Patton Oswalt on Friday posted a lengthy missive that had comedy fans chattering all weekend. The three-part “Closed Letter To Myself About Thievery, Hecking and Rape Jokes” found the always-introspective Oswalt amidst a heightened degree of self-revelation and theory.
In the first part of his essay, he admitted the time he once, during the infancy of his comedy career when he was just 19 years old, unwittingly stole a joke from comedian Carol Leifer. And he addressed a more recent matter, wherein he called out a pastor who was lifting jokes from comedians and pasting them into his Twitter feed. Those anecdotes, however, were just a few cogs of the vehicle he used to illustrate the fundamental problem between stand-up comedy and civilians who lack understanding of the art and who, ultimately, whether they’re aware or not, have no respect for the artform. “What I care about, most of all, is the maddening false perceptions that other people in the creative arts have about stand-up,” he writes, and then follows up, taking on the voice of the ill-informed comedy consumer:
Comedians don’t write their own jokes. They all steal. All great artists steal. You can’t copyright jokes. It doesn’t matter who writes a joke, just who tells it the best. Don’t musicians play other musicians’ songs? There are only so many subjects to make jokes about, anyway. I’ve seen, like, five different comedians do jokes about airplanes – isn’t that stealing, too?
His thoughts on heckling during a live comedy show serve as a reminder to all would-be comedy goers: Comedians don’t want to be heckled; you don’t make the show better and you are a rude, disrespectful jerk. Or as Oswalt states, ”Hecklers prevent a show from being a fucking show.”
Oswalt saved the most topical subject – rape jokes – for last. It’s here he admitted that his past reactions to automatically defend a comedian under fire for telling rape jokes, wasn’t in line with his usual approach to comedy:
Why, after all of my years of striving to write original material (and, at times, becoming annoyingly self-righteous about it) and struggling find new viewpoints or untried approaches to any subject, did I suddenly balk and protest when an articulate, intelligent and, at times, angry contingent of people were asking my to apply the same principles to the subject of rape? Any edgy or taboo subject can become just as hackneyed as an acceptable or non-controversial one if the exact same approach is made every time. But I wasn’t willing to hear that.
If you haven’t already read Oswalt’s complete piece, you really should. Check it out here.