Conan O'Brien is being accused of stealing another comedian's Twitter jokes

A San Diego County-based comedy writer has alleged in a new lawsuit that Conan O’Brien (and his writing team) stole his Twitter jokes, first spotted by the Hollywood Reporter.

Robert “Alex” Kaseberg references four jokes from January and February to as recently June that he believes were stolen from his own personal blog and Twitter account. He is seeking $US600,000 in damages.

Here’s where it all began.

On February 3, Kaseberg tweeted: “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.” 

Then on February 4, O’Brien made a similar joke in his monologue when he said: “Tom Brady says he wants to give the truck he was given — as the Super Bowl MVP they gave him a truck — he wants to give it to the guy who won the Super Bowl for the Patriots. I think that’s very nice, yeah! I think that’s nice, I do! Yeah, so Brady’s giving his truck to Seahawk’s coach Pete Carroll.” 

On February 17, Kaseberg tweeted, “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 said a similar joke that same 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 noticed the similarities between his jokes and the “Conan” monologues in February and said in a blog post that he called the show’s head writer, Mike Sweeney, on February 18. According to Kaseberg, once he had gotten through to Sweeney, he was emphatically told that the “Conan” writers did not steal his jokes. 

“The purpose of my call was not to cause trouble, but to suggest that if I was writing jokes so similar (in fact the exact same) to theirs, I should be contributing jokes to the show,” Kaseberg wrote in his blog post. “Mike Sweeney implied I had heard jokes on TV and wrongly assumed they were mine. Like I was some crazy man whose thoughts were being stolen by a TV show.”

Kaseberg appeared to drop the incident until June 9, when he tweeted, “Three streets named Bruce Jenner might have to change names. And one could go from a Cul-de-Sac to a Cul-de-Sackless.” That same day, O’Brien joked in his monologue segment, “Some cities that have streets named after Bruce Jenner are trying to change the streets’ names to Caitlyn Jenner. Yeah. And if you live on Bruce Jenner Cul-de-Sac, it will now be called “Cul-de-No-Sack.”

That seemed to have been the last straw for Kaseberg, who filed the lawsuit a month later in July.

But here’s where things get kind of bizarre. 

At least one joke Kaseberg accuses O’Brien of stealing seems, according to timestamps, that it did in fact initially come from O’Brien first. In the lawsuit, Kaseberg says Conan lifted his joke about Delta for O’Brien’s January 14 monologue in the lawsuit. But if you look at Kaseberg’s Twitter feed, he seems to have made the Delta joke on January 16, two days after O’Brien. Tech Insider could not find any evidence Kaseberg made the joke earlier. Kaseberg’s lawyer did not reply to our email.

Kaseberg is now filing copyright applications for each one of these four jokes and is demanding a trial by jury in the lawsuit, which also names Conaco LLC, Turner Broadcasting System, Time Warner Inc, “Conan” Executive Producer Jeff Ross, and the show’s head writer Mike Sweeney.

A spokesperson for Conaco, the production company behind “Conan” told Tech Insider: “We at Conaco firmly believe there is no merit to this lawsuit.” 

Stealing jokes has long been a hotly contested issue among comedians, but it’s become an even bigger deal with the rise of Twitter which has made this viral content both easier to monetise as well as steal. There are numerous Twitter bot accounts dedicated to taking other people’s jokes as well as regular people who try to pass off stranger’s jokes as their own.

One of the most famous plagiarizing accounts belongs to Joshua Ostrovsky, also known as the Fat Jew, who seems to steal viral content and repost it to his own social media accounts without any attribution, all the while gaining hundreds of thousands of likes and followers. He is also reportedly making $US6,000 for a sponsored Instagram post. On the other side of the issue, Chris Scott’s original joke tweet: “Oh hi Becky who refused to kiss me during spin the bottle in 6th grade & now wants to play FarmVille, looks like tables have f—ing turned,” went massively viral and was frequently plagiarized back in 2014.

Most recently, freelance comedy writer Olga Lexell asked Twitter to take down tweets that were plagiarizing her, and Twitter obliged by hiding the offending tweets and calling her a “copyright holder,” spotted by Twitter account Plagiarism Is Bad.  

Meanwhile, it seems like TeamCoCo doesn’t think much of the lawsuit. Andy Richter, O’Brien’s constant comedian sidekick, tweeted sarcastically about the incident to fans. 

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