Conan O’Brien is being called a joke thief and that has his blood boiling. The TBS late night host knows the weight of an accusation like that and says it makes him, “physically ill.”
“Accusing a comedian of stealing a joke is the worst thing you can accuse them of, in my opinion, short of murder,” he said in a deposition last September and released in court papers last Friday. “I think it’s absolutely terrible.”
TBS, O’Brien, and employees of his Conaco company submitted a summary judgement with the goal to defeat a copyright lawsuit brought up against them in 2014 by Robert “Alex” Kaseberg, who is claiming that five jokes he wrote and posted on his blog were stolen and used in a monologue on Conan.
The jokes in contention are about a certain quarterback winning a certain game. Yep, Tom Brady winning the Super Bowl. But not the one that just happened this weekend, we’re talking about his 4th Super Bowl win a couple of years back.
The defendants also add in the the court papers that Kaseberg “unsuccessfully tried to leverage his accusations into a job writing for Conan,” and state that his copyright infringement claims are “completely frivolous.”
The lawsuit is headed to a judge and the defendants claim that Kaseberg’s copyright to the jokes are “thin” to begin with. Stating that merely publishing something online isn’t evidence enough to show one’s access to copyrighted material.
The papers even outline the process in which Conan’a late night monologue is created. Particularly highlighting that said process is done so to reduce pressure and desperation on writers to come up with jokes. It basically outlines the day with writers coming up with premises in the morning, edits made to tighten up the jokes, grammatical changes are made, approvals are done and there’s a third round by afternoon. It’s all done anonymously to not measure writer output. O’Brien added in his testimony that they have a policy to pull any joke that’s somewhat similar to one already used.
O’Brien’s attorney also presented evidence to pick apart each joke ranging from citing earlier premises and documentation that some of these premises were presented early in a creative process and long before Kaseberg published them on his site. Adding that Kaseberg’s entire case is based solely on the thought that he posted them online and is “legally insufficient to establish access.” Adding an assertion that many comedians make, that many jokes can have the same premise and setups when pulled from current events and facts nor ideas are copyrightable.