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So when I posted this, just recently, I originally included a screenshot [since removed, for reasons that will become clear momentarily] showing that some guy on Twitter (with way more followers than I have) had posted a word-for-word, verbatim, identical version* of a tweet I had written three months earlier (reprinted here, too)—and had more "favs" and "retweets" for it than I did, by the way, which was a little annoying, but whatever: that's neither here nor there. Actually, the person in question had pretty clearly written plenty of original stuff, too, and I didn't assume he had deliberately stolen it: I assumed that he had seen it, that he had forgotten that he had seen it, and that he then had thought it was something he had thought of himself.
Here's the thing: after I put it up, I thought, "Word-for-word identical jokes seem unlikely, especially in relatively quick succession, but what is likelier than our having come up with it independently is that we both are unknowingly copying a third party." Since I'm terrified of inadvertently being a hypocrite, I poked around Google more carefully [NOTE: I gather, by comparison, that I'm actually somehow a terrible Googler] and found this—a slightly different wording of the same joke from less than a week before mine. Now, I don't follow this other guy on Twitter, nor do I follow any of the people who retweeted that tweet, so I think it's less likely that I saw his than that I saw whatever he saw...but it makes no difference at all. I swear that I did not knowingly copy that joke—I thought I thought of it on my own—but (a) I can't very well take much credit for it knowing that someone else on the same platform made the same joke days earlier, and especially (b) I can't give anyone else shit for having "stolen" "my" joke. And...honestly, it pains me to bring this up, pain really being the right word, but this actually even happened once before, to my knowledge. Can it really be that I'm Robin Williamsing (or Carlos Menciaing) without even realizing it? [UPDATE: Incredible relief! I actually made that same joke myself before the other guy (who follows me) did! A little embarrassing that I'm making the same joke repeatedly, but at least that's one less piece of evidence that I'm a goddamned thief.]
I'm not really exaggerating when I say this is terrifying to me. It's the sort of thing that can paralyze you and make you never try to make a joke again, for fear of unwitting plagiarism. I think I can come around to a place where I'm like, "Dude: you're being too much a purist about this. You're treating originality as some kind of holy, sacred thing. Embrace imperfection. You can't be held responsible for that which is outside of your control" (In this place I think I'm going to get to, I'm kind of a hippie, huh?) But in the meantime—fuck.
My nightmare is the thing that kept Paul McCartney from finishing "Yesterday" for a long time: he was convinced he must have heard the melody somewhere before. But maybe the real moral of that story isn't that, "Nope, he really did just make it up himself, turns out!" but rather that maybe there is something out there with at least a similar melody that was actually what gave him the idea, and the connection just wasn't clear enough that anybody ever complained. [No, probably he just wrote a killer melody. By the way, I tweeted something about an element of that story and, six(?) days later, they did something about that same thing on Jimmy Fallon.† Does that mean somebody read my tweet and was inspired, since McCartney was going on there? Does it mean that the Fallon writers and I both were reminded of that story by something else that was "out there" around the same time? Or—well, totally independent thoughts about the same not particularly obscure story about the most famous band of all time aren't exactly an unthinkable explanation. IMPORTANT NOTE: I'm not saying Fallon ripped me off. I mean, if somebody wants to send me a check, I won't tear it up or anything. But I don't really think that, because—see this whole post.]
Anyway, just goes to underline that I don't think Bridesmaids can fairly be given shit for the "Hold On" thing [see again]. Just, again—if you liked that scene in Bridesmaids and have any inclination to look down on the other movie, think twice, is all. That's all I was fucking saying! (And if someone said exactly the same thing already, well...then fuck me, I guess.)
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[UPDATE: Not to imply that all this is relative and there are no clear-cut, open-shut cases. This, for example, cannot be possibly accidental (Cf.): the high-five thing is a pretty simple joke that more than one person could arrive at, but the verbatim recreation, punctuation and all, of a complex thought where the humor derives primarily in the phrasing...? That motherfucker cut-and-pasted, beyond a shadow of a doubt. The good news is, he'll spend eternity burning in Hell. So...]
* Redundant. –ed.
† Interesting grammar question: when you referred to the old Tonight Show as "Johnny Carson," was that an abbreviation of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson? I submit that, no, it isn't: it's almost more a kind of synecdoche or metonymy (you could kind of go either way). As such, no italics! I DECREE!