Home Forums Ganymede & Titan Forum Did Red Dwarf plagiarise one of its most famous gags?

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    Toxteth O-Grady

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    Many of you will have been watching the recent Red Dwarf online commentaries by Rob Grant, Paul Jackson and Ed Bye.
    In the Confidence & Paranoia edition, Paul Jackson recommends that everyone look up the comedy of the late Richard Jeni – an American comedian that he, Craig Charles, and Ed Bye had seen (and been photographed with) in Australia in 1988.

    I’d known some of Richard Jeni’s work already, in particular his famous routine about ‘Jaws: The Revenge’, so decided to pull in up on YouTube.
    …and just look what he says at this point of his Tonight Show debut:

    Quite interesting, right? The concept of being so lonely and deprived of female interaction that you begin to find a female cartoon character attractive – and not just any character; Wilma Flintstone specifically – doesn’t seem like a joke that could crop up in too many different scenarios. But here we have a New York stand-up comedian and a British Sci-Fi sitcom using the exact same idea, and at almost the same period in time.

    So which came first?
    Well that’s easy to verify. This specific episode of The Tonight Show aired on 5th August 1988.
    Backwards first aired fifteen months later on 14th November 1989.
    But five months prior to his debut on Carson’s show, Jeni appeared at the Melbourne Comedy Festival in March 1988, and met Jackson, Bye, and Charles. This was just a few months prior to the filming of Red Dwarf series 2.

    Rob Grant himself didn’t recognise the comedian from the photograph Jackson held up, or even seem to have heard of him, so presumably he was unfamiliar with the Wilma Flintstone joke Jeni performed.
    This perhaps leaves the possibility open that Ed Bye, Paul Jackson, and Craig Charles had seen the Jeni routine in Melbourne and, one way or another, influenced it into the script of Backwards (either intentionally or not). We’ve heard of instances where the cast’s real-life conversations were worked into Red Dwarf scripts, so maybe a similar thing happened here.

    Did the joke appear in the original Backwards script, as featured in Son of Soup?
    Was Doug Naylor the one who pinched the gag?
    Or is it all just an interesting series of coincidences, occurring in the relatively small span of a year and a half?

    I was hoping someone would raise this topic during the subsequent MeĀ² commentary but, having just seen it on YouTube (and the viewers even being asked if they had watched any Richard Jeni comedy), nobody mentioned it.
    Oh well.


    Very interesting, even down to “What do you think of Betty?” feeling like it could be a different take on the Judy Jetson comparison. Well I’ll be. And only earlier this week I saw compelling evidence that Go Johnny Go Go Go Go was ripped off The Goodies.

    Plastic Percy

    Rob Grant not remembering him probably puts a kibosh on this idea, but comedians can and do sell jokes to each other.


    Who’s to say it wasn’t a conversation Rob and Doug had together and then told to Richard who turned it into a stand up routine?


    Whichever way around it happened, or if it’s just a coincidence, “She’ll never leave Fred and we know it” really elevates it.

    Toxteth O-Grady

    Who’s to say it wasn’t a conversation Rob and Doug had together and then told to Richard who turned it into a stand up routine?

    Going by the video Rob doesn’t seem to have ever met him, or even be familiar with who he was.

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