Patton Oswalt calls out comedian/actor who was stealing his jokes this week

Even in this YouTube age we live in now, apparently some comedians still feel like they can get away with going onstage and telling someone else's jokes as their own.

Nick Madson performed Tuesday night at the Harrison Hilltop Theatre in Davenport, Iowa, and by Thursday, video of his performance hit YouTube, and by this morning, Patton Oswalt had more than a little something to say about it. Particularly because Madson had quoted several of Oswalt's bits verbatim. Even Oswalt's very well-known opinion about the KFC Famous Bowls. Here is Nick:

And here is Patton, in case you need a reminder:

Upon discovering Madson's video, Oswalt put fingers to keyboard and wrote about his very personal reaction. After discussing the facts of the matter and his views on joke theives, Oswalt wrote:

I’m really hurt. It feels unpleasant. I worked very hard on those jokes – honed them night after night, kept challenging myself to make them funnier. Plus, I have a constant gallery of friends and colleagues in my head – Louie CK and Dave Attell among them – against whose work I compare my writing, and ask myself, sometimes harshly, if I’ve truly gotten my stuff to their level.

And I was also under the delusion that I‚Äôd developed enough of a voice ‚Äì enough of a unique, personal voice ‚Äì that my stuff would be hard to steal. And yet here‚Äôs Nick Madson ‚Äì who, it turns out, is a stage actor ‚Äì reciting huge chunks of my material and collecting a paycheck for doing it. I don‚Äôt think he does it particularly well ‚Äì you‚Äôd think an actor would be able to fake subjective experience ‚Äì but he‚Äôs at the minimum, trained-monkey competence to get laughs. 

That Nick Madson is a thief is undeniable. Maybe, I thought, he’s a truly struggling actor, and did this show because he needed money, and feels bad about it. Or maybe he’s one of those deluded souls, like columnist and commentator Mike Barnicle (who lifted the majority of an August 2, 1998 Boston Globe column unchanged from George Carlin’s book Brain Droppings) who truly think that stand-up comedians get their jokes from books, and that any comedy bit is somehow public domain.
But then I find out that one of the other comedians on the show confronted Madson about the bits. And he said, in effect, ‚ÄúI write for Patton, and Louie, and Dave. I wrote those bits‚Äù. 

So fuck him.
I mean, I can see stealing from me, who’s still relatively obscure. But who would be stupid enough to steal from Louis CK? You may as well take a classic bit from, say, Bill Cosby. Maybe something off of the album Himself, about training your son to be a football player. And then just yell it at the top of your lungs, with no nuance, finesse or humanity.
That’d be mucho stupido.

Madson's own site biography describes himself more as a stage actor than as a comedian, although he makes a point of saying that in 2007, he "was named one of the top 100 up and coming comedians in America," a point he brought up and cited Comedy Central as the source that named him such in an interview in March with River Cities Reader. "They were kind of having this thing where you could take footage from your shows and send it in," he says of the acknowledgement. "I got a little certificate that means nothing, but still…." Wait. What? Comedy Central held Open Mic Fights that year. Is that what he's talking about? The reporter, in a completely unrelated part of the story, reacted to his quote about being a bad talker by writing "he appears to be doing a fine job of fooling people." Hmmm. In that same article, he claimed to be in discussions with Comedy Central producers for his own stand-up special to be aired this fall. He told the Quad City Times the same thing. Then again, in December 2008, he had told a Colorado Springs reporter that his set there might become a Comedy Central CD. And his MySpace page says this next to TV Shows: "Nick has appeared on Comedy Central‚Äôs Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn as a guest commentator, appeared on Comedy Central Presents, and in his own 1 hour special, "I‚Äôm Too Busy!" At the end of 2006 Nick got to work with his long time comedic influence, Richard Jeni at Caroline‚Äôs Comedy Corner in New York City. Nick has also appeared on CSI:NY, numerous music videos including Ain‚Äôt No Other Man, and on VH1‚Äôs Fashion Rocks at Radio City Music Hall with Christina Aguilera."

And yet I'd never heard of him until this morning. I sent him an email to see if he'd like to comment, and if he does reply, I'll be sure to let you know. If he thinks he was on Tough Crowd already, then he'll be prepared to face his toughest crowd yet.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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23 thoughts on “Patton Oswalt calls out comedian/actor who was stealing his jokes this week

  1. Holy ess. My jaw is on the floor. Stealing is horrible, but I think what’s even worse is that as Patton says, his delivery is terrible. I hope I don’t run into him at Caroline’s Comedy Corner.

  2. What’s truly jaw-dropping is that he’s put it on Youtube.
    Then again, if he’s inventing an (easily reasearched) set of Comedy Central specials as his credit, he may genuinely not know the difference between right and wrong.

  3. Carolyn: Of course, you won’t have to worry, since Caroline’s and the Comedy Corner are two different places!
    Brian: I thought I’d let that reference remain subtle. Oh well.
    Timmy: Patton wrote a defense of his MySpace blog a while back, and just recently acknowledged the oddity of still writing there in an announcement that he’ll be joining Twitter this weekend.

  4. so does this mean i have to stop doing my Gilbert Gottfried bit about “spiicceeee mustahhhrd”
    for shame- i’ve got the Chinese accent down to a t

  5. Especially awful that it’s so many bits right in a row. And so many that are on record. Amazing.

  6. my bad. the “you” in the “if you haven’t seen it” was referring to the other commenters/readers of comments though. i know you’ve seen it because you’ve written about it before.

  7. This guy is a completely deluded dickwad, like Harrison Greenbaum. Yet, as an actor, he’s not in the business of truth.
    At least wait till the comic is dead before you use his shit. Am I right, Mudbone?
    See you all at Gotham Comedy Cellar.

  8. In Nick’s defense, he did change “Doors locked from the inside, faggot” to “Doors locked from the inside, fucker.”
    In all seriousness, this is absolutely reprehensible. I don’t see how this guy can do a gig in any civilized, comedy-savvy city again. What a moron!

  9. I agree with everything Patton said, except this:
    “Or maybe he‚Äôs one of those deluded souls, like columnist and commentator Mike Barnicle (who lifted the majority of an August 2, 1998 Boston Globe column unchanged from George Carlin‚Äôs book Brain Droppings)”
    I still find this laughable. Not because Barnicle took that column, he did, but for the fact that Carlin stole material from Tim Conway.
    in the last Carol Burnett show, Conway did a bit that was a news broadcast with some familiar jokes (“one armed man in a row boat”, “exploding dog”, etc). At first I thought Conway stole those from Carlin, but if you if watch the last segment of that show, Carol herself alludes to this:
    Check the clip at 5:40 to 6:18 –
    Check out the whole show, if you can get your hands on it, to see what I’m talking about.
    Yeah, I know this is old stuff, Carlin is dead, and all that, but stealing is stealing.

  10. Ha! He had the gumption and abandon to steal entire bits verbatim from a well known comic and then post them on the internet – but couldn’t pull the trigger on Patton’s use of the word “faggot”… which, in this case, was completely jocular and in character???
    Wow. What a twisted individual. If you’re going to commit, then commit. You’ve already rendered yourself irredeemable.
    This entire thing is super cringeworthy.

  11. First, Sean I think Carolyn was being subtle in her line about Caroline’s Comedy Corner.
    Secondly, actuallyfunnycomic, were you showing that stealing material is bad by using that “Gotham Comedy Corner” line or were you just making a really bad attempt at a callback?
    Most importantly, why is everyone blowing up Patton’s reference to “Carlos Mensteala/Bill Cosby” and letting his reference to “Dane Crook/Louis CK” slide? Everyone knows a hack when they see one… except for Comedy Central apparently.

  12. Interestingly, Madson’s website seems to have erased all references to him doing stand-up comedy.

  13. shit, I stole a bunch of jokes from Nick Madson. now I don’t know what to think.

  14. The YouTube videos were not posted by Nick; they were posted by his opening act Andrew King (who is original and funny and I feel sorry that he had to open for this a-hole).

  15. Have some damn respect for the act of writing and performing a good joke. Patton is a hilarious writer, and knows how to deliver a good joke, changing tone, sound level, and timing to deliver the joke perfectly. If this guy is going to steal the joke, at least he can fucking perform it right. It was monotone, rushed, and no feeling behind it. SAD AND PATHETIC.

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