Disclosure: As with many of these series, I am a fan of Randy Feltface and have been for years. I excitedly went to his recent New Orleans show, which was excellent. However, during that show, he told the story that we’re discussing here.
Explaining Randy Feltface to anyone who is unfamiliar with him is a tall order. He is an Australian-based stand up comic who is best known for his vulgar brand of observational humor and for being a purple puppet.
Getting his start in 2006, Randy has grown in prominence both in his home country and internationally. His most popular special, 2015’s Randy Writes a Novel, has nearly five million views on YouTube alone.
Though Randy stands out as one of the most unusual and unique acts in comedy, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have concerns dealing with plagiarism.
In fact, in his most recent shows, Randy has highlighted how a fan pointed out that one of his most famous jokes was similar to a routine done by the great comedian George Carlin, two years before Randy was born.
So it’s worth taking a look at what Randy said happened, whether it is actually plagiarism or not, and what it has to say about authorship and attribution as a whole.
Content Warning: Mild Spoilers for Randy Feltface’s Most Current Show (and Possibly, His Next Special).
During the show, Randy had a recurring gag where he would have flashbacks to some of his older jokes. During a story about a date gone horribly wrong, he has a flashback to a 2015 joke that he told about blue food.
In the joke, he was talking about how there are no blue foods in nature and that blue is not a natural color for food. Randy asks the audience to name a single blue food and an audience member calls out blueberries, prompting Randy to respond with, “Blueberries are !@#$ing purple!”
According to Randy, he had told that joke for years and included it in his Randy Writes a Novel special. Years later, a fan wrote to him to point out that the bit was similar to one done by George Carlin in 1978, two years before Randy was even born.
Randy claimed to have never watched George Carlin and to have been completely unfamiliar with the bit before being told about it. However, he couldn’t discount the possibility that he had heard it and forgot about it, or that he got the idea for it through some kind of proxy.
However, he also makes it clear that it’s not exactly the most original idea in the world and not really an observation he, Carlin or anyone else can really claim to own.
But then the point of the story shifts. Randy’s flashback interrupted him telling a story about a date where he had made some fairly shocking missteps that caused the already struggling connection to go well off the rails.
He noted that the crowd suddenly stopped judging his actions on the date and, instead, were judging a perceived lack of originality. He then moved on to finish the story about his date, complete with many more poor decisions and comedic hi jinx.
All in all, the question about where the bit came from isn’t conclusively resolved, and the matter is left for the audience to draw their own conclusions.
Understanding the Plagiarism
After heading home from the show, I rewatched both bits to see how similar they are. To that end, they are actually very different from each other.
Carlin’s bit deals with the fact that there is food of almost every color, except for blue. He then accuses someone of withholding the blue food and wonders if it grants immortality before going on to quip, “And don’t say blueberry because those are purple” though the exact quote likely has changed from telling to telling. He then makes similar jokes about blue cheese and blue fish.
Randy’s bit, or at least his most famous version of it, begins with him discussing a family member’s child who has a serious allergy to blue food coloring. He then notes that blue is not a natural color for food and that there aren’t any blue foods, leading to the exchange with the audience.
The only things that the bits have in common is that they both point out the lack of blue-colored food, and that blueberries are actually purple. As Randy said in his segment, that’s not exactly the most original or unique observation in the world.
Other than that, the two bits are entirely different, both in terms of what they cover, how they’re delivered and the point they were trying to make.
It makes perfect sense to me that it was years after Randy posted the special before someone pointed out the similarities. Those similarities are, ultimately, a minor part of both bits and, by themselves, easily written off as just two very different comedians treading the same ground.
Is it possible that Randy did hear Carlin’s bit and was inspired by it? It is. But with so little overlap and so much changed between them, the worst that one can reasonably say is that Randy may have gotten the idea from Carlin, but took it in a very different direction.
In short, there’s no plagiarism here. But it’s easy to see why the email would have given Randy pause to think.
As we’ve discussed before, stand-up comedy is a difficult space to discuss plagiarism in. On one hand, joke theft and accusations of joke theft are taken extremely seriously. In recent years, we’ve had stories involving James Corden, Trevor Noah and two separate cases involving Saturday Night Live.
However, on the other hand, comedians are going to tread the same ground, make similar observations and notice the same things. Blueberries are indeed purple. That is a fact that is both objectively true and, in the right hands, very funny.
That said, the two bits, other than covering that same fact, feel very different. Carlin’s is about a conspiracy to keep blue food away from us, and Randy’s is about how blue isn’t natural. It’s the same core fact, but wildly different directions.
I think the fact that it took years after the special was published for anyone to write Randy tells the full story. Carlin is one of the best known comedians of all time, and his “blue food” routine is one of his best known bits. Randy’s, “Blueberries are !@#$ing purple!” line is one of his best known and, as we discussed, has been viewed nearly 5 million times on YouTube alone.
It took so long for someone to put one and one together, likely because the bits are so different in every other way. They don’t feel the same at all and, even watching them back to back, Randy’s doesn’t read like a repeat.
Yet, Randy’s concern is completely understandable. He’s right, originality and authenticity are taken very seriously and, while his actions on the date were shocking, the crowd definitely was more hostile about the possibility of him being unoriginal.
In that regard, the bit was a surprisingly astute look at plagiarism in stand-up comedy and the complexities of trying to tell new jokes when treading ground that many have been on before.
More Plagiarism in Pop Culture (In Reverse Order)
Want more Plagiarism in Pop Culture? There Are 39 others to check out!
- Randy Feltface
- Bob’s Burgers
- Columbo (Part 2)
- Columbo (Part 1)
- Death in Paradise (Part 2)
- American Auto
- Saturday Night Live
- The Conners
- Death in Paradise (Part 1)
- Back to School
- The Golden Girls
- Young Sheldon
- The Goldbergs (Part 2)
- King of the Hill (Part 2)
- King of the Hill (Part 1)
- The Kids Are Alright
- Big Fat Liar
- Fresh Off the Boat
- The Goldbergs (Part 1)
- Lou Grant
- Star Trek: The Original Series
- Criminal Minds
- Mystery Science Theater 3000
- WKRP in Cincinnati
- Boy Meets World
- Law & Order: Criminal Intent (Part 2)
- Law & Order: Criminal Intent (Part 1)
- Jane the Virgin
- The Waltons
- Leave it to Beaver
- The Facts of Life