Last night I came home a little bit drunk. I had been out partying with my friends, like the good college student that I am. When I arrived I opened up my Facebook to find that someone random had shared Joke Life’s link. I was stoked!
“Fuck yeah,” I thought to myself, “Other people are reading what I am putting out there, this is great!” I clicked on the post to find a caption written by some guy, Sam Tallent, on Joke Life’s logo reading:
Something I begat, but I get no credit for, way to go artists!
Truth be told, I didn’t know what “begat” meant, but this sounded like a good thing to me. In my head I thought this person really was congratulating me, encouraging my writing. However, when I scrolled down to the comments I was blown away by what I found. There was comment after comment from people attacking me. Saying I had stolen the name “Joke Life” from this man, Sam Tallent, who I would discover was a comedian in Denver. The comments were nasty. There were pictures of me posted from my teenage years, quotes from my website and blog making fun of the things that I had written, people making fun of me for misusing then and than (my bad).
I was horrified.
I had never heard of this person in my life and now I was getting attacked by a whole group of people I didn’t even know. I commented onto the thread, trying to explain that I had never heard of this man or his association to the words “Joke Life”. I included the fact that I had trademarked the name and so, legally, I had taken the proper steps. Well, the comedians didn’t like that very much.
The next morning, I messaged Sam, trying to explain my innocence in the use of the words Joke Life. I even asked if he would liked to be interviewed for the site, maybe we could make a good story from this and then more people would see his stuff (I had looked him up on YouTube and I thought he was pretty fucking funny). The messages I received back were fairly hostile, not aggressive by any means, but definitely not friendly. I was getting kind of scared, I blocked him and the friends of his who had been harassing me online, even asking to be my friend. I didn’t want to look at the nasty comments people were writing anymore.
I knew however, that I wasn’t in the clear. There is an email attached to Joke Life’s website. Sure enough, when I checked my inbox it was loaded with emails.
Some were nasty:
“Maybe you guys should write about people stealing intellectual property and then when they find out about it they just keep doing it.”
“How does it feel to know that the entire Colorado comedy scene now thinks you are a terrible person and an obvious thief? You are currently being mocked, and rightfully so, by everyone."
"Everyone hates you. Other than that, I hope you are well.”
And some were nicer, more a warning than anything else:
“While some of Sam's comedian friends have said some mean things, he's a really nice and funny guy who came up with the name of your blog. Do both of y'all a favor and reach out to him before you get shit on even more. Trust me.
-A friend of Sam Tallent”
This was frustrating. If they knew me, I thought to myself, then they would know that I would never try to steal someone’s intellectual property, as a writer I know how it would feel if someone was taking credit for my work. I thought that if they knew me they would know that I am actually a pretty nice person, and that I am just a 20 year old college student trying to make a difference in whatever small way I can.
The reason that the website is titled Joke Life is because the first piece of personal writing I ever did I titled "Joke Life". Writing is my passion, it is what makes sense to me and that article was the beginning. Before that, when I was maybe only 11 years old, my older sister and her friends used to say “joke life” to themselves after telling an embarrassing story. The website is titled Joke Life because sometimes it’s easier to look at it all – look at this crazy, confusing, random life – with a lighter attitude. Sometimes the joke is the knowledge that it really is all going to be okay.
I wondered if these people knew how small-time my website was. I wondered if they had noticed that it only has 100 likes on Facebook. I wondered why they were so threatened by it? It is true that I have the name trademarked, but it is also true that comedy and writing are in a whole different sphere in the legal world. If Sam wanted to trademark Joke Life for his comedy then he still could and no other comedian would be able to use it. It is also true that if another “website featuring articles in the fields of life, love, sex, college, the environment, politics, religion, and various other topics. Interviews and dialogue from interviews. Pictures, quotes, articles from other sources, videos, artwork, reproductions of artwork” popped up then I would have the right to stop it, and of course, also the right to be pissed.
But I don’t think I would act in the same way that Sam and his friends have acted towards me. I think I would understand if they had accidentally ended up with the same name. And I know I wouldn’t harass them, I would never write them nasty comments or make fun of them or their work.
It is so easy for people to be mean to others when they can hide behind a screen. I think it is even easier to be mean to someone who you don’t even know. I don’t know any of these people but it still hurts a little bit when a stranger emails you telling you “Everyone hates you”. Those people, and these emails made me feel incredibly small, and of course, that was the point.
Joke life. Those two words mean something to me and that is something no one can change. I won’t change the name of my website because I don’t think that I have done anything wrong. Words are words, and these two words, Joke Life, I’m sure hold meaning to many other people besides just Sam Tallent and me. I now know that these words hold meaning for Sam Tallent, I kid you not he has them tattooed onto his feet. And whether he believes me or not I respect that.
I don’t know if Sam Tallent will ever be okay with my website being titled Joke Life, I don’t know if he will ever believe that I had no intention of taking the name from him. I am sure that I will be the butt of many jokes for this, comedians are probably not the best people to piss off, but what can you do?
So people will laugh, well fucking good! Laughing makes you live longer anyways. And perhaps I will continue to receive hate-mail, and perhaps I will continue to be called a thief, and perhaps I’ll get boo-ed if I ever try to step my foot into a Denver comedy club, which is a real bummer because I think stand-up is awesome. But maybe Sam and his friends will be able to see that what he is doing and what I am doing are not the same thing. Perhaps they will be able to understand that I am in no way competition and that instead of being enemies, maybe, just maybe we could be friends.
And to my friends, I encourage each of you guys to go check out Sam Tallent’s comedy. Look him up on Youtube, or check out his Twitter page. At the very least look up the picture of Joke Life tattooed on his feet, because that is pretty hilarious.
At the end of the day, we’re all out here doing the best we can. So, I encourage all of you, jokes aside, to support this artist, and any artist, trying to make it in this big, bad world.
*Since this article was written Sam Tallent and many of his friends have reached out and apologized to me. Some of the emails I read were very wise, written by fellow writers and friends of the Denver comedy circle. Sam's own letter to me was a mix of wisdom and comedy, and all is forgiven on my end. Misunderstanding, anger, ego, art, friends, loyalty, respect, doing what you love regardless of the paycheck – there are a lot of similarities in any world of art – but I'm sure glad that people do it and I'm sure glad there are people out there who love to make people laugh.