I’ve been doing stand-up for over 16 years now and in that time I’ve had a joke or two ripped off. Like, flat out ripped off. Every beat, every twist – far beyond parallel thinking. Confronting the comic was unpleasant and took a couple “discussions” before they agreed to drop the joke. The other side of the coin happens too where comics independently think up the same general premise but when every little bit of the joke is the same, you tend to get your back up against the wall.
Right now, Saturday Night Live is being accused of stealing a sketch from Canada’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes and I got that same back against the wall feeling when I saw SNL’s sketch. Mark Critch is one of the stars of 22 Minutes, I got a chance to catch up with him and talk about the SNL controversy.
Ben Miner: You work for This Hour Has 22 Minutes – What do you do there?
Mark Critch: I’m a host/writer/actor
BM: SNL is being accused of stealing your draw the prophet Mohammed sketch, have either yourself or the 22 Minutes show as a whole ever been accused of stealing an idea?
MC: I don’t think we’ve ever had a case of the show being accused for joke theft. In the past we have done Skits that other topical shows have done and have pulled them before they aired. Or in some cases, we have even had bits that were the same premise as other shows. It’s the nature of competitive topical sketch writing. We’ve even pulled jokes because they were done on weekend update or we’ve had jokes air and then the same one has been on weekend update. That’s just a case of so many topics/so few jokes. But this one is closer than I’ve ever seen. It’s word for word.
BM: Who wrote the sketch?
MC: Jeremy Woodcock wrote it
BM: Did you ever have any hesitance writing and performing the sketch given the controversial content?
MC: I wasn’t worried about controversy. We don’t draw anything. It’s not poking fun at religion. The sketch makes fun of people’s paranoia and fear.
BM: Do you think the idea was stolen or is this a case of parallel thinking?
MC: I think it’s too close an idea to be parallel thinking – concept/joke/punchline and the same lines. I don’t know who wrote it. But I bet somebody over there cleared their search history. It who knows. Stranger things have happened.
BM: Moving forward, what do you do now?
MC: I don’t do anything. I’m not a producer. I don’t own the show or content. 22 minutes has been on air for 22 years. We will continue to write new and better jokes. I think our version was shorter and better so if anything, it shows the world that we have solid comedy writing up here in the Great White North. Comedy can be a stressful business. I don’t hold any hard feelings at all.
So, it is possible that this was a case of of parallel thinking. There’s a chance. There’s also a chance that I could beat Brock Lesnar in an arm wrestling contest (his arm would have to suddenly fall off), who knows. No one seems to be too angry about it though and as with most things, the 22 Minutes folks are finding the funny in it.
Here’s the real take-away from this – Jeremy Woodcock is an awesome comic/writer and This Hour Has 22 Minutes is still cranking out stuff worth stealing 20+ years in. You should all check Jeremy Woodcock out at @jwPencilandPad and watch This Hour has 22 Minutes Tuesdays at 8:30/9NT @22_minutes.