Stewart Lee and Jack Whitehall – FIGHT!

Thursday, September 10 2009

Mr Lee has accused Mr Whitehall of nicking an old routine of his. Surely he wouldn't try to get away with such a blatant crime? Or would he? Does it matter?

Crikey! Old hand Stewart Lee has accused young buck Jack Whitehall of plagiarism!

Lee posted YouTube clips on his website of his routine about walking in space, alongside an apparently remarkably similar piece by Whitehall in his Edinburgh show, Nearly Rebellious. Whitehall's people, Chambers Management*, swiftly removed the offending clip from YouTube.

As you can see from his Plagiarists' Corner, Lee is keen on revealing when a comic has appeared to nick a routine of his. However, before Stewart Lee fans start a riot, it is worth reading Phill Jupitus's thoughts on comedy plagiarism, in which he says that, while there is no doubt that it happens, two different comics are capable of coming up with very similar routines.

This will be a blow to Whitehall's reputation, which has veered all over the place since he arrived on the scene a few years ago. He's variously been "kid who looks pretty bloody handy", to "kid who got fast-tracked onto telly ahead of better comics because of his haircut", to "kid who proved wrong a lot of people who thought he was just a haircut". Indeed, reviews of Nearly Rebellious – his solo debut in Edinburgh – were very positive and he got a nomination for the Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Newcomer.

So he's demonstrated that he doesn't need to steal to get good material, and surely if you are going to recycle someone else's material, you don't take from one of the most famous stand-ups in the country? From a comic revered by comics? That said, we are talking about a whole routine here, and despite what Jupitus points out, this really doesn't look good. If the allegations are true, does this put his Best Newcomer nomination in jeopardy?

Plagiarism in comedy is an occupational hazard, and this is nothing new (Denis Leary's name is virtually synonymous with being a 'Bill Hicks plagiarist'). YouTube is a fine method of putting comics off the notion and keeping some integrity in the business.

So good on Lee for continuing to post these clips, even if there will probably be some self-satisfaction mixed in with the anger. And even if combatting plagiarism online using YouTube clips wasn't originally his idea... LEE YOU LIGHT-FINGERED ROGUE!!1!

*Chambers Management have not issued a right to reply at the time of press.


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