One of the funnier sketches from this week’s edition of “Saturday Night Live” came when host Louis C.K. played a guy who hires a clown — played by Bobby Moynahan — who slowly comes to realize that there are no children at the birthday party at which he’s performing, just one middle-aged dude.
The sketch ends on a hilariously creepy note when Louis C.K.’s character leads his clown companion into the kitchen so he can “chop you up into little pieces and put you in the fridge.”
While the sketch was generally well received, fans of standup comic Tig Notaro were quick to point out that the premise is nearly identical to a short film she wrote, directed and starred in, titled “Clown Service”.
In her film — which she says is based on actual events — a depressed Notaro calls up a service and orders a clown to come over to her house in hopes it’ll cheer her up. As it turns out, the clown she hires is just as depressed as she is, and they wind up bonding over their shared misery (unlike the “SNL” sketch, there are no serial-killer overtones).
Notaro’s fans quickly took to Twitter to accuse “SNL” of stealing her concept, with comments including the accusation that the sketch is a “straight-up rip-off.”
In the midst of the controversy, it can’t be coincidental that Notaro tweeted out the “Clown Service” video on Twitter the day after the sketch aired on TV (it should also be noted that Louis C.K. posted one of her standup specials on his website, and is an executive producer on her Amazon Prime series, “One Mississippi”).
On Wednesday, Notaro responded by releasing a statement to Entertainment Weekly, admitting she finds the “potential plagiarizing” of her work to be “extremely disappointing”; EW has reached out to reps for Louis C.K. and “SNL”, but has yet to receive a response.
Here’s Notaro’s statement in its entirety:
“It has been impossible for me to ignore the cacophony of voices reaching out personally and publicly about the potential plagiarizing of my film Clown Service (a film that I screened at Largo in Los Angeles for over a year and it premiered at Vulture’s Comedy Festival in NYC as well as numerous film festivals around the country and I am currently screening on my national tour).
While I don’t know how all this actually happened, I did find it extremely disappointing.
Here is what I can tell you:
First off, I have recently learned that a writer/director who was fully aware of Clown Service when I was making it, actually worked on Louis C.K.’s clown sketch that is in question.
Secondly, Louis C.K. and I have not communicated in any way for nearly a year and a half.
And finally, I never gave anyone permission to use anything from my film.
I hesitated to even address any of this, but I think it is only right to defend my work and ideas and moving forward, I plan to continue screening Clown Service with the joy and pride I always have.“