Is it still joke stealing if you’re rephrasing famous bits into Italian? Ask Daniele Luttazzi

What happens if you make a career for yourself as one of Italy's top satirists, only for people to eventually find out that you have used jokes and routines from more than 100 American stand-up comedians to make all of your points, claiming them to be yours? Well, meet Daniele Luttazzi.

Here's a video from the Italian media outlet la Repubblica, comparing bits of Luttazzi to those of the late Bill Hicks and George Carlin. It's a double whammy — they're American and dead, who'd notice?!

It looks as though this blogger has been asking Luttazzi about his joke thievery for years now, and after Luttazzi initially claimed to have worked with comics such as Emo Philips on their joke-writing (!?!), his more recent defense has been one of phrasing and pausing. As if merely translating it into Italian and moving the pauses around gives you ownership of someone else's jokes? Harrumph.

Of course, even Americans in plum positions try to get away with stealing jokes from the masters, isn't that right, Mike Barnicle? Then again, even 12 years after the Boston Globe forced Barnicle out of his columnist job for lifting material from Carlin, Barnicle is still getting paid for his :unique" opinions by MSNBC and others. Will Luttazzi get the last laugh, as well? Hmmmm.

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.

View all posts by Sean L. McCarthy →

5 thoughts on “Is it still joke stealing if you’re rephrasing famous bits into Italian? Ask Daniele Luttazzi

  1. I love that one of the jokes that Luttazzi has lifted from Bill Hicks…has also been lifted from Denis Leary.
    (Yes, there is intentional subtext with that comment.)

  2. In 2012, Luttazzi won a legal battle against La7 broadcasting company, which in 2007 abruptly closed his late show “Decameron”, accusing him, among other charges, of plagiarism from Bill Hicks. Sentence: It was original satire, not plagiarism. Luttazzi got 1 million 2 hundred thousand euros as compensation.

    The accusation of plagiarism, according to Luttazzi, is a misleading half-truth. Five years before those allegations, Luttazzi himself told about his scheme on his personal blog: he wrote that he adds famous comedians’ material to his work as a defense against the million-euro lawsuits he has to face because of his satire. Luttazzi calls his ruse “the Lenny Bruce trick” after a similar trick played by his hero, Lenny Bruce. Luttazzi asks his readers to find out the original jokes. He awards a prize to anyone who finds a “nugget”, i.e. a reference to famous jokes: he calls the game “treasure hunt”. Luttazzi also calls the allegations “naive”, explaining why those jokes are not “plagiarized”, but “calqued”, which is a fair use of original material. He used a joke by Emo Philips to prove that the meaning of a joke depends on its context. Luttazzi’s blog lists all the comedians and writers quoted in his works.

Comments are closed.