I’ve held off writing about comedy plagiarist Jordan Paris, and what aspiring comedians might learn from him (in the horrible warning rather than the good example sense), partly because I was too busy laughing at all the proper comedians playing with rapidfire zingers at his expense on Twitter and Facebook, but mostly because I was curious to see how he would do when he returned to the Australia’s Got Talent competition with purportedly his own material.
Well, the first joke of the set turned out to have been used before by an American comedian at a comedy roast that had been broadcast on Comedy Central, and that pretty much says it all. Even when he knew it was crucial to use only his own material, he couldn’t stop himself. The best joke of the rest of an extraordinarily unfunny set was one about him stealing his teeth from two other comedians, but Paris didn’t have the confidence in his delivery that he does when he knows he’s using goldplated tried and true material from other comics, and the audience was merely made uncomfortable by him.
“I didn’t know I was supposed to be a writer and write my own material – I always had a bit of success just retelling my mates’ gags.”
…actually Paris was well aware that the comedy world was unimpressed with his ripoffs of other comedians’ material. More than once on a comedy bill he has has actually performed some of the MC’s or headlining performer’s material right in front of them – Paris hasn’t even cared enough to do his homework on who wrote what so as to avoid being so crass. Many comics and comedy promoters had repeatedly told him he was breaking the comic’s code, and he was rapidly becoming unbookable in venue after venue.
If Paris was paying somebody else to write unique material for him to perform, that would be professionally ethical even if it wouldn’t get him much respect in the comedy world. There are plenty of comedians who earn some dosh writing jokes for TV stars like Paul McDermott, Wil Anderson, Adam Hills etc etc to deliver on their shows – but those comedy-writers get a paycheck and a production credit for it, and none of those comedy professionals would expect to get away with using their written-by-others-for-TV material in a live stand-up set without anybody noticing. None of them rely only on others writing for them either – they each have a legitimately unique comedy voice that they built up for themselves.
Using other people’s material in a comedy routine is like using autotune when singing – it might make you sound better to the punters, but all the professionals who might help you go forward in your career will instantly know that your voice is a fake, and are far less likely to hold out that helping hand. Without some degree of recommendations from people known around the scene, you won’t ever get more than basic local work – the touring circuit will forever be closed to you.
If all you want is loud applause at an amateur talent night, then you might enjoy being a fake comedian. If you want a lasting career of actually getting booked and paid to appear, then it won’t do at all. Write your own lines, do the hard yards refining them at open mic nights, and build up your own legitimate comedy voice. It will be more personally satisfying as well, as it happens.
(re the heading – yes, I know you see what I did there)