South Carolina Minister Steals Jokes From Twitter’s Most Popular Comics
Enlarge Sammy Rhodes, Patton Oswalt (Credit: Twitter/Reuters/Stephen Chernin)
Depending on whom you’re following, Twitter is many things — a constantly updating news service, a photo gallery of delicious-looking sandwiches, a means of staying in contact with the comings and goings of reality stars. But for the comedy community, it’s become a valuable way to test out material and win over followers who might end up becoming fans. And one South Carolina minister is believed to have subverted the system by stealing jokes from among Twitter’s most popular users while changing the phrasing just enough to beat a simple search.
Sammy Rhodes, of the University of South Carolina, has gotten to 130,000 followers on Twitter by ripping off comedians’ tweets, as documented on a fairly damning blog called “Borrowing Sam,” which compares his tweets against other, earlier posts.
In one of the most striking instances, a Twitter user’s joke “ducks will never hug! this devastating thought will consume my evening” gets reused by Rhodes many times, with ducks, giraffes, horses, turtles and zebras standing in and the syntax of insomnia shifted around just a bit (“now I can’t sleep”).
Former Gawker contributor Jeb Lund has posted to his blog a fairly comprehensive look at how Rhodes has pulled it off:
Prodigalsam also understood something at the heart of plagiarism that readers don’t understand: writers don’t compulsively run Google searches for their own lines. For one thing, only a tiny few are that narcissistic; for another, which lines would you Google? What if they’ve been rewritten in just a few ways—as Prodigalsam did? How would you even know?
In a self-defense now deleted but quoted in Lund’s post, Rhodes wrote:
Part of what I think has happened in terms of the tweet theft accusations is that for years now I’ve been doing tweets that are pretty clearly inspired by the tweets of my twitter heros.
In a separate post, Rhodes addresses his self-plagiarism — reusing his own joke formats, though he doesn’t acknowledge they may not be original to him.