The comedian explains why he settled his lawsuit instead of going to court.
Conan O'Brien is opening up about his 2015 lawsuit, in which Robert Alexander Kaseberg accused the comedian and others writers on his show of stealing five jokes from his Twitter account and blog.
In an op-ed titled "Conan O’Brien: Why I Decided to Settle a Lawsuit Over Alleged Joke Stealing," published by Variety on Thursday, O'Brien explains why he settled the lawsuit instead of going to court, insisting that he "did not steal any of his jokes."
"I will tell you what we told him, and what we subsequently swore under oath in a deposition: we had never heard of him or his blog or Twitter account, and we did not steal any of his jokes," he states. "Short of murder, stealing material is the worst thing any comic can be accused of, and I have devoted 34 years in show business striving for originality. Had I, for one second, thought that any of my writers took material from someone else I would have fired that writer immediately, personally apologized, and made financial reparations. But, I knew that we were in the right."
The Conan host goes on to explain that when it comes to topical comedy, many comedians inadvertently come up with the same joke without knowing it. It happened to him on several occasions. However, in the age of the internet, the same jokes would be thrown around more often.
"On a chilly winter night, I delivered a joke about Tom Brady re-gifting his Super Bowl MVP truck to opposing coach Pete Carroll," O'Brien recalls. "What my writers and I didn’t know is that, at the same time, that joke was being written by literally 34 other people on Twitter, and one of those people decided he had been robbed."
That is when Kasberg decided to sue him and his team. They then began to monitor his tweets "to avoid any other accidental overlap," even allegedly finding examples where Kasberg tweeted similar jokes after they had already written them for his program. However, as the years went by O'Brien ultimately decided to "resolve our dispute amicably."
"I stand by every word I have written here," he states before explaining why he settled. "But I decided to forgo a potentially farcical and expensive jury trial in federal court over five jokes that don’t even make sense anymore. Four years and countless legal bills have been plenty."
"What’s important to me, today, is defending the integrity and honesty of my writers. They are remarkably hard working and decent people, and this episode has been upsetting for them, and for myself," he concludes.