Comedian Smashes Mobile Phone; Fearing 'Joke Stealing'

from the ok,-this-is-going-too-far dept

The concept of stealing jokes seems pretty ridiculous to us. Jokes are something that people pass around, and the real challenge is in how well you tell the joke -- not in the joke itself. Yet, it's no secret that some comedians have been going on tirades about joke stealing recently -- with one comedian in the UK, Lee Hurst, going so far as to smash someone's cameraphone during a show, after he accused the phone's owner of filming him to steal jokes (thanks to everyone that sent this in).

Talk about paranoid. It seems equally likely that whoever was filming it just wanted to show some friends. Besides, if you want to "steal" jokes, can't you do so simply by remembering them. Smashing someone's phone isn't going to stop that. Unless they invent one of those science fiction devices that erase short-term memory, no comedian will ever be able to fully stop others from making use of their jokes (and, in that case, I'd bet the comedian wouldn't do too well, since no one remembers his act).

In this case, Hurst plead guilty and paid a fine for destroying the camera... but says he'll do it again. Then he demanded stronger copyright protection over jokes and said he thinks YouTube should be banned:
"I don't regret what I did because the police wouldn't turn up to defend me, would they? It was in anger, but it is like having your tools stolen if your material is taken. We just need the same protection that is afforded to the cinema on copyright theft.... Ban YouTube -- it is the biggest piece of c*** ever."
Perhaps he really doesn't like that up-and-coming competing comedians are using YouTube to their advantage, while he's stuck wallowing in the past. It must suck not to be able to compete with upstarts who know how to embrace modern technology, but that's no excuse for getting violent.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    RD, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 9:07am

    Hardly surprising

    This comes as NO shock, considering the culture of fear and near-police state the UK has become. In fact, there is an article today on TheRegister about the former MI5 director taking the UK and US gov to task for creating this culture of fear and paranoia. Is it any wonder it would filter down to the citizens and they would begin to act accordingly? I'm surprised this kind of thing isnt happening more over there.

     

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  2.  
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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Feb 17th, 2009 @ 9:10am

    Copyright culture is becoming a joke

    "Comedian Lee Hurst has been fined for smashing a mobile phone belonging to
    an audience member during a stand-up gig."
    ...
    "Mr Hurst said he had broken the handset at The Stoke pub in Guildford,
    Surrey because he was angry that someone might be stealing his material."

    Theft of a comedian's material could only occur if he was practising in front of the mirror in the privacy of his own home, and someone had installed a hidden camera.

    People passing jokes on to each other by word of mouth is one of the oldest folk traditions. Having a monopoly on the telling of a particular joke may well be lucrative, but it is not ethical. Why must all other comedians be denied a particular joke so that one comedian may enjoy a higher ticket price?

    They'll be banning video cameras in cinemas and theatres next.

     

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  3.  
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    Ima Fish, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 9:12am

    Yeah, Monty Python should take a lesson from Hurst and stop all of their Youtube shenanigans.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 9:14am

    Hey, nice show. In the past, comedians simply ridiculed the audience. Going to physical violence is a nice next step. And you say he's stuck in the past!!

     

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  5.  
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    some old guy, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 9:18am

    whoa!

    wait a minute.. "he'll do it again"??? You mean to tell me he wasn't fired? wtf?

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 9:21am

    Given the cost of some phones, I wouldn't be surprised if the next time he tried this he experienced the same treatment bodily by his victim.

    Imagine that...not only would he feel like he's been robbed, he might even get his ass kicked too...I actually feel sorry for him...not because I agree with him but because he's a bleedin' idiot!!

     

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  7.  
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    NSMike, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 9:24am

    Re: whoa!

    This may be a very stupid move on his part. After saying he'll "do it again," it's not likely too many clubs will say, "Sure, come stomp on our customers' phones!"

     

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  8.  
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    Geoffrey Kidd (profile), Feb 17th, 2009 @ 9:29am

    Copyright Culture

    Hollywood, the broadcast industry, and now comedians. In Lois McMaster Bujold's new novel, "The Sharing Knife: Horizon", there is a line which embodies the most trenchant comment I've seen yet on the buggy-whip manufacturer mentality that has come to pervade them.

    And you're only clenching your hands so tight because you have so little left in them.

     

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  9.  
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    Ima Fish, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 9:32am

    I finally got around to reading the article. I'm shocked that the judge had "sympathy" for the idiot.

    Hurst admits copyright does not cover his material.

    "We just need the same protection that is afforded to the cinema on copyright theft"


    So he claims that he was forced to take the law into his own hands. However, as he just admitted, the law is not on his side. He's not protecting his rights. He has none. He's not enforcing any law. There is none.

    Exactly why anyone would feel sympathy for this psychopath is beyond me.

     

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  10.  
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    hegemon13, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 9:39am

    Re: Re: whoa!

    It was also stupid to say because if he does do it again, it shows premeditated intent. Instead of a fine for destruction of property, he could be looking at assault charges, and no jury is going to have much sympathy with him proudly declaring his intentions to do this again.

     

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  11.  
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    Peet McKimmie (profile), Feb 17th, 2009 @ 9:41am

    Lee Hurst

    I can imagine him working this into his act, to his advantage. He's an extremely "physical" comedian who has been referred to as "Norman Wisdom on Crack".

     

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  12.  
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    Bradley, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 9:42am

    Clueless

    I searched on google just for a bit to see if he had a website or a blog, just to see how much backlash he'd been getting. I didn't find one, but nearly all the links on the first two pages of google's results are about this or his wikipedia entry - which mentions this as well and has a better quote which should go down in history with him. Quoted from WikiPedia:

    Lee Hurst was charged with criminal damage in December 2008 after he alledgedly raced through the crowd at a stand-up comedy show he was performing at the Stoke Pub in Guildford, Surrey and snatched a mobile phone of a member of the audience, then took it on stage and hurled it to the floor. Screaming "I’m fed up with you fucking people filming me and putting it on YouTube.”[6] Hurst was fined £60, and ordered to pay compensation of £80 and £87 costs on February 16th. [7]

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 9:43am

    Re: Re: Re: whoa!

    I can say, without reservation, that if it were my cellphone, Mr. Hurst would be Mr. Hurts, and he would not be appearing in court any time soon. But he would probably need physical therapy.

     

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  14.  
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    Kevin, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 9:44am

    There's an easy fix for this

    At his next gig, everyone should show up and pull out there camera phones all at once. He'll either a) go on a rampage and destroy enough property that he ruins his career, b) goes on a Michael Richards-esque tirade that ruins his career, or c) walks of the stage, requiring the paying patrons to all get refunds and (hopefully) ruining his career.

    Stupidity should not be allowed to prosper.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 9:45am

    The Arsticrats?

    Here is a movie about 1 (one) joke told by dozens of comedians. Each one hilarious, and each comedian saying that its how you tell it that makes it so funny. The joke itself is pretty lame.
    A real comedian would have been able to spin the situation and made the guy feel like a tool.

     

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  16.  
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    Fitz!, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 9:54am

    Stealing

    If you come up with an original joke and write it down, I would compare that to writing a short story or a poem. I think comedians should have a right to their original works, just like authors. You think that just because they're performing on stage, everyone has the right to take videos of them and put them on youtube? There was probably even a sign as you went into the club saying "no video recording allowed". How about if I take this article (comments and all) and post it on my blog and say I wrote all of it? How is that different?
    To the person who mentioned Monty Python, they put their stuff up there so that THEY could actually get credit for it.

     

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  17.  
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    jme, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 9:55am

    Who?

     

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  18.  
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    Ed, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 9:59am

    No it's not

    "It was in anger, but it is like having your tools stolen if your material is taken."

    No, if my tools are stolen I don't have them anymore, therefore I can not work. What it's like is saying other people shouldn't be allowed to own the same tools I have so I won't have to compete with them. On second thought that's not a bad idea, from now on only professional mechanics will be allowed to own wrenches.

     

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  19.  
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    Greg, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 10:00am

    The awesome thing is that someone "stealing" his jokes is almost certainly less damaging to his career than him acting like a frothing lunatic and smashing other people's things.

     

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  20.  
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    jsutcliffe, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 10:08am

    This is the most press I've ever seen him get. He's not very funny, and if I thought he was clever I'd suggest he was trying to drum up media interest.

     

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  21.  
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    Ima Fish, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 10:13am

    Re: Stealing

    "I would compare that to writing a short story or a poem. I think comedians should have a right to their original works, just like authors."

    You're absolutely right, a joke writer would receive the exact same protection as someone who wrote a poem or story. However, the idea behind the story or poem is not protected. So even though the author of the Harry Potter books has a copyright covering her books, she does not own the idea of a boy with magical powers.

    Thus, if you can tell the joke a different way, you are not violating the joke writer's copyright.

    Just to make this clear, ideas cannot be copyrighted.

    "There was probably even a sign as you went into the club saying "no video recording allowed"."

    You cannot expand copyrights through the use of a sign. Sure the club had a sign. And the owner or agent of the club could have enforced the sign. However, that does not give the performer any rights to enforce the sign through the use of theft and violence.

    "How is that different?"

    Copyrights protect a work of art. A sign on the wall prohibiting conduct would constitute a contract between the owner and his customers.

    "To the person who mentioned Monty Python, they put their stuff up there so that THEY could actually get credit for it."

    Actually who were taking credit for Monty Python's material? That's complete nonsense.

    The reason I put that link up there was to show what an idiot Hurst is. Hurst claims that Youtube is crap. But yet, Monty Python is using it to make a lot more money.

     

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  22.  
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    wifezilla, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 10:17am

    The real problem with youtube when you are a comedian is that you now have to come up with new jokes and can't make a living off of one old tired routine anymore.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 10:29am

    Re:

    So comedians have to actually work at their acts now? I'm shocked and appalled. These poor, hard-working comedians clearly need obsolete-business-model protection from Congress.

    Sarcasm aside, this is a good thing. It will force comedians to continue to come up with new material and use that instead. For the good comedians, it'll even mean more ticket sales, because they can tour the same places with new material and have more repeat audience members.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 10:37am

    Re:

    Best comment evAr

     

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  25.  
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    DeanTheBean, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 10:46am

    No Talent

    A very talented writer once explained it this way: People who would steal your work are of no concern. They can steal your idea and make a small profit from it but the talented ones are already working on a dozen or so better ideas. And when the thief's ill gained profits run out the real talented ones will be way ahead.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 10:59am

    His little tirade is incentive enough for me to gather every joke he's told then load them up at TPB.

     

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  27.  
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    Joseph, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 11:06am

    Stealing Jokes

    I just wonder what this guy will do if he ever gets signed by one of the major networks like HBO and they broadcast his routine on HBO or sell his DVD's...tune in too see what he will do then...LOL.

    What a knob?!

     

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  28.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 17th, 2009 @ 11:14am

    Re: Stealing

    How about if I take this article (comments and all) and post it on my blog and say I wrote all of it? How is that different?

    Go ahead. People will quickly realize that you copied it from here, and it will destroy your reputation and credibility, while boosting ours.

    That would be great.

    Please. Go ahead.

     

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  29.  
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    Fitz!, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 11:31am

    Re: Re: Stealing

    What I'm saying about Monty Python is that they wanted to get all the MP YT traffic going to their page, with links to buy their stuff. Instead of thanking 'johnnyx15244' for making SPAM available, people are now giving credit to the people who deserve it.

     

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  30.  
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    Overcast, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 11:36am

    Example of his work I see?

    Not funny. Next time he's in the area, I'll be sure to stay away, just in case I happen to remember one of his jokes - I wouldn't want to offend him.

    That and I prefer comedians with a SENSE OF HUMOR.

     

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  31.  
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    Overcast, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 11:41am

    How about if I take this article (comments and all) and post it on my blog and say I wrote all of it? How is that different?

    See - it doesn't matter. That's what some people don't get. I'll forget why on the specifics soon enough, because it's petty...

    But I'll remember that there's a reason to avoid "Lee Hurst".

    See, it really doesn't matter what you copyright and don't copyright - what you copy and don't copy... if you don't appeal to consumers or suck - then you don't make a profit.

    You could be like many people in history who didn't patent a dang thing and are still much richer than most of us will ever be.

    If not for people being able to 'copy' VHS machines, they would have never, ever won out over Beta machines. Beta machines were FULL OF FAIL; because Sony kept such a tight grip on them.

    So hoard your content, hoard your ideas - keep them to yourself forever; that's fine - but don't expect anyone else to care about them either.

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 11:51am

    "So hoard your content, hoard your ideas - keep them to yourself forever; that's fine - but don't expect anyone else to care about them either."

    Yeah, that thinking has really hurt Apple.

     

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  33.  
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    Fitz!, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 11:55am

    Re: Re: Stealing

    So you condone my claiming your work as my own? You're not at all concerned that some people will like the design of my site better, that I'm giving away free iTunes downloads, or that I had an amazing marketing campaign to convince everyone that I'm the best source for dirt on technology? You have that much confidence in the faithfulness of your readers that you think everyone would instantly realize that I was stealing your articles, even after they've been convinced that it's not really stealing?

     

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  34.  
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    Azrael, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 12:12pm

    Re:

    Given the fact that the phone was a whopping $400 piece and it wasn't even used to film the unknown little bugger i'm amazed he god away with his face intact.
    http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article2068000.ece

     

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  35.  
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    Ima Fish, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 12:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Stealing

    "What I'm saying about Monty Python is that they wanted to get all the MP YT traffic going to their page, with links to buy their stuff."

    And what I'm saying, yet again, is that Monty Python's use and success with Youtube proves that if used correctly it is not crap and can make a lot of money for copyright holders.

    All of which proves my point that Hurst is an idiot.

    Look at it this way, if you're a copyright holder, you can either spend the rest of your life and a lot of money on attorney fees fighting your fans (literally in this instance) who put stuff on youtube, or you can embrace it and find ways to make money off of it. Like what Monty Python did.

    If you and Hurst honestly believe that physically and legally attacking your fans is the best way to build a fan base and earn money as an entertainer, you're both idiots.

     

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  36.  
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    Eric, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 12:34pm

    Re: Stealing

    How about if I take this article (comments and all) and post it on my blog and say I wrote all of it? How is that different?

    Techdirt has posted about this on several occasions and has said that they ultimately don't care. If people try to repost techdirt stories as their own, it ends up giving them more traffic from that site once people find out where the articles are coming from. So go ahead repost away. People will find out you stole it from techdirt and call you a thieving b*st*rd and stop coming to your site. Have fun. Most people would rather come by a story honestly if it is available. You trying to draw a parallel between jokes that can't be proved as being original and printed media is pointless and nonfunctional.

     

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  37.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 17th, 2009 @ 12:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: Stealing

    So you condone my claiming your work as my own? You're not at all concerned that some people will like the design of my site better, that I'm giving away free iTunes downloads, or that I had an amazing marketing campaign to convince everyone that I'm the best source for dirt on technology? You have that much confidence in the faithfulness of your readers that you think everyone would instantly realize that I was stealing your articles, even after they've been convinced that it's not really stealing?

    Yes. I have that much confidence. If you do a better job with my content, then it will only provide more incentives for me to do a better job.

    But, on the whole, I trust my readers to be relatively smart. They can figure out that you are lying when you claim my content as yours, and your reputation will be severely damaged.

    And, while my content may be infinitely copyable, your reputation is a scarce resource that you probably won't want to damage.

     

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  38.  
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    ehrichweiss, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 12:48pm

    Re:

    What!?!?!? He's gotta WORK!?!?!?! What is the world coming to? Seriously, if he's not working and he relies on one small set of jokes to make it big, he's not gonna make it big.

    Did Bill Cosby settle with the original Fat Albert, street football, dentist or childbirth jokes? Nope, he's been making new comedy all these years. Sure, he still performs his old faves but he sees the comedy in life and doesn't slow down on the creativity drawn from it.

    Song writers, authors, poets, etc. need to do the same. Stop treating copyright as a be-all-end-all of money making and start actually working for your keep. We'll respect you more for it to be certain.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 12:50pm

    Re: Stealing

    Fitz! are you an idiot or do you just play one on the internet?

    How the hell is someone going to post a video on youtube of a comedian telling a joke on stage and then take credit for it? "Look at me when I used to do stand-up....before all my plastic surgery."

     

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  40.  
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    Fred Shedd, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 1:03pm

    Re: No Talent

    Your missing the point - he tells a joke he has written to a few people in a comedy store, someone records it and sells it. Its not his joke anymore and hes not getting paid for it...

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 1:33pm

    Re:

    Next time? You really think anyone would pay money to see this boob again?

    A year from now, he will be as forgotten as yesterday's lunch.

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 1:36pm

    He didn't have anything to worry about. The English aren't funny.

     

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  43.  
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    Jack (profile), Feb 17th, 2009 @ 1:41pm

    joke

    what is up Lee Hurst's nose? could it be what the real cause of this paranoia? a comedian on drugs? never happen, now that is funny. Take Henny Youngman's wife. no realy, take his wife, Please!

     

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  44.  
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    teknosapien, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 3:18pm

    Guess

    Who I wont go and see ?

     

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  45.  
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    reg4c, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 4:35pm

    Not surprising

    This is equivalent of piracy
    How much trouble do people go through because of piracy? This is exactly the same thing but on a smaller scale.

     

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  46.  
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    Peter Thomas, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 3:10am

    Actually, it's Lee Hurst

    Erm, you're thinking of Lee Evans, not Lee Hurst.

    Lee Hurst used to be fairly famous in the mid 1990s, having a regular gig on BBC TV's They Think It's All Over, but he quit that show in a huff. He had a few minor shows on regional TV, but is now almost forgotten. Given his attitudes, I can certainly see why.

     

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  47.  
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    Peter Thomas, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 3:20am

    Re:

    Yeah, Adam Sandler is so amusing compared to Monty Python.

    Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy's current output, it's really shaming Ricky Gervais, you know.

     

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  48.  
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    SunKing, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 5:40am

    Lost it!

    He lost the plot big time!

     

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  49.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 7:31am

    hmmm Carlin anyone?

    For years it was well known that Carlins material was used by other comedians, many times word for word "theft" (and in many cases by big name comedians in thier own right). George Carlin himself said he knew this and of many specific cases, his response was; "I dont own funny".

    Over and over again we see the people who are truly the geniuses of these intellectual property fields never seem to worry too much about IP or others "borrowing" thier ideas . . . I think it says something about the truly creative thinkers of society.

     

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  50.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 7:34am

    Re:

    huh the country that gave us Fawlty Towers and Black Adder . . . sir I wonder if you were born without a sense of humor?

     

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  51.  
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    nasch, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 8:24am

    Re: There's an easy fix for this

    At his next gig, everyone should show up

    There's where you went wrong. ;-)

     

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  52.  
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    nasch, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 8:30am

    Re: No it's not

    Not to mention that he really has no idea what his tools are. Well, tool - it's his brain. His jokes are his product, and his brain is the tool he uses to make his product. Now, he's certainly acting as though someone has stolen his tools, but I'm sure that's not the case.

     

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  53.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 12:51pm

    Re: Re: No it's not

    "Not to mention that he really has no idea what his tools are. Well, tool - it's his brain. His jokes are his product, and his brain is the tool he uses to make his product. Now, he's certainly acting as though someone has stolen his tools, but I'm sure that's not the case."

    My guess is the reason he is so upset about this is that he cant create himself and is forced to purchase original material from others.

     

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  54.  
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    Liz, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 3:15pm

    I was waiting for this to happen- My mum was out on a colleague's hen night at a comedy club about 10 years ago when Lee snatched the bride-to-be's camera after she'd taken his photo on stage. When she asked for it back he got very abusive and started shoving her. The manager of the comedy venue pleaded with her to call the police as he said Lee had a reputation for this type of behaviour. The police came and it was agreed Lee would develop the photos and leave the pics (minus those of him) along with the camera at a local police station- which he did. I'm sure that's exactly the memory she wanted of her special night. What a gent. Oh and er, I don't know how you can "steal" a joke with a camera so that excuse is a bit thin. Ego problem methinks

     

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  55.  
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    Crabby (profile), Feb 20th, 2009 @ 7:41am

    Re: Stealing Jokes

    He'll bomb. In more ways than one!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56.  
    icon
    Crabby (profile), Feb 20th, 2009 @ 7:43am

    Re:

    Ohh! Slap!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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