That's my £25k joke!

Comic threatens to sue over 'stolen' gag

Up-and-coming comic Roisin Conaty is threatening to sue Virgin Radio after a listener won £25,000 in a joke competition – using one of her lines.

Emma Lynch from Battersea, South London, took the top prize for the gag: “The last time I went on holiday I flew with BA. It was an absolute nightmare. He kept shouting, ‘You crazy fool. I ain’t gettin’ on no plane!’”

However, Conaty is claiming the station infringed her copyright on the gag, which she performed on Radio One earlier this year.

“This is our livelihood. Comics work really hard to write jokes, then something like this comes along.

“Because they aired the joke on national radio, I will now have to drop it from my set as audiences will think I stole it from the girl who won the competition – even though the reverse is true.”

She says the gag’s airing on Radio One’s The Milk Run, which she recorded last August, proves her claim that her copyright has been breached – as the BBC producers took strenuous efforts to ensure material was original, and acknowledged the intellectual property rights in her contract.

Virgin’s prize, awarded on Good Friday, is more than most comics earn in a year – for comparison, it’s more than three times the £7,500 a Perrier-winner receives for an hour-long show.

But when she complained to the station that they had hijacked her gag, Conaty was told ‘the rules did not state the winner’s joke had to be original’ – but that, she says, only makes matters worse.

 “It positively encourages people to nick comics’ joke,” she told Chortle. “Any joke worth £25,000 is definitely going to be written by a comedian

“Comedy writing is the hardest, most time consuming part of being a comic, it is what we build our reputations on, It would be interesting to know if Virgin would you hold a poetry or story competition using the same guidelines.

“They have to pay royalties for every song they air – it should surely be the same for jokes. And they’ve been playing that clip all afternoon.”

More than 40,000 listeners entered the competition, with judges including Suggs, Jim Bowen, Bernie Clifton, and Lionel Blair making the final decision.

Virgin Radio owners SMG recently turned down a £100million offer for the business – saying it was worth much more than that. It made £4.3million profit last year.

The station did not return a call asking for comment.


Published: 30 Mar 2005

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