The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

It's A Knockoff

Another moan. People who criticise a comedy show because there’s a gag in it which is similar to a joke from another comedy show. Or similar to a joke they sent in which got rejected.

A few points. One. All writers are surfing the same zeitgeist. They’re watching the same shows, reading the same newspapers. The terms of reference are shared – and so will the jokes. It’s inevitable if, say, the news breaks that John Prescott has been shagging his secretary then many of the ‘satirical’ gags will be covering the same ground. I was once told the best approach with topical material is to write the third joke you think of – because everyone else will have already thought of the first two.

Two. No writer’s career rests on one joke or sketch alone. Producers aren’t interested in writers because of one brilliant joke or sketch or even one plot idea; they’re interested in writers who can offer them an endless supply of jokes, sketches or plot ideas. It’s not the individual nuggets that are important; it’s the fact that you own the gold mine.

So someone else had the same idea as you. And it wasn’t as good as your thing would’ve been. No, probably not, never mind, get over it, move on.

Three. Plagiarism doesn’t happen. Well, I suppose there might be one or two producers and script editors out there who steal ideas – one hears rumours – but they never get anywhere because they don’t own the gold mines. It’s a clear conflict of interest when producers or script editors write for their own shows, they should be too busy. But ninety-nine percent of the time – it’s coincidence. Completely unintentional. It really isn’t worth worrying about.

I wrote a sketch on this subject. Please don’t nick it.

POETS

A living room in a homely country cottage, circa 1802. A crackling fire. Wine. An evening with WILLIAM and DOROTHY WORDSWORTH, SAMUEL COLERIDGE and ROBERT SOUTHEY.

SAMUEL COLERIDGE: (at the end of an anecdote)
...by which point, I’d forgotten the second half so I never bothered to finish it!

ROBERT SOUTHEY:
Oh, Coleridge what are you like, you mad drug-addled fool!

Convivial laughter.

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH:
I hope no-one minds, but there’s a small piece I’ve been working on I’d like to share... I’d be interested in your thoughts -

DOROTHY WORDSWORTH: (eagerly)
Oh, do go on brother William, do.

SAMUEL COLERIDGE:
Indeed - Another Wordsworth masterpiece, no doubt!

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH:
If you’re sure. (reads) “I wandered lonely, as a cloud, that floats on high o’er vales and hills, when all at once I saw a crowd, a host of golden daffodils...”

ROBERT SOUTHEY:
(pissed off) Aw, what!

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH:
Sorry, Southey, is there a problem?

ROBERT SOUTHEY:
Yeah, there is - you knew I’d been working on a poem about daffodils.

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH:
No –

ROBERT SOUTHEY:
You did! I told you I was in the middle of writing one.

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH:
I don’t remember –

ROBERT SOUTHEY:
When we were out walking, the other day, when I said, ‘ooh, you know, us having a wander lonely over vale and hill like this, that makes us a bit like clouds’.

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH:
I don’t recall –

ROBERT SOUTHEY:
And then, when we were just coming up to the lake, we came across all these daffodils, and I said, ‘that’s brilliant, I’m definitely writing a poem about that.’

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH:
I honestly don’t remember you saying that. I’m not even sure you were there -

SOUTHEY gets out his own poem.

ROBERT SOUTHEY:
Here. (reads) ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud, that floats on high, o’er vales and hils, when all at once, I saw a crowd, a host of golden daffodils’ – it’s exactly the same!

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH:
Coincidence.

ROBERT SOUTHEY:
Coincidence?

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH:
Look, okay, maybe we saw the same host of daffodils, and we were inspired to write similar poems, that’s all. It happens, you know – great minds think alike!

ROBERT SOUTHEY:
Or you just copied me.

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH:
Copied you?

ROBERT SOUTHEY:
Well it’s a bit convenient otherwise, isn’t it? I see some daffodils and write a poem, and then you ‘see’ the same daffodils and write the same poem...

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH:
No, this sort of thing is bound to come up from time to time. If we’re going around looking at the same things, there's bound to be an ‘overlap’ of subject matter...

ROBERT SOUTHEY:
An overlap? Plagiarism more like!

DOROTHY WORDSWORTH:
Come now, Robert – William does have a point. You are both ‘lake poets’, based in the lake district, so naturally some of your poems will be covering the same ground. The whole idea of coming here was to share inspiration –

ROBERT SOUTHEY:
Yeah – or, now I discover, so that ‘Wordy’ here could just rip off all my ideas!

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH:
Come on! Coleridge is a lake poet too, and I don’t hear him complaining –

ROBERT SOUTHEY:
Yes, but that’s because he’s so stoned out of his skull on laudanum all his poems are about sailors wandering around with dead seagulls tied around their necks.

SAMUEL COLERIDGE: (oblivious to the above discussion)
Is there any water anywhere? Could do with a drop to drink –

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH:
Well, maybe if you feel we’re treading on each other’s toes, you should try writing about something else. Go and be a ‘town poet’, see how that suits you.

ROBERT SOUTHEY:
Yeah, yeah, I think I will.

SOUTHEY gets up to leave. As he does, a nightingale sings outside.

DOROTHY WORDSWORTH:
What’s that – a nightingale -

ROBERT SOUTHEY: (inspired)
“Hark - the nightingale begins its song - a most musical, most melancholy bird...”

Turns to see WILLIAM WORDSWORTH hastily writing this down – he looks up, caught in the act.


WILLIAM WORDSWORTH:
What? What?

END

1 comment:

  1. Lee Hurst wrote this exact same post yesterday,

    ReplyDelete