The worst thing you can call a comedian is a thief. It’s more damning than “hack,” “untalented bum,” or “Carrot Top-esque,” so when Salon published an article earlier this week with the headline, “How one Twitter user got famous by allegedly stealing comedians’ tweets,” they meant business. The “Twitter user” in question is South Carolina minister Sammy Rhodes, a.k.a. @prodigalsam, who’s made enemies with Patton Oswalt, Jake Fogelnest, Jon Hendren, and former-Gawker contributor Jeb Lund, who was the first to closely cover the extent of Rhodes’s tweet thievery (consider him the subject’s Lenny Bruce). Last month, he had this to say about Rhodes.
It’s hard to see what Prodigalsam’s endgame could have been. He stole tweets repeatedly from people more famous than he, with bigger followings and verified checkmarks. His follower count blossomed into six figures. At some point, harvesting followers with the work of others was bound to draw the attention of those who were already fans of those others. The overlap would start to become noticeable.
What he would like you to think is that this is coincidence. People come up with the same jokes all the time. Usually, those jokes are very obvious or far less complex than sentences lasting almost 140 characters. For instance, just last week, I inadvertently “stole” a tweet from a guy named @Mattytalks. There was a trending topic called “#ThingsNotToDoOnAFirstDate” and I tweeted, “9/11.”
The differences between Prodigalsam’s behavior and coincidence are manifest. First off, there are long-standing online jokes that someone did 9/11. Either it was Bush or the Mossad or some other conspiracist group; it’s a common trope. More to the point, “9/11” is a four-character gag. Despite faves and RT’s coming in, I linked to Matty’s tweet, acknowledged that he beat me and deleted my tweet. I’d thought of it on my own, but profiting from it was cheap. All the same, coming up with similar one-word or one-term jokes offers far greater chances for coincidence than, say, making this tweet when you admit in your Tumblr apology that you are a Rob Delaney fan. (Via)
He also linked to the notorious “Borrowing Sam” Tumblr, which collects damning evidence against Rhodes.
Well, even if he doesn’t steal other people’s material, he sure likes repeating his own jokes. Anyway, Rhodes’s response to the allegations: “I felt like it was a riff…not a rip-off.”
Do you acknowledge that there are certain similarities between certain tweets of yours and earlier ones from established comedians?
I think with certain tweets that’s fair. For example there was a Kelly Oxford tweet that I loved where she said, “I have a Victoria’s Secret model’s body!!! (in my basement).” I still love that tweet with all my heart. So I thought it would be fun to do a similar one: “I have the body of a Hollister model. His name is Taylor. He’s in my attic.” I still love that tweet and felt like it was a riff on Kelly, not a rip-off. But out of respect for Kelly I took it down because some felt it was too similar. In fact, every time someone has pointed out something they felt was similar, I didn’t fight it, I deleted the tweet.
What has been hard for me is when people take a screenshot of a tweet I’ve done and put it beside a similar tweet another comedian has done, and then say, “See. He stole that tweet!” It’s misleading because it assumes that I saw the tweet and copied it. In some examples the tweet I supposedly had stolen was written by someone I had never even heard of before, as if there’s no such thing as parallel thought or a common joke premise. It reminds me of what happened to my friend Jon. He did an Instagram of a weird item from the Sky Mall catalog. Someone told him, “You can’t do Sky Mall material, another comedian already has.” Seriously? One comedian can call dibs on the whole Sky Mall catalog? Fine, I call food. From here on out, no one can make food jokes. At the end of the day, there are similar jokes about similar topics. Which is what Rainn Wilson said when he came to my defense: “If someone spent hours sifting thru my tweets & comparing w/ the rest of twitter, I’m sure they’d find ones I’d plagiarized.” (Via)
In that same interview with Salon, he also acknowledged he would “probably tweet less, and I will be a lot more careful to make sure my tweets are clearly my own (get ready for even more repeats).” How less?
Just stay away from Geocities. THAT’S MY STOMPING GROUND. The reason no one responds to my hilarious one-liners is because they’re too busy laughing.