It’s internet-feud settling time! Did the gang over at Saturday Night Live rip off the alt-comedy savants at Tim & Eric Awesome Show: Great Job!?
Probably not! But still, let’s examine the evidence.
Exhibit A is a sketch that aired this weekend on SNL’s season premiere called “Ladies Who Lunch.” Roll the tape!
Sort of funny, right? An obvious target for ridicule, sure, but with just an original-enough concept to pull it off. Kristen Wiig is playing every single other Kristen Wiig character, but there are a couple good sight gags and Bill Hader kills it with his cameos. Plus, tiny hats are funny.
But! Was the sketch plagiarized from a Tim & Eric bit from a couple of years ago? Presenting: Exhibit B!
Obviously the Tim and Eric sketch has all sorts of avant-garde accoutrements, but the underlying idea is the same: tiny hats are humorous! Was this deliberate theft? Tim and Eric aren’t saying so exactly, but they’re happy to hint about it: Eric Wareheim posted a link to the video on Twitter, while Tim Heidecker asked for a Betty White-style online campaign for an apology.
But let’s wait a second. Yes, tiny hats are hilarious, but that’s because tiny things have always been hilarious. To turn a comic eye toward small hats isn’t a specific-enough idea to be owned by anyone — much the same way that a musician can’t own a certain chord pattern. (And if it was, well, maybe In Living Color got there first.)
And apart from the underlying idea, there’s hardly any other similarities between the sketches: One is a mock-informercial for a store selling small hats, one is a slightly ham-fisted skewering of Sex & the City-style female competitiveness. They do have one joke in common, pulling off one tiny hat to reveal a tinier hat underneath, but come on. When you’re developing a tiny hat idea, that’s the first escalation anyone would think of!