A 13 minute long video has been posted to an account called CopyComic on YouTube that accuses Gad Elmaleh of lifting material from roughly a dozen comedians including George Carlin, Steven Wright and Jerry Seinfeld. French sources are covering the story today, with translated headlines reading “Gad Elmaleh Again Accused of Serial Plagerism, Video Support,” (Le Parisien) and “Gad Elmaleh Pinned Again for Countless Plagerism.” Le Monde announced “CopyComic Reveals New “Borrowings”. The video has already received over 24,000 views since being posted and is reminiscent of the video that accused Amy Schumer of plagiarism in 2017, a video that was largely disregarded by the industry, but still packed some sting for the comic.
The accusations come from “Ben” an anonymous source intent on outting suspected plagiarizers in comedy. Ben claims that he chose to post the video based on information provided to him.
Included in the accusations are a few jokes appearing on Elmaleh’s new Netflix special, American Dream, which was voted by our readers this year as the #1 special of the year, as well as material from prior French speaking specials and recordings.
The video opens with a side by side comparison of Carlin telling his “more than happy” joke from his 1996 special “Back in Town.” How can you be “more than happy?” Carlin asks in 1996. Elmaleh’s very similar joke takes place in a clothing store where a clerk has said he would be “more than happy” to help, but then the comic wonders how a person can be more than happy. The similarities in the telling of the joke are strong, no doubt, which of course proves nothing. Everyone in comedy has experienced a situation where they wrote a bit on their own but then were shocked to hear another comic delivering almost the same bit.
But there’s more. Next up is a 1992 routine from Carlin’s “Jammin in New York” where he talks about how we all have little universal moments that we share in common. Like if you’ve ever looked at your watch before but still not known what time it was. In 2014, in a French special “Sans Tambour,” Elmaleh “We are all the same,” Elmaleh asserts. Same crazyness, same flaws, he says, and asks, does it happen to you too? You look at your watch and then have no idea what time it is?
A 2014 Gad Elmaleh joke, again from “Sans Tambour” about his guard dog being stolen sounds a lot 1979 Richard Pryor joke about someone stealing the Doberman he bought to protect his house. And then there’s the 1995 Steven Wright joke about powdered water. “I bought some powdered water, but I don’t know what to add,” is a distinctive Steven Wright joke. In 2005’s “L’Autre C’est Moi” Elmaleh is heard saying “One of my friends is genius. He has created powdered water. When he brought it over we asked him what do you want to mix it with?” Another famous bit from Wright follows about using a car key to open his apartment door. “A couple of nights ago I came home very late, was having a little bit of trouble getting into my apartment. I accidentally took out a car key, andI stuck it in the door, turned it and the building started up,” Wright says in the joke. The joke continues. “So I drove it around for awhile.” Wright goes on to talk about how he eventually gets pulled over by police. According to the translation in the video, Gad says in 2005, a surprisingly similar joke. “One night I came home very drunk. I made a mistake. I used my car key to get inside. I put it into the key hole. I turned it. The house started up. At breakneck speed on the highway.”
A Dana Carvey guitar bit is thought to be ‘insipration’ for a later Gad joke. In 1995 Carvey jokes about the faces guitarists make while playing. Elmaleh’s 2005 version of the same joke is included on the 13 minute video, as well as an old Seinfeld Bit from Late Night in 1986 about stewardesses vaguely pointing to emergency exists.
Also included are side by side comparisons with French speaking European and Canadian comedians like Martin Matt, Dany Boon, Dieudonne, Fellag, Donel Jacks’man, Patrick Huard, and Titoff.
Rumors that Elmaleh is guilty of lifting material have circulated before, at one point in the CopyComic video you hear Seinfeld joke with Gad about the subject. “What is this I hear about you lifting material,” Seinfeld asks, but in a good natured, not accusatory tone. The two are friends, or at least appear to be in public. If you speak or at least understand French you’ll hear Elmaleh’s explanations in 2017, dismantling the accusations made up to that time.
It seems this video won’t be the last word on the subject. According to a translation of the Le Monde article, CopyComic has teased a second video on Gad Elmaleh will be released on February 4th.
We’ve always been reluctant to believe allegations of theft. Originality and creative thought and writing is so deeply embedded in the artform, and so important to stand up, that its always difficult to believe someone would lift jokes from other comics. But it does happen, even in 2019. We reached out to Elmaleh’s American reps and are awaiting comment on the new accusations.