Learn by Copying, Stand-Up Comic Ant Cut and Pasted

Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy

I came upon these suggestions that stand-up comic Ant made to readers of his Ant Colony blog who also want to try stand-up. Under the section, “Study the Pros” it says:

Whether on stage, TV, or videotape, watch as many comics as you can. Study their techniques and get a feel for how they construct their jokes.

Wait, wait, but isn’t that . . . copying? Our response: whoever said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery was obviously not in the stand-up business. True, the biggest sin in comedy is to steal another comic’s jokes. However, for learning purposes only, it’s OK to take the jokes of a comic you really like and try to rewrite them in a different way. Of course, you would never perform any of the variations you came up with, because that would still be considered stealing.

It’s definitely a good point, it’s actually regular advice for any sort of creative endeavor. I’ve heard it dispensed to fiction writers - start typing another writers’ work and build from it from there. You end up using the tools that were there and discovering what makes them work. You learn more elements of the art form that you could just from listening or reading someone else’s work.

But the general smartness of the advice is actually a little destroyed by the fact that the whole section has been cut and pasted from the SoYouWanna page on stand-up comedy. And without attribution.

Perhaps it was a mistake but it really makes his earlier suggestion that an aspiring comic on Last Comic Standing stole look even more tenuous. And hypocritical.

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Posted by steve swanson on 08/19  at  10:46 PM

I’m disturbed to find out that there’s an ant colony?

Posted by Mark Davis on 08/21  at  06:13 AM

Todd.  I just read this and then went to his site.  The article is cited.  Could you have missed it?

Todd Jackson
Posted by Todd Jackson on 08/21  at  07:51 AM


I’m 90 percent sure that wasn’t there when I was looking at it. With the web’s ability to change articles at any point, you can really correct a mistake easy. It may have just been added.

I wish I’d taken a screenshot so I could be sure.


Update: I just checked a cached version of the page in Google and it was not there originally, at least on the day of publication.

Posted by NYComic on 08/21  at  11:22 AM

How perfect is it that he lifted material that addresses stealing? This guy is amazing.

Posted by bvllets on 08/24  at  03:38 PM

I think that the main problem here is calling Ant a comedian.

Sam Vargo
Posted by Sam Vargo on 09/02  at  06:07 PM

- Todd, how do you know whether a joke has been already written? That’s the thing I find most puzzling about this whole ordeal. With as many comics and jokes as there are on any salient, topical subject, what if you “accidentally” wrote something that was already written and was part of another comic’s act?

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