Talk show host Conan O’Brien is facing a lawsuit, with a man claiming that the comedian had stolen his jokes. One such joke revolved around New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
On February 1, 2015, the Patriots defeated the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. As a refresher, the game is best remembered for a controversial play call. On the play in question, Seattle opted to have Russell Wilson pass, instead of handing the ball off to Marshawn Lynch. Malcolm Butler sealed the game for New England with an interception. Brady was named the game’s MVP.
On the morning of February 3, Alex Kaseberg — who says he used to write jokes for Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show,” sent the following tweet.
Tom Brady is going to give his MVP truck to the guy who won the game for the Patriots. So enjoy that truck, Pete Carroll.
— Alex Kaseberg (@AlexKaseberg) February 3, 2015
That’s where things get messy.
“At 3:14 p.m. later that day, one of O’Brien’s writers submitted the same joke, which ended up being used on that night’s telecast with a slight modification,” John Breech of CBS Sports reported. “Tom Brady said he wants to give the truck that he was given as Super Bowl MVP … to the guy who won the Super Bowl for the Patriots. Which is very nice. I think that’s nice. I do. Yes. So Brady’s giving his truck to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll,” O’Brien said during his show.
The two jokes are certainly strikingly similar. The problem is that perhaps thousands of similar jokes were made around the world in the days after that game.
Still, the decision was made by U.S. District Court Judge Janis Sammartino to carry the case forward. Her ruling, which was obtained by Eriq Gardner of The Hollywood Reporter, said in part…
“This probability evidence is in turn bolstered by the fact that Kaseberg tweeted writer [Mike] Sweeney after he saw Conan perform allegedly infringing joke number 2, and that Sweeney received the tweet and ‘read it as someone was saying we took one of his jokes.'”
This one certainly has the possibility to get ugly.
If the case ultimately goes against O’Brien, then we can add him and his staff to the list of people likely upset with the play call. If only he had handed the ball to Marshawn Lynch, we may not be here.