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Late-night comic denies joke stealing, settles with plaintiff

Make no joke about it; It’s no laughing matter to iconic late-night comedian Conan O’Brien when you accuse him of stealing stand-up material.

That’s exactly what another comedian did back in 2015, accusing the Late Night host and his staff of pilfering a number of copyrighted jokes from his blog and Twitter account. Although a recent NPR article chronicling the dispute notes its spotlighting of “low-dollar-value creative work,” O’Brien has obviously taken the matter seriously since the joke stealing was first alleged.

And he insists it is simply inconceivable that he would unlawfully avail himself of another’s protected intellectual property.

“Short of murder, stealing material is the worst thing any comic can be accused of,” O’Brien recently wrote in a media piece addressing the dispute. The well-known entertainer states that had he suspected “for one second” that a staff writer lifted another individual’s work without permission, he would have fired that individual, personally apologized to the creator of the material and promptly paid for its use.

But no stealing ever occurred, says O’Brien, who points out – along with other industry insiders and intellectual property experts – that joke similarities sometimes inadvertently occur in the entertainment realm. O’Brien relates an instance where he, David Letterman and Jay Leno all essentially told the same joke on the same evening some years back.

Despite his hard stance on the matter, O’Brien settled litigation against him just days ago to avert an upcoming federal trial in California. He says he did so to avoid “a potentially farcical and expensive” trial before a jury panel.

“Four years and countless legal bills have been plenty,” he penned in the above-cited article he wrote for the publication Variety.

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