The world's biggest joke thief?

Italian comedian accused

One of Italy’s top satirists has been forced to defend himself against accusations he has stolen hundreds of jokes from English-speaking comedians and passed them off as his own.

Daniele Luttazzi has lifted routines from the likes of George Carlin, Emo Philips, Eddie Izzard and Bill Hicks, translated them into Italian, and used them in his own act. Bloggers have cited more than 500 incidents of material he has used this way.

Other comedians to have written lines he has appropriated include Steven Wright, Stewart Lee, Chris Rock, Linda Smith, Lewis Black, Mitch Hedberg and Stewart Francis.

Click here for a comprehensive list of the material he has said to have lifted, including such distinctive routines as Izzard’s description of God inventing dinosaurs.

Luttazzi initially claimed he was deliberately inserting the gags as a ‘treasure hunt’ to reward sharp fans who might know the American originators. But more recently he has been claiming he has made the jokes his own by delivering them differently.

For example, he says that when Emo Philips jokes ‘People come up to me and say, “Emo, do people really come up to you?”’ gets laughs because of Philips’s ‘a slow and clumsy delivery, wide eyes and bizarre gestures, wild hair and wacky clothes’ – whereas the effect is different when he tells it, because he has a faster delivery style and more sombre appearance.

Luttazzi was one of the biggest comedians on Italian TV, until he lost his job on state-owned Rai 2 after questioning how Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi came to earn his wealth. And although the comic’s uncompromising stance won him many fans, the persistent reports of plagiarism – which he claims are ‘defamatory’ – have damaged his integrity.

  • Red Dwarf star Norman Lovett has complained that Rufus Hound used one of his jokes while presenting ITV2’s coverage of the Isle Of Wight Festival this weekend. However Hound says the line – ‘no man is an island… except when he's having a bath' – was an old phrase his grandmother used to say.

Published: 15 Jun 2010

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