4 reasons not to worry (much) about people stealing your jokes

“How do I make sure nobody steals my jokes?”

It’s a common question, and there’s only one totally foolproof answer: NEVER TELL ANY JOKES.

Look, I don’t mean to just be sassy and unhelpful. It’s just sort of similar to the only foolproof way for someone to never steal your purse, or your look, i.e., never leave your house! Point is: In comedy, as in life, you have to get out there—and while there are always risks, the rewards are worth it.

That said, of course joke-stealing can be a thing, or certainly an allegation that you don’t want to get into. Even top-tier talent like Conan O’Brien and Amy Schumer have has accusations thrown their way. (Schumer, for her part, vehemently denies any thievery, as does O’Brien.)

So here are four things you need to know about getting yourself and your original jokes out there—and not worrying about who hears ‘em!

   

1. Joke stealing may happen, but it’s just not DONE. It is, arguably (now that we are talking about sexism and harassment), the second least cool thing you could possibly do in comedy, and, likewise, the second-best way to ruin your own reputation. If you’re the one whose joke gets obviously stolen, in karma terms, you’re actually the one who comes out ahead.

   

2. Sometimes two comics make the same jokes! Naturally, with so many comics making observations about the world around them, similarities are bound to exist between one guy’s airplane food joke and another’s. If you see a joke similar to yours our there, it may just be the laws of probability and comedy coming together.

   

3. Generally, people want to write original material. They’re just like you! A great rule of thumb: write jokes no one can steal. What does that mean? It means that even if you talk about the same topics as others (homework, let’s say), and even if you have a take similar to others (homework is annoying, let’s say), there’s going to be something unique, at least around the edges, about YOUR take: the word choice, the wrench you apply, the details particular to your world (your teachers, the topics, what it’s like in YOUR house when you try to get homework done, etc, etc.).

   

4. It’s in the GOLD Code!

   

So yes, the thought of someone stealing your jokes can be scary, but the reality of it happening is small enough that it’s not worth stressing out about. And it CERTAINLY should not stop you from writing and sharing! Write the jokes you want to write that are original and uniquely YOU, and you’ll be the one stealing…the show! (<<<GROAN. Also, TRUE.)


Mini Q+A with Veronica Dang

Veronica Dang is an award-winning director/actor/writer and comedian. You may have seen her on TV or teaching people about Yellow Fever at comedy clubs around NYC. Check out her webseries Subway: The Series, which is on Marie Claire’s list of “Webseries You’ll Want to Ditch Netflix for.” She also started NYC’s 1st Asian American sketch comedy team Model Majority. Their live shows have been on Timeout NY’s list of “Best Comedy Shows in NYC.” 


Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

When I do standup comedy, most people feel sorry for me so they don’t heckle. But if they did, I would just say “Mom and Dad, I’m so glad you finally came to see me!”

Describe your worst gig.

I was a costumed mascot for a famous children’s cartoon character at a public park event in 90+ degree weather. I couldn’t see, had trouble breathing and moving in a large, heavy costume with big head and feet. I wasn’t allowed to talk but had to do photo ops (where adults can be a bit handsy), play tennis with two thumbs, and dance battle while baking in my own sweat all day.

On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young comedian?

Eat whatever you want and keep doing comedy no matter what other people say. Comedy world doesn’t need more privileged mediocre white heterosexual males with mommy issues.

What’s your first impulse when someone says “women aren’t funny?”

Walk away. I don’t need that kind of stupidity in my life.

When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?

The world is messed up and I need comedy to help me deal with it. It also really helps to create your own work, that’s why I make my own films which have won awards 😉 and started NYC’s first all Asian-American sketch comedy team, Model Majority.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Always be doing comedy and you won’t actually die on stage.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

Replace all minorities and women in your script with white men.

Favorite response to “What’s it like to be a woman in comedy?”

I don’t know. What is it like to be a man in comedy? It seems like a lot of dick and pedophilia “jokes.”

Feelings about the word “comedienne?”

I prefer comedian but will accept any label that indicates I’m funny and doesn’t use racial slurs or insults.

How has being funny helped you in your offstage life, either recently or when you were younger?

Helped me avoid being bullied and beat up.

What advice do you have for how to level up from open mics + bringers to actual SPOT-spots?

Produce your own shows/work and make friends with people who know bookers or have own shows.

What single word always cracks you up?

manamana

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian?

Not one person, but one entity. My family inspired me to be a comedian because I needed a way to complain about them without them knowing.

Photo via: Leslie Hassler


Veronica Dang is an award-winning director/actor/writer and comedian. You may have seen her on TV or teaching people about Yellow Fever at comedy clubs around NYC. Check out her webseries Subway: The Series, which is on Marie Claire’s list of “Webseries You’ll Want to Ditch Netflix for.” She also started NYC’s 1st Asian American sketch comedy team Model Majority. Their live shows have been on Timeout NY’s list of “Best Comedy Shows in NYC.” 

Read Lynn’s bio here.

Mini Q+A with Kelsey Caine

Kelsey Caine is a beautiful New York comedian and writer originally from Texas. Her family describes her comedy as, “Stop telling jokes about us. It hurts your brother’s feelings.” She is most well known for her viral satirical character Penis C.K., who’s making fun of exactly the sex offender you’re thinking of. Kelsey is a New York Times contributor, a Miss New York USA pageant state finalist, and a controversial performance artist. Kelsey is a graduate of The New School with an MFA in Creative Writing, double majoring in Writing for Children and Nonfiction. Inspired by the #MeToo Movement Kelsey began advocating for sexual assault education in schools, focusing primarily on all-boys schools. She is writing a book on the topic entitled “What To Do With #MeToo” represented by Sarah Phair at Trident Media Group.


Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Since I’ve been doing stand-up as my beloved satirical character Penis C.K., who’s mocking exactly the sex offender you’re thinking of and all sex offenders, my favorite thing to say to trolls on the internet that say they hate Penis C.K. is, “Yeah, that’s a good thing. He’s a sex offender.”

Describe your worst gig

I’ve had some people leave during Penis C.K., which I totally understand. Especially if you’ve experienced sexual assault, then I’m sure it’s hard not to think about your own experience. And for that I’m truly sorry. I’m a sexual assault survivor and my intent is to try and help bring attention to the very common sexual assault that people face everyday and are told not to talk about, not to trigger survivors. I’m trying to trigger sex offenders into seeing the pain they’ve caused. I say that very clearly during my performance. Most audiences get what I’m doing and like Penis C.K. I’ve mostly had great shows audience wise, but Penis C.K. has deeply upset some comedians. My worst show was definitely being hate Instagram storied by another comic on a show. He didn’t watch my full set, but he really hated the concept. He didn’t think it was what stand-up comedy should be and wanted me to stop. It was really strange because I had never met him before, and he was so mad at something he didn’t even fully watch. You can totally hate Penis C.K. There’s a lot of comedy that I hate. But I would never tell another comedian what to do, except not sexually assault anyone.

What’s your first impulse when someone says “women aren’t funny”?

Don’t acknowledge them.  Block them.

When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?

I’m really funny. I know it. It’s just true. Everything else is just practice.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Open with your best joke. Then the audience will trust you and think all of your jokes are that good, but it’s a trick. You tricked them! The rest aren’t as good, but they’ll never know.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

I should dress hotter. My mom said it, but still.

Favorite response to “What’s it like to be a woman in comedy”?

I tell them the truth, it can be horrible. Why do you think so many comedy legends are sex offenders? There’s no HR in comedy, and there are so many stupid fucking boys who legitimately think harassing people is okay or even funny. I know rapists who are national headliners. It’s terrifying. But that’s not everyone. There are also great people in comedy. Who are kind and funny and make it worth it to be a woman in comedy.

How has being funny helped you in your offstage life, either recently or when you were younger?

Being funny has always helped me. I couldn’t read until I was nine. Because I have dyslexia. And being funny really helped me deal with that. I never thought I was dumb even for one second. I really thought reading was going to blow over, and that it was unnecessary to learn how to read. I’d gotten that far without knowing how to read. That’s a hilarious perspective. It’s gotten me far in life.

What advice do you have for how to level up from open mics + bringers to actual SPOT-spots?

Okay my god, please don’t do bringer shows. If you have people that will come out to watch you do comedy PUT ON YOUR OWN SHOW. Your own show will put your name out there better than being on any bringer show. In my experience, club bookers don’t even watch their bringer shows. So who are you doing it for? It’s hard to realize that just going to open mics and hanging out around at comedy clubs isn’t going to make you famous. Look at what the people you perceive as successful are doing. They probably host their own show, or podcast, or make Instagram videos, or write funny articles. Do that, try everything!

What single word always cracks you up?

Context is everything. No single word is funny, even if one word makes me laugh it’s because of the context. But there is a video of Jerry Seinfeld breaking down the “funny words” in one of his jokes, and it’s hilarious. He says something like, “CHIMP, DIRT, PLAYING, and STICKS. Out of seven words in my joke, four of them are funny.” I just don’t think about comedy like that, and I love hearing people talk about it. It’s so funny.

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian? If so, who, why, how?

My parents. They kept telling me I could become anything I wanted to be, and I took them up on it. My dad is still the funniest guy I know, and now I know a lot of guys who think they’re funny. And when the day is done, my mom is still my biggest fan. Even though a lot of my content truly makes her uncomfortable.

On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young comedian?

Don’t worry about the people who hate you. People are going to hate you, and the people who hate you aren’t going to help you. Find the people who like you and think you’re funny, and work with them. Start your own show. Start your own open mic. Have something to offer people. You don’t have to wait for people to book you, you can start booking the people you want to work with. Put yourself in a position of power.

Photo via: Mindy Tucker


Kelsey Caine is a beautiful New York comedian and writer originally from Texas. Her family describes her comedy as, “Stop telling jokes about us. It hurts your brother’s feelings.” She is most well known for her viral satirical character Penis C.K., who’s making fun of exactly the sex offender you’re thinking of. Kelsey is a New York Times contributor, a Miss New York USA pageant state finalist, and a controversial performance artist. Kelsey is a graduate of The New School with an MFA in Creative Writing, double majoring in Writing for Children and Nonfiction. Inspired by the #MeToo Movement Kelsey began advocating for sexual assault education in schools, focusing primarily on all-boys schools. She is writing a book on the topic entitled “What To Do With #MeToo” represented by Sarah Phair at Trident Media Group.

Read Alex’s bio here. 

I’m still funny: 5 ways to survive working in the male-dominated comedy industry without losing your sense of humor

I often think about that time when a male peer—someone I’d wanted to learn from and exchange ideas with—told me, to my face, these exact words: “You aren’t funny because your comedy is too queer and might offend some people.”

You may be thinking, “Emily, did you punch that doofus in the face?” No, I did not. I’m not a connoisseur of confrontation. And if I want to get on stage and workshop some jokes about queer dating in the greater NYC area, then SO HELP ME OPRAH I WILL! 

But that doesn’t solve the problem back at work. Being told you’re not funny because of who you are: it’s maddening, but not uncommon. Especially if you’re someone other than a dude.  And it’s no secret that the comedy industry is heavily male-dominated. It’s hard to remember when you’re deep into the utopia that is this website, but even today, only about 10% of comedians are women. The wage gap is still prevalent with women making less money hustling just as hard as men, it’s no wonder that we have A LOT to say. All jokes aside, it just isn’t fair! We’re so freakin’ hilarious!

While it’s not on us to fix everything for everyone, we do have to find ways to do our part—to get seen and heard, to make the most of opportunities to collaborate with everyone, and even just to survive. After many discussions with my female colleagues and friends was that I certainly could find ways to handle those doofus situations. And I did start to learn how—which is good, because in the comedy industry, stupid stuff like that happens on the daily. It’s so easy to lose your sense of humor, but guess what? I SURVIVED/ AM SURVIVING, and you can too! We have to!

Here are some of the sexist/anti-queer things that I experienced and—once I got the hang of it—how I dealt with them.

THAT TIME WHEN… I was asked to separate the male and female comedians for a show lineup by my superior.

Here is a quintessential example where I knew I had a voice and was entitled to use it. Confused as to why this seemed to be an issue with my boss, I retorted with, “Separating comedians based on gender doesn’t showcase anything but ignorance.” (YASSSSS. Crowd goes wild.) If you plant the seed for conversation in this type of situation, it prompts a discussion and may even slowly shift the framework in individuals who feel there is still a definite distinction of what’s funny between men and women. (#SPOILER: There isn’t.) In the end, my boss kept the lineup the way he wanted it. Sometimes your superior listens and that’s a start, but even if they do not, know that you tried to make an effort. You can’t win every battle!

THAT TIME WHEN… someone asked for my opinion and someone else immediately someone started talking over me.

OMG SO RUDE. You have every right to be up front and honest with the person that cuts you off. In a collaboration, all ideas are welcome, but there is a time and a place for contributing your own ideas. I made a point to wait for my colleague to finish talking, proving that I was not going to cut him off as well. I then politely, yet assertively let him know that cutting me off mid sentence was rude (in front of the entire group) and carried on leading the discussion. If you don’t feel comfortable confronting them in person, speaking to them privately about how it made you feel is 100% acceptable as well.

THAT TIME WHEN… I was told to “tone down” my sketch material because it was “too gay.”

Yup, this crappy lightning struck twice. Never ever get into a situation where a cisgender man tells you that your comedy is “too gay.” It’s sacrilegious! Knowing your audience before a show can immensely change the reception of your material. So that’s exactly what I did. Heeding those biased words with a grain of salt, I sought out more queer and female audiences that would better understand the jokes I was trying to make. They loved it, and in return I felt proud of my sketch baby who initially wasn’t receiving the proper love and care they needed. Always be proud of your metaphorical sketch baby!

THAT TIME WHEN… a coworker in a professional setting said, about a colleague, “Forgive me, but she’s too cute.”

Hard PASS. Anything you experience, or know of someone who has experienced this, REPORT IT. Inappropriate behavior is inexcusable in any sense. I sent an email to my superior’s superior, detailing the interaction we had, making it known that this was the behavior taking place and how uncomfortable it made me. Even though it wasn’t directed toward me, we have an obligation as women to have each other’s backs; to support each other no matter what!

THAT TIME WHEN… someone stole my jokes!

I mentioned a joke of mine to a guy friend of mine in private. Cut to: I see him perform THAT EXACT JOKE, to a crowd that ate up the LIES. People believe that women are vulnerable, naive beings and that’s just not true! (That, or he steals jokes from EVERYONE.) Never let someone else take advantage of your sense of humor and label it as their original joke. And wait until you hear the super clever and withering way I dealt with it! Well, we’ll all be waiting a while because I wussed out and avoided it. Basically (for some reason), I feared losing his friendship. It took me a long time to realize it’s okay to cut someone out of your circle if you can’t agree or at least compromise on the ground rules.

It was my best friend, Cher, who said in her 2013 contemporary hit Woman’s World, “Said I’m stronger, strong enough to rise above, this is a WOMAN’S WORLD…” and ain’t that the damn truth! It’s 2019 and women are funnier than ever. You never really believe that you’ll come across such adversaries in your career, but when it does happen, you now have the tools to combat the murky male-dominated waters! It’s a symbiotic relationship between your confidence and your comedy, and no dudeor anyone for that mattercan take that away from you.

How have you dealt with THAT TIME WHENs like these? Let us know @goldcomedy!

Photo via: Babbletop


Read Emily’s bio here.