Amy Schumer defends her comedy credibility: “On my life, I have never and would never steal a joke”

Amy Schumer knows that haters will hate and there’s not much she can do to stop that.

Just please don’t call her a joke thief. Ever.

Schumer requested and made an impromptu appearance Wednesday afternoon on Jim Norton’s Advice Show on SiriusXM’s Opie Radio channel to defend her honor and comedy credibility. Afterward, she posted this Tweet, writing: “On my life, I have never and would never steal a joke.”

The previous night, three different comedians — all women who have been headlining comedy clubs since before Schumer began her own stand-up career — wrote Tweets suggested, implying or downright accusing Schumer of using their jokes in her act, her Comedy Central series Inside Amy Schumer or in her hit 2015 movie, Trainwreck. That spawned an unhealthy amount of Internet chatter as well as an accusatory video that quickly went viral, with hundreds of thousands of views on its first day.

Schumer not only categorically denied stealing jokes from Wendy Liebman, Kathleen Madigan, Tammy Pescatelli or Patrice O’Neal — she even said she’ll take a polygraph test and reveal the full results on an episode of Inside Amy Schumer, which just began production this week on season four — but also said she’d fight back to protect her integrity.

In October, I noted in my review for of Schumer’s HBO special (Live At the Apollo) that her closing bit covered the same premise as O’Neal in jokingly describing real and imaginary sex positions, although adding that Schumer herself had added her own perspective as a woman as well as as “inspired choice in crowd work.” Schumer read my review and replied that same day, via Twitter: “Thanks man. I have never seen that Patrice bit but I will watch today. I love and miss him.”

On Wednesday, she further acknowledged, in answering a caller to Norton’s SiriusXM program, that that bit in particular may be hacky more than anything else, but that she wanted to keep it in her HBO special because it killed and because she liked doing it.

Everything else? Schumer was not about to take those accusations lightly.

To wit:

“I’m literally going to take a polygraph test and put it on my show this season. And I promise, whatever the results are, I won’t let them cut. I will show that I had never ever seen Patrice do that bit. I had definitely never seen Tammy Pescatelli do that — like I had never happened to catch her 2006 Comedy Central special, and like sit on that bit ’til I got a movie. Like I sat on that bit for nine years, and then was like, here’s my chance to steal that Tammy — the famous Tammy P bit. I had never seen Kathleen Madigan’s Oprah bit,” Schumer said. “Both Kathleen and Wendy believe me. They know me. And they don’t believe I would do that. I think this is like Tammy’s trying to get something going. I don’t know.”

She said her Inside Amy Schumer sketch about Slap Chef came from her writers, with Schumer having the Sleep Gym idea herself. “Kathleen’s a great comedian,” she said. “I have never seen one of her specials. I’d never heard her do that joke, and I also didn’t write it. And that was season one of my show.” Schumer later told Norton that Madigan’s manager did inform the show about Madigan’s bit after that episode aired, but didn’t ask them to do anything about it. “And then the Wendy joke, I love Wendy Liebman, she’s one of my heroes. She did that joke. I looked at the footage they showed. She did a joke in the ’90s, a special in the ’90s. I didn’t know Wendy until I got older. I never would have seen her stand-up in the 90s, but I love her and her joke, we have, it’s the same punchline as mine.” Schumer said comedian Kurt Metzger, one of her IAS writers, told her he’d heard takes on that joke before and thought it might be hack, but she liked keeping it. “You know me,” she told Norton on Wednesday. “I’m so like, ‘Is this anyone’s bit?’ I have to come up with so much material, for my TV show, this movie, stand-up, like I, and I’m so careful. And none of these things had ever reached me. And I will literally take a polygraph. And I would just never do that. That would be so stupid for me to do that.

Schumer said she had blocked Pescatelli on Twitter a couple of years ago for allegedly “being unkind” to one of Schumer’s comedy BFFs, Rachel Feinstein. “I didn’t like how she treated Rachel,” she said. “And so, I’m a very loyal friend, and so, I don’t want to talk to that chick. And I think, I don’t think she’s got much going on. This is my guess. I don’t know. Maybe she has nine deals. We got along fine. I opened for her on the road in like 2007, and like totally, just bombed beyond all recognition. I never watched her. I’ve never watched Tammy’s specials or anything. But I don’t know. I think people get upset by success. And I think it makes sense. You see someone that you used to identify with and now, all of a sudden, you think, oh, I don’t like her anymore, and she’s doing too well. And she’s gotten a big head, or something. And I haven’t. I have not.”

Norton wondered why society turns on famous people, even if they’ve already divulged so much of their private lives.

“I think it’s the human condition,” Schumer replied. “I think we really do like to build people up and we root for them, and then when they’re succeeding — I don’t think it’s personal. I don’t even take it personally that these women put this video together. Whatever’s going on with them, I think, I don’t think it’s personal. It’s just hard to see someone doing well, and maybe Tammy pictured a different life for herself, and a different outcome, and so to see someone who’s succeeding — but I really believe, I don’t think I’m any happier than I was when I was waiting tables. Like, so if they think I’m living this amazing life, like I feel very lucky and grateful, but I’m just as happy as I was when I was waiting tables. I get lonely. I’m usually lonely. I’m an introvert, and I just want to sit at the (Comedy) Cellar and talk shit.” Schumer said she believes being a woman makes her more of a target by society at large.

That everything she says — including this defense — will show up everywhere in tabloid news — hurts, too. And she said media outlets already are knocking on doors of her friends and family members frequently in attempts to dig up dirt or juicy gossip about her. “All I care about is that the people close to me and comedians, that they respect me,” she told Norton. “You could forgive anything but I don’t think comedians can forgive joke stealing.”

Norton didn’t think Schumer could steal from O’Neal in particular and still walk into the Cellar and face the comedians’ table.

“I reached out to Wendy and I said, ‘You know me. You know I wouldn’t do that!'” Schumer said.

Liebman already had deleted some of her Tweets by Wednesday morning, writing instead: “I never said @amyschumer stole my joke.I just said it was the same.It’s possible we both wrote it.I just wanted you to know I wrote it 1st.”

Several hours later, Liebman posted her joke in question and chalked it up to the adage of great minds thinking alike.

Madigan had deleted her Tweet, as well, but left up a ReTweet of a fan defending her and Liebman both from unspecified joke stealing.

Pescatelli, meanwhile, has made multiple allegations of joke stealing, not just toward Schumer but also to parody Twitter accounts and sites that she claims have lifted her jokes verbatim for use in memes and whatnot without crediting her. After Schumer’s interview with Norton, Pescatelli asserted that she’s no “mastermind” and doesn’t know what she ever did to hurt Feinstein. “I don’t know who, what or where that rumor stared but couldn’t be further from the truth,” Pescatelli wrote on Twitter, adding: “I was the last to post of 3 women-albeit the loudest,w/the dumbest joke(which is my whole act) bc I am a #3AM friend.”

“It’s not fair, and it’s not cool, but I’m also — I’m not a little weakling,” Schumer told Norton. “This stuff makes me upset and angry and then I just get stronger. I’ll fight back. I am not going to become one of these other comics who’s been accused of stealing jokes. This will not be a part of my name. Because I will edit together a video showing what they’ve — like how you can spin anybody’s (jokes). You know what I mean? I’m not going to take this lying down.”

There already, by the way, was this video posted on Tuesday showing how a 2001 movie starring Courteney Cox (The Shrink Is In) had Cox’s therapist character telling a rich female patient that she should hire people to slap food out of her mouth.

“People on the message boards, whatever, I don’t care, you guys. Yes. I’m the fattest, ugliest monster with the stinkiest vagina in the world. Of course. Yes. Keep writing that. I don’t care. But don’t call me a joke thief,” Schumer said. “I’m not. And I would never fucking do that.”

“Nikki Glaser was like, ‘I want to Tweet, the only place Amy has ever stolen from is Bloomingdale’s.’ Like, I am a convicted shoplifter. I have stolen. I have a record. I let a cab driver finger me. Like I will tell you anything about me,” she said.

Here’s the full episode of Amy Schumer on Jim Norton’s Advice Show from Jan. 20, 2016:

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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One thought on “Amy Schumer defends her comedy credibility: “On my life, I have never and would never steal a joke”

  1. Wow, such a vigorous defense. The idea of all of this bums me out. It’s funny to think how many people got away with joke stealing pre-internet. Would be interesting to see a doco on the politics of this. Though I imagine it would be a tricky one to make.

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