Last week, when Louis CK hosted Saturday Night Live, one of the episode’s best sketches was “Birthday Clown,” in which a sad middle-aged man (CK) hires a child’s clown (cast member Bobby Moynihan) to entertain him, alone in his home.
Here’s the sketch:
It didn’t take long for people – like comedian Tig Notaro – to notice the sketch was very similar to a short film Notaro wrote, produced, and starred in back in in 2015. As she noted in a letter, which was posted publicly:
“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.”
The internet went crazy, throwing out headlines with words saying Notaro “blasted” or “slammed” not just SNL but CK personally, but come on, let’s be real: that’s not something seasoned comics really do, and beyond that, CK is a producer on Notaro’s Amazon original series, One Mississippi, and he’s the guy who put out her career-changing album, Live. So we doubt she thinks CK knowingly and willingly stole from her, y’know?
So: yes, above we have two short comedic films about lonely people hiring entertainers who typically perform at children’s parties to come to their homes, and perform for them, alone. It’d be hard to claim parallel thinking on this one, especially as Notaro mentions how often it’s screened, and it’s not an idea we’ve seen elsewhere.
However it happened, it did, and in the resulting melee attention was brought to Notaro’s film, and her comments on the matter were highly anticipated, since everyone loves a public fight.
Over the weekend, she spoke with Variety, and she explained that she didn’t speak out to accuse CK or SNL, she just wanted people to know the idea she’s still showcasing and performing came before this particular similar episode, which is fresh in people’s memories. “It was people contacting me who were saying I’ve seen this movie of yours and so that’s the only reason I thought god I have to go back out on tour and this is my opener of my national tour and I’d look like a fool,” she said.
The interviewer really tries to get her to say something juicy, with lots of questions about plagiarism and how comedians interact with one another, but Notaro didn’t take the bait:
“And, I’m sorry, Louis didn’t create darkness and morose. I love darkness. I love dark, I love dramatic, I love documentaries. I follow reality probably more I follow comedy. All those arguments, I just don’t know what to tell you … It’s all I have and I want to continue screening it with confidence and joy because I love that film and people worked very hard on it.”
Notaro is currently on tour — check her dates at TigNation.com.