“There is only one rule in comedy: You don’t steal jokes.” says Eric Gruber, host of the Mostly Normal Show at the Hollywood Improv Lab. Gruber at his own show outed former comedian Jason Garrett who stole, with no change in phrasing or performance, jokes from late comedian Mitch Mullany.
It’s the only rule that, as a comedian, you absolutely cannot break. There are plenty of rules and guidelines to conform to when you’re a stand-up and making people laugh, but they are broken freely all the time with success. For instance, instead of talking or telling jokes, I saw Tig Notaro last night simply push a stool around the stage and kill.
“Joke thievery,” as Comedy Store regular Ari Shaffir explains, “hinders the art form.” Thus, if a comic is found to be a joke thief, they are blacklisted in a way that few art forms ever observe. Basically, you’re done performing stand-up because no one will give you stage time.
You surely heard when Carlos Mencia was outed as a joke thief. But he had made it so far in stand-up comedy that he still headlines plenty of shows around the country. Rarely does one get to see the true “taking down” of a joke thief and it’s subsequent aftermath– though Joe Rogan famously confronted Mencia and much later Marc Maron got to the heart of the matter on his podcast WTF.
Veteran comics might tell you stories of someone stealing jokes, then consequently be violently beaten at the back of a theater until they’re unconscious. Gruber and his co-host of the Mostly Normal Show, Carlos Herrera took a little bit of a higher road by booking Garrett to perform on their show, then playing clips of the deceased Mullany after Garrett’s set that were exactly, word-for-word, act-out-for-act-out, the same. Gruber and Herrera took a big risk with doing this in front of a live paying audience who were, understandably, became ill at ease.
In the video below, clips of the entire incident are put together along with commentary from touring comedians Eleanor Kerrigan, Mack Lindsay and Earl Skakel. There’s even a bonus video of another comedian, Chris Neff, chasing Garrett down Melrose Ave. in LA calling Garrett a “soulless cunt” while Garrett half-heartedly claims that he wrote with Mullany before he died.
According to a Twitter thread between many of the comedians involved, Jason Garrett, in the aftermath, returned to his “roots as a literary agent” to supposedly dish out revenge if anyone involved had a novel or a manuscript come his way, but that has yet to be seen. What can be assured is that Garrett who regularly performed throughout all the big clubs in LA will never do so again, especially with these videos floating around.