Comedy aficionados might have found one of Saturday Night Live‘s sketches last weekend standing out in their minds — and sadly not because of hilarity.
The sketch in question, in which Louis C.K. plays a grown man who hires a children’s birthday clown, bears striking similarity to a short film made by comedian Tig Notaro, leading many to call out plagiarism.
Louis and Tig used to work together; he’s an exec producer on her Amazon show One Mississippi. But according to Notaro, that isn’t the only connection between the two clips.
Ch-ch-check out both vids AND Tig’s open letter (below)!
Here’s Tig’s statement:
“It has been impossible for me to ignore the cacophony of voices reaching out personally and publicly about the potential plagiarizing of my film Clown Service (a film that I screened at Largo in Los Angeles for over a year and it premiered at Vulture’s Comedy Festival in NYC as well as numerous film festivals around the country and I am currently screening on my national tour).
While I don’t know how all this actually happened, I did find it extremely disappointing.
Here is what I can tell you:
First off, I have recently learned that a writer/director who was fully aware of Clown Service when I was making it, actually worked on Louis C.K.’s clown sketch that is in question.
Secondly, Louis C.K. and I have not communicated in any way for nearly a year and a half.
And finally, I never gave anyone permission to use anything from my film.
I hesitated to even address any of this, but I think it is only right to defend my work and ideas and moving forward, I plan to continue screening Clown Service with the joy and pride I always have.”
So is SNL‘s sketch a ripoff?
On the one hand, the two pieces play COMPLETELY differently. They have different tones, different humor, different punchlines. While the SNL sketch spends its entire three minutes mining the awkwardness of a clown performing for one person (and ends VERY darkly), Tig’s 13-minute short film gets a tiny bit of mileage out of the premise, then quickly moves on with more characterization, other ideas, and a completely different punchline. They’re two different takes on the same premise.
On the other hand, they’re the EXACT same premise. And the fact a creator knew about the short film makes the whole thing so much sketchier. So to speak.
We don’t know if we’d go so far as saying plagiarism, as in comedy people go different routes with the same starting point all the time. But at the VERY least it seems like a courtesy call from that writer/director was in order — just to make sure it was cool with Tig.
What compounds the unsavoriness of it all is the fact SNL has been accused of this before, most recently when Alec Baldwin‘s impersonation of Donald Trump was called into question by Trump impersonator Anthony Atamanuik. The comic, whose Trump is so good that he’s hosting an entire show as the POTUS on Comedy Central, claims he sent in his version to SNL and they used tape of it to coach up Baldwin.
We’re not sure how we’d rule here, but ultimately we aren’t the judge. What do YOU think of this mess??
[Image via NBC.]