Long-time readers of this blog will know I’m a big fan of Stephen Colbert, having formed the Church of Colbert earlier in the year after being simply overwhelmed by his ballsiness in ripping on George W Bush at the Whitehouse Correspondents Dinner. While Bush was sitting about an arm’s length away from him. Go and watch it on Google video if you’ve never seen it – it’s astonishing.
More recently, I have become a fan of ZeFrank, an online video blogger funny type dude. ZeFrank’s “The Show” is, for my money, far and away the best work of its type being done online. If anyone thinks they’ve found a video blogger funnier than ZeFrank I’d love to hear about them.
Anyway, this week, Colbert finds himself embroiled in an Internet storm-in-a-teacup involving ZeFrank and a doughnut. Sharp-eyed WordPress blogger Kleinschmidt who has an interest in mathematics noted that ZeFrank and Colbert made essentially the same joke about the Poincare conjecture, illustrated with a doughnut. ZeFrank’s show featured the joke before Colbert’s. He made a good natured joke about the cynic in him thinking Colbert had ripped off ZeFrank but acknowledging that in all probability it was a coincidence. The blog linked to above contains links to both videos so you can see them for yourself.
Then BoingBoing picked it up and ran with the rather more sensational headline “The Colbert Report rips off Ze Frank? For shame, if so.” This in not a rip on BoingBoing, I’m a big fan and they did leave the question open ended. Then they went and included a reader comment that basically said Colbert does this all the time as you’ll see in the following quotes:
“this isn’t the first time I’ve seen Colbert “ripping off stuff” from the Internets… It’s like he takes the stuff that, say, received 1,300 diggs that day and does the same thing on show and passes it off as his own… Now I wish I had a bunch of examples to give you to back up my point, but I don’t. I know, bad me.”
So essentially they decided to reprint someone’s opinion slagging off Colbert when that person admits to having no objective measurement for what he’s saying, just his opinion. Well, I guess that’s what blogging is all about – slinging shit at other people. The overall tone of the BoingBoing piece was reasonable enough but this reader comment was just bullshit.
Let’s see if we can objectively recap what happened. ZeFrank does a daily show where he gives humourous takes on current events. Colbert has a daily show where he… you guessed it… gives humourous takes on current events. They both make an incredibly obvious joke about a current event. The fact that ZeFrank got his version out first does not give us a straight line to Colbert ripping him off. Admittedly, if I did a joke on my blog and then saw the same joke on a TV show a day later I’d be pretty spaced. I might even suspect I’d been ripped off. To his credit, ZeFrank doesn’t seem to be making a big deal about it.
If you think about it, for this story of a deliberate rip-off to be true, The Colbert Report’s writers, producers and Colbert himself would have to be stupid enough to think they could steal from one of the most popular video bloggers on the net and get away with it. Possible but not very fucking likely. And seeing someone big-note themselves and go on about how Colbert is unoriginal just pisses me off. It’s an absolutely predictable backlash against someone who’s popular – it always happens. Someone tries to build themselves up by tearing someone else down. Real responsible, BoingBoing.
Like I should complain. I say worse things all the time.