Even in this YouTube age we live in now, apparently some comedians still feel like they can get away with going onstage and telling someone else's jokes as their own.
Nick Madson performed Tuesday night at the Harrison Hilltop Theatre in Davenport, Iowa, and by Thursday, video of his performance hit YouTube, and by this morning, Patton Oswalt had more than a little something to say about it. Particularly because Madson had quoted several of Oswalt's bits verbatim. Even Oswalt's very well-known opinion about the KFC Famous Bowls. Here is Nick:
And here is Patton, in case you need a reminder:
Upon discovering Madson's video, Oswalt put fingers to keyboard and wrote about his very personal reaction. After discussing the facts of the matter and his views on joke theives, Oswalt wrote:
I’m really hurt. It feels unpleasant. I worked very hard on those jokes – honed them night after night, kept challenging myself to make them funnier. Plus, I have a constant gallery of friends and colleagues in my head – Louie CK and Dave Attell among them – against whose work I compare my writing, and ask myself, sometimes harshly, if I’ve truly gotten my stuff to their level.
And I was also under the delusion that I’d developed enough of a voice – enough of a unique, personal voice – that my stuff would be hard to steal. And yet here’s Nick Madson – who, it turns out, is a stage actor – reciting huge chunks of my material and collecting a paycheck for doing it. I don’t think he does it particularly well – you’d think an actor would be able to fake subjective experience – but he’s at the minimum, trained-monkey competence to get laughs.
That Nick Madson is a thief is undeniable. Maybe, I thought, he’s a truly struggling actor, and did this show because he needed money, and feels bad about it. Or maybe he’s one of those deluded souls, like columnist and commentator Mike Barnicle (who lifted the majority of an August 2, 1998 Boston Globe column unchanged from George Carlin’s book Brain Droppings) who truly think that stand-up comedians get their jokes from books, and that any comedy bit is somehow public domain. But then I find out that one of the other comedians on the show confronted Madson about the bits. And he said, in effect, “I write for Patton, and Louie, and Dave. I wrote those bits”.
So fuck him. I mean, I can see stealing from me, who’s still relatively obscure. But who would be stupid enough to steal from Louis CK? You may as well take a classic bit from, say, Bill Cosby. Maybe something off of the album Himself, about training your son to be a football player. And then just yell it at the top of your lungs, with no nuance, finesse or humanity. That’d be mucho stupido.
Madson's own site biography describes himself more as a stage actor than as a comedian, although he makes a point of saying that in 2007, he "was named one of the top 100 up and coming comedians in America," a point he brought up and cited Comedy Central as the source that named him such in an interview in March with River Cities Reader. "They were kind of having this thing where you could take footage from your shows and send it in," he says of the acknowledgement. "I got a little certificate that means nothing, but still...." Wait. What? Comedy Central held Open Mic Fights that year. Is that what he's talking about? The reporter, in a completely unrelated part of the story, reacted to his quote about being a bad talker by writing "he appears to be doing a fine job of fooling people." Hmmm. In that same article, he claimed to be in discussions with Comedy Central producers for his own stand-up special to be aired this fall. He told the Quad City Times the same thing. Then again, in December 2008, he had told a Colorado Springs reporter that his set there might become a Comedy Central CD. And his MySpace page says this next to TV Shows: "Nick has appeared on Comedy Central’s Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn as a guest commentator, appeared on Comedy Central Presents, and in his own 1 hour special, "I’m Too Busy!" At the end of 2006 Nick got to work with his long time comedic influence, Richard Jeni at Caroline’s Comedy Corner in New York City. Nick has also appeared on CSI:NY, numerous music videos including Ain’t No Other Man, and on VH1’s Fashion Rocks at Radio City Music Hall with Christina Aguilera."
And yet I'd never heard of him until this morning. I sent him an email to see if he'd like to comment, and if he does reply, I'll be sure to let you know. If he thinks he was on Tough Crowd already, then he'll be prepared to face his toughest crowd yet.