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Once a Joke Goes Viral, Who Cares Where It Came From? (2015) (newrepublic.com)
55 points by luu 6 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 36 comments

The idea of giving credit to original creativity, citing sources properly, etc, can be very difficult.

I have had lots of ideas that were derivative of other people's work. Maybe almost all of my ideas. Coming up with anything truly unique is super hard!

I have written a lot in my career, but most of it is for clients and courts. Much of it is quite original in a sense, because the facts of any two circumstances are never quite the same. However, my legal writing is almost certainly never going to be used by anyone else to make money or take credit that I might otherwise think should be mine. But I have made money by doing all of this writing.

On the other hand, I used to be a professional editor and sometimes writer. Some of that work could much more easily be used by someone else either to make money or to be passed off as their original ideas etc. That's where I would start to feel bothered if I weren't given credit or compensated for that work.

But the actual work of coming up with ideas, writing them down, and giving them to someone else to read is not really very different between those two (or three if you count writing and editing as different) jobs! So why would I feel differently? Why do I want credit for one, but not the other?

I think you answered your own questions right there, but there is a little more juice to squeeze: legal writing had limited domain of interest and is just "the person who observes these fact commits them for transmission". Whilst the other writing (it seems from how you couched it) has a cultural aspect to it, [more] personality in the writing, broader interest and possibly for entertainment or general education.

We value our personalities, our distinctiveness, more than we value our characteristics that are shared with others. Anything that's creative in an artistic way we see as being more valuable that things we produce simply by being conduits of information -- making up a joke and telling it and getting a laugh feels much better than telling someone else's joke and getting a laugh.

You want credit for the cultural value but not the mere ability to transmit information, the later being something that's essential inherent in your physical make up, the former being creative output of your personality and more unique characteristics.

A simpler way to look at it is that if people can make money from something then it's valued by society. You seek recompense for the value you add because you've been trained to do so.

Heard joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he's depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, "Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up." Man bursts into tears. Says, "But doctor...I am Pagliacci.”

The Pagliacci joke has become a nice example of remixing on Twitter:



Including my favourite, crossovers with other memes:


Good joke. Everyone laughs. Roll on snare drum. Curtains.

I'm not locked in here with you. You're locked in here with me.

I came up with an original "dad joke" a few years ago that I was incredibly proud of, posted it to Reddit and got many upvotes. Then later on I started to realize that everything on Reddit was reposts and I thought to myself: "wait...what if my joke was a repost?" so I googled it and sure enough somebody else had already invented it before me. I'm about 95% sure that I really hadn't heard the joke before and that I really did think of it on my own, but it was kind of obvious so there was plenty of opportunity for it to be discovered independently any number of times.

You can't just post that without telling us the joke. C'mon! - unless it might dox you :)

Yeah that's why I was hesitant. The joke hadn't been posted so many times on Reddit that I was comfortable sharing it :P But here's another dad joke to tide you over! Did you know that Sir Isaac Newton had a brother that sold frut? Yeah his name was Fig. :D

From Tim Ferris' Tao of Seneca:

“Epicurus,” you reply, “uttered these words; what are you doing with another’s property?” Any truth, I maintain, is my own property. And I shall continue to heap quotations from Epicurus upon you, so that all persons who swear by the words of another, and put a value upon the speaker and not upon the thing spoken, may understand that the best ideas are common property. Farewell.

-Seneca the Younger

Humor is crowdsourced now.

If it’s not upvoted/reposted enough it’s not funny.

And like that Key & Peele skit, it doesn’t do you well to insist that you created something if someone else makes it popular


(but seriously though, appropriating something without credit is not cool.)

Politicians don't credit their speech writers and no one seems to care about that -- so appropriating things seems fine in some circumstances?

Artists don't, in general, credit the architects of buildings they draw, nor the gardeners or horticulturalists who make other scenes they might paint/draw. Singers don't credit the creators of life stories they write ballads about.

[IMO the politician is not there as themselves, they're a corporate body really, they can represent views that honestly they wouldn't hold because their backers -- financial, moral, political, or otherwise - hold those views. The problem with that is they don't identify the corporation they represent, IMO they really should be giving traceable credit for all of their inputs.]

> Politicians don't credit their speech writers and no one seems to care about that -- so appropriating things seems fine in some circumstances?

Yeah, the circumstance is called explicit permission. Appropriating is the wrong word here, the speech writers agree to this, and may also get paid, as others pointed out. It’s completely different than using someone else’s work without permission.

> Artists don’t, in general, credit the architects of buildings

Why should this be considered a valid analogy to using someone else’s work? The artists drawing a building aren’t borrowing the building plans to create another building, they’re drawing it and stopping with the drawing. That’s completely different from using someone’s work directly.

> Politicians don't credit their speech writers and no one seems to care about that -- so appropriating things seems fine in some circumstances?

Credit can be in other forms, e.g. monetary payment. I don't get public attribution for work completed for my employer, my bank account does get credited each month though.

> Politicians don't credit their speech writers and no one seems to care about that -- so appropriating things seems fine in some circumstances?

That's typically a work for hire though. When I load up Photoshop and click on About, I don't see a list of all the developers that wrote the code. I think speech writing is the same thing.

Older versions of Photoshop do show such a list in their about menu. For example, here's CS4: https://i.imgur.com/33i24Sk.png

I'm guessing that was a courtesy move on Adobe's part. I can't imagine those people retain any rights to their work on Photoshop.

> IMO they really should be giving traceable credit for all of their inputs.

This is an argument in favor of an AI-based government.

How is that?

Most sitcoms use the same story lines, just in different setting.

Most stories use the same story lines.

There's a culture on twitter now, of "exposing" viral tweets (usually jokes) for having been stolen from less prominent people on the platform.

I think it's great despite the obvious pettiness attached to the practice.

Check out Jokester by Isaac Asimov for another take on the origin of jokes.

This comment has more to do with the question posed by the headline, which I found didn't match the article very well.

> the question posed by the headline, which I found didn't match the article very well

The later paragraphs do show the link between headline and the content. No? Looks like the final straw that broke him was Lloyd's infringment lawsuite accusing him of stealing from a film which he co-wrote.

They're not entirely unrelated. I found the final paragraphs to describe how the research of attribution is difficult. I interpreted the headline as questioning whether attribution is even relevant or desirable.

Comedy, like the blues, draws from a canon of material.

Do you want to hear a joke about UDP? I don't care if you get it or not.

An ASCII character walks into a bar. The bartender says, "What's the problem?" The ASCII character says, "I have a parity error." The bartender nods and says, "Yeah, I thought you looked a bit off."


have you

have you heard

have you heard the

have you heard the one

have you heard the one about

have you heard the one about traceroute

Isn't this the driving principle behind memes? Categorize information into some new digestible format but the author is less important than the meme.

No, at least not exclusively. When an someone starts making money posting other people's work, the author of said work becomes important.

My partner came up with a joke many years ago which I have actually heard repeated in more recent years.

It's not a good joke, but I still laugh whenever I hear it.

"what does a dyslexic zombie say?"

is the joke finished? I do not understand it.

See sibling comment for underwhelming punchline. You will be disappointed.


Correct, but it needs to be said loudly in a zombie-esque manner.

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