Monday, December 04, 2006

Ding Dong The Bitch Is Dead Part 1

Kevin Meaney, Colin Quinn, Mario Joyner, Stu Trivax and Chris Rock at Catch A Rising Star in New York, also home to Seinfeld, Joy Behar, me and countless others

Judy Brown has been profiting from comedians for a very long time. She compiled nineteen books of comics’ jokes before Jay Leno made an attempt to stop her.

There is no form of writing harder than joke writing. Joan Rivers hires people to create a new act for her every year. The sitcom Seinfeld used to open with a standup segment. A lot of it came from Jerry but eventually they had to hire someone to write that part. When that cold open was finally dropped, I’m sure no one was more relieved than the guy writing those jokes every week. The lore in our business is that you write five great minutes a year.

Any respectable comic will tell you it takes ten years to become a good comedian. Twenty to become great. And for all of that effort, Judy Brown doesn’t even make reparations to the comics she steals from. But you get the credit, I was told. You can’t pay rent with credit. Well that’s not entirely true because in an effort to save money I’ve put my rent on a credit card. The rent was seven hundred and sixty-five dollars but my monthly minimum payment was only forty-two fifty. That’s one of my jokes. Thank you, I’ll be here all week. Try the veal.

One of the plaintiffs in the Judy Brown case is Sue Pascoe, the widow of Ronnie Shakes. Ronnie was one of the most gifted writers in our field. This was one of his jokes: After twelve years of therapy my psychiatrist said something that brought tears to my eyes. He said, 'No hablo ingles.'

Ronnie died in the 1980’s. And Judy Brown is still using his jokes to depositar dinero en un banco. I’m still all about the Spanish, socio.

Sidebar: When I first got to LA, I was sitting in a little café on Santa Monica Boulevard eating frozen yoghurt with my friend Sheila Kay (BIBing, sorry) when this girl walked up to me and said, “Aren’t you Suzy Soro?”
“Yep.”
“I know all your jokes!”
“Oh yeah?” How could she know my jokes? Not to mention recognize me. I had just moved to Hollywood and hadn’t done more than one or two TV shows. Shows like Caroline’s Comedy Hour that three people watched.
“I take standup classes with Judy Brown and she makes us choose a comic we like and then we do their routines in class.” This girl had chosen me. I guess Judy Brown was one of the three people watching Caroline’s Comedy Hour.

When I wrote for a website here in L.A., I asked my lawyer to amend the one-sided contract the editor required me to sign. It didn’t allow me to keep either the content or the name of my column. It also demanded a five year no-compete clause. And in other news from the planet I Don’t Think So my attorney couldn’t take the case because he wasn’t familiar with Intellectual Property Law. He referred me to an IP attorney. These lawyers are in big demand because of the Internet and all the stealing and copyright infringement. Meanwhile, I just purloined Ronnie’s joke off a website and reprinted the AP article without permission. Apparently, I’m part of the problem. End of chat.

Leno, Others Sue Over Joke Book
AP LOS ANGELES (Dec. 1)

The "Tonight Show" host and NBC Studios have sued humor editor Judy Brown and her publishers in U.S. District Court, claiming that her collection of joke books has profited from material filched from his standup routines. Leno and other comics, including Rita Rudner, are seeking unspecified damages and a permanent injunction against Brown's 19 books - mainly compilations of jokes by comedians including Ellen DeGeneres, Joan Rivers and Jerry Seinfeld, according to the lawsuit. "Her books credit the comedians who wrote the jokes, which only serves to make the copyright violations more egregious: The books sell precisely because they include jokes by famous comedians," the lawsuit claims. "Ms. Brown has even sent representatives to comedy clubs to record comedians' routines, so she can then copy the jokes into her books and profit from the original comedic works of others," according to the lawsuit. Brown's books include "The Funny Pages," "Funny You Should Know That" and "Joke Stew."

Spokeswoman Kathy Hilliard of Andrews McMeel Publishing, one of the publishers named in the lawsuit, declined to comment Thursday. She also declined to comment when asked how Brown could be contacted. Messages left at the offices of two other defendants, Sterling Publishing Co. Inc. and Rowman & Littlefield Inc., were not immediately returned. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, says the plaintiffs contacted Brown and Andrews McMeel Publishing during the summer to request that they stop publication of any past and future "infringing works." "We never heard back from her," said Theodore Boutrous Jr., attorney for the plaintiffs. "We think there's a very important principle at stake: protecting intellectual property of the comedians," Boutrous said. "These jokes are products of a very careful choice of words." The other plaintiffs are comics Jimmy Brogan and Diane Nichols, and Sue Pascoe, wife of the late comedian Ronnie Shakes.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

2 comments:

  1. Wow, she gives vultures a bad name.

    You know, I think I used my five minutes MONTHS ago. Yet I keep talking.

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