“How do I make sure nobody steals my jokes?”
It’s a common question, and there’s only one totally foolproof answer: NEVER TELL ANY JOKES.
Look, I don’t mean to just be sassy and unhelpful. It’s just sort of similar to the only foolproof way for someone to never steal your purse, or your look, i.e., never leave your house! Point is: In comedy, as in life, you have to get out there—and while there are always risks, the rewards are worth it.
That said, of course joke-stealing can be a thing, or certainly an allegation that you don’t want to get into. Even top-tier talent like Conan O’Brien and Amy Schumer have has accusations thrown their way. (Schumer, for her part, vehemently denies any thievery, as does O’Brien.)
So here are four things you need to know about getting yourself and your original jokes out there—and not worrying about who hears ‘em!
1. Joke stealing may happen, but it’s just not DONE. It is, arguably (now that we are talking about sexism and harassment), the second least cool thing you could possibly do in comedy, and, likewise, the second-best way to ruin your own reputation. If you’re the one whose joke gets obviously stolen, in karma terms, you’re actually the one who comes out ahead.
2. Sometimes two comics make the same jokes! Naturally, with so many comics making observations about the world around them, similarities are bound to exist between one guy’s airplane food joke and another’s. If you see a joke similar to yours our there, it may just be the laws of probability and comedy coming together.
3. Generally, people want to write original material. They’re just like you! A great rule of thumb: write jokes no one can steal. What does that mean? It means that even if you talk about the same topics as others (homework, let’s say), and even if you have a take similar to others (homework is annoying, let’s say), there’s going to be something unique, at least around the edges, about YOUR take: the word choice, the wrench you apply, the details particular to your world (your teachers, the topics, what it’s like in YOUR house when you try to get homework done, etc, etc.).
4. It’s in the GOLD Code!
So yes, the thought of someone stealing your jokes can be scary, but the reality of it happening is small enough that it’s not worth stressing out about. And it CERTAINLY should not stop you from writing and sharing! Write the jokes you want to write that are original and uniquely YOU, and you’ll be the one stealing…the show! (<<<GROAN. Also, TRUE.)