January 20, 2022

IP Goes Pop! Season 2, Episode 10: Who’s Laughing Now? The IP of Comedy

How do comedians protect their jokes, “bit” concepts, or their delivery style? This week, IP Goes Pop! goes to the comedy club to find the line between creative freedom and stolen (or borrowed) laughs. Join Volpe Koenig Shareholders and hosts Michael Snyder and Joseph Gushue as they welcome special guest, Volpe Koenig alum, and comedy fan, Aneesh Mehta, Senior Corporate Counsel for Experiences and Devices at Microsoft.

Michael, Joe, and Aneesh reminisce about comedy shows they have attended together, and look at the legal protections a comedian may or may not have in performing a joke or an entire routine. From common themes, such as food, marriage, and having kids, to unique topics and styles, IP Goes Pop! stands up for the intellectual property behind the laughs and looks at the ways audience and comedian expectations have shifted over time.

This episode begins with a discussion of the distinction between scenes a faire and similar comedy bits. A few real-world examples of joke-theft allegations and disputes are mentioned, including discussion of a famous dispute between Louis C.K. and Dane Cook over a similar joke. From there, the conversation turns to several other examples of disputes between comics over the years. Learn how allegedly stolen jokes sparked a heated exchange that has since gone viral. This occurred at a comedy club in Los Angeles where Joe Rogan interrupted fellow comic Carlos Mencia on stage to confront him over supposedly misappropriated material.

The trio then turn their attention to the difficulty comedians known for their rapid-fire one-liners could face in trying to copyright their work. This episode concludes with a talk about comedic styles and the hurdles for comedians attempting to carve out a unique style that others cannot copy.

On This Episode:

  • Scenes a Faire Doctrine
  • Alleged Joke Theft v. Borrowing v. Copyright Infringement
  • Louis C.K v. Dane Cook
  • Conan O’Brien sued over “shutting down football program” joke
  • Controversies in Comedy
  • Bill Hicks v. Dennis Leary “I love smoking” bits
  • Joe Rogan & Carlos Mencia
  • Delivery/ Comedic Styles – Can you copyright it? Can you steal it?
  • “Anger” Comics – Sam Kinison, Lewis Black
  • Storyteller Comics – Patrice O’Neal, Patton Oswald, David Cross
  • Unique Delivery Comics – Maria Bamford, Ellen DeGeneres

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