The late Robin Williams has been accused of stealing jokes back in the early days of his comedic career in a new comedy tell-all book written by the legendary Budd Friedman. Friedman founded the New York and Los Angeles Improv Comedy Clubs and has seen a lot of things in his 85 years. In addition to ratting out Robin Williams, Friedman devotes an entire chapter to the iconic and polarizing comedian, Andy Kaufman, and dishes on managing Bette Midler as well as witnessing Johnny Carson getting wasted and making out with an 18-year old girl in the backseat of a car.
Many comedians have been accused of joke stealing, but as it turns out, Robin Williams was reportedly notorious for it back when he was for starting out. The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Budd Friedman about his book and the author revealed that Richard Lewis and Robert Wuhl both accuse Williams of stealing material in the memoir. Comedian Richard Lewis said, “Some comics hated him for it, but I wasn’t one of them.” This is not the first time that Robin Williams, who passed away in 2014 has been accused of lifting material from other comedians.
Long before he was an Oscar winner, Robin Williams was known to comics as a major material “sampler.” Williams was even alleged to have used other comedians’ material on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. One mythical story (or stories) claims that when fellow comics spotted Robin Williams in the audience of a comedy club, they would immediately stop their act to prevent him from writing down and stealing their jokes. While it is unclear if that is actually true, Williams admitted to the thievery on Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast back in 2010 and has even referred to the act as “joke sampling.”
Robin Williams is definitely not the first comedian to be accused and or admitting to stealing material from fellow comedians. Marlon Wayans has been accused of modifying a Dave Chappelle joke or two, Katt Williams has been accused of lifting material from Curb Your Enthusiasm star and comedian, J.B. Smoove, Dane Cook, Carlos Mencia, Bill Cosby, Denis Leary famously stole from late comedian Bill Hicks, and many more comedians have been outed for lifting material over the years. The internet has really helped crack down on the stealing of material, but it still happens to this day.
While Budd Friedman’s accusations about Robin Williams may seem sensational, it is true. Some of the stories may have been embellished over the years, but even Williams himself admitted to it many times over the years. The same can be said about musicians. Led Zeppelin took lyrics from old, and at the time, obscure blues artists and added the word baby to them, which landed them in some legal hot water years after the records were released. Whatever the case may be, the thievery of jokes from other comedians is still happening today. You can check out the rest of the interview with Budd Friedman courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter.