A comedy writer named Robert “Alex” Kaseberg, who takes credit for thousands of jokes used by Jay Leno and whose material has appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post, is suing Conan O’Brien for copyright infringement on five of his jokes from December 2014 to June 2015, the Hollywood Reporter reports.
The trial will test whether Conan writers took material about Caitlyn Jenner, Tom Brady and the Washington Monument from a freelancer’s social media feed and blog. Conan’s defense lawyers motioned to have the lawsuit thrown out, but US District Court Judge Janis Sammartino believes the trial has merit.
Kaseberg’s lawsuit was considered by many to be a fruitless endeavor because the jokes dealt with current events, which meant the jokers were constrained to actual news. Kaseberg now faces the hard part of convincing a jury that O’Brien blatantly ripped his jokes.
I’m no expert in joke law, but it looks to me that the dude has a case. You be the judge:
Kaseberg wrote on Feb. 3:
“Tom Brady said he wants to give his MVP truck to the man who won the game for the Patriots. So enjoy that truck, Pete Carroll.”
O’Brien said on his show (later that night): “Tom Brady said he wants to give the truck that he was given as Super Bowl MVP . . . to the guy who won the Super Bowl for the Patriots. Which is very nice. I think that’s nice. I do. Yes. So Brady’s giving his truck to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.”
Kaseberg tweeted on Feb. 17. 2016: “The Washington Monument is ten inches shorter than previously thought. You know the winter has been cold when a monument suffers from shrinkage.”
O’Brien’s joke (later that day): “Yesterday, surveyors announced that the Washington Monument is ten inches shorter than what’s been recorded. Yeah! Of course the monument’s blaming the shrinkage on the cold weather. That’s a penis joke.”
Kaseberg’s tweet, June 9, 2015: “Three streets named Bruce Jenner might have to change names. And one could go from a cul-de-sac to cul-de-sackless.”
O’Brien’s joke (later that night): “Some cities that have streets named after Bruce Jenner are trying to change the streets’ names to Caitlyn Jenner. And if you live on Bruce Jenner Cul-de-Sac, it will now be called a Cul-de-No-Sac.”
In a deposition in the case, O’Brien spoke about the allegations.
“Accusing a comedian of stealing a joke is the worst thing you can accuse them of, in my opinion, short of murder,” he said. “I think it’s absolutely terrible.”
The dollar value Kaseberg is seeking in this case hasn’t been released.
[h/t Hollywood Reporter]