The new memoir from show business legend Budd Friedman outlines the history of the comedy club he founded. Among the stories outlined in The Improv: An Oral History of the Comedy Club that Revolutionized Stand-Up, Friedman accuses the late Robin Williams of stealing jokes.
This may be a revelation to some but the idea of Williams as a “joke thief” has been around for years. The legendary stories that have been circulated for years are that many comedians would refuse to go on stage or stop their sets at clubs if Williams was in the audience and that he even used other people’s jokes during an appearance on the Tonight Show.
In a conversation with Marc Maron on his podcast WTF with Marc Maron in 2010, Williams admitted to what he termed “joke sampling” and argued that it was never an intentional act but that he absorbed ideas and riffed on them as part of his creative process.
Being called out for lifting jokes has happened to everyone from Denis Leary and Carlos Mencia to Dane Cook and Conan O’Brien.
But don’t judge Williams too hard because as the immortal Stan Laurel of Laurel & Hardy fame always said, “All comedians steal from all comedians.”
Bradford Hornsby is an editor, music writer, web producer, and pop culture blogger for CBS stations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Find him on Twitter at @bradfordhornsby.