Have some respect, Cheggers

Toby Martin on the joke-stealing row

The long-running issue of joke theft has reared its ugly head again with the ‘Cheggersgate’ debacle on Twitter this week. For those of you who are stolidly sticking by MySpace: a) good on you, and b) move on, it’s not going to become retro. You have missed a week’s worth of arrogance, petulance and near-violence as the internet’s most comic-friendly social networking site has massed itself into two formidable camps.

On the one hand we have four of the most highly respected comic minds in existence today: Ed Byrne, Simon Evans, Russell Kane and David Baddiel.

On the other hand, we have Cheggers. Yes, that’s right, star of Saturday Superstore, nudie quiz show Naked Jungle and former fan of the bottle, Keith Chegwin. Cheggers, however, is not alone. He is ably supported by over 35,000 occasionally offensive, sometimes threatening and always fastidiously loyal fans.

Chegwin, who has made a living by being likeable, loveable and slightly cheeky, chose to make this a personal matter. Ed Byrne’s original request was that Chegwin should simply credit the ‘working comics’ who wrote the material.

Milton Jones, Lee Mack and Jimmy Carr are among the names that Cheggers shout have attributed. In this day and age, it would be impossible to request that jokes are not retold at all. For centuries we have been telling each other jokes, and this will only snowball with the interminable reach of the internet. But Byrne’s request that the comics should just be given their due is entirely reasonable. Unfortunately, within hours, Cheggers has used phrases such as ‘bunch of jealous comics’ and blocked the comedians in question.

Then, sadly, Cheggers’ followers came into play. Considering that, on his Twitter feed, Chegwin has advocated a zero-tolerance approach to cyber bullying, we can only assume that his followers do not actually pay that much attention to what he writes. Last night, Chegwin chose to openly name the comics who had caused him so much grief, including their Twitter names in the post. Within minutes, Cheggers-loving fans had bombarded these comedians with such articulate and well thought-out arguments such as:

‘Never heard of you mate, hope you vanish up your own arse! Cheggers forever!’

‘I can’t even be bothered to google you to see who you are. All i know is you’ve upset my mate @thekeithchegwin. You = cunt.’

And, a personal favourite: ‘You dick.’

One particular specimen, @DuncanWeston, after publicly pleading for Chegwin to send him the names of the comedians, posted, ‘Their worst nightmare is just about to start. Ask any of my followers’. It seems that this is a man who is not only very proud of his 172 followers, but is also prepared to defend Keith Chegwin more vehemently than an inebriated Geordie would defend Newcastle United.

Having successfully unearthed the identities of the comedians who had dared to send anything other than undulating missives of love to his prince, @DuncanWeston fired of the same missive to each of the four: ‘We all know what a “hilarious” comedian/cunt you are, but why are you having a go at @thekeithchegwin? Start on me instead, retard!’

It strikes me that a man who sets up defences is somebody who knows he has committed a crime. The issue of joke ownership will rumble on, but surely there is one thing that can be taken from this whole ungainly, Twittery mess.

If you are in a position where you are able to influence the actions and beliefs of tens of thousands of unquestioning believers, surely you must tread carefully. I am not going to call into question any of Keith Chegwin’s previous credentials, nor am I going to make any personal slurs against him. Some people, such as Emma Kennedy, have come out in support of him, and that’s fine. However, she did make the point that he is not a professional comedian… but he is a man who seems to have considerable influence.

However, surely when toying with the very words that form the careers of some people, we should behave respectfully, carefully and with caution. And if this is the amount of debate, upset and anger that can be caused, then perhaps the considerate thing to do would be to make certain that nobody’s jokes are told without giving them credit. After all, where is the shame in giving a skilful writer his due?

By the way, I heard a great Gary Delaney joke the other day…

There, that’s how you do it. Now your turn, Keith.

Published: 23 Jul 2010

Live comedy picks

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.