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A San Diego comedy writer named Robert Kaseberg filed a lawsuit against O’Brien, TBS, and Conan writers in a California federal court on July 22, claiming that the late-night host used his jokes about Tom Brady, the Washington Monument, Delta, and Caitlin Jenner in monologues.
The lawsuit claims that between January and June, four jokes Kaseberg posted on Twitter and his blog appeared on O’Brien’s show in some form. The lawsuit alleges Kaseberg posted this joke to his blog on or around Jan. 14: “A Delta flight this week took off from Cleveland to New York with just two passengers. And they fought over control of the armrest the entire flight.” The joke appeared slightly reworded on the show the same day. Same with a Feb. 17 joke about the Washington Monument. The lawsuit also alleges Kaseberg filed copyright applications for the four jokes.
The purpose of my call was not to cause trouble, but to suggest that if I was writing jokes so similar (in fact the exact same) to theirs, I should be contributing jokes to the show.
He claims that instead, Sweeney got defensive.
For what seemed like 15 agonizing minutes, Mike Sweeney, the head writer of Conan, angrily and loudly denied those were my jokes. He was furious that I was accusing them of stealing jokes, but most of all he was incensed that I would suggest his writers would have anything to do with my pathetic blog and it’s author, me, a no-name failure.
In response to the suit, O’Brien’s production company said, “We at Conaco firmly believe there is no merit to this lawsuit.” His co-host, Andy Richter, pointed out that it’s possible more than one person thinks of the same joke on something topical at the same time.
There’s no possible way more than one person could have concurrently had these same species-elevating insights! THESE TAKES ARE TOO HOT!
— Andy Richter (@AndyRichter) July 27, 2015
This is coming on the heels of a freelance writer filing a DMCA takedown with Twitter, over allegedly lifted or aggregated jokes. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Twitter is going to start a full-scale inquiry into stolen jokes. And litigating editable blog posts and deletable tweets isn’t the easiest legal ground to tread.
According to the lawsuit, Kaseberg is demanding a trial by jury and hundreds of thousands in damages.
Audra Schroeder is the Daily Dot’s senior entertainment writer, and she focuses on streaming, comedy, and music. Her work has previously appeared in the Austin Chronicle, the Dallas Observer, NPR, ESPN, Bitch, and the Village Voice. She is based in Austin, Texas.