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No laughing matter! Comedians at loggerheads over whose joke it really is

An accusation levelled against comedian Gaurav Gera by stand-up comedian Rahul Subramanian has brought back the debate over copying jokes in the business of making everyone laugh.

tv Updated: Feb 22, 2017 20:19 IST
Yashika Mathur
Yashika Mathur
Hindustan Times
Gaurav Gera,Rahul Subramaniam,Sorabh Pant
Actor Gaurav Gera unintentionally made a video on a joke which was originally by stand-up artist Rahul Subramaniam.(Aalok Soni/HT PHOTO)

Even though stand-up comedian Rahul Subramanian has accepted that fellow comedian Gaurav Gera making a video of his joke was an honest mistake, the row has reignited the issue of plagiarism in the business of comedy and how serious the matter is for these performing artists.

Gera, known for making the Shopkeeper-and-Chutki series of videos, uploaded a video joke on his Instagram account, but was confronted by Subramaniam, who claimed that it was his joke, which was not credited to him.

“A friend had told me this joke,” says Gera. “I’ve made around 1,200 videos and have no qualms about attributing a joke to the right source. Had I known it was Rahul’s joke, I would’ve tagged him in the video. I have no problem with that.”

Comedian Rohan Joshi feels that while unintentional mistakes are a different matter, comics earn their living through the content they create and, therefore, anyone who steals a joke should be called out.

“Comedy is our creative currency, like music is for musicians,” says Joshi. “We make a certain amount of effort to create these jokes, and it shouldn’t be hard for people to give us credit for it. So you can’t just steal it and put it up. If it does happen, then such people should be called out. People have this attitude where they feel that content can be recycled.”

“Comedy is our creative currency, like music is for musicians. We make a certain amount of effort to create these jokes and it should not be hard for people to give us credit for it.”

Comedian Daniel Fernandes says, “We do comedy for a living. So, the jokes we come up with and present on stage are what people actually pay for, to experience the fun.”

He points out that while someone quoting a joke is not the same as someone stealing a joke, “there are content creators out there taking other people’s work, passing it off as their own and earning money from it”. Fernandes strongly feels that this is “morally wrong, ethically wrong, and if someone does it, then that person should be called out”.

However, actor-comedian Ali Asgar, who plays the role of dadi on The Kapil Sharma Show, has a different take. “My understanding,” he says, “is that a lot of things get recycled in today’s day and age. It’s about how you present it differently. My way of presenting something would be different, which is what makes a performer. There are many comedians, but everyone doesn’t have a similar timing. Nowadays, the issue of copyright is coming up very frequently.”

East India Comedy member Sorabh Pant points out that while there’s no set rule on plagiarism in the business of comedy, anyone who indulges in it eventually gets isolated from the community.

“It’s a serious issue,” says Pant. “There are a lot of people who are joke thieves. The rule book on something like this is a little troublesome, but anyone who comes across as an artist, but steals another person’s jokes, eventually has no one to pair up with. Nobody wants to work with them.”

Follow @htlifeandstyle for more.

First Published: Feb 22, 2017 20:18 IST