Did SNL and Louis C.K. rip off Tig Notaro’s clown skit?

Credit: SNL/YouTube
Credit: SNL/YouTube /

Joke stealing is a serious but common thing in the world of comedy, and even Saturday Night Live isn’t immune to plagiarism.

Comedy is an art, and eventually all art is copied in one way or another after it’s already been done. Some can pass this off as an homage, while others call it stealing — it’s a fine line that has always and will always exist.

There’s a right and a wrong way to pay homage to something. Quentin Tarantino has made a career out of skating this thin line, more often than not paying homage well enough that he’s created a style where the line has been blurred. In comedy, the line between homage and theft is so thin that hardly anyone is able to land on the right side of it.

Saturday Night Live is on the wrong side of this discussion after a birthday clown sketch seems to have ripped off an almost identical one that comedian Tig Notaro did years ago.

Here’s the sketch that Tig did a few years ago:

Now that SNL skit from this weekend:

That’s similar — like dangerously similar.

It’s hard to say that Louis CK or anyone in the sketch knew it was ripped off. This is a thing that has happened years prior, both with SNL and other sketch shows. Inside Amy Schumer was accused of stealing a skit from MadTV and even SNL has been found guilty of ripping off existing comedic material. Back in the mid-90s, Jay Mohr ripped off a skit from someone’s standup routine and ended up admitting to it.

These things happen, which is unfortunate but true. The evidence speaks for itself and we can’t always jump to malicious intent. The grind of having to churn out skits on a weekly basis and drawing from knowledge you have without purposefully stealing is a reason why this could happen but isn’t an excuse.