Stand-up Matt Kirshen has accused a soft drink manufacturer of stealing one of his jokes for a high-profile advertising campaign.
A series of commercials for Old Jamaica Ginger Beer currently running on Comedy Central features members of the public cracking their favourite jokes.
But one of them – featuring Dan from London – is telling a gag Kirshen wrote for his Edinburgh Fringe show last year.
The joke is: ‘I was playing chess with my friend and he said, “Let's make this interesting”. So we stopped playing chess'
It was shortlisted for the Joke Of The Fringe by TV station Dave last August, and so received plenty of media coverage – making it easy for advertisers to check where it came from.
Kirshen has tweeted: ‘Hey, @old_jamaica ginger beer. Thanks for stealing my joke for your @ComedyCentralUK ad campaign.
Where you have people telling their favourite gags’ – and he urged other comics to check the campaign to see if they had been plagiarised too.
He said the company – which has spent somewhere in the region of £2million on its current advertising push, had no excuse for not knowing he had authorship of the gag.
‘They have stolen my chess joke,’ he said. ‘It was featured heavily in the press last year, since it was on Dave's jokes of the fest round-up, complete with widespread press release, then the Telegraph listed it in its jokes of the year, and finally it was nominated for best joke in the Loaded Laftas.
‘Each time, the press release went out and it was picked up by a ton of other media, including nationals, the BBC, and NPR.’
Its inclusion in an advert means Kirshen, who is in Edinburgh this year with the Set List show, can no longer perform it without some audiences assuming he stole it from the adverts; while he is also acting as an unpaid copywriter for a product that never consulted him.
Cott Beverages, the American-owned corporation which owns the Old Jamaica brand, has not yet responded to an email seeking comment.
At the time the Comedy Central sponsorship was announced, Cott said it formed part of an undisclosed seven-figure campaign that was the biggest ever for the drink.
Brand manager Heather Jones said: ‘The level of investment in this campaign demonstrates our commitment to, and faith in, the quality of the product. The adverts and sponsorship are being supported closely by dedicated PR and social-media activity which we believe is central to developing and increasing our Old Jamaica community.’
Here is the contested advert: