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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Conan O'Brien settles joke-theft lawsuit, shares essay explaining why

Illustration for article titled Conan OBrien settles joke-theft lawsuit, shares essay explaining why
Photo: Jamie McCarthy (Getty Images)

For quite a few years, we’ve been following the story of a Twitter user named Alex Kaseberg who filed a lawsuit against Conan O’Brien, TBS, and the Conaco production company for allegedly stealing some jokes he made on social media. Just a few weeks ago, we reported that the case was about to go to trial this month, with O’Brien’s defense preparing to call longtime O’Brien friends Andy Richter and Patton Oswalt to the stand, along with O’Brien himself. The judge had also rejected a pair of expert witnesses that Kaseberg had lined up, with one being comedian Elayne Boosler, whose testimony was deemed “neither necessary nor helpful.” Now, though, O’Brien has decided to settle the lawsuit, writing in an essay for Variety that he and Kaseberg have decided to settle the dispute “amicably.”


O’Brien didn’t mention specific terms of the settlement in his piece, but he does stand by his assertion that neither he nor his writers ever stole any jokes from Kaseberg. He simply says he didn’t want to go through a “potentially farcical and expensive jury trial in federal court over five jokes that don’t even make sense anymore.” In the rest of his essay, O’Brien lays out why he takes joke-theft accusations seriously and how the internet has made parallel thinking into a much bigger deal than it was in the past—he references a night when he, Jay Leno, and David Letterman all made the exact same Dane Quayle joke and “no one sued anyone” because they all recognized that “topical comedy often follows a pattern.”

The essay is an interesting response to the lawsuit, especially when simply releasing a statement saying “I didn’t want to go through the trouble of a trial” probably would’ve been just as effective, but this does offer an insight into where O’Brien’s head has been with all of this drama for the past four years.

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