Joke Thieves: The show that encourages stealing material

Joke Thieves: The show that encourages stealing material

Will Mars

The show lets comedians 'duplicate, spoof, parody, deconstruct or destroy' other comics' sets

There’s a tacit understanding on the comedy circuit that plagiarism is one of the worst crimes a comic can commit. But at Joke Thieves, acts have to swap routines – each does five minutes of their own material before reproducing five minutes by someone else on the bill. Pairing musical comics with one-liner merchants, character acts with deadpan monologists, it gives ‘free rein’, according to stand-up Stephen Carlin, ‘to duplicate, spoof, parody, deconstruct or destroy the other comedian’s set’.

A cult hit at the Fringe, the show returns to Edinburgh with a compelling line-up of rookies Jo Caulfield, Andrew Doyle, Mark Nelson and Keir McAllister, plus established thieves Jojo Sutherland and Toby Williams as Dr George Ryegold. With hopes that it may become a regular fixture at The Stand, the night plays at the Glasgow Comedy Festival in April and is back in the capital in August with a dedicated weekly outing for sketch troupes. Indeed, such is its growing popularity that its founder, comic Will Mars, is touring it round the festival circuit, taking it to Norway and the US, and developing a television adaptation with Glasgow production company The Comedy Unit.

‘It’s a really supportive environment,’ he enthuses. ‘The audience tends to give more when someone looks like they’re about to bomb. But you really don’t see many car crashes. I always say to the new acts: you’ve got to remember it’s Joke Thieves, not Personality Thieves. You’re taking the material and doing what you want with it, rather than having to pick up the exact nuance of their delivery.’

The Stand, Edinburgh, Wed 19 Feb.

Joke Thieves

In this show of two halves, comedians perform their own sets and then attempt to mimic each others.

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