About a month ago, veteran comedian Wendy Leibman used twitter in the way almost every other single human uses twitter. She let out some shit. You know the feeling. You’re by yourself, something happens (good or bad) and you have to tell someone. In Wendy’s case, a few people mentioned to her that Amy Schumer’s new special had her joke in it, so she expressed her frustration in 140 characters or less, and because Amy Schumer is everyone’s favorite media topic these days, a news article we published got picked up all over the internet. Tammy Pescatelli and Kathleen Madigan had also weighed in on the topic, and the next thing you know, Amy Schumer allegedly stealing jokes was the topic of the day.
Leibman told her side of things on the most recent episode of “Sit Down Zumock! A Bunch of BS Podcast” hosted by comedian and friend to Wendy Leibman, Chad Zumock. I recommend listening to the whole episode, but if you are just here for the juicy bits, tune in at the 15, 20 and 24 minute marks. Part one and two are live now and you can listen on chadzumock.com.
The result was exactly what you would expect from Wendy Leibman. Classy, positive and articulate. If you ever wondered why one tweet can sometimes explode online and other stories sputter into oblivion, look at who said it. Liebman has a reputation for supporting comedians, she runs a room and is kind to newer comedians. She really likes comedians and comedy. She is a veteran comic, she is grounded and positive and focuses on bringing people up instead of tearing them down. That is why people paid attention to her words. However, this is also the internet, so how could anyone write a story about a nice comedian simply blowing off steam, right?
In the podcast, Wendy shares that Amy reached out to her directly and the two had a conversation about it. From Leibman’s perspective, people told her one of her best jokes was used on a TV special. If you are a working road comic, that is awful news. Now you have to decide to whether or not you want to scrap the joke, or wait for someone to either accuse you of stealing it from the person on the fancy television set. It is an awful dilemma.
“I had two instances in two days where I saw my jokes on line, not attributed to me. Not attributed to anyone,” Liebman said. “So I guess when Amy did her HBO special a couple of people called me and said, you know one of your jokes is in the special. and to this day I figured someone must have sold it to her.”
It sounds as though the issue has been resolved as far as Wendy is concerned. She said Schumer reached out to her, and Liebman asked if someone had sold her the joke. “She said “no, I thought of it [the joke] but I feel terrible about it. What can I do to make this right?” Liebman says she responded, “just you writing to me is enough.”
For the sake of full disclosure comedians Tammy Pescatelli and Kathleen Madigan also had mentioned some possible similarities between their jokes and some of Schumer’s bits on her show and in her standup. Whether or not the jokes were outright lifted or if there was simply some parallel thinking happening, we will never know.
It does however leave me with some interesting question about the comedy genre. Not to beat the Leibman/Schumer story, but to open up the discussion. How responsible are we for knowing what jokes are out there? While it is impossible to know every working comedian, do we all share some responsibility to at least do our due diligence? Does the nature of comedy/creativity lend to absorbing things and possibly unknowingly repeating them a few years later? Do musicians avoid open mics for fear a chord might get stuck in their brain? I have no answers to any of these questions. I just wonder why Schumer or Glaser hasn’t offered Leibman a job on their writing team.