Apology accepted

Victor Lewis-Smith says sorry for pinching Mark Steel's gag

Victor Lewis-Smith has apologised to Mark Steel for stealing one of his jokes.

The comic yesterday made public accusations of plagiarism over a comment about the value of the Royal Family that the critic re-used in his Christmas Eve column in The Independent.

The joke had previously appeared in the Mark Steel Lectures on BBC Two, in Steel’s stand-up, in a column (by coincidence, also in The Independent) and in a polemic documentary about the death of Princess Diana, bankrolled by Mohammed Fayed, that Lewis-Smith co-produced.

But after highlighting the theft in his online blog, Steel has now received an apology, and accepted it.

‘The global issue of jokegate seems to be resolved,’ he said. ‘I received an apology from Victor Lewis-Smith, so that’s fair enough I’d say.

‘Now, as that seemed to work, I’ll write a letter to the Israeli government, then one to Robert Mugabe, and see if we can sort out the rest of the world as amicably.’

In Lewis-Smith’s mea culpa - again published on Steel’s website, he referred to his frequently-quoted comment that ‘imitation is the sincerest form of being a thieving bastard’.

He added: ‘I generate 99.9 per cent of my own material, but I sometimes (almost without knowing) like to add 0.1 per cent from elsewhere, to enrich the mix (bit like maintaining an old two-stroke engine).

‘Usually I give an attribution, but because this was a short-form scattergun piece, there wasn’t room for such civilities on this occasion. In the case of your line, I did know you’d said it, but I didn’t know you’d written it for The Independent, or used it in your stand-up shows.

‘You used it in an interview you recorded with Keith Allen for the Unlawful Killing film I produced about five years ago, and because I thought it was a brilliant off-the-cuff remark, and the film seems to have been suppressed, I thought it deserved a wider audience. Apparently, it has already had one.’

Lewis-Smith also claimed the MP Willie Hamilton made ‘almost exactly the same observation’ that countries such as France and the US have a thriving tourist trade despite the lack of a Royal family, back in the Seventies.

And he added: ‘Just the other day I watched one of your fellow stand-up performers recite -word for word – two paragraphs of old tat I had written years ago for the Standard. What should one do?’

Published: 4 Jan 2013

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