work you have not done, and giving a speech. Those distinctions are only unimportant to absolutists."

In the age of the Internet, these distinctions matter a lot less. This kid will obviously put giving the commencement speech on his resume, with a link to YouTube where prospective employers will have the ability to watch and judge him on it - or, at least he would have before the speech became tarnished by obviously having stolen material.

Joe Biden (or, more accurately, his speechwriter), plagiarized a significantly smaller amount of text, without taking the underlying idea, for a speech in front of significantly less people (likely) for which he was also not paid. It was enough to knock him out of a presidential race. It's not out of line for Oswald to ensure that this kid at least doesn't get a positive reputation boost from the speech.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 3:31 PM on May 25, 2010


If the kid had read an Emily Dickinson poem and passed it off as his own, he would have been eviscerated. If he had passed off a section from Moby Dick as "One summer that I spent fishing", likewise. I think the reason Oswalt reacts with as much force is because he takes what he does as seriously as any other artist would take his or her work. I suspect people feel more comfortable stealing from a comedian because it appears that they're just talking off the top of their heads, when the reality is more like they're playing a song that they wrote. Maybe he surprises you by the severity of his reaction, but he's getting his point across- "This isn't okay, don't fucking do it again". And I bet the kid is never gonna fucking do it again.
posted by kingv at 3:31 PM on May 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Joe Biden (or, more accurately, his speechwriter), plagiarized a significantly smaller amount of text,

Joe Biden plagiarized John F. freaking Kennedy.

The comedy equivalent would be Steve Martin, or Woody Allen, or Richard Pryor. Patton Oswalt? We need to teach our youth to aim higher, apparently.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:41 PM on May 25, 2010


I thought Joe Biden stole lines from Neil Kinnock.
posted by found missing at 3:45 PM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


True story about why I consider Mr. Oswalt both unfunny and unethical as a comedian and artist:

I saw him at a comedy theatre in L.A. once. He was doing his bit, and in the course of it he starts going off on Paris Hilton. To the point where he calls Ms. Hilton the "c-word." A waitress, who had been out at the bar, walks in at that moment and looks shocked at hearing that word.

"It's OK," says Mr. Oswalt, "I was talking about Paris Hilton."

That's it, right there. All of us there were supposed to excuse his word of an offensive word, because we were all supposed to agree that the target "deserved it." I have no real problem with that word, in a comedy context. Sometimes it's appropriate. But the idea that he can say that, because Paris is just SO BAD she forced him to and we can all agree on that, right? That's not comedy. That's playing down to your audience. That's the same thing as telling racist jokes at a KKK rally. Same exact thing.

And let's face it, he's not really that angry about Paris Hilton. Who could be? She doesn't actually do anything, except have fun in public and be a bit vapid. No, she was just the easiest target he could find for his cheap, easy, dishonest comedy.

posted by drjimmy11 at 3:50 PM on May 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


The comedy equivalent would be Steve Martin, or Woody Allen, or Richard Pryor. Patton Oswalt? We need to teach our youth to aim higher, apparently.

With due respect, I don't think those comedians are as popular as the younger ones at the moment. I do think a lot more people graduating from college would be able to recognize Oswalt's material, just because of the generation difference. But this is yet another reason to include attribution.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:52 PM on May 25, 2010


Well, drjimmy11, I guess I don't see it the same way.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:53 PM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


but shouldn't the valedictorian of an Ivy League university be held to some sort of high standard?

It was said above, but it should be noted again that it was the School of General Studies, which is basically like a continuing ed program. It's a completely separate thing from Columbia College and the media of course is obscuring the fact because it's not as sexy as hating on the more ambiguous "Columbia!"

Also, all the "ivy leaguers are assholes" shit is just as bad as all the other prejudice and ableist nonsense on here that sends people off the rails. Please stop.

furthermore, Columbia can suck my balls as far as graduation speeches go. The guest speaker when I graduated from Columbia? Matthew Fox. No, that's not a joke.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:57 PM on May 25, 2010


Also, all the "ivy leaguers are assholes" shit is just as bad as all the other prejudice and ableist nonsense on here that sends people off the rails. Please stop.

I agree 100%. It's obnoxious.
posted by ericb at 4:01 PM on May 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


That's the same thing as telling racist jokes at a KKK rally. Same exact thing.

Unless your story takes place in a comedy theatre called Lynching Bitches, it's not even close to the same thing, and you surely know that. I have no interest in defending Patton Oswalt's statements or changing your opinion of him, just maybe you can express your distaste without depending upon cheap, easy, dishonest hyperbole.
posted by Errant at 4:02 PM on May 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Drjimmy11, if I recall correctly the entire point of the "Paris Hilton is a c-word" routine is not about Hilton per se, but rather how his "cheap, easy, dishonest comedy" had gotten him fired from a cushy television gig on VH1. I'd have to listen again, but Hilton was sort of incidental to the bit as the joke was about him.
posted by greasy_skillet at 4:03 PM on May 25, 2010


"It's OK," says Mr. Oswalt, "I was talking about Paris Hilton."

That's it, right there. All of us there were supposed to excuse his word of an offensive word, because we were all supposed to agree that the target "deserved it."


I don't know. I think he's making a quick, effective joke with a double irony backflip.

It's actually impressive.

* He recognizes the waitress walks in at a key moment, and he portrays her as someone that doesn't understand the context of what has gone before. So, he breaks stride. In old-school comedy vernacular, this is called "the passing of the angel."

* He portrays the waitress as assuming that she is the one being talked about, as if the waitress were vain and self-centered. The audience can't assume that, so it's a mismatch of contextual frames. That's the very definition of funny.

* He says, "It's OK. I was talking about Paris Hilton." Again, coming back to the target, but doing it, as you say, as if she deserves it. Again, it's a mismatch of framing -- he's overcorrecting. "Oh, I would never say that about YOU. I'm not THAT kind of blowhard. But I AM the kind of blowhard that will say that about Paris Hilton."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:26 PM on May 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


I propose a 1 year moratorium on Patton Oswalt posts.
posted by nathancaswell at 4:34 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's OK my school valedictorian used the line "with great power comes great responsibility" from the Spider-Man movie. Some comedy would have been better and made me want to slap fewer people.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:55 PM on May 25 [1 favorite +] [!]

To be fair, Spider-Man the movie stole it from the comic and several historic, frequently quoted people, and every one of them folks stole it from the Bible.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 5:11 PM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's a school of continuing ed at columbia which is akin to harvard extension - different from General Studies. GS is a pretty sweet program where people return to college to complete their bachelor's degree. But yes, it's very different from the other three undergrad schools at columbia: CC, SEAS and Barnard
posted by Meritager at 5:22 PM on May 25, 2010


People who are really famous don't need to acknowledge it when nobodies rip them off. I get why he's pissed, but making an issue of it like this just makes Oswalt look like kind of a jerk.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:23 PM on May 25, 2010


With great power, comes great responsibility. With great responsibility, comes great stress. With great stress, comes great appetite. With great appetite, comes gravy, mashed potatoes, corn, breaded chicken, and cheese.

With great power, comes a failure pile in a sadness bowl.

QED

[Editor's Note: Parts of this comment may not be original. Other parts may cause colon cancer and withering of the soul.]
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:52 PM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I actually enjoy King Of Queens.
posted by jonmc at 6:05 PM on May 25, 2010


Sometimes it's appropriate. But the idea that he can say that, because Paris is just SO BAD she forced him to and we can all agree on that, right? That's not comedy. That's playing down to your audience.

What, THIS bit? (Jump to 1:50).

If so, that is clearly a comic making fun of himself. In fact, much of Patton's schtick is self-deprecating, and it takes some pretty creative & deliberate misunderstanding of the concept of "humor" to think otherwise.

That's the same thing as telling racist jokes at a KKK rally. Same exact thing.

It couldn't be less like that.
posted by tantrumthecat at 6:10 PM on May 25, 2010


Also, all the "ivy leaguers are assholes" shit is just as bad as all the other prejudice and ableist nonsense on here that sends people off the rails. Please stop.

No. They get to rule the world and we get to give them shit. It's only fair.
posted by jonmc at 6:15 PM on May 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


"I'ma takin' the rocket-bus to Galveston" kills me every time.
posted by bardic at 6:53 PM on May 25, 2010


If Oswalt wants to become some sort of comedy vigilante, perhaps he could go after Denis Leary next. There's no cure for Patton, motherfucker!
posted by TedW at 7:14 PM on May 25, 2010


All of this is secondary to the REALLY significant point in Patton Oswalt's Twitter feed:

There's a Human Centipede flash game!
posted by misha at 7:24 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery.
posted by crunchland at 7:26 PM on May 25, 2010


Plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:34 PM on May 25, 2010 [5 favorites]



As others have said above, conflating GS and Columbia College for the sake of "LOLIvyLeaguers" is like conflating a Fender Squier with a real Strat.

There's plenty that's wrong with the ivies, but in 15 years of teaching at one I've seen very little academic dishonesty.

Don't let that get in the way of your schadenfreude, though. Yes you -- the one laughing loudly-- are so much smarter than those stuck up kids.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:45 PM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


This kid will obviously put giving the commencement speech on his resume, with a link to YouTube where prospective employers will have the ability to watch and judge him on it - or, at least he would have before the speech became tarnished by obviously having stolen material.

In no way is this obvious, and we cannot simply assume something and then proceed to argue from that assumption.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:47 PM on May 25, 2010


I managed to say "four wasted years" during my high school speech. Couldn't he have used that, just like everyone else? well, everyone kinda wants to say that, I think
posted by Xere at 10:53 PM on May 25, 2010


Plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery.
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:34 PM on May 26 [3 favorites -] Favorite added! [!]

posted by DoctorFedora at 12:01 AM on May 26, 2010


I believe this needs the who-gives-a-fuck tag.
posted by runcibleshaw at 12:10 AM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Astro Zombie: "In no way is this obvious, and we cannot simply assume something and then proceed to argue from that assumption."

Reading his self-written bio upthread, I came away thinking this guy probably lists every accomplishment, no matter how minor on his resume.

I'll be honest about what really bothers me about your argument: I think it inadvertently taps into a tradition where the crafting of comedy is given very little respect. Because people are so accustomed to repeating jokes, they don't give their authorship the respect it deserves. The less we respect the right of authorship in comedy, the less and less talented people will choose to do it and the less and less people will care about seeing good stand up comics as opposed to bad ones.

This trend towards ethnically-themed nights at comedy clubs, particularly in LA, really bothers me, because it ultimately says that comedy is about making the same tired jokes directed at the same targeted demos and it doesn't matter who the jokes come from, because offensiveness is funnier than creativity. I don't think Patton Oswald is the funniest stand up working, by a long stretch, but his material has a unique voice and it's not about the differences between men and women, or why black people eat different foods than white people do, or being fat, or talking to an Arab puppet named Achmed the Dead Terrorist. For that reason, his material deserves respect and he deserves the right to control when and where his material will be performed, whether the person performing it is making a buck or not.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 12:13 AM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I love Patton Oswalt. I think he's funny as hell. But does anybody really think he wrote those jokes alone?

Yes. Yes, he does. That's his job as a humorist and comedian. I used to hang out for a bit with some of the amateur and hopeful comedians who were on the Boston scene at the Hong Kong in the '90s. Writing stand-up comedy involves a lot of effort, most of it wasted as the bit doesn't pan out, or audiences don't react well to it, or you can't find an effective punchline or it doesn't tie it in to the rest of your routine. Notebooks and notebooks of jokes, quips, stories, ideas, research, and after-the-gig analysis, most of it going into material that will never reach an audience's ears.

Being funny is hard fucking work.

For a long time, the big names got away with stealing whatever material they wanted - Robin Williams and Dennis Leary were notorious for this - but recently, comedy has gotten a lot more personal, intimate. A lot of it is autobiographical. You steal that, and you're not just stealing someone's livelihood, you're stealing someone's life.

Top comedians aren't putting up with joke stealing anymore - not because they're now big and famous, but because they were once small and struggling, and to a certain extent, still see themselves this way.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:39 AM on May 26, 2010


I'll be honest about what really bothers me about your argument: I think it inadvertently taps into a tradition where the crafting of comedy is given very little respect.

Please don't interpret my response this way. I have no problem with a Joe Rogan-style screaming match at people who take and profit from other people's work, and I think it would have been entirely appropriate to contact the school and contact the student and say, hey, some attribution, come on.

But a student giving a commencement speech is not a professional, or even an amateur, comedian, and probably didn't really have a clue as to what he was doing. When Rosie O'Donnell started out as a comedian, she literally lifted other people's routines whole cloth, until somebody took her aside and explained that it wasn't cool. When people don't know, they don't know, odd as it seems; they think comedy is just sort of a public domain thing, or they think the routines are well-enough known that people will just recognize them, or they think it's like doing a cover song of a band. At my summer camp when I was a boy, for their talent show, people generally did Monty Python and Cheech and Chong routines, also without attribution.

Saying don't go after people like this as Joe Rogan would go after Carlos Mencia is not the same thing as saying comedy doesn't need to be respected or valued. It's saying some people are thieves, and some people just need to be educated.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:50 AM on May 26, 2010


I love Patton Oswalt. I think he's funny as hell. But does anybody really think he wrote those jokes alone?

Yes. Yes, he does.


*sigh*

Please don't make me explain the joke. It was only borderline funny to begin with.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:24 AM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


OK, class, let's review what we've covered today in Straw Men 101, shall we?

1) He's just a kid. Actually, he's probably (assuming he's not one of those precocious Doogie Howser types) old enough to do everything that an adult can do except join AARP and run for Congress, and he'll be able to do the latter in a few years. More than old enough to have developed a sufficient knowledge of the world to know that, if you're going to repeat an anecdote as if it happened to you--and, to be fair, most of us probably have, at one time or another--it's a really, really shitty idea to do so at a commencement address for a major university at which a large number of your fellow graduates and their families, if not a majority, are filming the event. People might get the idea that you're not only ripping off a well-known and notoriously vengeful comedian, but, you know, lying, on the record.

2) Everyone's just hatin' on the Ivy League. Or possibly holding its matriculatees to a higher standard.

3) Patton Oswalt isn't that funny. Right, which is why young men around half his age keep ripping him off.

There probably won't be a pop quiz later, but I'd be flattered if you pretended otherwise.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:29 AM on May 26, 2010


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