Why is material theft such a problem in comedy juggling? Is the problem that we spend all of our energy learning the skills and don’t have the resources left to come up with original material?
I don’t have a real answer. I know that they are many original comedy jugglers but there are just as many who don’t care and steal jokes, routines, and bits without compunction.
Part of the problem might be the common source nature of juggling tricks. No one “owns” a juggling trick and one of the joys of the hobby juggling community is sharing ideas and skills. Could it just be a part of that feeling?
Another problem might be the lack of comedy juggling history. There are so many jokes and ideas that people assume are universal or “stock” bits but actually can be traced back to a single person.
I imagine the biggest contributor to theft in the comedy juggling community is the lack of repercussions. People are able to steal acts on national television and while some of us may kvetch privately few of us ever make a public deal about it. I’ve often thought about calling out material theives in a public way but I always have to remind myself that I too am guilty of stealing material. I didn’t realize it at the time, I was under the delusion that I was just taking from the “stock” of material and I had no idea that what I was doing was shitty.
What is a way we can make it clear in our small and fractured community that material theft is not okay? Is there a gentle way to tell these copygattos to knock it off? Or should we be meaner? More ruthless?
I’ll start by calling out myself. For the first years of my career I stole from Michael Davis, Scotty Meltzer, and Frank Olivier. I didn’t do it on purpose but I found out slowly as I went along where all “my” jokes came from. I worked hard to write them all out of my show. It was painful. They were all good jokes. Great jokes. My show suffered for a long time until I learned how to write my own stuff. I’ll put myself out there too; if you ever see me do someone else’s stuff…tell me. Tell other people. Let’s keep each other honest.