In what could have been the latest instance of a celebrity feud beginning firmly in the “let them fight” side of the drama spectrum, James Corden and Ricky Gervais were briefly at odds over a joke plagiarism scandal that was somewhat squashed by a Twitter apology.
It’s the latest drama for Corden, the Late Late Show host who was the talk of the food and beverage industry when he was abruptly banned from a fancy restaurant until he kind of apologized for some bad behavior. And Gervais is interested in some joke policing these days, even if other comedians aren’t exactly taking his word as law anyway.
In this case, however, Gervais did seem to have a reason to be upset. As Variety noted, the drama stems from a Halloween night episode of the Late Late Show, where Corden made a joke about Elon Musk’s Twitter acquisition that sounds extremely similar to a joke Gervais made years earlier during a stand-up special.
“When you see Elon Musk talk about Twitter he does this thing where he goes, ‘Well, it’s the town square,’” Corden said (via Insider). “But it isn’t. Because if someone puts up a poster in a town square that says ‘guitar lessons available,’ you don’t get people in the town going ‘I don’t want to play the guitar! I want to play the piano, you piece of shit!’”
“That sign wasn’t for you, it was for someone else,” Corden added. “You don’t have to get mad!”
As some have put together on Twitter, the jokes play out almost identically, save for a few words dropped or added.
As Variety noted, in a now-deleted tweet, Gervais sarcastically said that the “bit about the town square advert for guitar lessons is brilliant.” But that tweet was likely deleted because Corden worked pretty quickly too (kind of) make amends. Given that the evidence here is pretty damning, Corden took to his show’s Twitter to offer a mea culpa and credit Gervais for the “brilliant” joke.
Inadvertently told a brilliant Ricky Gervais joke on the show last night, obviously not knowing it came from him. It’s brilliant, because it’s a Ricky Gervais joke. You can watch all Ricky’s excellent specials on Netflix. J x
— The Late Late Show with James Corden (@latelateshow) November 1, 2022
“Inadvertently told a brilliant Ricky Gervais joke on the show last night, obviously not knowing it came from him,” Corden said. “It’s brilliant because it’s a Ricky Gervais joke. You can watch all Ricky’s excellent specials on Netflix.”
By this morning, Gervais himself seemed a bit more understanding of the mix-up, (sarcastically?) blaming someone in the writer’s room for borrowing his joke and repackaging it in the context of Twitter’s new owner.
No. I reckon one of the writers ‘came up with it’ for him. I doubt he would knowingly just copy such a famous stand up routine word for word like that.
— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) November 1, 2022
All in all, it’s impossible to know every joke ever told, of course, but when something as blatant as this happens it’s clear that someone made a big mistake.
And speaking of Ricky Gervais jokes here is one!