On The Internet, Parody Accounts and Joke Stealing

Chad White, Joke Writer, Heart Stealer

In a world with gifs, captioned photos and gameplay videos, entertainment projects are easier than ever to steal. All too often, creative types are subject to theft of their works. Pictures are wrongfully claimed; videos are reuploaded; and jokes are stolen and repeated on countless occasions.  

I can’t lie, however. I’m admitting now (before people against this article go back into my first years on 2009 Twitter) that I have stolen jokes before. Worst of all, I stole from comedians I know and love. It’s just so easy to copy and paste from one feed into yours. Well, at the time it was. Now, there is no real excuse to steal especially when images, videos or jokes can be searched for with the click of a mouse on Google.

In last week’s Comedy Button episode, cohost Brian Altano spoke on the subject of joke stealing. He wrote a joke about the future of the Fast & Furious franchise and, in true Twitter fashion, there were retweets and favorites abound. Altano was feeling it. He basked in the glory of his topically funny joke. Then – again, in true Twitter fashion – his joke was stolen. Worse yet, it was stolen by a parody account. Those things aren’t even real people. Altano was suddenly a victim.

This comes at a time when almost everyone wants to be famous. I feel pretty confident in saying that too. Just look at a random Twitter account. I guarantee there will be a following to follower ratio of 10 to 10 with tens of thousands of tweets. This is a world of followbacks and @ mentions in order to gain the love and admiration of random people. Here’s where the “famous” part comes into play: everyone tries to be funny. Not knowing there are other ways to get noticed, users try their best to be as brash and quip-filled as possible. Sometimes it pays off; often times, it falls on deaf ears. What is a person with bad jokes left to do but to steal someone else’s and thus claim it as their own?

Altano is what you would call “internet famous.” He works for IGN as a producer, writer and host of many videos projects. He also happens to run a side business with four other guys where they talk about any and everything like drinking random alcohols, monster trucks or making fun of cohost Ryan Scott. And he’s a musician. So Altano is pretty busy using his creative powers. When this mock account stole his tweet, it really stole a part of the comedian. To make matters worse, this mock account has as many followers are a real celebrity would have. One million people follow an account that takes jokes from other, more deserving comedians. This first parody account wasn’t the last one to steal the joke. Like parasites, other accounts copied the same joke.

Other fake movie characters stepped in to make the joke their own. This happens every day; not just to one man. Oh and let’s not forget the monetization turning it into a gross display of profiteering. The apex for Altano came when the shit site 9gag – infamous for its use of memes and other made up internet crap – used the joke as their own. Back on Twitter, Ludacris sent out a tweet with a screen capture of an Instagram that in itself is a screen cap of a notepad file that has the joke typed on it. All of that means Ludacris saw the joke and more or less took it as his own. 

Altano acknowledges what happened:

This insane rabbit hole of theft is just one story out of (probably) millions. We now live in a world where stealing and reposting is the norm; where sites like Reddit and YouTube are bombarded with reuploaded material with newfound parents every minute of every day. Comedy Button cohost Max Scoville refers to this act as “bootleg comedy,” a fitting name for an ugly act. Those who make their own original material are used to things like this happening but from users with fewer followers than them. But we shouldn’t have to settle nor should we have to claim every little thing we make because someone else is benefitting from it. Twitter seems to do nothing when it comes to this sort of thing as their policy on abuse is a bit unmanaged. Parody accounts can be funny, however. Vote with your follows and clicks; don’t give the bad accounts any time of day.