30 Apr THIEVERY!
A “comedian” named Nick Madson is doing huge chunks of my act.
Here he is this past Wednesday, April 27th, at The Harrison Hilltop in Davenport, Iowa. In this first, delightful excerpt, he recites my bits, “KFC Famous Bowls”, “A Man Shaves His Balls”, “Physics for Poets” and “Black Angus”:
He clumsily uses Dave Attell’s bit “The Unfuckables” as a lead-in to “Physics for Poets”. He also mispronounces “Cerberus” in the exact same way I mispronounce it on my Werewolves and Lollipops album. In the longer, un-cut version of this set, he also does jokes by Louie CK.
Then he continues. Here’s my bits, “Dr. Pepper” and “The Poetry of Porn”:
The crowd seems to like them. He got paid money for the show.
I have a couple of comedian friends who suffered some very public thievery at the hands of some wildly untalented hacks. Unlike Mr. Madson, who appears to be performing for ten people, my friends got to see their work plopped onto platinum-selling albums and yelled inside of packed stadiums.
I’ve always felt sorry for joke thieves. I’ve never once gotten angry about it. I always remember the scene from Powell’s The Red Shoes. Lermontov, the impresario, counsels the young composer, Craster, whose just had his score stolen by an older, burned-out composer: “It is worth remembering, that it is much more disheartening to have to steal than to be stolen from, hmmm?”
And that was my attitude towards my friends – I mean, it’s flattering, for starters. Plus, the comedian who stole your material clearly can’t write his or her own stuff. You’ll always out-create them.
Only now, seeing my stuff lifted and performed by someone else? Even though it’s front of less than a dozen people for, I’m guessing, a pittance?
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.